Column: American Mayors Insist on A Cease-Fire, 6,000 Miles Away

Perhaps “from the river to the sea” actually means “from the Chicago River to Lake Michigan.” Or is that “from the Mississippi to Lake Superior?”

There appears to be as much political animosity in America over Israel and Gaza as there is live warfare 6,000 miles from Chicago and Minneapolis. Three midwestern mayors got mixed up with the war in recent days, giving them a respite from resolving concerns over education, gun violence, housing needs and other local trifles. The mayors of Chicago and Minneapolis voted on cease-fire resolutions and the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, ranted about Israeli apartheid and imaginary hostages held by Israel.

The Chicago and Dearborn mayors distorted the situation while the Minneapolis mayor got it right. The mayors are, respectively, Black, Arabic and Jewish.

Local councils and school boards have intensified their interest in the Middle East since Hamas’ October 7 massacre of 1,200 Israelis and kidnapping of 240 others. At first, some adopted resolutions condemning Hamas and then many voted for measures urging a cease-fire to prevent more Gazan casualties.

From the River Rouge to Lake Erie, a.k.a. Dearborn, reportedly home of America’s largest Muslim/Arab population, Mayor Abdullah Hammoud sliced and diced President Biden for sending leaders of his presidential campaign to meet with Arab and Muslim leaders in Michigan when “policymakers” should have arrived in their place.

“This is not a moment for electoral politics,” he told CNN co-host Dana Bash last week. “Over the course of now, 115 days, Israel murdered more than 26,000 Gazans and displaced over two million. For us, this is an issue that demands action and not lip service. This is an issue that requires policymakers to come talk about taking a different course of action. This is not a conversation you have with campaign staff.”

Hammoud sounded perfectly reasonable, except for a debatable misstep. Then he recited the usual distortions and lost any credibility that he earned a few minutes earlier:

“It’s understanding that we here in Dearborn, the broader Arab-American community, the Muslim-American community, we know what it is like to live overseas, under siege, under apartheid, under occupation,” he added.

Hammoud also called for releasing hostages held by Hamas as well as hostages detained by Israel.

Hostages in Israel? Israel has imprisoned many suspected terrorists who were usually seized in a military confrontation. It is not as if Israel invaded a string of villages and murdered 1,200 Palestinians.

Apartheid? Israel’s actions in the territories raise questions, but there is not much evidence that Israel engages in apartheid.

Occupation? Like most others, Hammoud ignores 21st century history – that Israel offered the Palestinians an independent state during a Camp David summit in July 2000. Arab leader Yasser Arafat did not even consider it, and a few months later the Palestinians staged an unprovoked uprising.

Bash repeatedly pointed out that many observers would dispute Hammoud’s charges of apartheid and occupation. Later in the week, Hammoud made it through an interview on MSNBC without mentioning these aspects. Did Bash’s questions serve as a warning?

Most readers likely recognize comparisons to the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” They recognize it to mean that the Arabs will destroy Israel, which pro-Palestinian activists usually deny.

Along the Chicago River, the city council voted 23-23 for a cease-fire resolution last Wednesday (Jan. 31), and Mayor Brandon Johnson broke the tie. The mayor said the week before, “I believe we’re looking at 25,000 Palestinians that have been killed. The killing has to stop. So, yes, we need a cease-fire.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the Chicago resolution calls for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”… and … “the immediate humanitarian and unconditional release of all hostages.”

Earlier in the day, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey vetoed a cease-fire resolution adopted by city council in a 9-3 vote, a margin large enough to override his veto.

The resolution advocates for a “permanent ceasefire” and references “the context of the 75-year displacement of Palestinians,” according to JTA. Frey said the measure was not balanced because it “uplifts the history of Palestinians, and all but erases that of Israeli Jews.”

A cease-fire is irrelevant because it depends on whether both parties abide by it. How will it be enforced? Hamas’ October 7 attacks violated a cease-fire that was already in place.

As for any displacement of Palestinians, they can blame the Arab leadership. Five countries attacked Israel 75 years ago, as soon as the state was created, and they lost. What did Israel do except defend itself, as it is doing now?

It is nice that mayors like Johnson insists that “the killing has to stop.” Hopefully, Johnson can one day achieve “a cease-fire” for shooting sprees on Chicago’s south side where “the killing has to stop.”

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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