Hartford residents seek Selectboard support of Gaza cease-fire resolution


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-29-2024 7:06 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Hartford could be the next Upper Valley community to adopt a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to U.S. military aid for Israel’s offensive.

The Selectboard will vote on June 11 whether to support an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a return of all hostages and prisoners, and the allowance of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The proposed resolution also seeks a stop of all U.S. weapons sales and military aid to Israel, as a consequence of its “violent campaign against the Palestinian people.” 

The resolution was submitted by residents who are involved in Upper Valley for Palestine, a coalition group that supports “a Palestine liberation,” including Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories.

“Israeli (military forces) are killing children in cold blood with no accountability and wiping out entire families with public relations as their only cover,” Lucy Danger, of White River Junction, told the Selectboard at a meeting on Tuesday. “Any backlash we as Americans might face for speaking up is incomparable when we look at what is being done with our tax dollars.”

The Israel-Hamas war, now in its eighth month, has tallied death counts of over 34,800 Palestinians and 1,410 Israelis, and displaced 1.7 million people in Gaza since the conflict began on Oct. 7, according to the United Nations.

Similar cease-fire resolutions have already been adopted at town meetings in Thetford and Hanover, and by the Lebanon City Council, which approved a written draft in April.

Danger, who is Jewish, stressed that opposing the nationalist movement to reestablish Jewish settlement in Palestinian territory, is not comparable to antisemitism.

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“I believe that Jewish people deserve safety, community and belonging everywhere in this world. ... (But) my safety and rights are not predicated on the expulsion and genocide of another people,” Danger said.

Earl Hatley, a West Hartford resident, told the Selectboard the injustices against the Palestinian people are equivalent to the U.S. government’s removal of indigenous people from their tribal lands in the 1800s.

“Since we can’t get the Biden administration to stop (the conflict), we’re starting with a grassroots effort to ask you to help stop this,” Hatley said Tuesday.

If adopted by the Selectboard, the resolution would be sent to the state’s congressional delegation, the Vermont General Assembly and the White House.

Some board members expressed conflicted opinions about the proposed resolution.

“I feel more comfortable with the language in resolutions that (other Upper Valley communities) adopted, in terms of being more moderate — even though I realize that is not a moderate situation that we are talking about,” said Vice Chairwoman Kim Souza.

Souza said in an interview after the meeting that some statements in the draft are beyond her level of expertise as a town official, though she declined to identify specific examples.

Unlike other resolutions adopted in Upper Valley communities, the Hartford draft explicitly criticizes the Israeli government, accusing it of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.” While the original Lebanon resolution — which was also submitted by Upper Valley for Palestine members — contained similar statements, the final draft adopted by the City Council omitted any reference to Israel’s government.

Some Hartford board members questioned on Tuesday whether a seven-member board should be representing the entire town on this issue — or weighing in at all.

“I want this issue to be bigger than these seven people here and I am hearing from (residents) who feel it is inappropriate for (our board) to do this,” said board member Sue Buckholz.

“I don’t disagree at all about the need to end the conflict … but I have to ask the question of where do we stop as a board at calling out things?” board member Lannie Collins said.

Brigid Ambrose, sponsor of the resolution, said that U.S. military aid to Israel — approximately $3.3 billion a year, according to the Council of Foreign Relations — gives Hartford residents a reason to be engaged.

“American taxpayers are being implicated in these war crimes — and that means us,” Ambrose said. “So I would say this (issue) is a little more personal than other (violent conflicts) happening around the world.”

Board member Brandon Smith, participating in the meeting remotely over Zoom, shared a statement of support he said was from a town resident, though Smith declined to identify the individual.

“The Selectboard has a moral obligation to the people of the Town of Hartford to speak up at this junction,” Smith said. “To do otherwise, and to stand by, without using the voice that is given to it … would ultimately be demoralizing to the town.”

Smith was one of the 89 people arrested at a pro-Palestinian demonstration on Dartmouth College’s Green on May 1.

Sponsors of the resolution began drafting it in April. A petition in support of the resolution has so far been signed by 190 town residents, though the sponsors told the Selectboard that they hope to collect 500 before the June 11 meeting. The petition is only to illustrate the community’s support of the resolution and is not necessary for the Selectboard to consider the proposal, Ambrose said.

The Selectboard will consider adopting the resolution on Tuesday, June 11, at Town Hall. The meeting time has not yet been announced.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.