Lebanon City Council to consider revised Gaza cease-fire resolution

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-02-2024 6:45 PM

LEBANON — The City Council will consider a new resolution on Wednesday to reaffirm — in writing — the council’s support of ending the ongoing war in Gaza.

The proposed written resolution, drafted by the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission, is intended to reinforce a verbal resolution calling for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza, a return of all hostages and to allow humanitarian aid in the region, which the City Council passed on Feb. 21.

The ongoing armed conflict between Israel and Hamas forces, now entering a sixth month, has resulted in the deaths of over 1,200 Israelis and over 29,000 Palestinians, and 1.7 million people being displaced since the conflict began on Oct. 7, according to the United Nations.

Copies of the new resolution, if approved on Wednesday, would be sent to New Hampshire’s congressional delegation to convey the city’s desire for an immediate, peaceful resolution. Lebanon resident Ahlam Abuawad, a Palestinian-American, said that voicing the city’s concerns to congressional leaders is the most important part of the new resolution.

“As citizens of the U.S., we want to have our government listen to us and stop sending military aid to Israel,” Abuawad said in a phone interview.

Abuawad has family members in Gaza and the West Bank who have been displaced from their homes due to ongoing attacks.

“They’re lucky if they get a meal a day,” Abuawad said. “We’ve been trying to see if we could evacuate them, but it’s very difficult under these circumstances. … The best way we could support them is to push (our world leaders) to make it stop.”

The DEI Commission’s resolution differs greatly from the proposed draft discussed by the City Council, which was submitted by Upper Valley for Palestine, a coalition group that supports “a Palestine liberation,” including Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Palest inian territories.

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The coalition’s document, which equated Israel’s current military campaign to genocide, called for ceasing all U.S. funding of Israel and diverting that money to help Palestinians rebuild homes and infrastructure.

The DEI Commission’s d raft avoids attributing blame in the ongoing conflict and condemns all forms of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

“This resolution is more focused on supporting peace (and) our residents’ safety and well-being.”said City Councilor David Wilkie, a member of the DEI Commission, at the group’s meeting on March 18.

The new resolution calls for ending foreign military aid in general. Several city residents expressed concern about the new draft at the March 18 meeting.

“Substantial military aid goes to our close allies in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and is necessary for the security of the world and for Americans at home and abroad,” said Richard Abel, a former state representative and Lebanon resident.

Ben Spiro, of Lebanon, said the Council shouldn’t be considering a resolution at all, as it hasn’t been a precedent for city officials to weigh in on foreign matters.

“How come the only time the Council has felt the need to express (a call for peace) is the one time that it concerns the one Jewish state?” Spiro said.

Supporters of the resolution said that opposing the actions of Israel’s government is not an expression of antisemitism.

Israel’s military campaign does not reflect the values of the Jewish community, which are about peace and inclusion, Daisy Goodman, a Lyme resident of Jewish faith, said in a phone interview.

The new resolution, though “watered down” from Upper Valley for Palestine’s draft, is still a step in the right direction, Goodman said.

“Would we prefer that it call for defunding military aid to Israel? Yes. Is it watered down? Absolutely,” Goodman said. “But we are certainly appreciative that the Lebanon City Council has given so much consideration to this.”

As part of their efforts to pressure U.S. officials to reexamine their foreign policy, members of the Upper Valley for Palestine joined a protest in Norwich on March 20, targeted at first lady Jill Biden, who was visiting the Upper Valley for a fundraiser. Demonstrators voiced their criticism of the Biden Administration for its continuing military and political support for Israel.

Hanover residents in the Upper Valley group are also planning to submit a cease-fire resolution to the Town of Hanover, Rachel Kent, a Lebanon resident who co-sponsored the Upper Valley for Palestine resolution, said. A petition with 25 signatures of town residents in support of the resolution must be submitted before the Selectboard will consider it.

Elsewhere in New Hampshire, Durham passed a cease-fire resolution on March 4 that is similar to Lebanon’s new proposal. City councils in Concord, Manchester and Portsmouth have declined to take up resolutions.

The Lebanon City Council will discuss the resolution on Wednesday, April 3 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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