Allegheny County Council should reject a cease-fire resolution

Allegheny County Council should reject a cease-fire resolution

Allegheny County Council's focus should be on local issues, not foreign affairs

Allegheny County Council hears from residents about a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Israel's war with Hamas. (Photo by David Rullo)
Allegheny County Council hears from residents about a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Israel's war with Hamas. (Photo by David Rullo)

Vitriol targeting the world’s sole Jewish state was on flagrant display last week in Pittsburgh’s City-County building, as our Allegheny County Council opened up public discussion regarding a potential resolution calling for Israel to cease its defensive operation in Gaza.

As we report in this issue on Page 1, about 50 Allegheny County residents spoke for three minutes each, charging Israel with genocide, colonialism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and the intentional murders of women and children. The effort to condemn Israel en masse appeared to be coordinated and well organized.

And it was painful to watch.

While a handful of those maligning Israel suggested that a cease-fire would help to bring the hostages home, none urged the council to demand Hamas release the estimated 134 hostages held in Gaza since Oct. 7. None mentioned the 1200 people — mostly civilians and including children — brutally murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7. None mentioned the sexual assault suffered by women on that day, and afterward, at the hands of the terrorists — except to deny that it happened.

None mentioned that there was a cease-fire in place on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched its deadly invasion of Israel. None mentioned that there was a negotiated truce in November that Hamas broke. None mentioned that Israel — along with other countries, including the United States — has been trying desperately for months to negotiate an end to this war that includes the release of the hostages.

And none acknowledged the surge of antisemitism in the wake of Oct. 7 — assaults and vandalism that have instilled fear in our community, including in our schoolchildren and our college students.

Only about a dozen residents implored the council to reject a cease-fire resolution.

While those calling for a cease-fire greatly outnumbered those arguing against it, those numbers do not reflect American sentiment. A Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, published the week of Jan. 24, of over 2,300 registered U.S. voters found overwhelming support for Israel over Hamas in the ongoing war. In the poll, 74% of respondents said Hamas’ attack was genocidal; 75% of all respondents said the assault could not be justified by Palestinian grievances; and 67% said a cease-fire should only happen if the hostages are released and Hamas is removed from power in Gaza.

Moreover, there are 1.2 million residents of Allegheny County. The fact that 50 activists organized to dominate a council meeting should hold little sway.

It is unclear whether the council will consider a motion for a cease-fire resolution, but it appears that it will allow additional public comment on the issue at its March 5 meeting. We hope that if that happens, those who view the calls for an unconditional cease-fire as dangerous or immoral will show up to let our Allegheny County Council know.

Several local governmental councils around the country are debating resolutions calling for a cease-fire. Some have been passed, including one last week by the Erie City Council. We believe these local resolutions are ill-advised, at best, and potentially threaten the safety and security of Jewish citizens.

There are more than 110 armed conflicts worldwide. Why should Allegheny County single out Israel? Why not call for Russia to lay down its arms against Ukraine, or Syria to cease battling its rebel groups, or for the Taliban to stop its aggression in Afghanistan?

Moreover, why is the Allegheny County Council taking up foreign affairs? Its charge is to approve and amend legislation relating to the governance of our county, to adopt balanced budgets and to confirm or reject appointments for county agencies and authorities — not to weigh in on Middle East politics.

Wouldn’t the council’s time be better spent focusing on issues such as homelessness and public safety?

An Allegheny County Council resolution demanding a cease-fire will do nothing to resolve the conflict between Israel and Hamas. It may, however, succeed in fomenting more resentment against the county’s Jewish citizens, a concern it should be particularly sensitive to in the shadow of the antisemitic massacre that occurred here just five years ago.

We are heartbroken by the death toll of this war, and mourn all the innocent lives lost as a result, including the lives of innocent Gazans. We pray for a swift end to the fighting, for the safe return and healing of the remaining hostages, and for a negotiated and lasting peace.

But we are confident an Allegheny County Council resolution calling for a cease-fire will not bring about any of those things. PJC

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