Etna Borough Council passes cease-fire resolution
inconsequential politicsBorough bill will have no affect on foreign policy

Etna Borough Council passes cease-fire resolution

Resolution passed despite chaotic discussion, confused bill

Etna council passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Israel’s war with the terrorist organization Hamas. (Photo by David Rullo)
Etna council passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Israel’s war with the terrorist organization Hamas. (Photo by David Rullo)

At an April 16 meeting, Etna Borough Council voted to pass a resolution urging “the United States Federal Government to work cooperatively towards an immediate deescalation and permanent cease-fire in Israel and Occupied Palestine.”

The unanimous vote came after a chaotic and confused conversation about the resolution, which council members received just four days earlier on April 12. It was not available to the public before the meeting.

The language of the bill, which was written by council members Jessica Semler and Alice Gabriel, was altered three times during the meeting. Solicitor John Rushford was asked to read the final version near the end of the discussion but was unable to do so because of computer issues. Instead, Semler restated the changes that were made.

Due to the late date that council members received the resolution and the confusion that took place during deliberations, Council Chairperson Dave Becki asked several times if the council would prefer to table the vote until its May meeting. That suggestion was rejected.

The approved resolution calls for the Biden administration “to call for and facilitate de-escalation and a permanent cease-fire to urgently end the current violence” and to “promptly send and facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance at the scale needed into Gaza.”

The resolution also calls for “Recognizing the need to address the root causes of crises for a pathway to lasting peace and justice.”

Text was added during the meeting to demand the release of the hostages still held in captivity by Hamas.

A handful of speakers, both in person and on Zoom, some of whom also wrote letters to the council, spoke in support of the resolution. Only Etna Mayor Robert Tuñón spoke against the resolution.

Speaking as a private citizen, Tuñón said that most people mourn the loss of life in Israel and Gaza but that Israel has the right to defend itself against a terrorist organization.

As mayor, Tuñón said, he rejects the resolution. He said that the language goes further than what was discussed in the council’s March meeting — a resolution that only called for a cease-fire and did not reference “the root causes of crises,” which implied that Israel was solely to blame.

The mayor was also concerned about the relatively small number of residents who were aware of the resolution and its language. He pointed out that the resolution seemed “four months too late,” since President Joe Biden had already called for a cease-fire.

Instead of the resolution, Tuñón said, the council should deal with issues like the recent flooding in the borough.

Throughout the meeting, council member Jessica Semler defended the resolution and its language, saying that it was “measured.”

Semler said that the federal government was spending American dollars on the war. She acknowledged that the money wouldn’t make its way to Etna or its bevy of projects that need to be funded, but then seemingly contradicted herself, saying the money would “exist.”

“And if we had that money,” she said, “we wouldn’t have to talk about which road we can pave or which folks we can keep in their home.”

In 2021, a Nazi flag was hung in the borough. At that time, Semler, Tuñón, council member Megan Tuñón and Alice Gabriel had signs printed that read “Etna is for everyone” and hosted a community meeting with members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, including Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Community Relations Council Director Laura Cherner and 10.27 Healing Partnership Director Maggie Feinstein.

Last month, several prominent Jewish leaders, including Federation President and CEO Jeff Finkelstein and Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh President and CEO Jason Kunzman, spoke against an Allegheny County Council motion calling for a cease-fire. It was overwhelmingly rejected by the council. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at

read more: