We must call for an end to all attacks on the people of Israel and Palestine
OpinionGuest columnist

We must call for an end to all attacks on the people of Israel and Palestine

Pittsburgh City Councilmember Barbara Warwick calls for cease-fire in Gaza

Pittsburgh Councilmember Barbara Warwick would like to see the council call for a cease-fire in Israel's war against Hamas terrorists. (Photo by Matt Evans, courtesy of flickr.com)
Pittsburgh Councilmember Barbara Warwick would like to see the council call for a cease-fire in Israel's war against Hamas terrorists. (Photo by Matt Evans, courtesy of flickr.com)

On Tuesday, March 5, Allegheny County Council rejected a resolution urging the Biden administration to call for a de-escalation and cease-fire between Israel and Palestine, to negotiate a release of all hostages and to facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza at necessary scale. Some council members were resolute and precise in their convictions. Others wrung their hands and shook their heads. One cried. The vote ended with three in favor, nine against and two abstentions. It was, no doubt, a painful experience for all. Sadly, any similar resolution before Pittsburgh’s City Council would have the same result.

The Hamas attack on Oct. 7 — the killing, torture, rape and hostage-taking of nearly 1,500 Israelis and others — was horrific. In response, Israel has killed a staggering 30,000-plus Palestinians, including more than 10,000 children. Babies are now dying of starvation with Gaza on the brink of widespread famine. Meanwhile, the outlook for hostages still held by Hamas is increasingly bleak.

While some have said this conflict is not the business of local government, the hundreds of Pittsburghers attending vigils, rallies and marches, both for the victims of Oct. 7 and for victims across Palestine, prove otherwise. So do the more than 100 U.S. cities that have passed similar resolutions and the nearly five hours of public testimony heard by County Council earlier this month.

The war between Israel and Hamas affects our Jewish and Muslim neighbors, many of whom have close friends and family in the region. Squirrel Hill and Summerset have seen property damage, antisemitic graffiti and reports of Jewish children being harassed while walking home from school. Meanwhile, Palestinian residents have testified that they are unable to locate loved ones in Gaza and that multiple members of their family have been killed.

Israel’s strategy of bombardment, displacement, and siege — largely funded by U.S. tax dollars — cannot continue. The only way to end the crisis in Gaza and bring the hostages home is an immediate, bilateral and lasting cease-fire. Even President Biden, a staunch ally of Israel both before and throughout this conflict, is now saying as much.

So, why is it so difficult to unify around calls for the bombs, bullets and rockets to stop? To halt the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes?

To effectively advocate for lasting peace, we must listen to and acknowledge each other’s lived experiences.

We must acknowledge the role that antisemitism plays in any discourse on the region and in the United States’ history more generally. We must acknowledge the Jewish community’s religious, cultural and historical attachment to Israel and empathize with their fear and anxiety wrought from centuries of intergenerational trauma — feelings compounded locally by 2018’s terror attack at the Tree of Life synagogue.

We must also acknowledge that those crying out for a cease-fire do not need to be history experts to respond with horror to the death and destruction in Gaza. Historical debates are beside the point when more than 1 million people are trapped in Rafah, starving and at risk of bombardment. For context, that’s roughly the population of Allegheny County crammed into an area less than half the size of Pittsburgh.

Finally, we must acknowledge that there are Jews of all ages who are deeply torn by this conflict. Some agonize quietly while others speak out. To those who are frustrated by Jewish voices calling for Israel to put down its arms: Their views are not fringe beliefs borne out of disloyalty or self-hatred. They speak out because their moral conviction is so strong that they are willing to brave the hardest of conversations with the communities, friends and families they love.

Pittsburgh is a global city — a City of Sanctuary — made up of many communities and faiths. As our national and international leaders work to resolve this nightmare, locally, let’s do everything we can to affirm each other’s basic humanity.

It is time to unite in calls for peace and an end to all attacks on men, women, and children in Israel and Palestine. PJC

Barbara Warwick is the Pittsburgh City councilmember for District 5, which includes Glen Hazel, Greenfield, Hays, Hazelwood, Lincoln Place, New Homestead, Regent Square, Squirrel Hill South and Swisshelm Park.

Editor’s note: The death toll figures of “30,000+ Palestinians, including more than 10,000 children” comes from the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The numbers provided by Hamas are unverified, don’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, and list all the fatalities as caused by Israel — including those killed as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires, according to The Time of Israel. Israel has said it killed some 12,000 Hamas members in Gaza fighting, in addition to some 1,000 killed in Israel in the aftermath of the terror group’s Oct. 7 invasion.

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