Salem City Council to consider Gaza ceasefire resolution Tuesday

Free Gaza is spray painted on a sign on Northeast Court Street in downtown Salem in November 2023. The Salem City Council is considering a Gaza ceasefire resolution on Tuesday, May 28. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

The Salem City Council will consider a resolution Tuesday calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, while condemning both the Hamas attacks against Israel on October 7 and what it called genocide by the Israeli government.

The ceasefire resolution is on the agenda for the May 28 council meeting. In a council memo leading up to the upcoming meeting, the deputy city manager, Scott Archer, said he heard passionate public comment on the matter in past city council meetings and understands why many hope the city adopts a ceasefire resolution.

The recommended resolution comes from the city’s Human Rights Commission. 

“The Commission shared that a resolution process on issues of foreign affairs may, at first, appear extraordinary,” Archer said. “However, Salem taxpayers collectively subsidize (to the tune of $2 million) the actions of a foreign government that in the judgment of the Human Rights Commission, the United Nations, and majority of the international community, is committing egregious violations to the rules of war, including genocide, against the Palestinian people.” 

The $2 million figure refers to the estimated amount of federal taxes paid by Salem residents that fund U.S. military aid to Israel, according to U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a pro-Palestinian advocacy group cited by the human rights commission. 

The human rights commission drafted and submitted the resolution to the council after weeks of public comments urging the council to act and heated deliberation in multiple commission meetings.

If adopted, Salem will join hundreds of local governments across the nation, including Eugene and Multnomah County, in officially calling for an end to the Israeli government’s offensive in Gaza. 

The resolution calls for an end to hostilities, the free flow of humanitarian aid and the release of all civilian hostages. It urges the federal government and members of Oregon’s federal delegation to push for long-term peace. 

“We recognize and stand in solidarity with our Muslim and Jewish communities across the globe calling for peace, reaffirming our commitment to human safety, security, and wellbeing,” the resolution says.

At the last Salem city council meetings on May 13, a number of citizens stood up and gave scathing public testimony after the council decided not to immediately adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, citing fear among the Jewish community. 

“In this resolution you were asked to do one thing. To plea for peace. Often Salem leaders like to point out that the city of Salem, the name, Salem, derives from Hebrew and Arabic, meaning peace,” said Clifford Eiffler-Rodriguez, a citizen who gave public testimony on May 13. “Yet you cast that aside so easily. As millions are under attack. We are privileged to live here and not hear a bomb. We are privileged to go home to our families and know that they won’t die tonight from bombs, from starvation. The people of Gaza do not have that privilege.” 

Salem resident Kaire Downin focused on the impact the war will have on Gazan children’s mental health.

“All of the surviving children will suffer from the mental trauma they and whatever surviving parents and family has after watching their loved ones brutally killed, picking through the rubble to find body parts,” she said. “Children have had to endure medical treatment with no pain relief, no adequate food, water or shelter, while so many of them can’t even have the comfort of their own families.”

Mayor Chris Hoy said during the May 13 meeting that he directed the human rights commission to draft a resolution calling for a ceasefire.

After the commission responded with a letter showing members of the community felt unsafe by an official call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, he decided more consideration would be necessary before it could be voted on. 

“I can’t in good conscience put forward something that causes harm in this community,” Hoy said. “Some residents communicated that they lived in fear, and asked us not to move forward out of concern for what they perceive to be the safety of the Jewish community.” 

The commission’s proposed resolution condemns the brutal Hamas attacks against Israel in October of 2023, and any form of bias or hate directed at members of the Jewish community. 

“We stand in solidarity with our Palestinian, Muslim, and Jewish communities, affirming our commitment to their safety, security, and inclusion within the fabric of our city,” the resolution says. “We condemn and will not tolerate anti-Semitism, anti-Palestinian or anti-Arab bigotry, Islamophobia, or any acts of bias or hate against Jewish, Muslim, or Palestinian residents of the City of Salem.” 

The city’s consideration of a proclamation comes weeks after a student occupation at Willamette University called for their school to divest from the U.S. arms industry, saying arms companies are profiting off genocide in Gaza.

Contact Keizertimes Staff:
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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