The photo: Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda giving a passionate speech during a rally for peace on November 15 in downtown Seattle. Also, State Senator Yasmin Trudeau and Council Member Tammy Morales can be seen in the photo far right hands folded.
(Seattle, WA, 11/22/2023)
On Tuesday, November 21, 2023, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously, 6-0, with 3 abstentions, in favor of a resolution calling for a long-term ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine, the return of all hostages, the delivery of humanitarian aid; and affirming opposition to antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian/anti-Arab bigotry. It was a packed chamber at City Hall, at times even raucous, and the final vote came after hours of passionate public comment by community members.
The resolution that passed was an amended resolution that replaced, wholesale, the original resolution introduced by Councilmember Kshama Sawant. It was co-created by members of the Palestinian community and allies, working in collaboration with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. “Councilmember Mosqueda truly listened to us as Palestinians, heard our needs as a community, and understood that the most urgent demand is calling for a ceasefire,” said Sabrene Odeh, one of the Palestinian participants in the process of creating the amended resolution.
Along with Mosqueda, Councilmember Lisa Herbold and Council President Debora Juarez sponsored the amended resolution. Some of the Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, and Christians who collaborated on the Washington Solidarity Statement for Peace and Justice in Israel/Palestine (“Washington Solidarity Statement”) were also actively involved with the amended resolution and securing support for it, including by sending a group letter to the Council signed by 68 of them. This group letter was referenced and quoted by Councilmember Mosqueda in her comments on the amended resolution. She also added: “This amendment is brought forward with the goal to add to the voices that are trying to end the bloodshed and save lives.”
In her comments, Councilmember Herbold observed that the “strongest statement for peace is a statement that has more Councilmembers voting with a unified voice.” Similarly, Council President Juarez shared: “we would love a collective voice that the City of Seattle wants to stop the killing…. We don’t just need a humanitarian pause, we need a long-standing ceasefire.” The two Jewish members of the Council, Tammy Morales and Dan Strauss, also voted for the amended resolution, as did Councilmember Sawant. With the 6-0 vote (and three abstentions), the City achieved the desired collective voice for ceasefire that supporters of the amended resolution wanted.
The emotions with the unexpected unanimous victory were felt by many. “As a Palestinian Muslim, when I heard the votes come in, after being on the call for 5 hours – and spending hours on work related to the amended resolution before then, I sobbed uncontrollably, as I felt I could breathe again,” Odeh said. “It is debilitating and dehumanizing to constantly be in a position where you have to convince others that your people deserve to live.”
But the victory did not come without challenge. Councilmember Sawant and her supporters harshly opposed the amended resolution and repeatedly argued that it was “watered down” and inappropriate.
In addition, there was opposition from supporters of Israel’s recent actions. “While there was a concerted effort by some Jewish leaders and organizations to oppose a ceasefire resolution, those of us Jews who don’t feel represented by them showed up to attest to the fact that calling on Israel’s government to abide by international law aligns strongly with Jewish values and is not antisemitic,” said Abby Brockman, a local Jewish chaplain who provided public comment in support of the amended resolution. She added that “the content of the resolution echoes what numerous Israeli human rights groups, as well as some family members of hostages, are pleading for from the Israeli government in order to find a political strategy for Israeli safety, not a military solution, which only breeds violence.”
“We supported the amended resolution as a way to turn our Washington Solidarity Statement into concrete action, the kind that is desperately needed now for the sake of Palestinian lives and also to begin the long road of creating a safe region where everyone can experience freedom and live in peace,” said Cari Conklin, community organizer and partner of Peace Catalyst International, who shared in her public comment the story of a two-year-old girl in Gaza who was saved by a multifaith group, only to now be in harm’s way.
The Washington Solidarity Statement is a joint collaboration started by a group of individual Jews, Muslims, and Christians, to recognize the humanity of, and horror experienced by, all peoples connected to the region–while agreeing on certain basic moral precepts, including an immediate ceasefire and an end to the military occupation. The statement has been signed by over 2,500 Washingtonians of different (or no) religious backgrounds, including faith and community leaders, elected officials, and educators, along with 155 (and growing) organizational endorsements. The coalition stands together knowing the safety of one group can never be secured through the oppression of another. The Seattle City Council deserves praise, especially Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Lisa Herbold, as well as Council President Debora Juarez, for driving the amended resolution to a victory for the City of Seattle.
Seattle is now the largest city in the United States to have passed a ceasefire resolution.