Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Northampton calls for permanent cease-fire in Gaza

Northampton becomes first western Mass. town to call for a cease-fire in Gaza
Kira Johnson
Daily Collegian (2023)

Northampton passed two resolutions calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza regarding the Israel-Hamas war on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

The City Council held a virtual meeting with around 200 people in attendance, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton is the first western Mass. town to pass such a resolution, the article states.

Three resolutions were introduced to the council. One that passed, with eight yeses and one abstention, was R-24.018, introduced by Councilors Alex Jarrett, Deborah Pastrich-Klemer, Rachel Maiore and Stanley Moulton III.

The resolution specifically called for an “immediate, enduring and permanent ceasefire by both sides, suspension of unrestricted military aid from the United States, the provision of unrestricted, life-saving humanitarian aid in Gaza, and the release of all hostages taken by Hamas and Palestinian political detainees, and urges the Biden administration, U.S. Senate and House to work toward those goals.”

It also recognized the increase of antisemitic, Islamophobic and anti-Arab acts of hate in the Northampton community.

During the discussion of R-24.018, some councilors felt that they were “rushed” and were hoping for more time to investigate the language used in the document. Jarret, however, emphasized that these changes would be minimal and would not take away from the overall intent of the resolution.

Another resolution that passed was R-24.017: “A resolution in support of our Jewish, Muslim and Arab community members.”  The resolution called on elected officials, civic and faith leaders to condemn “all manifestations of antisemitic, Islamophobic and anti-Arab actions …”

“[Northampton] seeks to educate its residents about these acts of hate through public events, workshops, school curricula, and other suitable means,” the document read.

The resolution passed with eight yeses and one abstention, and an amendment was made to the title and wording of the article, where it also recognized Israeli and Palestinian community members.

Councilor Jeremy Dubs also presented a resolution, R-24.016, which was postponed indefinitely by a majority vote. The resolution called for a “permanent ceasefire on both sides” and to “halt U.S. weapon sales to Israel.” The postponement came because the council felt it more productive to focus on one ceasefire resolution.

Councilor Quaverly Rothenberg spoke in support of Dubs’ decision to postpone the discussion of the resolution:

“… we got a lot of comments that said they’d really prefer this resolution [R-24.016].” Rothernberg added, “I think that the slightly gentler wording of the other resolution put forward by the four councilors [R-24.018] is a better way to go if a resolution were to pass …”

During the public comment period, numerous western Mass. community members spoke out regarding the resolutions.

Bobby Naimark, from Springfield and the donor impact officer for the Jewish Federation of Western Mass., spoke about the concerns pushing for a ceasefire resolution and the effects it has on their Israeli and Palestinian population.

“This is a foreign policy matter and not within the purview of the Northampton City Council issues or importance,” Naimark said. He added that passing such resolutions would create “unnecessary division within our Jewish communities and [general] communities,” also mentioning that ceasefires were “historically violated” by the Hamas group.

The Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts released a statement last week that “strongly opposed” the proposed Gaza cease-fire resolutions that were circulating in various western Mass. municipalities. The federation also deemed a ceasefire resolution by the local government “inappropriate” due to the complexity of the foreign policy issue and claimed it would lead to increased forms of racism in the community.

Mehlaqa Samdini, a resident of Longmeadow, said she is in support of all the resolutions. There was discussion about delaying the discussions of the resolutions, to which Samdini said, “I feel we’ve already delayed this process considerably considering that more than 30,000 Palestinians have already been killed and more than 70,000 have been injured … I think we need to rush this proposal forward rather than delay it further.”

She also commented on Islamophobia and Antisemitism, being a Muslim herself. “My heart goes out to my Jewish siblings who’ve had to endure antisemitism and acts of hate against them.”

Samdini has children that attend Longmeadow High School. She’s seen a student wearing a hijab and a student wearing a kippah both enter the school and said, “I know that as long as this conflict escalates … both of those kids are vulnerable to greater acts of hate against them, which is why this needs to end now.”

Amherst was set to hold a town council meeting on Feb. 26 to discuss ceasefire resolutions with community members, but due to the large number of people planning to attend, the council had to reschedule to March 4 to accommodate.

Mahidhar Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X at @Mahidhar_sl. Jack Underhill can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @JackUnderhill16.

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