The Madison City Council passed a symbolic resolution Tuesday night calling for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas, joining the ranks of other local governments throughout the country demanding an end to the conflict.
The council unanimously backed the call for a ceasefire following nearly an hour and a half of impassioned comment from residents who were overwhelmingly in support.
Many of the speakers were Palestinian residents of Madison, some of whom shared stories of relatives being killed by Israeli airstrikes in the densely populated enclave that is controlled by Hamas, an armed Palestinian militant group.
“I have no information about many of them in Gaza,” Madisonian Samir El-Omari said of his family members there.
Laurie Zimmerman, a rabbi at Shaarei Shamayim, said her faith taught her “to not stand idly by” while innocent civilians are killed by the Israeli military.
“The destruction of Gaza has caused suffering on such a massive scale it is hard to comprehend,” Zimmerman said.
Ald. Nasra Wehelie, who represents the Southwest Side and proposed the resolution, charged the Israeli military with “a collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza.”
“It’s important that we use our voices as policy makers to stand up for justice,” Wehelie said of the war, noting that city governments from Seattle to Detroit have also backed the call for a ceasefire.
Some residents Tuesday night criticized the council’s resolution for not explicitly condemning Hamas’ violent incursion into Israel on Oct. 7 that saw about 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers killed and about 240 others kidnapped into Gaza, triggering Israel’s ongoing invasion and bombing.
The resolution didn’t directly condemn Israel’s actions in the war either but rather called for “political action to both de-escalate the crisis and to prioritize truth, reconciliation, restitution and the building of a future for the Palestinian and Israeli people.”
Jeremy Tunis, who sits on the board of directors of the Jewish Federation of Madison, called the resolution “pathetic.”
“Hamas unleashed a genocidal attack on Oct. 7,” Tunis said. “Any country in the world would have a right to respond in the way that Israel did.”
In addition to the call for a ceasefire, the council backed a statement condemning antisemitism and Islamophobia.
“While we’ve just passed a resolution that is primarily a subject of foreign affairs, I want to make sure that our council, with our finite resources and time, is prepared to do the work necessary here at home to keep our communities safe and free from hate,” said Ald. Regina Vidaver, who represents the Near West Side in District 5.
Housing, density boosted
In other business, the council made an interim update to the city’s 2018 comprehensive plan Tuesday night. The updated plan mirrors land-use and streets recommendations from 17 area and neighborhood development plans adopted in the past five years. Notably, the update now allows for buildings up to 12 stories to be built on parts of Regent Street.
The council also finalized $11.3 million in funding from the city’s Affordable Housing Fund for five low-cost housing projects. The funding secures about 300 low-income units across Neighborhood House Apartments on the Near West Side, and the Ellis Park Apartments, University Park Commons II, the Yellowstone Apartments, and Merchant Place Apartments, all between Midvale Boulevard and Gammon Road on the West Side.