Chicago has long been a beacon of justice from the Haymarket Riots to the Chicago Freedom Movement to the anti-war protests of the early aughts. Last week, however, Chicago’s City Council passed the “Israeli Solidarity Resolution,” betraying the city’s commitment to equality.
The resolution introduced by Alder Silverstein unequivocally declares the city council’s support for Israel, condoning and emboldening the state’s increasingly brutal and genocidal use of violence. Chicago’s city council should stand for peace, not violence, and call for a ceasefire so that all those in Gaza and Israel may live.
Alder Silverstein’s resolution comes in the midst of terrible violence and tragedy in Gaza and Israel. As of writing this at least 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, and 7,696 have been wounded; at least 1,300 Israelis have been killed, and 3,000 have been wounded. Most casualties on both sides have been civilians, including children.
Alarmingly, the Israeli government is escalating this conflict into a genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza. In recent days, Israeli officials have compared Palestinans to animals and pledged to “open the gates of hell.” Prime Minister Netanyahu has gone so far as to say he hopes the Israeli response will “reverberate for generations,” This extreme rhetoric is being deployed to sanction the government’s ruthless campaign into Gaza and beyond. For the 2 million Palestinans, half of whom are children, currently under seige, this language has become a lived reality.
On October 9, the Israeli government cut electricity to Gaza and tightened, to a suffocating degree, its blockade on the area. This left hospitals in the dark, bellies unfed, and communication between loved ones and the outside world, lost. The following day, Israeli forces began conducting air bursts of white phosphorus, a toxic substance with a significant incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures on fire. And on October 12, Israel ordered over one million Palestinians to evacuate within 24 hours, a nearly impossible feat in light of the blockade, setting the foreground for a ground invasion by Israeli forces.
Each passing day, the world watches as Israel pushes the bounds of what constitutes unconscionable further and further.
As Jews, we are no strangers to persecution, expulsion, and genocide; these histories are held in our bones, passed from generation to generation, our bodies standing testaments to the perseverance of the human spirit, to the pursuit of freedom and justice. It is this history which inspires our activism and commitment to liberation, and our drive to dismantle all oppressive forces, including those done in our name.
The U.S. policy of unconditional support for Israel does not keep the Jewish people safe. Pressuring the Chicago City Council to endorse colonialist violence and ignore Palestinian human rights does not keep Chicago Jews safe. Jews, like other religious and racialized minorities, depend on our neighbors for our safety and solidarity, and we need to show the same respect to other peoples, especially to Palestinians, with whom our futures are intertwined. The devastating violence we are seeing now is the direct result of the far-right Israeli government’s policies, policies which are supported by over $3 billion annually of U.S. military aid. It’s a cycle: U.S. military aid to Israel increases violence, which justifies more military aid, which creates more violence. Violence is not a path towards peace.
The City of Chicago does not have to participate in this deadly cycle of violent discourse, unchecked military aid, and endless war. Declaring support for Israel at this moment, as Alder Silverstein’s resolution has done, not only condones Israeli violence, but also elides Chicago’s rich history as home to peace and justice movements. It is time to honor Chicago’s history, to put an end to this ruthless violence, to call for an immediate ceasefire in Palestine/Israel and ensure that not another life is lost in this brutal conflict.
As Chicagoans, as Jews, and as anti-Zionists, we condemn the “Israeli Solidarity Resolution,” and invite Chicago political, religious, and community leaders to join us in building a path towards justice and peace.