Ceasefire resolution is passed by council but divides the city

By Alberto Gilman
Posted 1/24/24

The Newburgh City Council approved a resolution on Monday calling for an immediate and permanent humanitarian ceasefire in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Five votes were in favor with council …

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Ceasefire resolution is passed by council but divides the city


The Newburgh City Council approved a resolution on Monday calling for an immediate and permanent humanitarian ceasefire in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Five votes were in favor with council members Ramona Monteverde and Robert Sklarz abstaining. The vote followed more than an hour of public comment.

Since October 7, 2023, the on-going Israel-Hamas conflict has claimed lives on both sides. NPR reported as of Sunday, January 21, the number of Palestinians killed in the conflict is 25,105. The attacks committed by Hamas on October 7 claimed the lives of 1,200 Israelis. Men, women and children have all been victims of the conflict.

Residents of the City of Newburgh and surrounding municipalities spoke on the matter Monday night.

“You, the city council of Newburgh, New York have the unique opportunity to be resolute in many ways that directly and indirectly impact the individuals who live, frequent and visit here,” said Ali Muhammad. “Supporting the end of the on-going bombardment and siege of Gaza only strengthens our diversity, demonstrating how equitable and inclusive we can be.”

“I would just like to ask the council to abstain from any vote on this resolution, I don’t believe that it’s appropriate for the City of Newburgh to be making decisions on international complex matters,” said

Zachary Ruttenburg. “I think that there are many issues here in the City of Newburgh locally that we need to focus on.”

“Today, I stand before you in strong support of the ceasefire resolution,” said Zineb Awad. “It’s not just an issue over there, it becomes our issue when our hard earned money is funding it. The essence of this resolution is unity and peace.”

“Don’t you have better things to do than waste everyone’s time and city money on this resolution?” said Drew Kartiganer. “And you plan to send this resolution to federal and state representatives, most of whom have already stated support for Israel’s right to defend itself and exist. They will look at this resolution, think the same thing: “Don’t you have better things to do than this?”

A lengthy message shared Monday night by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County was written by Rabbi Douglas Kohn of Temple Beth Jacob: “I will not be attending the Council meeting, nor will I speak to the motion. I will not sully myself, nor Temple Beth Jacob or our esteemed Jewish community, to be in a room of polemicists and grand standers. I will not allow myself, nor any other like-minded Jewish community members or friends of the Jewish community, to be humiliated by those who may shout or carry offensive posters, while in a public, municipal forum. I will not endeavor to persuade the unpersuadable, especially those who have not been to Israel, who do not speak Hebrew, and who have not been in regular conversation with Israelis, and who deign to arrogate to themselves the right to determine a recommendation on United States foreign policy and the moral and necessary right to defend itself of a sovereign nation under attack,” he said. “To those who urge that I help educate our Council members, I submit that they have my number and could call me at any time. I left two voicemails for Mayor Harvey last week, and was at an event with a Council Member last Monday. Neither reached out to me for information or comment. To those who say we should show our faces to demonstrate support, I submit that it would be a much louder demonstration of our position if we did not participate, en masse, and let the Council throw its party and we not attend. To those who say we should speak to the media, I submit that the media follows the drama of the circus, and I would rather it come to the Jewish community to inquire about our absence, than to ask us how we felt when we were defamed, deflated or demeaned by an ugly confrontation.”

“Thus, tonight, I will refrain from attending the City Council meeting. I will be pleased if the Council defeats the resolution, realizing that taking a position on American foreign policy is not the purview of our Council, and dividing our fractured community is unwise, as well. However, I perfectly understand, and even expect, that the Council will pass the motion, and then realize that they have curried favor with local noisemakers from a national, partisan polemical movement, but risked relations with key constituents here in Newburgh. I will be ready to speak to the Mayor and Council members – privately and forthrightly – when that time comes,” he continued. “And, I encourage you to absent yourselves from the meeting tonight. Feel free to send written comments to the Council. But, let’s not get in the mud with mud-wrestlers. Let them dirty themselves, and we will stand tall.”

City council members also shared their comments and thoughts Monday night: “A majority of our residents who voted for us said that this is what they want, a ceasefire,” said Councilman Omari Shakur.

“This resolution presented tonight does not favor a side. Rather it was intended to call for peace and unity,” said Councilwoman Giselle Martinez. “We have been asked how this affects us locals in the City of Newburgh. Our federal tax dollars are funding a war and that could be used for more housing, it could be used to fix our crumbling infrastructure, to maintain and expand our green spaces and to stop the gun violence that plagues our community.”
“I feel the pain on both sides. It is terribly difficult to listen to both sides where people say that it’s not divided. But to me listening, it is divided. This is not the community that I want,” said Councilman Robert McLymore. “Let’s talk. Let’s join together. I don’t like to see us divided.”

“Tonight, I will be abstaining. This is a very complex resolution and I’ve heard from, from everybody on both sides,” said Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde. “This is a very complex thing.”

“‘We behind this table represent everybody in the city. I see the city is deeply divided over this issue based on the phone calls I receive, based on the emails I receive,” said Councilman Robert Sklarz.“There’s people in this community who strongly support this resolution, who strongly oppose this resolution.”

The resolution available on the city council website follows: “Whereas, all human life is precious; and Whereas, over 23,000 Palestinians and over 1,200 Israelis have been killed since October 7th; and Whereas, collective punishment and the killing of civilians are war crimes under international law; and Whereas, the deal negotiated in late November for a temporary ceasefire and release of some hostages is insufficient, and a more permanent solution is desperately needed; and Whereas, the United States holds immense diplomatic power to save Palestinian and Israeli lives; and Whereas, all elected officials must use the platform provided by their offices to advocate for measures that will end violence and prevent death; Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that the City of Newburgh: Condemns the killing of civilians, collective punishment, and all forms of Islamophobia and antisemitism; and Urges the Biden administration to call for and facilitate a permanent ceasefire in Gaza; and Urges the Biden administration to send and facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza; and Calls for the release of all hostages and political prisoners; and urges elected officials representing the City of Newburgh to call for a permanent ceasefire, the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and the release of all hostages; and Be It Further Resolved, that upon passage, a copy of this Resolution shall be sent to the Office of U.S. President Joe Biden, the Office of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, the Office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the Office of U.S. Representative Pat Ryan, the Office of State Senator Rob Rolison, and the Office of State Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson.”