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Charlottesville councilors pass Israel-Hamas cease-fire resolution after reconsidering measure

After voting down a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war two weeks ago, Charlottesville City Council took up the issue once again Monday night.

This time it passed in a 3-1 vote, with one councilor abstaining.

Loud cheers erupted after the vote, a victory for those who had been pushing Council to reconsider its first vote and those who have been critical of Israel’s ongoing war with Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which has claimed the lives of more than 31,000 people since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 of last year.

Dozens gathered outside Charlottesville City Hall Monday afternoon before councilors began their official meeting to rally support, singing hymns and holding signs calling for a cease-fire.

Councilor Brian Pinkston, who opposed the resolution on March 18, was the pivotal vote Monday night.

Before casting his vote March 18, Pinkston voiced concern that while the resolution was well-intentioned, it would “create more friction in this community.”

But on Monday, Pinkston said that he had reconsidered that position, partially due to what he heard from many of the resolution’s supporters.

“I believe it’s important to change your mind and to revisit a decision if upon new information or upon further reflection you tend to believe you made a mistake,” Pinkston said.

The vote came after yet another public comment session dominated by impassioned city residents calling on Council to pass the resolution. Chambers were filled beyond capacity, with Mayor Juandiego Wade at one point stopping discussion and asking people to offer any empty seats to the many others who were forced to stand by the door.

Those who did not speak showed their support for the resolution in other ways: holding signs that read "Ceasefire now!" and waving Palestinian flags.

Reading from a prepared statement, Pinkston said that it was not uncomplicated to take a vote on a conflict that many of his constituents view as complex.

“That said, I’ve become convinced that there are times and places in which I as an elected official should lend the support of my conscience to a public action like this resolution,” he said, eliciting snaps of approval from the audience. “This seems to be one of those moments.”

He called the impact the war has had on innocent lives “morally outrageous” and said that Charlottesville has “skin in the game,” referring to the fact that the city is a home for many refugees and that the defense sector, as the second-largest employer in the Charlottesville area, plays a major role in the local economy.

While the majority of those in attendance supported the resolution, not everyone did.

When Dan Alexander, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel, the oldest synagogue in Virginia, spoke out against the measure, he was met with jeers and interruptions from the crowd, specifically when describing the atrocities Hamas committed against women and children on Oct. 7.

"Wittingly or unwittingly, those who promote resolutions like the one before Council today partake of an ideology that opposes the very existence of the one stable democracy in the Middle East," Alexander told councilors during public comment, eliciting hisses from the audience. "Those who support this resolution are in effect aiding and abetting Hamas."

The mayor had to repeatedly ask members of the audience to remain respectful.

The resolution Council approved Monday notes the tremendous violence that innocents in Israel and Palestine have suffered since Oct. 7 of last year, when Hamas terrorists launched a deadly surprise attack on Israeli civilians, and Israel responded by declaring war and laying siege to the Hamas-controlled Gaza territory to its south. Charlottesville’s resolution calls for a cease-fire in the war, the safe release of all hostages and the immediate provision of humanitarian aid into Gaza. It also asks that copies of the passed resolution be sent to President Biden, Democratic Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as Republican Rep. Bob Good, who represents Charlottesville in Congress.

The resolution also notes that more than 100 American cities have passed similar resolutions.

“I support the content of that resolution. I’ve become convinced that its authors, some of whom I’ve met, intentionally sought to strike a neutral and balanced tone,” Pinkston said.

Pinkston also said he’d thought about how the vote may bring unintended consequences to the city.

“I still believe that this is the right and courageous thing to do,” he said. “Hate has no home in Charlottesville.”

Councilor Lloyd Snook maintained the same position that he has consistently held: that it is unwise for Council to take positions on international matters.

He was interrupted by members of the crowd during his comments Monday night, and both Wade and Pinkston reminded the crowd to listen respectfully.

Snook pointed out that while many of the people in the crowd want the U.S. to cut off weapons shipments to Israel, the resolution did not call for that.

Snook also said that while he supports a cease-fire, Council should not wade into such issues, “particularly issues like this that have proven to be intractable over decades if not millennia.”

“Since the resolution is going to pass, because I can count to three, I will abstain rather than vote no, because I would not want a no vote to be misunderstood as a no vote on the substance,” Snook said.

Wade voted against the resolution but made no comment on the matter. During the previous vote, he explained that he felt he was elected to Council to focus on hyper-local issues.

“I would love to see this type of support for the three shootings that we had in our community a few weeks ago, for the unhoused that we have right here on the Downtown Mall. I would love to see this type of input,” he said at the meeting two weeks prior.

Councilors Natalie Oschrin and Michael Payne, who introduced the resolution and voted for it at the last meeting, voted yea once again.

“I do think we have a very small voice, but it is still a voice,” Payne said. “It’s easy to feel a sense of hopelessness, because we can’t control what Northrop Grumman does directly. We can’t control what Congress does directly. But I do think we have to do what we can, which is often small but it’s still something.”


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