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Peoria Defender

Peoria Ceasefire Resolution and the Imperative of Moral Courage

On Tuesday, February 13th, I joined Peoria for Palestine and the Muslim Civic Coalition to call for the passage of a Ceasefire Resolution in the Peoria City Council with respect to the ongoing violence in Gaza and the West Bank.  



The Right to Speak Out 

I want to take a moment to recognize that the ability to speak our concerns publicly is a right that many people around the world cannot exercise. Being able to speak directly to political leaders about the oppression and violence wielded against Palestinians is a privilege that is systematically denied to Palestinians in Palestine itself. Many actions at the council meeting, such as openly criticizing the Israeli regime, would be met with violence and arbitrary detention in Palestine.  


The Apartheid Legal System 

When a Palestinian is charged with breaking an Israeli law, they are tried in a military court rather than a civilian one (if they are ever tried at all) and tried according to martial law - in other words, tried by an apartheid legal system. We do not take for granted our right to exercise a public voice without fear of a legal system explicitly enforced along the lines of race and nationality. 



The Humanitarian Crisis 

In the last four months, the state of Israel has caused over 100,000 casualties in Gaza; over 30,000 dead, over 65,000 missing or injured. The statistics involving mass death, weaponized starvation, and a collapsed public health infrastructure are chilling. And it would all be impossible without billions in unconditional US military aid. But what would a Ceasefire Resolution in Peoria even do?  


“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, then you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” - Bishop Desmond Tutu

The Symbolic Power of Peoria 

If the Peoria City Council were to pass a Ceasefire Resolution, it would send shockwaves throughout the political spectrum. Peoria is commonly understood as an indication of the ideological soul of the Midwest - while the Peoria City Council does not determine whether arms are sent to other countries nor exercise direct control over foreign policy, they do have immense power to impact the rhetorical conditions within which those decisions occur.


While the message would ultimately be symbolic, the force of this symbolism must not be underestimated or discounted.  



The Local Relevance of a Ceasefire Resolution

But why should the Peoria City Council vote on this at all? Is it even relevant to us? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Not only are there community members here who are directly impacted by the annihilation of Gaza and Palestinians, but our own community desperately needs the 1.7 million dollars that Peorian taxpayers send to Israel yearly, 99.7% of which is used to expand its military capacity.


While these funds are administered through the federal government, they are still Peorians’ resources. Why are Peorians, against the USA’s own laws, forced to send millions of dollars to support a foreign state currently using those funds to commit an endless list of war crimes?


When hunger, educational disparities, gun violence, and housing crises plague our own community, the illegal misallocation of public money at the federal level is absolutely a local issue. Peoria needs the money that Israel uses to murder and oppress Palestinians for Peoria - we deserve a City Council who is courageous enough to stand up for the needs of Peorians over the desires of an apartheid client state.  


The Need for a Vote

While Peoria for Palestine’s ultimate aim is for the Peoria City Council to pass a Ceasefire Resolution, at this point our fight is simply to get the Council to bring the resolution up for a vote. We believe that the Council should at minimum bring the Resolution up for a vote, so the community knows how our Council members stand on this relevant issue. This is not “divisive,” it is honest.



The Fallacy of Compassionate Neutrality

On the question of neutrality, there is none. In her pre-written statement released shortly following the public comments, Mayor Dr. Rita Ali stated that the City Council would not bring this issue forward due to maintaining “compassionate neutrality.” This is a specious claim for three reasons: there is no neutrality under injustice, “compassion” without action is condescension, and “neutrality” is an incoherent position in the context of a Peoria Ceasefire Resolution.


The Complicity of Silence

Bishop Desmond Tutu, speaking of South Africa’s apartheid regime, famously said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, then you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Claiming neutrality simply because you do not have the courage or clarity to speak truth does not absolve you of responsibility for violence, it only deepens your complicity.


In her statement, Mayor Ali said “I do not want it to appear as though leadership does not care about loss of life.” This focus on appearances is telling. Mayor Ali must take something other than optics into consideration and stop fabricating obstructions to an important political process.


The Meaning of Compassion

“Compassion,” etymologically, means “feeling-with.” To feel-with the people of Gaza or those directly impacted by the assault on Gaza involves understanding their plight as your own. Genuine compassion involves honoring another’s humanity as invaluable, like one’s own.



Nobody can have compassion for those impacted by the assault on Gaza without saying or doing something to stop it. Pity, perhaps. But not compassion. If you are not motivated to action, especially when each US American bears responsibility, then you are not experiencing compassion. Mayor Ali’s claim to compassionate neutrality is a cynical oxymoron.


The Choice Between Justice and Oppression

Moreover, Mayor Ali’s claim to maintain neutrality by obstructing a Ceasefire Resolution from even reaching the floor is itself incoherent. There are truly only two sides on this issue: Peoria for Palestine wants the Council to bring a Ceasefire Resolution to a vote, while pro-Israel groups want to stop the Resolution from coming to a vote.


This is a binary choice, and there is not a neutral option available. Any claim to neutrality reads as duplicitous double-speak. By opposing bringing a Ceasefire Resolution to a vote, and attempting to manufacture consensus for this position amongst the councilmembers, Mayor Ali in her official capacity opposes an end to Israel’s massacres and opposes herself to every person of conscience in Peoria.


I hope that she changes her position, but until she does, she is an obstacle to justice. This is the true source of divisiveness. Peorians deserve to know whether our councilmembers believe that we ought to be sending our resources overseas to enable an unfolding genocide.


The Contradiction of Compassionate Neutrality

The language in Mayor Ali’s public statement is nearly identical to an email she sent to the Council members in advance of the meeting requesting that they fall in line behind her, so they may be “unified in neutrality.” Looking beyond the disturbing moral vacancy on display, I am incensed that our council is apparently too apathetic to do something the mayor disagrees with.


When we elect local representatives, we want somebody to genuinely represent the interests of their constituents and to uphold basic moral principles in decision making. What we have seems to be a horseshoe of individuals who would rather play their small part in facilitating genocide than act against Ali’s wishes.


The struggle for a free Palestine is also the struggle for a free Peoria. A call to end violence against Palestine is a call to end oppression everywhere. The Peoria City Council must meet its moral imperative and bring a Ceasefire Resolution to a vote.

Ceasefire Now!



 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily represent the views of Change Peoria or its members. Change Peoria is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or validity of any statements made by the guest author. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any products, services, or organizations mentioned by the guest author.


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