After weeks of protests, little Ojai approves the resolution on a ceasefire in Gaza

(Michael Owen Baker/Michael Owen Baker/For The Times)

After weeks of protests, little Ojai approves the resolution on a ceasefire in Gaza

Israel-Hamas, Homepage News

Hailey Branson Potts

February 27, 2024

After weeks of protests in which a man dipped in fake blood pretended to die on the floor of City Hall, the Ojai City Council this week passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

The symbolic measure was voted on 3-1, with one council member absent, during a special meeting Monday devoted solely to the resolution.

The town of Ojai, population 7,500, joins about 70 U.S. cities that have contributed to the nearly four-month war, according to a Reuters analysis of municipal data. More than 50 of them have adopted resolutions calling for an end to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza or calling for peace more broadly, and at least 20 have condemned the October attacks. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the counter-offensive, data shows.

Ojai’s two-page resolution calls on Congress to demand an “immediate and permanent” ceasefire, and calls on the US to “cease unconditional military assistance to Israel,” and calls on Hamas to ” to release all hostages in Gaza in exchange for an agreed number of politicians.” prisoners in Israel” and for “the restoration of food, water, electricity and medical supplies to Gaza,” as well as unrestricted access for humanitarian aid.

“I believe it is our moral duty and responsibility as human beings to do all we can to reduce the suffering of all the beings with whom we share this planet,” said Mayor Betsy Stix. Stix voted in favor of the measure despite asking attendees at previous council meetings to limit their comments on local issues.

Health authorities in Gaza say nearly 30,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s months-long bombardment. According to the Israeli government, at least 1,200 Israelis were killed and an estimated 250 others kidnapped when Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israeli towns near the Gaza border on October 1. 7.

In recent weeks, city council meetings in Ojai, a city that has declared itself an International City of Peace, have been dominated by dozens of passionate speakers, most of them pro-Palestinian, expressing their views on the war.

In December, a special council meeting devoted to discussing a ceasefire resolution closed without a vote after members of the public left their seats to argue with each other.

On February 13, a regular council meeting was halted due to a ‘die-in’ protest by pro-Palestinian activists. Cyrus Mayer, a 29-year-old Ojai resident and landscaper, burst into the room with one


kaffiyeh headscarf and covered in fake blood. He collapsed to the ground as a woman read the names of dead children in Gaza. The police dragged him out of the room.

Dozens of people spoke during the 3.5-hour meeting on Monday, which in many ways culminated in a painful back-and-forth about the legacy of suffering resulting from anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Aviva Bernat, a resident, said the resolution would not protect Israelis and Palestinians and would only create damaging divisions in Ojai.

“There is so much fear,” says Bernat, who is Jewish. ‘You’ve done damage [with] these resolutions and these meetings. We don’t sleep. We’re not doing well. Hear this: We are your Jews. … When we say that we are shaking, that we are not safe, that we have the right to survive, I mean it.”

Jody Lewis, a 12-year resident who said she was married to a Jewish man and raised three Jewish children in Ojai, came forward to support the resolution, saying she “stands with so many, including those in the Muslim population of Ojai who have been threatened and are, quite frankly, too afraid that their families will appear publicly in your chambers.”

Her heart broke, she said, “for the tens of thousands of people who have died” since the December council meeting, when it was last considered.

Sheila Cohn, an Ojai resident since 1996, said council members have “wasted countless hours” and should do their job. “Today, say no to a proposed resolution and say yes to a resolution to mind your own business and take care of the people who have put their trust in you,” she said.

A high school student spoke of her longing for a world at peace and for children in Gaza who feel excited about their future.

Councilman Andrew Whitman, the lone vote against the resolution, called the resolution divisive, especially because the Israeli community views the “ceasefire” as “a trigger word” and “the equivalent of saying, ‘Put down your weapons and die.”

Councilor Suza Francina said she had also heard “ceasefire” described as a trigger word.

and called it ‘thinking backwards’.

as well as people who blame the resolution for contributing to anti-Semitism. She called it ‘thinking backwards’.

“I think a ceasefire is the best way to stop or reduce anti-Semitism,” she said. “The truth is that violence begets violence.”


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