Minneapolis City Council Holds Off On Israel Ceasefire Resolution – For Now

Despite suggestions otherwise last week, a Minneapolis City Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Israel was not voted on Monday morning at that body’s first meeting of the new council session.

After the resolution was placed on the agenda at the start of the meeting, newly-elected Councilmember Aurin Chowdhury moved to refer the item to the City Council’s committee of the whole to discuss the resolution at that meeting on Jan. 23, before considering final action on Jan. 25.

A draft was sent to City Council members, their staffs, and Mayor Jacob Frey on Sunday night and was made available to the public Monday.

“Our standard legislative process will ensure that we get full input on this resolution through the committee process,” Chowdhury said. “We know that our committees do the bulk of the legislative work and that’s why I support referring this to the committee that will give us another week to discuss this proposal with each other and with our constituents. I think additional time will only help strengthen our collective resolve.

“Councilmember [Aisha] Chughtai and I, along with many other council members wanted to ensure good governance and transparency in this process in conversation and consultation with constituents, our mayor, council members, and the coalition that was a part of the proposal of this resolution.”

Nearly 20 organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace Twin Cities and IfNotNow MN, have signed on to a proposed Minneapolis City Council resolution in support of a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, supporting Palestinian human rights, and “urgently needed humanitarian aid.” The resolution also calls for: “an end to U.S. military funding to the State of Israel, and an end to U.S. tax dollars contributing to humanitarian catastrophe and loss of life; ensure the release of all Israeli hostages taken by Hamas; and ensure the release of thousands of Palestinians held indefinitely without cause and trial in Israeli military prisons.”

An earlier version of the resolution did not call for the release of hostages.

At a press conference last Friday, Chughtai and Choudhury said that the resolution was Councilmember Robin Wonsley and signed on to by the two of them, plus Councilmembers Jeremiah Ellison, Elliott Payne, Jason Chavez and Katie Cashman. Now only Chughtai, Chowdhury, Payne, Ellison, & Chavez are listed.

City Councilmember Robin Wonsley. (YouTube Screenshot).

City Councilmember Robin Wonsley. (YouTube Screenshot).

“I want to be very clear what I see in Gaza is Israel committing a genocide,” Wonsley said. “Not calling this a genocide, not recognizing the ethnic cleansing sanitizes the horror that is being experienced by Palestinians and erases their humanity. Staying silent is not an option. And neither is using language that misconstrues the reality of the situation and gives cover to the violence and oppression that our relatives in Gaza are experiencing.”

The latest version of the resolution did not include the words genocide or ethnic cleansing.

Wonsley’s remarks were interrupted by cheering supporters with chants of “ceasefire now.” In a statement, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas accused Wonsley of “fanning the flames of antisemitism” as the supports of the resolution at the meeting held signs such as “Both sides are thirsty/Israel for blood/Gaza for water.”

The crowd attempted to shout down Councilmember Linea Palmisano when she talked about why she was not supportive of the resolution. The crowd was so loud that Councilmember Michael Rainville called for Council President Elliott Payne to adjourn the meeting and clear the room.  

“People are worried this will inflame both antisemitism and Islamophobia. I feel strongly that we need all of our energy to spend time on the issues that we can affect here in our city,” Palmisano said. “I’d like to start this year getting to work on things where we can affect change, and not on things that heighten fear and alarm in our constituents.”

After the meeting, Palmisano said she was not surprised by the vitriol given how the room felt.

“What I said I felt needed to be said, and I didn’t think anyone else was going to,” she said.

Her comments, she said, came from feedback that she and many council members are getting.

“The energy spent to hammer out language can be so much productively spent holding people together in this moment. This is going to be fractious and terrible,” she said. “Similar to the [Minneapolis Federation of Teachers] resolution, it will make people feel unsafe.”

The JCRC said that if the decision was made to pass something later this month, the city councilmembers should have more conversations with their constituents to “produce language that brings people together and reflects our shared values of embracing the humanity of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”