Ceasefire Resolution

Dear Friends, 

In a significant local victory for those opposing the ongoing assault by the Israeli military on Gaza, the Cambridge City Council on January 29 unanimously passed a Policy Order calling for a negotiated ceasefire.

Cambridge joined 47 other U.S. municipalities, including Somerville, San Francisco, Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta, Providence, and Chicago, which previously passed resolutions in support of aceasefire in Gaza. The Cambridge debate received extensive local press coverage, which is linked on the last page of this message.

The text of the resolution, with amendments, can be accessed here:

Hundreds of Cambridge residents demonstrated at City Hall, signed up to speak, sent in letters, or called our city councilors to plead for an end to the killing in the Gaza Strip. We’re proud to say that members of the Cambridge Residents Alliance were a vocal and determined part of that effort. 

A letter from the CResA Board in support of a ceasefire resolution was published prior to the Council debate in the Cambridge Day

While the final vote was contentious, the Council was ultimately able to agree on this important resolution.  We are grateful to Councilors Sumbul Siddiqui, Ayesha Wilson, Marc McGovern, and Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler for sponsoring the Policy Order. Councilor Patty Nolan offered several motions which were contrary to the spirit of the Order, and which the Cambridge Residents Alliance opposed. They included:

  • Inserting a description of Hamas as a “terrorist organization.” This political commentary undercut a statement about the urgency to protect all human life and ignored both the history of state violence by Israel in Gaza and the critical role Hamas will play as a party to any ceasefire. Unfortunately, this amendment passed. 
  • Removing from the Order the estimated numbers of Palestinians killed, wounded, or displaced since the bombardment began. As grounds for this proposed amendment Councilor Nolan cited her objection to the reporting by public health officials in Gaza, which is accepted as accurate, if not an undercount, by U.S. government officials, the E.U., the U.N., and all papers of record, including the Israeli newspaper HaaretzFortunately, the proposed amendment failed.
  • Attempting to block an amendment proposed by Councilor Siddiqui that accurately characterized the Israeli military assault on Gaza as “disproportionate.” In fact, the Israeli army’s own strategy documents have called since 2008 for “disproportionate force,” an approach that has been reflected for the last 15 years in civilian casualty figures in the Gaza Strip. Fortunately, this motion failed and the Israeli assault on Gaza was described in the Order as “disproportionate.”
  • Adding a clause that characterized the policy order as merely “symbolic” and not truly authoritative or effective in opposing the violence underway in Gaza. Unfortunately, this amendment passed.

Councilors Paul Toner, Joan Pickett and Mayor Denise Simmons, mostly supported Councilor Nolan’s motions to weaken the Order.

The last of these motions has broader implications, and is deeply objectionable to many of our members. Urged on by its constituents, the Cambridge City Council has a long and proud history of passing resolutions in support of humanitarian and progressive causes. These have ranged from the struggle against apartheid in South Africa to the liberation movements in Central America to the nuclear disarmament campaigns during the Cold War and beyond. We consider such actions not only to be necessary from a moral perspective (going on record that we will not be bystanders), but effective, helping build a nationwide movement of localities to challenge the decisions of our federal government. 

To say that we alone cannot change the policies of the Netanyahu government, or even the Biden Administration’s support for Israel’s actions, is like saying that one person casting a vote cannot determine the outcome of an election. Of course, this is true. But it does not mean that we should not vote. Such an understanding has deep roots in American constitutional law, including Justice John Marshall’s 1819 statement that national decisions must start from the local level, because ‘the American people cannot be compounded into one common mass.’

Again, we applaud our City Council for doing the right thing in the end. We welcome all the councilors as partners in the movement for peace and healing in the time ahead. Thanks to our members for your hard work and advocacy on this issue!

In solidarity, 

The Gaza Working Group of the Cambridge Residents Alliance Executive Committee

Press coverage of the Cambridge ceasefire Policy Order: 

The Cambridge Day:

The Boston Globe:

The Harvard Crimson:

A statement by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley about the Cambridge and Somerville Gaza ceasefire resolutions is here:

An article about resolutions by other U.S. municipalities in support of a Gaza ceasefire is here:

Send comments to <[email protected]>.

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