In recent days, city councils in Somerville and Cambridge have debated and endorsed resolutions weighing in on the topic of a ceasefire, the release of hostages, and humanitarian aid to Gaza. We at JCRC Boston have actively engaged with community members and city councilors in both cities during the leadup to these votes. With more conversations like these happening around the region and the country, it behooves us to share the elements of the conversations we are having with community members and local elected officials.
In many of these cases, the institutions weighing in now on a ceasefire have never commented as a body in the weeks after October 7th to explicitly condemn Hamas’ attack and to demand the release of hostages taken on that day. Doing this through a resolution at this late date – over 100 days after those vicious terror attacks – diminishes the moral standing of such statements.
Additionally, we are deeply disturbed by how local “ceasefire” resolutions have unleashed the worst behavior in these communities – including at public hearings where we endure vicious antisemitism – including the denial of (1) the facts of Oct. 7, (2) the legitimacy of the existence of Israel, and (3) the human rights of the Jews. The structure of these hearings allows this vicious antisemitism to go unchallenged. These hearings are not advancing peace. They are not making local Jewish communities safer. Rather, they are putting Jewish citizens at further risk of emotional and physical harm. We urge public officials to be thoughtful in how they use the platform of their institutions so as not to do more harm than good and to hold the whole of their local communities’ needs in these decisions.
JCRC Statements on Ceasefire:
Right now, as Israel and the United States are actively participating in negotiations with others to achieve a pause in the conflict, we at JCRC are not going to make blanket statements that oppose ‘any and all’ versions of a ceasefire.
The priority for us remains the focus on supporting the families of hostages who are desperate to bring their loved ones home. We want to center their voice and stories. For the hostages, every additional day in captivity is a living nightmare.
We continue to encourage residents of each municipality to make their voices heard in the civic discussion on matters like these resolutions when they are being deliberated.
On the Content of Resolutions:
There are certain critical elements that any serious moral call for ‘ceasefire’ needs to include:
- There must be explicit clarity that Hamas—a designated terrorist organization— violated a ceasefire on Oct. 7, committing horrific acts of terrorism, and continues to commit war crimes by indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians with ongoing rocket fire and by using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
- It should affirm Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism, and to exist, as the International Court of Justice notably did this past week even as it pressed for greater humanitarian efforts.
- It must specifically include a call for a ‘negotiated’ ceasefire. Calls for unilateral ceasefires are, in effect, calls for Israel to capitulate to a terrorist organization and to abandon the hostages.
- It must affirm that any ceasefire that does not include a return of ALL of the Oct. 7 hostages is, in effect, leaving these people to endure conditions of permanent captivity and ongoing torture.
- It should never conflate Oct. 7 hostages with combat prisoners of war or with criminal detainees.
- The loss of civilian life in war is always tragic. We discourage using casualty numbers issued by the Gaza Health Ministry (which is controlled by Hamas). The casualties they have reported conflate civilian and active combatant deaths and have been repeatedly demonstrated to be unreliable.
Finally, there are certain facts that we need to see lifted up in the public discourse about these resolutions – that reflect our understanding of this moment in time and the way forward:
- We must not excuse the indiscriminate rape, murder, and torture of innocent Israelis and foreign nationals on Oct. 7. The perpetrators must be brought to justice, and we call on international agencies to unequivocally condemn and fully investigate these horrors.
- The fastest way to end the war would be for Hamas to return the hostages and end its brutal control over the innocent civilian population of Gaza.
- It is important to note that Hamas recently rejected a proposed halt, after also breaking off the November pause.
- The only chance for an enduring and just peace between Israelis and Palestinians is to remove Hamas as an actor in the conflict. Hamas does not seek peace – one only needs to listen to their repeated public statements and to read their charter to know that they seek genocide through the elimination of the Jewish population in the region.