Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Citing community safety and divisiveness, members of the Missoula City Council on Wednesday tabled a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, saying the measure would force the city to take sides in a conflict it doesn't understand.

But even those opposed to the measure expressed concern for the war's humanitarian crisis, and they joined supporters in urging global leaders to continue working for solutions. The measure was tabled on a 7-5 vote in the Committee of the Whole.

“I'm devastated the by the death and destruction we've seen,” said council member Mike Nugent. “But I keep coming back to a number of basic issues that this resolution overlooks. The language may feel neutral, but the comments coming from many are clear that they want us to place blame on Israel and Israel alone. Ceasefires take both sides to agree.”

Sponsored by council member Kristen Jordan, the resolution calls on all governments around the world to facilitate a de-escolation and ceasefire between Israel and Hamas “to prevent death and violence in all forms.”

The resolution was supported by members of the Western Montana Democratic Socialists of America, Montanans for Palestine, and Montana Women Vote. Jordan said she was compelled to sponsor the resolution to stand against a humanitarian crisis fed by U.S. tax dollars that's largely effecting women and children.

“I don't want to continue sending military aid and tax dollars to Israel anymore until they commit to a ceasefire and a two-state solution,” Jordan said. “As a woman and a mother, I want to stand on the right side of history as it presents itself in this particular genocide. I'm not an anti-Semite because I support this ceasefire. These terms and feelings are not mutually exclusive. I'm pro-Israel and pro ceasefire.”

Jordan noted her pro-Israeli stance after one public comment accused her and other members of the Democratic Socialists of America of being an “anti-Israeli hate group.” The comment noted that Jordan's resolution didn't make “any mention of hostages being held in Gaza, nor does it call for their release, which is an outrageous and callous omission.”

The resolution went through a number of edits before it was presented in its current form. Some expressed concern that the original version was too divisive and placed blame at the feet of Israel.

Council member Amber Sherrill helped rewrite the resolution in hopes it would strike a balance. But on Wednesday, she it still fell short and didn't assuage her original concerns.

“In doing that drafting, and even more now, I fully acknowledge that I don't understand the nuances or complexities behind 70-plus years of conflict in that region,” said Sherrill. “Most of us are horrified by what's happening in Israel and Gaza. That being said, and it's very unfortunate, there are many, many horrible conflicts and wars going on around the world we're not weighing in on.”

Other council members who expressed opposition to the resolution said taking sides in a complex foreign conflict went beyond the purview of City Council. Nearly all expressed discomfort over the humanitarian strife unfolding in the region, but they suggested a local resolution would only divide Missoula while doing little to stop the war.

“I'm now convinced that weighing in on this issue locally will do more harm than good, and globally won't have the effect we actually want,” said council member Sierra Farmer. “Locally, it feels like throwing gas on a campfire and globally, it's like throwing a match on a bonfire.”

A divided public

Members of the public also offered mixed opinions in calls and letters to council members, and in public comment.

Among them, Mark Anderlik with the Western Montana Democratic Socialists of America said a recent vote by the International Court of Justice should make the Missoula City Council's support for the resolution “easy.”

“They have found, without question, that's it's likely that genocide is occurring by Israel in Gaza,” Anderlik said. “This preliminary injunction was a clear rebuke to Israel. None of Israel's arguments were accepted by the vast majority of the court.”

But others disagreed, saying the resolution was a naive oversimplification of history, politics and religion.

Rabbi Mark Kula said that while the current situation was “anguishing and horrific,” it was also complex and goes well beyond the reach and understanding of the City Council.

“Based on the resolution, it's clear there's a limited knowledge and understanding over what's happening in the Middle East,” Kula said. “There's still hostages and numerous political parties and international entities that are pushing buttons and putting pressure on all parties involved. That's not the purview of this (City Council).”

Other opponents feared the resolution would only serve to divide the community.

“The baggage of this resolution, not just the words, but the conversations around it and the rhetoric surrounding it, are drastically oversimplified,” said Marilyn Marler. “Some people might say the words of the resolution are okay, but there are things happening and being said in the community that are not okay.”

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