Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A controversial resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas prompted strong opinions between members of the City Council on Wednesday, and some feared it could prove even more divisive on a community scale.

Backed by Montanans for Palestine and the Montana Democratic Socialists of America, several council members voiced support for the resolution, saying Missoula should display its humanitarian side in calling for an end to what some described as “genocide.”

Specifically, the resolution calls on all governments around the world to facilitate a de-escalation and ceasefire between Israel and Hamas “to prevent death and violence in all forms.”

“It allows the city of Missoula to present its culture to the rest of the world that, as a city, we agree that ceasefires are something we support,” said council member Kristen Jordan, who sponsored the resolution. “It's really okay for municipalities to weigh in on matters of a humanitarian crisis.”

However, when another council member offered a friendly amendment to the resolution in an attempt to widen it to all global conflicts and away from its singular focus on Israel and Hamas, Jordan didn't accept it.

Council member Stacie Anderson said the resolution, as written, threatened to pit one side against the other in an already contentious event. Most are appalled by conflict in general, she said, and the resolution should direct its focus on global strife, not a single war.

“I have a concern that we're specifically calling out this particular conflict. It's not the only conflict in the world where American bombs and dollars have a part in,” said Anderson. “This particular conflict is incredibly divisive in our community. I feel like we're causing more harm by talking about this particular conflict versus all world conflicts.”

Members of Montanans for Palestine have been pushing the City Council to weigh in on the conflict for months. The organization's representative, Brendan Work, maintained that pressure on Wednesday, saying Missoula must take a position on global affairs and stand against war.

“Missoula as city is innocent of our federal government's actions and does not endorse the continuing slaughter of over 25,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis,” said Work. “Missoula is part of a larger world of people demanding peace and justice in the region.”

The resolution presented Wednesday was toned down from its original version, which some feared placed greater blame on Israel. Even as written, the new resolution makes no mention of the Oct. 7 terror attacks launched by Hamas.

Instead, it calls for an end to the Israel-Hamas conflict in general, saying the targeting of civilians is a “violation of international humanitarian law.” But some suggested the resolution was steeped in emotion and went beyond the responsibility of City Council.

People filled the Chabad Jewish Center of Missoula on October 10, 2023, to pray for those killed, kidnapped, injured, or impacted by the Hamas attack on Israel. (KPAX image)
People filled the Chabad Jewish Center of Missoula on October 10, 2023, to pray for those killed, kidnapped, injured, or impacted by the Hamas attack on Israel. (KPAX image)

“My constituents sent me here to discuss crime, housing, homelessness, housing affordability, taxes and spending,” said council member Bob Campbell. “Those are the issues my constituents have me invested in here as their representative. I don't think they want me to go down this rabbit hole of foreign policy matters. We have federal representatives to do that.”

Some expressed concern that the resolution could be viewed as a potential snub of Israel. When one council member voiced opposition to the resolution, a supporter shouted “fuck you” from his online connection.

Others expressed concern that the resolution would set a questionable precedent, where the city would be asked to take a stance in all global conflicts. But Jordan said the city has weighed in before, including 1991 during the Persian Gulf War and again in 2007 during the Iraq war.

Council member Mirtha Becerra said she grew up in a country on the receiving end of U.S. influence that shifted her nation's political history. She said resolutions can carry weight and were sometimes justified, even if they won't change world history.

“This resolution is not asking us to solve the Middle East conflict,” she said. “It's simply us standing up and saying that all human life is precious and the targeting of civilians, no matter their faith or ethnicity, is a violation of international humanitarian law.”

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