Urge members to adopt resolution about conflict
The City Hall courtroom was filled Monday night (Feb. 5) with residents asking the Beacon City Council to adopt a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Although Newburgh’s City Council approved a cease-fire resolution on Jan. 22, the Beacon council generally does not wade into national or international politics. On Monday, several people said it should change that approach.
Anything less than a cease-fire resolution “will be read by your community as an implicit support of continued violence at home and abroad,” said Veekas Ashoka, who was among the protesters who interrupted the mayor and council’s swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 6.
As Rep. Pat Ryan, whose U.S. House district includes Beacon, spoke before the swearings-in, Ashoka and three other protesters attempted to unfurl a banner in the back of the room. City Administrator Chris White and several veterans from the Memorial Building, where the event was held, blocked the group and held the banner so it could not be opened.
Ashoka on Monday took Mayor Lee Kyriacou to task for saying that the protesters made elected officials and others in attendance that day feel unsafe. The mayor “compared nonviolent protesters to political murderers because of the masks and winter jackets that they wore,” Ashoka said, calling the comments “similar to Israel’s multi-decade demonization of Palestinian people.”
Kamel Jamal, who owns Ziatun and the Beacon Bread Company, also asked the council to pass a resolution. Jamal said he was born in a refugee camp outside of Palestine and has been threatened and beaten in Beacon for his heritage, but has also rallied behind causes including Black Lives Matters and LGBTQ rights in an attempt to leave a “positive footprint” on the community. “I hope that you see what I see,” he said.
While a dozen people asked the council to adopt a resolution, not everyone in attendance agreed. Jacob Reckess, who said he came “in peace and for peace,” asked the city not to go down “the very slippery slope of trying to get into a very complicated foreign policy.”
Reckess said that Palestinian and Israeli leaders had both benefited from American aid, and asked the council to think about the complex history of the region. “To suddenly say, ‘We should have a cease-fire,’ and not look back is complicated,” he said. “I’m nervous about what a generic resolution might say.”
Theresa Kraft said the council would waste time and potentially taxpayer resources by engaging in the debate. “We need to put our resources into our 5 square miles,” she said. “Paying the city lawyers to draft these resolutions that have no sway on world politics is just throwing money out the window.”
Brent Spodek, the rabbi at the Beacon Hebrew Alliance, said he has struggled with the dynamics surrounding Israel and Palestine for much of his career. He also acknowledged that a cease-fire resolution would have no impact on the situation in the Middle East.
Instead, Spodek gave his phone number and invited dialogue on the local level. “I would hope that we don’t simply replicate the efforts to grasp for force, to use what force we can gain, to make our voices louder and the voices of our so-called opponents quieter,” he said.
Following the public comments, Council Members Molly Rhodes and Paloma Wake, who has previously encouraged her colleagues to consider a resolution, asked to discuss the matter during an upcoming meeting. It is scheduled to be on the agenda for the council’s workshop on Tuesday (Feb. 13), which begins at 7 p.m.
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