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.

Protesters interrupted remarks by Rep. Pat Ryan at a swearing-in ceremony at the Memorial Building in Beacon on Jan. 6. (Photo by Una Hoppe)
Protesters interrupted remarks by Rep. Pat Ryan at a swearing-in ceremony at the Memorial Building in Beacon on Jan. 6. (Photo by Una Hoppe)

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.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

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17 Comments

  1. I can’t believe we have to beg to stop killing children. I can’t believe that we need to convince people that killing innocent children, women, men and animals is wrong.

  2. One resident told the council that anything less than a cease-fire resolution “would be read by your community as an implicit support of continued violence at home and abroad.” But it also could be read as implicit support of Hamas in its goal of eradicating Israel, as expressed in its charter: Peace is not an option for Hamas, only violence, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which cites the Hamas charter: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” May all who live in the Middle East find peace.

  3. I am unable to find any resolution by the Beacon City Council condemning Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine. I also cannot find a resolution condemning the Azeri ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh.

    If the City Council wishes to engage in foreign policy, over which it has no authority or influence, it would do well to avoid the appearance of a fixation on Israel and Palestine. Spending valuable City Council time passing a resolution on this one foreign conflict and no others would be a well-understood dog whistle. Blowing that dog whistle would diminish both the City Council and the people of Beacon and detract from peace-building.

    If a municipal government genuinely wishes to promote peace it should do so in a manner that brings people a bit closer together. One example would be inviting speakers to engage, educate and challenge the public. Peace is a hard question and has no easy answers.

    Sadly, we are now many years into national politics that proudly demand division and the alienation of our fellow citizens — in today’s case, our Jewish neighbors. The resolution, guaranteed to go unheard in the Middle East, is asking the City Council to politely succumb to the politics of alienation. Beacon has so much more to offer and it is now in the hands of the City Council to affirm as much.

  4. As always, the devil is in the details. The protesters do not represent all Beacon residents. The resolution they want calls for a cease-fire without any demands on Hamas, which started the war and violated the last truce, on Dec. 1, to release the remaining hostages and to change its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel. There is also no acknowledgment of the horrific sexual assaults and mutilation of Israeli women, nor the other innocent people, including babies, murdered on Oct. 7.

    Council members should remain focused on local issues because that’s what we elect them for. They are not experts in international affairs.

  5. Small community governments are out of their bailiwick and out of their element when they outgrow their proscribed roles as provincial lower-tier functionaries, which is why they should focus on more (local) mundane matters, lest they fall further into the lower class of backwater dilettantes. Any such dubious resolutions taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are ill-conceived and will not create more consensus, only more conflict, and in the course of doing so undermine their limited purview.

  6. While I support a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, I do not support a Beacon City Council resolution expressing this opinion.

    The proposed resolution would force residents to take extreme sides on an issue they may have more nuanced views about. Clearly there are people in Beacon, whether Muslim, Jewish or secular, who are grieving and deeply affected by the war in Gaza. What we need is a safe and supportive space, with a skilled facilitator who can help us give voice to our pain and listen to each other.

    I hope the City Council recognizes the underlying need here. Let’s revive the Human Rights Commission and find an appropriate venue to collectively mourn and work toward mutual understanding. That is the Spirit of Beacon.

  7. The Beacon City Council is discussing a possible humanitarian ceasefire resolution. As Jews, we support passage.

    Jews speak with many voices from varying values and politics. Like other Jews of our age, we grew up in the dark shadow of the Holocaust. Though our parents were not survivors of the Holocaust, we had family members who survived fighting with the resistance, were hidden by a kind Polish family, and survived by playing dead in a pile in Treblinka and lived to testify at Nuremberg.

    We grew into adulthood amid the conflicts of the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements. We have direct, devastating familial experience of government-led efforts to silence dissent during the McCarthy period. As Jews, we learned vital lessons that we’ve carried through our lives into retirement and in how we raised our two children.

    Lesson 1: The German and world silence as the Nazis attacked and eventually rounded up and murdered Jews, Roma, homosexuals and dissidents taught us to never relinquish our power to speak up and stand against injustice, no matter how intransigent the perpetrators or how dim the prospect for justice. During the Civil Rights movement, the segregationists argued that “you can’t legislate people to love one another.” Maybe not. However, in the face of pitched conflict, the moral and political power of direct action and legislative demands for new laws led to an end to egregious de jure discrimination. We know that no path to mutual empathy and respect, peace, democracy and justice for all is possible while people are killing one another. In the face of the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 and Israel’s murderous attack on innocent Gazans, we call on our City Council to not remain silent.

    Lesson 2: Never again means never again for anyone. That is why some of our grandparents organized labor unions, fought for school integration and marched on Washington in 1963. It is why we’ve followed in their footsteps. It is why we joined others to protest the U.S. horrific napalming of North Vietnam. It is why we’ve fought racism our whole adult lives. It is why we demand that our government cease its diplomatic and financial support for Israel’s wholesale annihilation of Palestinians — entire families, children, educational institutions, mosques — anything that remains. We know deep in our marrow that Jews cannot be safe anywhere in the world, while Palestinians who share the same piece of the Earth are not free. Not all Jews of the diaspora — now or in the past — regard a Jewish state as central to their identity or safety.

    Silence is the face of injustice is acceptance. We call on the Beacon City Council to stand up and pass a resolution to demand (1) an immediate permanent ceasefire between Hamas and Israel; (2) an end to U.S. military aid to Israel; (3) a release of all Hamas-held hostages and Israeli-held political prisoners; (4) condemnation of any killing of innocent civilians; (5) condemnation of hatred against Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians, Israelis and Jews.

  8. If Beacon representatives feel an urge to flag some virtue, why do it on an issue that is far-flung on the other side of the planet? Helping the oppressed Indigenous get their land back? Refugees? A swell cause indeed and why not start with something closer to home? How about passing a resolution that the Town of Wappingers Falls gives all its territory back to the remnants of the Wappingers tribe? But then the Beacon City Council will be taking a significant risk that the Towns of Wappinger and Poughkeepsie will pass a resolution that Beacon and Newburgh should also evacuate their residents and hand over the town to the Wappingers people. The handover should include, apart from all lands and buildings in Beacon, the Town Crier, the Round House and Bank Square coffeehouse. Some would probably demand that the residents of these towns should return to where they or their grandparents came from. Colonists go home and end the ongoing “occupation.” And what about the Mohegans and Manhattan?

  9. As a 13-year resident of Beacon, a homeowner, an elected trustee of one of our community’s most valuable institutions and a Jewish American, I am calling on the Beacon City Council to pass a cease-fire resolution.

    My mother’s family escaped from the pogroms in Russia and came to this country in the early 1900s. My grandmother worked hard to get Jewish families to the U.S. during World War II. Not a single member of my family would want this genocidal rampage to happen in Palestine, and certainly not in our name. This is a horrific ethnic cleansing that we are watching in real time, and we are also bearing witness to the power of pro-Zionist propaganda at every level of our society and culture.

    Further, my father’s family were socialists and were blacklisted during the Cold War by the U.S. government for speaking their truth to capitalist power and against censorship of the freedom of expression. Now, in 2024, we are witnessing more blacklisting, more censorship and more limits to our freedom to criticize Israel’s actions.

    Is the City Council prepared to stand on the wrong side of history under the weak pretense that the resolution doesn’t matter? If it doesn’t matter, why are any of us serving our city? This is a time for being clear about the value of human life, and not for favoring those with more power and resources.

    The City Council must pass this cease-fire resolution; there is no other choice you can make in good conscience.

    1. A coherent, thoughtful and intelligible response. I don’t know how some Beaconites, of the Boho Bourgeois class, can be so unfeeling, willfully uninformed and perversely sanctimonious. It must be the Beacon bubble of social-climbing making false equivocations. Showtime’s “The Curse” embodies many of the “values” bumper stickered around town.

  10. As a Jew, a parent and a human, I cannot turn away from what is happening in Israel and Palestine right now. Along with other Beacon Jews, in December I co-organized a pro-ceasefire menorah lighting outside Rep. Pat Ryan’s office that drew 50 people, demanding him to act immediately to stop the horror. Since Congress has failed to answer our call, we must act locally to send a clear message that we do not support our tax dollars going to fuel more death, more destruction, more despair. Pass a cease-fire resolution.

  11. I am a Jewish Beacon resident of 10 years and I fully support our City of Beacon passing a cease-fire resolution.

    Our tax dollars are funding the genocide of Palestinian people, the collective punishment of innocent men, women and children. Israel is an apartheid state, a colonial project, and a racist theocratic ethnostate that has not and will not save Jews from antisemitism globally.

    Beacon owes no allegiance to Israel. And neither do Jews for that matter. Bibi Netanyahu and his fascist cabinet do not care what our little city does. Netanyahu doesn’t care what President Biden says or what the International Court of Justice rules. The Israeli government has spoken clearly and plainly that they wish to annihilate Gaza and murder as many Palestinians as possible. The Israeli government has repeatedly prioritized vengeance over freeing hostages. Not even the lives of its own citizens could deter Israel’s goal of total destruction, ethnocide and genocide in Gaza. There is no complication. By calling for a cease-fire, Beacon is taking a stand for its residents and is sending a message to the state government and the U.S. government that we do not condone genocide. We do not accept that our tax dollars are funding Israel’s genocide of Palestine.

    There is nothing antisemitic in the language of this resolution. The purposeful conflation of Jewishness with Israel is at its core antisemitic. The redundant lamentings of long standing “complications” to this issue is willfully distracting and deeply patronizing. Please, speak plainly about what this “slippery slope” is descending into. Take the time to be specific, and tell us what is so complicated. If the opposition to this resolution cannot do that, then they have said nothing.

    The City Council should pass this resolution to ensure that we truly are the “welcoming, safe and inclusive city” we claim to be. Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people is costing Beacon an average of 200,000 in taxpayer dollars. The environmental cost is beyond measure. I can not overstate the cost to our collective and individual humanity if we do not act now as a community and call for a cease-fire in Gaza.

  12. Local resolutions can lead to national change, and give elected officials at higher levels a clue about what voters want. [via Instagram]

  13. Beacon is represented in the U.S. House by Rep. Pat Ryan, who has failed to call for a cease-fire and has shown zero empathy for his Palestinian constituents. Cease-fire resolutions at the city level, as in Newburgh and Albany, are meant to amplify local voices so that our federal reps will stop greenlighting genocide. If you start from a place of saying that “it doesn’t matter what we do,” your selective empathy is showing. [via Instagram]

  14. All men and women are created equal, regardless of race, creed, color, wealth, education and so on. One evil individual does not represent an entire race and religion. We can and should do everything to stop the carnage against Israelis and Palestinians. The people themselves did not create this war, their evil leaders did. The Palestinians and the Israelis should elect decent human beings instead of power-hungry dictators. Hatred begets hatred.

  15. Think globally, act locally. The politics, the policies, power and influence of local American governments is very influential, even on a global stage. Beacon taking a stand against war, violence, brutality and oppression would also be the city standing up for diplomacy, dialogue, coalition-building and the middle way.

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