Vermont Gaza ceasefire resolutions

Thirteen Town Meetings Call for Ceasefire in Gaza, No More Weapons to Israel

Vermonters from all corners of the state gathered at their local town meetings on March 5th in order to draw attention to the ongoing bombardment, death and destruction executed by Israel and funded by the U.S. Voters in thirteen Vermont towns passed resolutions calling for a durable ceasefire, for the end of U.S. provision of arms to Israel, and for an end to violence as a way to settle differences. Most towns saw lopsided votes heavily in favor of the proposed resolutions. Many towns had near unanimous votes in favor.

The initiative was sparked by a call from Southern Vermont for Palestine and Vermont Peace Antiwar Coalition for citizens to bring up ceasefire resolutions at the end of their town meetings under the article for “other business to come before the town.” Both of these groups are members of the Vermont Coalition for Palestinian Liberation, which also includes Champlain Valley Democratic Socialists of America, Cooperation Vermont, Jewish Voice for Peace Vermont/New Hampshire, Party for Socialism and Liberation Vermont, Tempest Collective, UVM Students for Justice in Palestine, Vermont Law and Graduate School National Lawyers Guild Chapter and the Vermont Anti-War Coalition.

The genocidal onslaught in Gaza has been a tragic catalyst that has brought all of these grassroots organizations together to work in concert to end U.S. complicity and to exert pressure on Israel to stop the killing. These Vermonters understand that this war did not start on October 7, but is only the latest outburst of violence in the 100 years’ war that the Zionist movement has been waging on Palestinians. If you tabulate the numbers of attacks, casualties and deaths, you learn that Israel, in its quest to replace Palestinians, has inflicted many more by a large magnitude than have the Palestinians in their struggle to not be driven from their homeland. Also understood is that the narrative that has dominated American and Israeli media for decades is one that paints Israel as a peace-loving country simply trying to find a home for the displaced Jewish diaspora. This narrative is just as false as America pretending that we are not a nation built on a foundation of slavery, land theft and genocide, but rather one of freedom loving people with equal justice for all.

Tensions ran high in a few places, as some town members objected to the idea of discussing international affairs at town meeting, or didn’t want to criticize Israel. Advocates of the resolutions responded by explaining why Palestine is a local issue, reminding Vermonters the dollar cost coming out of their taxes (and how those dollars could be used to fund roads, schools, or housing), as well as the context of the resolutions being not antisemitic, but rather anti-Zionist. The resolutions’ widespread acceptance at town meetings speak to how Vermonters have identified that there is nothing contentious or complicated about recognizing that the American-backed Israeli military operation killing more than 30,000 Palestinian civilians is not morally or legally acceptable. Speakers cited the International Court of Justice, which has now heard enough evidence to move with South Africa’s case against Israel for genocide in Palestine.

This campaign did not come with a message to be parroted by its participants. Rather, it encouraged Vermonters to speak their own words, resulting in the resolutions brought up with an array of different language and different town discourses. Remarkably, they speak to a common conclusion condemning Israel’s violence and demanding we stop funding it.

In some towns, resolutions were brought to the floor by new residents who were experiencing their first town meeting. In Guilford, Joel Eisenkramer, a life-long Vermonter but new to Guilford, attended his first town meeting there and offered a resolution. Afterward, he described his motivation and how the resolution’s passage felt:

“Bringing up a resolution that would say that my town calls for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza was at the forefront of my mind because the issue is all-consuming to me; it’s too disturbing to be going about daily business knowing our U.S. government is aiding the genocidal regime in Israel. Being able to raise this concern in my community and ask if others were willing to send a collective statement made me feel supported as an individual and as an actual member of a community. […] It was a relief to know that despite the media’s constant efforts to dehumanize and disparage the Palestinian cause for freedom and justice, my neighbors still supported humanity.”

Newfane resident Emmet Mahdavi had gathered signatures in mid-January to make his town the only one in the state with a ceasefire resolution included in its town meeting warning (the official town meeting notice sent in advance to all residents). At the meeting, he spoke on behalf of the resolution. Reflecting on the experience, he said:

“Having lived out of state for the past 12 years, this was my first town meeting as a registered voter. I was struck by the practice of collective decision making, wherein neighbors disagree but still shake hands afterwards. Article 11 [the ceasefire resolution] is relevant to me a taxpayer: I can’t justify our government politically and financially endorsing a genocide. And as a thirty year old, the first two months of Israel’s carpet bombing of Gaza released more planet warming emissions than twenty countries do annually.”

In Dummerston, Lynn Levine, who introduced the resolution, said after the vote, “[It] made my heart warm to do anything in terms of peace.”

While no advocates of these resolutions claim that they will change President Biden’s current policies today, they all agree that it is another drop in what is now an overflowing bucket of citizen protest, awareness and promises to remember in November those politicians who are failing the American people now.

The towns that passed resolutions are: Newfane, Dummerston, Marshfield, Thetford, Bradford, Richmond, Putney, Sharon, Guilford, Woodbury, West Windsor, Tunbridge and Shelburne.

Top photo of Newfane town meeting by Carol Hatcher.

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