Veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council supports contentious Israel-Hamas resolution

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A veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council Tuesday supported a call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war — and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel.

The symbolic resolution, which was applauded by a coalition of local groups supporting Palestinian rights, was passed by a 9-3 vote with one abstention during a meeting of council members convening as a committee. A final vote on the resolution is expected Thursday morning.

"The defense of humanity is a shared project," said Council Vice President Aisha Chughtai, the lead sponsor of the resolution. She acknowledged that the council might have little power to quell the continuing violence, but "we have the power to say something about it."

Admittance to the council chambers and overflow room was capped when it reached fire code capacity and tensions were high that activists might disrupt proceedings. But demonstrators both for and against the resolution were impeccably civil. The lack of a single interruption, aside from occasional restrained applause during nearly an hour and a half of debate, stood in contrast to the council's first meeting earlier this month, when the resolution was introduced and anti-Israel activists chanted and shouted down several council members speaking against it. On Tuesday, many of those same people instead raised their hands, palms-up and dyed blood-red, to express silent objection.

What the resolution says

At its core, the resolution asks state and federal leaders to do four things:

Call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, along with humanitarian aid.Support an end to U.S. military funding to Israel, "and an end to U.S. tax dollars contributing to humanitarian catastrophe and loss of life."Ensure the release of all Israeli hostages taken by Hamas.Ensure the release of "thousands of Palestinians held indefinitely without cause and trial in Israeli military prisons."

The second item is a non-starter for many prominent Jewish groups, according to Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.

But beyond that, the resolution's preamble provides a "one-sided presentation" of the facts, he said, noting that it doesn't mention sexual violence used by Hamas against Israeli women, or, while it refers to South Africa's allegation of genocide by Israel before the International Court of Justice, it fails to note Israel's defense.

How they voted

The resolution is the first headline-grabbing action taken by the newly sworn council, which is now controlled by a progressive majority elected in November that falls to the political left of Mayor Jacob Frey and a group of relatively moderate Democrats.

Most of Tuesday's votes were more lopsided than that.

Voting in favor were Council President Elliott Payne, Chughtai and Council Members Robin Wonsley, Jeremiah Ellison, Jamal Osman, Katie Cashman, Andrea Jenkins, Jason Chavez and Aurin Chowdhury.

Voting against were Council Members Michael Rainville, LaTrisha Vetaw and Linea Palmisano. Palmisano and Rainville said they could have supported a narrower resolution calling for a ceasefire, but neither proposed any changes.

Council Member Emily Koski abstained and didn't speak. After the meeting, she declined to discuss why.

Mayor responds

After decades of Jewish representation, the City Council no longer has any Jews on it. Mayor Jacob Frey is Jewish — and has criticized the council's majority for not seeking his advice early in the drafting of the resolution.

Frey could veto the resolution, which is phrased not as a citywide policy, but a statement of the City Council. If he were to veto it, nine votes would be required to override that veto.

After the vote, Frey spokeswoman Ally Peters released the following statement: "The Council had an opportunity to support a unifying resolution calling for peace, a two-state solution, return of hostages, and ceasefire. Instead, the language advanced was one-sided and divisive. The Mayor is currently focused on City business. He will be reviewing his options over the next several days."