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Hamden Town Council deliberates over Gaza cease-fire resolution

Dozens attended a Hamden’s Legislative Council public hearing that lasted in the overnight hours to discuss a nonbinding ceasefire resolution in Gaza. While no decision was made, the resolution has proven to be divisive within the town.
Eddy Martinez
Connecticut Public
Dozens attended a Hamden’s Legislative Council public hearing that lasted in the overnight hours to discuss a nonbinding ceasefire resolution in Gaza. While no decision was made, the resolution has proven to be divisive within the town.

Hamden’s Legislative Council may be the latest municipality in Connecticut to pass a nonbinding cease-fire resolution in Gaza.

The council held a public hearing which lasted into the overnight hours Tuesday and went into recess. And while no decision was made, the resolution has proven to be divisive within the town.

Former Town Councilman Justin Farmer supports the cease-fire and said Hamden residents are indirectly funding Israeli assaults on Gaza, which have killed thousands of civilians.

“It's a question of what are our taxpayer dollars going to, what is our moral obligation to that,” Farmer said.

The resolution, which is nonbinding, is largely ceremonial, but advocates say passing one would put pressure on elected officials to support a cease-fire within the federal government which continues to support military aid to Israel.

If Hamden passes a resolution, it would follow the communities of Bridgeport and Windsor, the only two municipalities in the state which have passed cease-fire resolutions.

But opponents, many of them Jewish Americans or Israeli Americans, oppose the resolution due to seeing it as a distraction from town issues or as an antisemitic act.

Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett, a Democrat, has not publicly said if she supports or opposes the resolution.

Dominique Baez, president of the town’s legislative council, told Connecticut Public it would take a recess to further discuss the resolution after an at times contentious multi-hour public speaking session.

Many who spoke at the session, like Benjamin Scolnic, the rabbi at the Temple Beth Sholom in Hamden, opposed the resolution. Scolnic said a municipal council has little knowledge of foreign affairs, a common view among opponents, and would only pit Hamden residents against each other.

He also struck a conciliatory tone with supporters of the resolution. He said he wants to engage with and understand them.

“You are in pain,” Scolnic said. "Let us hear and respect that pain. But you must understand that we are in terrible pain, too,” Scolnic said.

The resolution itself, introduced by council member Abdul Osmanu, says various actions the Israeli military has taken since the Oct. 7 attacks, could plausibly be considered a genocide, citing a recent U.S. District Courtorder, and the International Court of Justice.

Dr. Benjamin Edidin Scolnic
Eddy Martinez
Connecticut Public
Dr. Benjamin Edidin Scolnic speaks in opposition Hamden's proposed Gaza ceasefire resolution.

But while the language of the resolution also condemns antisemitic acts such as threats made against the Mishkan Israel Synagogue, and Islamophobic and anti-Arab American attacks, the document has been controversial for supporters of Israel.

Some protesters carried banners saying peace is possible if Hamas, which attacked Israel on Oct. 7 killing at least 1,200 Israelis, surrenders its weapons.

But the attacks are also part of a long running conflict which intensified after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and has led to tit-for-tat killings of Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

Opponents said the resolution does nothing, but at least one supporter, Francesca Maria, a member of the Connecticut Democratic Socialists of America, said doing so sends a message to the president.

“We’re hoping that these local efforts can apply pressure on our federal electeds and the Biden administration and show them the will of the people and public opinion has turned and that their position is untenable,” Maria said.

Cease-fire supporters throughout the country have previously said they would withhold support for the Democrats in a presidential election year if the administration continues to supply military aid to Israel.

While opponents and supporters spoke and sometimes shouted each other down, other officials have yet to make definite comments. Mayor Garrett issued a carefully worded statement calling for understanding.

“I believe this is the start, not the end, of an important community conversation,” Garrett said. "I am working with a facilitator to bring Faith and Community leaders together to have this essential conversation.”

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