By Ray Hanania
Chicago last week became the largest American city to adopt a resolution calling for both a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas.
Calls to end the conflict stem from the high casualty rate, with about 1,200 Israelis killed on Oct. 7 and more than 27,000 Palestinians killed in the four months since. Most of the victims have been civilians, with 40 percent being children.
Despite being balanced, the Chicago ceasefire resolution has become the foundation for a growing campaign of anti-Arab hate. This comes not only from American politicians from across the spectrum and pro-Israel activists, but also the country’s mainstream news media. The message appears to be simple: Killing Israelis is reprehensible but killing Palestinians is not.
Supporters of the Chicago resolution — which is not a law and has no legal authority — fought to get it approved after many delays.
Pro-Israel activists pushed through a first resolution on Gaza on Oct. 13, with unanimous approval of a resolution that denounced Hamas terrorism. It was introduced by Alderperson Debra Silverstein, Chicago City Council’s only Jewish member.
Two months later, as Israel’s violent campaign of revenge against Palestinians in Gaza accelerated, with thousands killed and buildings such as homes, mosques, hospitals and schools destroyed, two Hispanic alderpersons, Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez and Daniel LaSpata, introduced a resolution proposing a balanced call to end the killing of both Israelis and Palestinians. The council has no Arabs or Muslims among its 50 members.
This resolution was last month delayed by Silverstein, who introduced a rival resolution to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the Holocaust. She argued “the timing would be bad” to pass a ceasefire resolution at that moment, suggesting it would disrespect the Holocaust. The Holocaust resolution was adopted unanimously on Jan. 24 and the humanitarian ceasefire resolution was voluntarily delayed by the sponsors in another demonstration of fairness.
When the humanitarian ceasefire resolution was brought back to the floor a week later, Silverstein, along with Jewish American leaders and powerful pro-Israel groups like the Anti-Defamation League, urged the council to block it. Opponents argued it would undermine President Joe Biden’s policies on the conflict. The Biden administration vetoed a similar resolution at the UN Security Council in December.
When the 50-member council voted on the balanced resolution, 23 alderpersons supported it and 23 opposed it. Four left the chamber to avoid voting. Mayor Brandon Johnson, an African American who expressed empathy for the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians at the previous meeting, then cast his tie-breaking vote in favor and the resolution was adopted.
Just as rage drives the Israeli government’s assault on Gaza’s Palestinian population, it also fuels the demonization of Johnson and those members who urged an end to the killing of both Palestinians and Israelis.
For example, The Chicago Tribune subsequently ran a one-sided editorial that was unprecedented in its venom, calling the resolution “a hateful travesty.” It described the “most striking” image of Silverstein “being shouted down and screamed at” by pro-resolution activists. The article did not mention the pro-Israel activists who condemned the resolution’s supporters.
The newspaper even called the resolution and its supporters “anti-Semitic,” but made no mention of the Palestinian deaths, the nearly 100 journalists killed by Israel’s assault or the razing of major Palestinian cities, which continues today.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is Jewish and has been antagonistic toward the state’s Arab population, joined the cacophony denouncing the resolution, saying: “I was disappointed that no consideration was given to the women who were raped by Hamas fighters who crossed over into Israel, kidnapped people, that the deaths that were caused by those terrorists were not acknowledged … The city council, if they’re going to talk about the challenge of war in the Middle East, you’ve got to make sure you include all of the perspectives. They did not do that.”
Pritzker said nothing about the high rate of Palestinian civilian fatalities caused by the Israeli assault.
Hundreds of similar resolutions have been approved by smaller municipalities nationwide, including the Arab-majority Dearborn City Council. A resolution passed there provoked The Wall Street Journal to lead its op-ed pages last Friday with a column by notorious anti-Arab columnist Steven Stalinsky, titled “Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital.” In it, Stalinsky falsely asserted that calls for a ceasefire by the Dearborn council and the city’s Arab American Mayor Abdullah Hammoud were evidence of “open support” for Hamas and terrorism.
In a statement sent to Arab News on Monday, Hammoud said he feared The Wall Street Journal column might provoke violence and threats. “In response to an Islamophobic, anti-Arab and blatantly racist opinion piece … we have increased the presence of law enforcement throughout Dearborn,” Hammoud’s statement read. “Dearborn Police continue to monitor social media for threats. This is more than irresponsible journalism. Publishing such inflammatory writing puts our residents at increased risk for harm.”
It is possible that the anti-Arab hate, Islamophobia and demonization of the Arab world in America today exceed the levels of hatred and animosity that followed the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They are driven by a campaign of one-sided propaganda that weaponizes anti-Semitism to marginalize Arab and Muslim rights and give Israel’s government the mandate it needs to continue its collective punishment and carnage in Gaza.
Worse is that the demonization of Gaza’s Arabs is also redefining American attitudes toward the Arab and Islamic worlds, which will negatively impact those regions in the long term.