Protestors standing outside City Hall on Friday, May 3. Protestors were holding signs that said "Free Palestine" on them. (Photo/Nicole Collier) Nicole Collier

Ceasefire Resolution Support Reaches Athens-Clarke County Government

Athens-Clarke County commissioners and pro-Palestinian groups are at a standstill over whether the city should adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

Mayor Kelly Girtz has suggested other methods to address the conflict such as an open letter supporting an end to the fighting and protections for civilians. Some local advocacy groups are open to formal support for the letter, but say they will continue pressing the commission to vote on a  ceasefire resolution as well.

 Why It’s Newsworthy: National support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has grown as other cities across the country pass resolutions calling for an end to fighting. 

Athens Against Apartheid is one of the grassroots advocacy organizations that is putting pressure on the local government to put a ceasefire resolution on the ACC commission’s agenda. After starting with a social media campaign, members of the organization have been regularly appearing at commission meetings and conducting protests at City Hall to show their support for a resolution calling for Israel to stop its attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Making Local Connections to the Conflict

Even though there is national public support for a ceasefire, ACC commissioners have been reluctant to add a ceasefire resolution to the agenda.

Community members have been leaving public comments in support of a ceasefire resolution for months. They draw a connection to Athens as a local issue.

“We literally have Palestinians in our community who are being affected by this and who are not getting support from the university or the government, or anybody else,” said Ceci Webb, one of the founders of Athens Against Apartheid.

Athens Against Apartheid drafted a ceasefire resolution that they want passed, based on a version adopted in Bellingham, Washington. Their resolution includes seven sections for the mayor and commission of the unified government of Athens-Clarke County to sign and pass.

Advocates Push for a Seven-Point Resolution

Infographic of terms of the ceasefire resolution Athens Against Apartheid has sent to the Athens-Clarke County Commission. Infographic/Nicole Collier.

The resolution adopts an objection to taxpayer funds that is used to aid Israel in their military occupation, calls for an immediate ceasefire, condemns all forms of hate as a result of the conflict, solidarity with those affected, and calls on state and national officials to call for an immediate ceasefire.

“I think its frankly kind of silly if they’re using a resolution as a local government,” said Girtz in an interview.

Girtz suggests those who want a federal ceasefire resolution to point their attention toward Mike Collins or other Georgia representatives in Congress to urge them instead.

Support for an Open Letter

Girtz suggests an open letter as a more effective tool. He signed the Jewish Voice for Peace open letter that is for state and local officials to sign to tell Biden to call for a ceasefire.

Commissioner Jesse Houle of District 6 also signed the Jewish Voice for Peace letter, but also supports a ceasefire resolution. Houle also says putting conditions on aid to Israel seems reasonable.

The open letter calls for a lasting ceasefire while opposing indiscriminate killing of civilians. It calls for the U.S. to demand a ceasefire and work to establish a future without Israel’s military occupation and siege of Palestinian land.

Girtz said a ceasefire resolution is not in the commission’s purview.

“The resolutions that we do pass really kind of are around our support for people within the community,” said Girtz.

Increasing Toll of the War

The daily death rate in Gaza is higher than any other major twenty-first century conflict, according to Oxfam, a global organization. Israeli troops are killing Palestinians at a rate of 250 per day.

Webb describes the point of contention advocates have with Girtz. “Why this man thinks that human beings dying at a rate beyond any other conflict in the 21st century, and even now reaching into the 20th century, like doesn’t affect all of us,” said Webb.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The Biden Administration, in a national security package, allocated $14.3 billion of taxpayer money to Israel for aid. Georgia has also invested in $10 million in bonds from Israel. Growing support for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza in the U.S. has resulted in demonstrations and disruptions of politicians.

Girtz said Athens-Clarke County government already struggles with things that are within the scope  their duties. He argues that bringing in an international issue, “would be to introduce challenge that is not worthy of where we are.”

“We’re open, obviously to an open letter, you know, were not going to be totally unreasonable, like, ceasefire resolution or nothing because anything is something at this point,” said Webb.

According to Reuters, some 70 cities have passed resolutions with most calling for a ceasefire.

Nicole Collier is a fourth-year student majoring in international affairs and journalism.

 

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