Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Southern Illinois community urges city council members to call for a ceasefire in Gaza

Joseph+Behan+holds+up+a+sign+reading+%E2%80%9CFree+The+People%2C+Free+The+Land%E2%80%9D+in+support+of+a+ceasefire+in+Gaza+during+the+protest+Feb.+13%2C+2024+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.+%0A
Simeon Hardley | @SimShardPhotography
Joseph Behan holds up a sign reading “Free The People, Free The Land” in support of a ceasefire in Gaza during the protest Feb. 13, 2024 in Carbondale, Illinois.

Three Southern Illinois organizations rallied together on Tuesday, asking the Carbondale City Council to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Members of the Southern Illinois Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), SIU Young Democratic Socialists of America and the Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois gathered outside the Carbondale Civic Center at 5 p.m. prior to the 6 p.m. meeting. Participants used flags, posters and chants to express their support for the people of Palestine and encourage the city council to pass a resolution in support of a ceasefire. 

Luke Herron-Titus, Chair of DSA, said it is important to encourage local leaders to act because “from the bottom up is how any type of change has to happen.” 

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“We’re in a really bleak position where close to 2 million people have been displaced into Rafah and they’ve been told this is a safe zone [but the] safe zone keeps changing,” he said. “I think that it’s high time that Carbondale, like other cities across the nation – like Minneapolis and Chicago –  call for a ceasefire to show that we have political unity in the community around defending the Palestinian people and making sure that the senseless killings stop.” 

Several community members, many of whom are Palestinian, spoke during the preliminaries to the city council meeting. 

SIU student Yara Hindi used her allotted four minutes to not only urge council members to act, but also to educate the community on the severity of Gaza’s conditions. 

“I stand before you today not just as a resident but as a Palestinian-American with a moral obligation to speak on the events unfolding in our world today,” she said. “I implore our council to endorse this crucial resolution for a ceasefire. This endorsement is not only for the sake of the many lives lost in Palestine but it is for the safety and assurance of our community here, sending a powerful message that our city strongly opposes the loss of civilian lives. 

Hindi said the anguish is “indescribable.”

“As I stand before you, more than 20,000 Palestinians have been slaughtered with 11,000 being children…Our ability currently to intervene is incredibly miniscule and the council listening to us today represents one of the few avenues through which we can get our voices heard.” 

Hindi told the council that she is speaking “not just as an advocate for [her] people, but as a grieving human being urging us all to recognize the urgency of the situation.” 

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“Gaza no longer has any functional hospitals in the North. There is nowhere safe for the people of Gaza to evacuate other than going to the Sinai Peninsula,” she said. “1.9 million Palestinians have been displaced, seeking refuge in Rafah, and they have now been asked to evacuate by the Israeli government.”

Hindi talked about drone strikes and bombings.

“Rafah is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with millions of people fighting to survive against apocalyptic conditions: intense bombings, no sleep, grieving of family members, tents as shelters, and a fight against famine. It is morally indefensible to turn a blind eye to the suffering of innocent lives,” she said.

Hindi said rejecting a resolution would be a “disservice to our community.”

“In endorsing this ceasefire resolution, we not only stand on the side of justice, but also reaffirm our dedication to the well-being of all regardless of borders. I believe that as a united community we send a profound message that Carbondale stands for peace, justice, and the protection of human lives,” she said. 

SIU Graduate Student Abdulla Kahil shared his experiences as an Palestinian with the council. 

“I am here tonight as a representative of the Palestinian people. To be given a voice marks the beginning of a strong alliance,” he said. “My family left Gaza years ago to come to this land to seek greater opportunities that can both be mutually beneficial to American citizens and Palestinians. My parents left everything behind for my sisters and I to have a life here, but we never forgot what was left behind. We would oftentimes revisit our homeland and unfortunately we would witness the violence.” 

Kahil said his mother and sister went back to Gaza to spend time with family but haven’t been able to leave since the beginning of the war. 

“They are in good spirits and remain steadfast but there’s no guarantee that they will return,” he said. “My mother is an instructor here at John A. Logan Community College, and my sister is a senior accountant at the KPMG Accounting Firm. They are both valuable members of the American society, along with many other Palestinians.”

He continued, “You will find that most of us have degrees. We are doctors, lawyers, engineers and businessmen who proudly serve the American people. An American-backed ceasefire for Gaza would be an excellent first step in establishing diplomatic relations with the members of the Palestinian people here in America and all over the world.” 

Jake Minkus is a descendant of Holocaust and pogrom survivors. At the meeting, he shared his stance. 

“I am a proud Jewish-American who believes that the need for a ceasefire resolution is imperative,” he said. “As we navigate the occupation and navigate for a permanent ceasefire, it’s crucial to acknowledge the perspectives that shape our understanding of resistance and survival…The Palestinian resistance groups evoke parallels with the Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, in which my ancestors took part in. My perspective is rooted within my deep-seeded belief that in the face of existential threats, individuals and communities will do whatever is necessary to ensure there is survival and preserve the possibility of a future for their descendents.” 

He proceeded to point out similarities between Jewish and Palestinian resistance groups. 

“Palestinian resistance groups have emerged in response to decades of occupation, displacement and dispossession. Their methods may vary, raging from armed struggle to civil unrest, but their underlying motivation remains consistent – the desire to resist oppression and secure a better future for themselves and for everybody else,” he said. “While the circumstances may differ, I understand the fundamental human impulse driving both Jewish and Palestinian resistance is the same. The refusal to accept subjugation, and the commitment to fight for freedom, justice and dignity.” 

“Let it be said,” he continued, “that the use of violence as a means of resistance is a deeply divisive issue, one that raises difficult, moral and ethical questions about the legitimacy of armed struggle and pursuit of political goals. However, we are not one to judge the hungry by their table manners. As we strive to understand the complexities of the occupation, it is essential to approach the topic with nuance, empathy and a commitment to dialogue, not arguments. By engaging in honest and respectful conversations, we can foster a greater understanding and empathy across divides, ultimately moving closer to the goal of achieving a just and lasting peace for all.” 

Gage McPhail is a member of DSA and helped set up the rally. He described the organization’s recent protests as an “escalation tactic to then further pursue pressuring” leaders such as the U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, who has yet to call for a ceasefire. 

“Doing this kind of helps practice organizing because people aren’t going to inherently know what to do and how to organize it,” he said. “It helps people build confidence and get comfortable [with speaking up].” 

McPhail said he believes the first step community members should take in supporting Palestine is “being more outspoken and showing solidarity.” 

“If people were to come out and show solidarity by, like, standing here with us in the rally or even just going into the city council it would be incredible,” he said. “Or when we have weekly marches on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Carbondale pavilion, even coming out there…showing solidarity to the Palestine community and Muslim community, that does mean a lot.” 

Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois member Georgeann Hartzog also encourages community members to attend events and speak out against injustice. 

Carbondale’s Church of the Good Shepherd is having a breakfast fundraiser for the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund on Saturday, Feb. 24th from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Hartzog said. She encourages people to take action by attending events like these and speaking out against injustice. 

“I think we can all keep calling and texting and emailing our senators and the White House demanding that a peaceful way be found, a ceasefire happens, the hostages get released and stop the killing of innocent Palestinians,” she said. 

Councilperson Clare Killman and Mayor Carolin Harvey provided brief comments at the meeting in response to citizens’ request for a ceasefire, but refrained from further discussing the topic. 

“I understand your passion,” Harvey said. “When it’s close to your heart, I understand.”

Killman said, “I appreciate [that], no matter what direction you are approaching the issue from, on a sort of thread on continuity, there are requests for peace, which I don’t ever think is irresponsible to advocate for. How or if the city goes about doing that is obviously up for debate among the people of Carbondale. I am happy to be here receiving all of your thoughts on the matter, and I appreciate you all coming out tonight.” 

After the time for public comments had ended, Harvey suggested that anyone who was there to speak about the Israel-Gaza war leave, as it would not be brought up during the remainder of the meeting. 

“I believe that the council members’ silent response to our calls for a ceasefire in Gaza is not out of a lack of sympathy for us, but rather it is because this is an issue that extends far beyond their realm of power,” Kahil said. “They’ve never dealt with anything like this and neither have we. It’s a very complex issue for the council members to immediately act or speak on, and there is clearly a lot of heightened emotions in the community. So rather than risking the wrong response to our calls, they opt for a silent response as they may feel it to be the safest. I cannot blame them for that.”

Kahil said he is grateful for the opportunity to speak out, but hopes that progress will be made soon. 

“Moving forward, I would like to see more opportunities to demonstrate our potential as Palestinian Americans,” he said. “We’ve made the city council aware of our pain, perhaps we can make them aware of our potential and establish a good political relationship with them. From there, we can be pointed in the right direction on how to effectively put an end to Palestinian suffering through political means by establishing a stronger alliance with the U.S. government.” 

 

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    Ray EatonFeb 17, 2024 at 10:42 am

    You know who else wanted a cease fire. The people of Israel. Yet 1400 people were murdered. Babies were beheaded. Parents killed in front of their children. One woman raped multiply times by the Hamas and then set on fire. If the Palestinians wanted a cease fire maybe they shouldn’t have voted Hamas leaders into office (to which they are now billionaires). The people of Palestine could have at least reported to the people of Israel what the Hamas had plans on doing. May God bless us all and bring peace to this world.

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    • T

      Tony WilliamsFeb 25, 2024 at 10:31 am

      The supposed atrocities such as the beheadings and rapes have long been disproven as Western and Israeli propaganda. Ever since its existence every Government of Israel has undermined a Two State solution and it is high time than an international Peace Conference begin to ensure the future safety of a people whose existence is being threatened daily ny a State that has taken over their land.

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