On Dec. 5, dozens of protesters flooded Greensboro’s city council chambers addressed city leaders, demanding a “resolution for a ceasefire” and calling for an end to “US aid to Israel.” 

Now, about a month later, the city’s mayor and all eight councilmembers voted unanimously to support a resolution for “peace and support.”

On Jan. 2, Mayor Nancy Vaughan apologized for her comments at the Dec. 5 meeting, where she said that she wished that protesters’ “passion would equate to what’s going on in our city where we can make a difference.”

“I really wish we saw this kind of outrage when we’re looking at 70 homicides in our community, when we’re talking about friends and family in our community, people that we know,” she had said.

Vaughan told the crowd on Tuesday that she regretted those statements. “I believe that they were ill-timed. While I meant them, I should not have said them when I did,” she said.

Councilmembers Tammi Thurm and Marikay Abuzuaiter worked together to draft the resolution for “peace and support,” which recognized that many in the community have been “deeply impacted by this conflict.”

The viewpoints of the speakers were split with many believing that the resolution didn’t go far enough while others argued that city council had no place in speaking out about foreign conflict.

The language of the resolution in part, urges national leaders to “do everything in their power to end this conflict and to begin the process for a peaceful, sustainable solution.”

Speaker Nada Baker called the resolution “deplorable.”

“Other cities have clearly written out to their Congress members in their resolutions that they call for an immediate ceasefire, return of all hostages, unrestricted entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and the restoration of food, water, electricity and medical supplies into Gaza,” Baker said. “What’s so hard about using these specific words?”

Since the beginning of this round of conflict, which began on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked Israel and killed 1,200 people, more than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombs and ground assault.

Hundreds of protesters called for a ceasefire at a Pro-Palestine rally in Greensboro on Nov. 18 (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

In November, Carrboro’s city council voted 4-3 to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza. Other city halls around North Carolina such as Durham, Raleigh and Charlotte have been flooded with protesters urging their councils to draft a resolution for a ceasefire. These city leaders have not yet signed resolutions.

Councilmember Abuzuaiter and her husband Isa lost their nephew, Hassan Munir Abuzuaiter, in an airstrike in November.

“There is a specific reason it is not being called a ceasefire,” Abuzuaiter said, adding that her husband “supports this.”

Isa Abuzuaiter is a 71-year-old Palestinian from Jabalia refugee camp, created by the United Nations following Israel’s war of independence in 1948. He’s lived in the US since 1972.

Over the years, there has been “ceasefire after ceasefire after ceasefire,” Abuzuaiter said.

“So don’t tell me about ceasefire. I need a resolution for our problem…We lost too many people,” he said.

“There is no more Gaza. Gaza is gone. Gaza as you know it is gone,” said Abuzuaiter, adding, “We cannot keep having wars and wars and wars. These wars, only the innocent and the civilians get killed.”

Greensboro councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter stands with her husband Isa Abuzuaiter who lost family in Gaza. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Councilmember Abuzuaiter concurred with her husband, saying, “A ceasefire is not an end to a conflict. A ceasefire, whether permanent or just called a ceasefire, does not mean that the issue is going to stop.”

Britannica Dictionary defines the word ceasefire as follows: “An agreement to stop fighting a war for a period of time so that a permanent agreement can be made to end the war.”

Abuzuaiter said that Greensboro’s resolution aimed to “urge” and beg national leaders “to find a peaceful, sustainable solution.”

Still, some speakers from the floor, discontent with the council’s wording, took direct aim at Councilmember Abuzuaiter.

Speaker Patrick Willard told her, “Stop being so cynical that a ceasefire will not solve anything, because a ceasefire will stop one child, one precious child, from being killed tomorrow if we can get a ceasefire today.”

“Answer me that: How can we have peace without a ceasefire?” Willard asked Abuzuaiter, who responded, “I want an end to the conflict and a sustainable solution.”

“I don’t want to hear that my other nephew got killed,” Abuzuaiter said through tears, “I don’t want to hear my husband cry in the middle of the night.”

“For 75 years there’s been no sustainable solution,” Abuzuaiter said, revealing that she’s stayed up late at night for weeks trying to “figure out how to word this appropriately.”

“The peace that you are calling for still has bombing of children in it,” Willard shouted.

Councilmember Zack Matheny interjected, “Yelling at her isn’t gonna stop the bombing over there. How about that? Quit yelling at my colleague.”

“I’m saying what I want to say in my time allotted,” Willard retorted.

Still, Councilmember Abuzuaiter turned the other cheek. “I know you’re angry with me, and that’s fine, and I understand, and I respect your passion,” she told the crowd.

Hundreds of protesters called for a ceasefire at a Pro-Palestine rally in Greensboro on Nov. 18 (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Councilmember Thurm, expressed her thoughts on the issue.

“It should not be that when I go to my house of worship to pray, that I have to have a policeman there to make sure I’m safe,” Thurm said. “When I go to give blood at a blood drive that is at a synagogue or a temple, I should not be afraid that because Jews are gathering, we are at risk of attack.”

“Likewise, our Islamic neighbors and friends should not feel the need to have to have protection so that they can pray,” she added.

Temple Emanuel’s Senior Rabbi Andy Koren has family and friends in Israel.

“Given the time, I could tell of the terrorism carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7 in great detail,” Koren said.

But Koren felt that the chambers are not the proper place for that.

“What took place in this chamber a month ago and what is happening tonight is not this or any city council’s job,” Koren said. “Middle East peace will not be achieved here in Greensboro; that monumental task is not your job. What is your job? Make sure that Greensboro is safe, especially for the Jewish minority in our area. Antisemitism is on the rise, here.”

Koren mentioned that LeBauer Park’s Holocaust memorial was recently vandalized with a swastika. Police say the symbol was drawn inside the sculpture’s Star of David.

“You will not be judged by how you respond selectively to foreign policy concerns, for you will be judged by how well you lift up and keep safe all those who call this community home, especially those of us with deep connections to Israel,” he said.

Koren concluded, “I wish everyone peace. Salaam. Shalom.”

Read Tuesday’s resolution in full, here.

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