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Rockford residents press ahead for a city council permanent cease-fire resolution

Maria Gardner Lara
Attendees listen on to the panel discussion on life in Palestine under Israeli occupation, hosted by Rockford for Palestine at the Nordlof Center, June 6, 2024.

Since January some Rockford residents have called on the Rockford City Council to pass a permanent cease-fire resolution in the Israel-Hamas War.

Nationwide, over 100 cities have passed ceasefire resolutions including Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Villa Park and Bridgeview, which is home to a large Palestinian community.

Faiza Harunani was among the speakers at a recent city council committee meeting.

“Be our voice to DC,” Harunani said. “Let our government know that Rockford does not support a genocide and an apartheid, pass a resolution for a permanent ceasefire, declare that Rockford does not support sending arms against defenseless civilians.”

On October seventh Hamas attacked Israel, killing Israelis and capturing hostages.

Since then, Israel’s military assault on Gaza has reportedly killed over 35,000 Palestinians in what United Nations experts call a genocide.

Rockford attorney David Black spoke of his Jewish ancestry as he stated his support for a permanent ceasefire resolution.

“Opposing genocide is not antisemitic, calling for a ceasefire is not antisemitic,” Black said. “Moreover, recognizing a Palestinian state is not antisemitic. Opposing settler violence is not antisemitic.”

Speakers also criticized Rockford mayor Tom McNamara’s recent proclamation regarding the war. The proclamation states that it “serves as a symbol of solidarity, compassion, and commitment to supporting our residents of Rockford with ties to Israel and Palestine."

McNamara said he signed the proclamation because he said there’s not enough support for the resolution to pass on the city council, and he questioned the impact a resolution can have.

“Our intent was to say,” McNamara said, “[that] we want to put an emphasis on those folks who are living here locally in Rockford, and how we could best be supportive of them.”

One speaker who identified as a Rockford Public School graduate said the mayor's response contrasts sharply with his actions towards another world conflict - the war in Ukraine.

“There was a glaring double standard in your logic,” she said, “because after the attacks on Ukraine in 2022, Mayor McNamara and the city of Rockford did not hesitate to condemn the actions of Putin, Russia, and the violence being committed against civilians.”

She said his stance is a disservice to constituents.

“If you continue to promote this dehumanizing double standard,” she said, “you are failing to uphold your moral responsibility to our community.”

Magda Mohamed, an organizer with Rockford for Palestine, said they’re working on building enough support for a city council passage of a ceasefire resolution.

“We have a few aldermen, who are definitely strongly in support, and a few that need persuading, Mohamed said. “And a few that aren't going to be persuaded.”

She said community support for the resolution has grown, as the number of folks attending council meetings in favor of the resolution goes up.

Rockford for Palestine holds panel discussion at Nordlof

In addition to advocating for a ceasefire resolution at the city council, members of Rockford for Palestine have organized public events calling for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel.

The group recently held a panel discussion at the Nordlof Center, where local residents shared their lived experience living in Palestine.

Rockford resident Kathie Mattison said one of her takeaways from the event was learning how restricted Palestinians’ movement was in Gaza and the West Bank.

“And more so than you really had any idea how hard that life is,” Mattison said, “and how people have to struggle just for water, just for getting to school, trying to make a living, how desperate it is really.”

For Suad Mustafa, a Palestinian refugee, what was shared on the panel resonated with her.

She occasionally visits her sister-in-law, who lives in the West Bank across the street from an Israeli prison.

“The kids throw stones at the soldiers, and what do the soldiers do?” Mustafa recalled. “Shoot with bullets, shoot the kids with bullets because of stones? And it's terrible. They throw smoke bombs in the house. They have babies, they have everything. It's horrifying, horrifying.”

She recalled the Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that Palestinians must confront in their daily lives.

“They make you go all the way around to get to your house when your house is almost next door to where you're at right now,” Mustafa said. “It's an awful situation.”

Takesha Brooks said as an African American person, she showed up to the event in solidarity for Palestinians seeking peace and justice for their homeland.

“You understand the history, you follow the history and see the similarity,” Brooks said. “So, I just want to be a support for change and humanity.”

Organizers of Rockford for Palestine says they’ll continue to hold similar events as the Palestinian death toll rises from over eight months and counting of Israel's military assault.

A Chicago native, Maria earned a Master's Degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield . Maria is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America. RFA is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit journalism organization. Un residente nativo de Chicago, Maria se graduó de University of Illinois Springfield con una licenciatura superior en periodismo de gobierno.