Burlington City Council to consider controversial international issue

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 4:45 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2021 at 6:20 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington City Council is expected to weigh in Monday night on an international issue and whether to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On the agenda is a resolution that endorses the pro-Palestinian “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement. The resolution has been in the works since this summer following the latest armed conflict in Israel and the occupied territories that left hundreds dead.

The resolution is a welcome one for Palestinian and anti-Zionist people in Vermont, while opponents call it antisemitic.

The resolution, as written, calls for nonviolent pressure on Israel until it ends military occupation of all Arab lands and recognizes the rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens.

There was a rally in support of the resolution in Burlington Monday put on by the Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, who are happy to see the resolution on the City Council docket.

Wafic Faour, of the Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, says it’s time for Americans to realize that the Palestinian people’s human rights are being violated by Israel’s use of American weapons.

Faour vehemently denies that there is anything in the resolution that’s anti-Jewish.

“This resolution only talks about human rights equal rights and justice for the Palestinian people that have been denied by the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land and we are trying to bring attention of what’s going on over there to the American public,” Faour said.

However, some, including Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and other members of the Jewish community, are speaking out against the resolution calling it divisive and inappropriate for the City Council to be taking up.

Weinberger said while he’s troubled by the state of Israel and Palestine relations, the council should not weigh in on an international issue in this way.

“Basically, this resolution is intended to weaken and delegitimize a long-standing important partner in the Middle East, the state of Israel and I’m opposed to it,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington.”

Rabbi Amy Small of the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue says the movement behind the resolution aims to bring about the end of the Israeli state.

“These BDS actions leave the Jewish community feeling even more vulnerable,” Small said. “For those of us who are seeking to find a resolution that would be not only a lasting peace but a peace with justice for both sides, this does not address that by blaming Israel alone.”

Zoraya Hightower, a Progressive city councilor, says while it’s good to be informed about global politics, she believes this resolution needs to be looked at again and not have a vote taken on it Monday that could harm constituents.

“I think it’s important to show Palestinian solidarity but at the same time it’s hard to justify that having potentially little to no impact on an international level with the very real fear that a lot of people have locally in the community of what the antisemitism growth looks like,” Hightower said.

I spoke with several city councilors who say they believe this resolution will not make it to a vote Monday evening.

One councilor said they need to look at the big picture of human rights violations and if they are taking such actions, they need to look at it in a more global sense instead of focusing on just one country.

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