Guest columnist Dave King: A humanitarian call for cease-fire in Gaza

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By DAVE KING

Published: 02-23-2024 9:55 PM

The Amherst Town Council voted unanimously on Oct. 16, 2023, in support of a resolution to condemn the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that killed more than a thousand Israelis. The resolution grieved for the Hamas-held hostages and their families, and also for civilians in Gaza “caught in the crossfire.”

It stood in solidarity with members of the Amherst community who were affected by the crisis and, further, committed to join with others working for peaceful and just solutions.

Since then, the Israeli government response has been relentless. The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, nearly half of them children, has topped 27,500. Nearly 2 million residents of Gaza have been forced to leave their homes and, with humanitarian aid into Gaza blocked, aid agencies warn that more than half a million are facing death by starvation and disease.

By mid-December, Israel had dropped 29,000 bombs, munitions and shells on the strip and nearly 70% of Gaza’s 439,000 homes and about half of its buildings have been damaged or destroyed, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The conflict, unchecked, is rapidly spreading to the West Bank, Lebanon, Yemen, and beyond, while Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the onslaught until “total victory” has been achieved. None of this violence enables the safe return of the remaining Israeli hostages. And still the U.S. government continues to provide massive amounts of unconditional military aid to Israel and to block international calls for a cease-fire.

These attacks have caused dissension here at home as well. According to a December poll of likely voters, a majority of Democratic and independent voters and a plurality of Republican voters wanted the U.S. to call for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. That percentage was much higher among young voters.

Since October, threats, hate speech and attacks on both Jewish Americans and Palestinian and Muslim Americans have skyrocketed. Many members of our community have been deeply affected by the resulting climate of fear and distrust. The situation demands that we reiterate our commitment to support all our townspeople and to keep them safe. But what can we do as citizens?

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The Amherst4Ceasefire coalition has one solution. On Feb. 26, the Amherst Town Council will consider passing a second resolution, this one calling for an immediate and sustained cease-fire; for the release of all the hostages and detainees (as indeed, families of the Israeli hostages have also been calling for); for humanitarian aid to be allowed into Gaza; and for aid agencies and medical personnel to be allowed to do their work safely.

This is not a partisan call, but a humanitarian one. You can help make a difference by first reaching out to your district and at-large councilors to urge them to support this resolution, and then contacting amherst4ceasefire@gmail.com to learn how you can become a community sponsor.

Dave King lives in Amherst.