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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Medford calls for ceasefire in Gaza following neighboring cities of Somerville, Cambridge

Medford City Councilors passed a resolution for a bilateral ceasefire in a 5-1-1 vote on Feb. 6, becoming the third Massachusetts city to do so.

medford city hall.jpeg
Medford City Hall is pictured on March 12, 2021.

On Feb. 6, Medford became the third city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and Israel, following just over a week after the cities of Somerville and Cambridge called for the same. City Council Vice President Kit Collins proposed the resolution, passed in a 5-1-1 vote during last week’s city council meeting after public testimony from dozens of constituents.

The resolution calls for an “enduring, bilateral ceasefire in Israel and Gaza and the immediate return of all hostages, innocent detainees, and political prisoners.” It also affirms Medford’s condemnation of violence toward civilians, gives support for lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip and addresses the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations since 1948.

“Medford stands for peace, justice, and the sanctity of all human life,” City Council President Zac Bears wrote in an email to the Daily. “The Medford City Council added our voice into the international chorus of voices saying that the Israeli military’s continuing violence against civilians in Gaza must end, and targeting of civilians by Hamas must end as well.”

Collins emphasized that the resolution stemmed from community action to amplify the voices of constituents who feel ignored at federal levels of government.

“What I’ve been hearing from people that I know, and also constituents in Medford, [is that] people feel really unheard on this issue,” Collins said in an interview with the Daily. “People are speaking out about this issue in mass numbers and coordinated efforts for months now and people feel like public opinion is really going unheard. So city-level resolutions like Medford’s are a way of amplifying public opinion.”

Collins said she was approached by many community members — primarily from the advocacy groups Safe Medford and Medford for Palestine  — with the specific request for a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.  

“On the local level, I communicated with a lot of people who have ties to the region,” Collins said. “Medford residents who were born in Gaza or in Palestine, people who still have family members in Palestine or Gaza specifically, who are being as directly affected as you can be without actually being there. … It’s something that is affecting the lives of Medford constituents every day.”

One of these constituents, Munir Jirmanus, is a longtime Medford resident who was born in Palestine prior to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. As a member of both Safe Medford and Medford for Palestine, Jirmanus was involved in Collins’ drafting of the resolution.

Both advocacy groups urged the government to take action toward supporting a ceasefire. Safe Medford, a nonpartisan group made up of Medford residents dedicated to ensuring safety and dignity for community members, implored the Medford City Council to call for an immediate ceasefire. Medford for Palestine wrote a letter to be sent to Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and State Representative Katherine Clark, urging them to “join the calls for an immediate enduring ceasefire, to rush in humanitarian aid, to end military aid to Israel, and to hold Israel accountable to international law.” The letter currently has approximately 220 signatures from Medford residents, according to Jirmanus.

Jirmanus expressed his support for the version of the resolution passed by the city council.

“I think the resolution was great,” Jirmanus said. “It pretty much reflected the reality of what’s going on, a bit of the history of what’s going on and certainly the feelings of practically every member of Medford for Palestine and certainly the organizing committee of Safe Medford.”

Jirmanus further explained the importance of addressing the conflict on a municipal scale in order to impact federal policy.

“This is a Medford issue,” he said, “because our government condones the killing and sends unrestricted military aid to Israel, whereas our communities here in the U.S. are starved for funding. You go to any city council meeting and you’ll hear them talk about how there isn’t enough public dollars to pay for resident services, for schools, for affordable housing, for road safety. … Meanwhile, our leaders, our politicians, they authorize billions to help bomb kids in Gaza. These dollars should be really spent toward promoting wellness here and not to create more destruction and killing abroad.”

Bears also echoed this sentiment in his email.

“While we know that this one Council resolution will not end the crisis, I believe that it is important for the Medford City Council and local government in general to speak out so members of our community who are feeling powerless and afraid for their families know they are supported by their neighbors,” Bears wrote.