CHICAGO: Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was forced to cast a vote Wednesday to break a 23 to 23 tie and ensure the city council passed a resolution calling for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” aimed at halting the continued massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip.
The resolution, introduced by council members Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd Ward) and Daniel La Spata (1st Ward), also called for “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” which is what the ceasefire opponent Alderwoman Debra Silverstein (50th Ward) had proposed.
Silverstein introduced and helped pass a one-sided city council resolution on Oct. 14 condemning the killing of Israelis during the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. But her resolution made no mention of the thousands of Palestinians who had been killed since then.
And on Jan. 24, Silverstein forced the council to postpone the Humanitarian Ceasefire Gaza resolution and instead introduced and helped pass a resolution to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the Holocaust, the horrendous murder of Jews by Nazis during the Second World War.
Silverstein is Jewish American. There are no Arab members of the Chicago City Council.
More than 30,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed during the past four months of Israel’s assault in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, which took 1,200 Israeli lives.
The vote to pass the ceasefire resolution was 23 in favor to 23 against, with Johnson standing up to oppose the continued massacre and voting in favor.
Johnson made his views clear during a press briefing about the issue last week when the resolution was blocked. His tie-breaking vote indicated that his views had not changed.
“I condemn the actions of Hamas. But at this point now, I believe we’re at 25,000 Palestinians that have been killed during this war, and the killing has to stop. So, yes, we need a ceasefire,” Johnson said during the Jan. 24 city council meeting where a previous ceasefire resolution had been blocked by Silverstein and her allies.
Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protestors, who shouted at each other during the meeting, were ordered out of the council chambers before the vote was taken, reflecting the heightened emotions caused by the brutal conflict.
“We applaud Mayor Johnson and the aldermen who courageously voted to support a humanitarian ceasefire, which is intended to prevent the continued carnage of civilians in Gaza,” said Samir Khalil, founder of the Arab American Democratic Club of Illinois, who helped lobby city council members to support the resolution.
The resolution was also backed by the powerful Chicago Teachers Union and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.
Many of the council members who voted against the Humanitarian Ceasefire resolution acknowledged that they had spent time in Israel recently as the guests of pro-Israel organizations.
The resolution is non-binding and symbolic and not enforceable as a law. But its passage by the city council makes Chicago the largest city in the US to call for a humanitarian ceasefire in conjunction with the release of all Israeli hostages.
Cook County which includes Chicago has more Palestinians than any other county in the nation with unofficial estimates — Arabs are not included in the US Census — at between 100,000 and 250,000.
The City of Chicago has more than 300,000 Jewish-American citizens according to a 2020 Brandeis University study.