Johnson Calls for Cease-Fire in Israel-Hamas War as Vote on Controversial Resolution Delayed

Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Mayor Brandon Johnson called Wednesday for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, endorsing the heart of a Chicago City Council resolution its supporters agreed not to call for a vote in response to a request by Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th Ward), the City Council’s only Jewish member.

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Asked about the resolution that was the subject of an impassioned debate by members of the public at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Johnson first condemned the Oct. 7 attacks launched by Hamas against Israel, which killed 1,200 Jews.

“But at this point now, I believe we’re looking at 25,000 Palestinians that have been killed,” Johnson said, citing figures provided by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. “The killing has to stop. So, yes, we need a cease-fire.”

Johnson, a Democrat, is now the mayor of the biggest American city to call for a cease-fire, putting him at odds with President Joe Biden and most members of the Democratic Party.

Johnson said he was not worried about the political implications of his call.

“I want to save lives,” Johnson said.

In October, the City Council passed a resolution authored by Silverstein condemning Hamas’ attack on Israel at a meeting that spiraled out of control, forcing Johnson to clear the main public gallery in the Council Chambers in a nearly unprecedented move.

A spokesperson for Johnson said the mayor "strongly believes in allowing members of the City Council space to debate these type of issues in a very democratic way, and he trusts they will do so civilly and respectfully in advance of business at next week’s meeting."

Silverstein’s resolution does not have the force of law but expresses the collective will of the City Council.

The only member of the Chicago City Council to vote against that resolution was Ald. Rossanna Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward), Johnson’s hand-picked chair of the Health and Human Relations Committee.

Rodriguez Sanchez asked Silverstein for the resolution to recognize “the history of oppression, occupation and violence that Palestinians have endured.”

Silverstein declined that request, but made other changes to the resolution.

During the October meeting, Rodriguez Sanchez said she condemned the attacks by Hamas, but said she could not stand in support for Israel while it forces Palestinians to flee while bombing the Gaza Strip. Rodriguez Sanchez likened that to “genocide.”

Earlier this month, the City Council’s Health Commitee advanced a resolution authored by Rodriguez Sanchez and Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) that echoed the United Nations’ resolution calling for a cease-fire.

A final vote on that resolution was scheduled for Wednesday, and dozens of people — many wearing Palestinian flags and keffiyehs, scarves that have become a symbol of the Palestinian rights movement — packed into the Council Chambers to urge its adoption.

But earlier this week, Silverstein asked Rodriguez Sanchez to delay the vote scheduled for Wednesday because the City Council was also set to recognize International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

“In deference to this commemoration and out of sensitivity to the Holocaust survivors who suffered so horribly, we do not believe the January meeting is the proper time to discuss this,” Silverstein wrote in a letter that was co-signed by 27 of her colleagues.

Rodriguez Sanchez agreed to delay the vote and joined with La Spata to use a parliamentary procedure to prevent a vote Wednesday but allow the resolution to come back at the next City Council meeting, set for Jan. 31.

As Silverstein paid tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, she was interrupted and heckled by several members of the public, some of whom who held up keffiyehs or Palestinian flags.

Johnson threatened to have those disrupting the meeting removed from the chamber, but no one appeared to be removed, and the meeting continued without interruption.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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