October 30, 2023

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Public Commenters (26 min)
Alec Popivker  Summer Husein  Chris Hudson  Kameron Damaska  Noelle Naser  Christin Li  Karim Ragab 

Alec Popivker

Good evening, esteemed council members and fellow Clevelanders. First of all I'd like to thank those who have had the courage in these difficult times to speak the truth with integrity and courage, and support the only democracy in the Middle East, the only free country, the only country that shares our values, the state of Israel, in its fight against terrorism and propaganda that's been decimated in the United States at our universities, at our business places, by the media. This is a very difficult time.

I'd like to speak also to the community, the Muslim community of Cleveland and remind them that Israelites and Ishmaelites are brothers, cousins. We share our father, Abraham, alav-ha shalom of blessed memory. May peace be upon him. Abraham, he had two sons, Ishmael and Ishaq. Ishmael settled in Arabia and when Abraham visited him, they built the first house of prayer that's known now as the Kaaba, because it has a stone from Adam. Also, Israelites built a temple, a house of prayer, in the capital, the city of Jerusalem, that was made so by Nabi Daud, David, the King of Israel, on the spot where Adam was created. Judaism remembers Adam because we're all created equal. Also, in Islam. there's no racism, so whoever teaches you the Jews are deceitful, the Jews don't serve Allah, they're not real Muslims, they're perverting Islam for their own agendas.

I want to remind you that in 1948, the year 1948 of creation, Abraham was born. In 1948 of [the] current era, the state of Israel was reborn. Also in 1948, United Nations passed the first human rights treaty, it's called the Convention of Genocide, and it includes incitement of genocide, which is speech that is not covered by free speech, that incites genocide. This is something that I believe has been propagated at local campuses by people like Abbas Hamideh, and I ask this Council to please adopt [the] IHRA definition of anti-semitism. Thank you, God bless you.

3:03 Permalink

Summer Husein

Good evening. It's been almost two weeks since I've been here last, Mayor Bibb, and to say I'm disappointed is an understatement, but I'm not surprised. I'm well aware that it's easier to follow what the rest of your colleagues, from Congresswoman Shontel Brown to President Biden in the White House have to say, rather than to be the outlier. But hiding in their blatant ignorance makes you look like a follower, and last I checked you are elected to be a leader, to direct yourself and others in a manner that will better society. Rather than acknowledging the countless people that have come to see these Council meetings, speak up, and educate you, you've dismissed them and the Palestinian [inaudible] we've all been trying to get you to acknowledge.

Your silence since your tweet has been deafening. When you remain silent, you are complicit in the actions of the oppressor. However, I have to question, you haven't come out and supported the racist state of Israel since that tweet, which begs me to wonder as to whether you tweeted that statement in support or if you wanted to follow the rest of the world's ignorance.

You are careless with your words, Mayor Bibb, and that affects more than you think. With your tweet and lack of a retraction, you made it okay for people to be violent to both Muslims and Palestinians alike. With your tweet, you have reignited the world's privilege to be Islamophobic. Just last week my mom was walking into a grocery store and almost got run down in a parking lot for her being a visibly Muslim woman. We have all received threats to our safety at the expense of our words, and we are still willing to put ourselves on the line to stand up for our people and what's right.

Mayor Bibb, to put this bluntly, you are a black man living in the United States. The systematic oppression and blatant racism that is present on a day-to-day basis doesn't just resonate within the black community. We have all seen what arrogance, ignorance, and white supremacy can do to a nation and its people, and by supporting Zionism and genocide, you are inherently also supporting white supremacy. 'Black lives matter' wasn't a sentiment that began in 2020. Black lives have always mattered, and that fight isn't something new to you. When you defended Israel and its genocide, you fall into the whole of 'all lives matter'. I know that all lives matter, Mayor Bibb, but today we highlight the fact that you refuse to believe that Palestinian lives matter. Mayor, my voice matters, my life matters, the lives of Palestinians matter. I don't know how many more ways that we as a people can tell you before you finally decide that equality goes to all and not just some. Palestinians are people, too, just like Ukrainians and the people of Congo and Sudan. How many ways do we all have to prove to you that we are worth your time before you finally care? Palestinians, despite all their trials and hardships, have more humanity and compassion than anyone. We strive for excellence and success because there is no other option. We are the descendants of generations of resilient Palestinians that have persevered through all of the bombings and burnings and blockades. Generations later, and our blood runs deep and our pride runs strong.

Respectfully. Mr. Mayor, the fact that your initiatives don't add up to your actions makes you look like a hypocrite. Words and actions have meaning. Mr. Bibb, you are elected to protect and advance a greater Cleveland, and rather than doing what you promised, you are hiding behind Western media in your blanket of American privilege. I asked you this a few weeks ago and I'll ask you again because it seems that the answer is still a mystery. When did you decide that some lives are worth more than others? Free Palestine.

2:39 Permalink

Chris Hudson

Good evening. I am here to demand corrections to the egregious misstatements issued regarding the crisis in Gaza, and I am here to appeal to you all as parents.

My daughter, born in June of last year, has been medically complex since before we met her. A routine ultrasound at 38 weeks ended in a rush to the hospital for an emergent birth, and we were in the NICU for 46 days. Despite a 50-50 shot at life, our beautiful girl made it home, and the following months were often hard, but so much more often, they were overflowing with a kind of joy and love that I never knew existed. Then in June of this year, just before her first birthday she was diagnosed with leukemia. Thanks to the care she can receive here in our city, my daughter has a good chance at a full recovery. But if my child was a Palestinian child, and our city was Gaza City, my child would not exist anymore.

For 16 years, the Israeli blockade has prevented Gaza from importing many of the most common pediatric cancer diagnosis tools, and without these tools, children often die of entirely curable cancers like the one that my daughter is being treated for currently. In the past 3 weeks, hospitals have lost power due to fuel shortages and the IDF bombing campaigns. The babies in those NICUs who needed a ventilator to breathe like my daughter did for the first weeks of her life are now gone. 1 million of the 2.3 million residents of Gaza are children. More than 3,000 of those children have been killed by the Zionist entity during these past few weeks alone. More than have been claimed by conflict globally in any of the last 3 years. These statistics and facts may seem remote, but each of these children in Gaza had names, they had friends, they had bullies, they had teachers, they had siblings, they smiled and laughed and they filled their parents' hearts with love. All of the children who have been killed by Zionism and its proselytizers not just in this year by the bombs, but in the years before by the lack of medical supplies, by malnutrition and unclean water, by IDF rifles, as their fathers cradled them in the street, by the total war and the genocide that is part and parcel of the settler colonial project of Zionism. All of these children had full lives to live, lives that were robbed.

So we demand that this Council pass a resolution to stand in defense of Palestinian children, to call for a ceasefire, an end to the occupation and the blockade, opposing any military aid to the IDF, condemn Israel's current and historical war crimes, recognize the Zionist campaign of ethnic cleansing for what it is.

I have looked over the edge of the bottomless pit of despair that is the loss of my child and I was terrified. Have you seen the depths of that chasm? If not, check your phone. Parents in Gaza are being pushed into that abyss by Zionist policy, and the least that you owe them, that you owe the memories of their children is a denunciation of their killer.

2:51 Permalink

Kameron Damaska

Evening, Council. For the past 3 weeks you have all heard from the Palestinian community and people of good conscience describing the horrors and genocide ongoing in Gaza. Despite this, many of you have continued to endorse statements which do not reflect the real situation in Gaza, and how this situation is affecting our city.

Over 8,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been murdered by Israel so far. 1.4 million have been displaced, and hospitals, churches, mosques, and schools all have been bombed. At the same time, students at CSU and Case have been targeted, harassed, labeled as terrorists for as little as hosting humanitarian aid fundraisers. A local 20-year-old Palestinian man was hit by a car while the driver was shouting 'kill all Palestinians'. A vigil is being held in Cleveland Heights right now mourning hostages as over 200 Israelis are held hostage in Gaza and 10,000 Palestinians are held hostage in Israeli prisons. All the while, the Israeli military is carpet bombing Gaza, ethnically cleansing Palestinians, and showing no regard for the hostages. The outrageous crimes of Israel must end and we demand action. On behalf of the thousands in Cleveland who have mobilized against Israel's genocide, we share with you all a resolution which affirms our support and solidarity with the people of Gaza. This resolution is inspired by the one passed in Richmond, California, with hopes that you all will match their bravery. We have copies of this resolution here. Stand on the right side of history. Stand up out of your seat, grab a copy of it, read it, and introduce this resolution today.

And for the rest of my time I will read parts of this resolution and give you all an opportunity to grab it.

Whereas the city of Cleveland stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza, who are currently facing a campaign of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment by the state of Israel, and whereas Israel is now engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign by explicitly requiring 2 million Palestinians to leave Gaza immediately or risk being bombed in their homes by the Israeli military. Whereas Gaza is known as the world's largest open-air prison due to the ongoing unbearable living conditions imposed by the state of Israel, including a full land, air, and sea blockade, enclosure of its borders by concrete walls and barbwire fences, and the strict prohibition of Palestinians from leaving and entering the territory freely. And whereas the blockade has caused 42% unemployment rate in Gaza while 84% of the population relies on humanitarian aid, 41% of Palestinians have too little food, 60% of Palestinian children are anemic, and the entire Gazan population cannot rely on more than 2 to 4 hours of continuous electricity a day, and whereas the state of Israel would not be able to maintain an apartheid regime without the enormous military aid provided by the United States every year, also depriving Americans of money for their own urgent needs. And whereas we mourn-

[Blaine Griffin]: Time.

[Speaker]:-the loss of all civilians on both sides from-

[Griffin]: Time.

[Speaker]: October 7th to the present. Also throughout the decades of displacement occupation, oppression, blockade endured by Gaza now-

[audience members begin clapping and cheers]

[Speaker]: Therefore it be resolved that the city of Cleveland takes seriously the entry of 'never again' and that the historical memory of the Holocaust is means fighting ethnic cleansing and apartheid everywhere. Be it further rest-

[Security Offcer]:Got your time up.

[Speaker]: that the city calls for the immediate exchange of 200 Israeli-

[Griffin]: Sir. Sir, your time is up.

[Speaker]:I hope you all will read this-

[Griffin]: Sir, your time is up, sir. Thank you.

3:37 Permalink

Noelle Naser

Good evening. My name is Noelle Naser and I'm a proud Palestinian-American living here in the city of Cleveland.

I'd like to begin by saying that history did not start October 7th. Colonization by nature is a violent and ongoing process that Palestinians have been facing for the last 75 years. Gaza specifically has been under a military blockade for over a decade, where 2.3 million people, half of them being children, are kept trapped on a small strip of land surrounded by massive concrete walls and Israeli military forces. Israel has full control over whom and what goes in and out by land, air, and sea, and full power of cutting off food, water, electricity, and humanitarian aid.

As we have especially been witnessing, this is not a war between two countries as Palestine does not even have its own sovereign country. Instead, this is the result of the ongoing illegal Israeli settler colonial project funded by the United States with $38 billion dollars in aid every year.

Over the years we have witnessed Israel commit many war crimes, among them the use of white phosphorus and the bombing of hospitals, residential homes, bakeries, and schools. If an American school had an active shooter or a group of shooters inside no one would ever suggest it is okay to bomb the whole building filled with adults and children to reach the threat. But just like Israel will bomb churches, mosques, safe routes, and other densely populated areas, their goal is not to reach their supposed threat of Hamas. Israel has been very clear and open about their campaign to murder and displace the indigenous population of Palestinians, whom they refer to as human animals. Just this past weekend, Israel cut off all communications in Gaza, where people could not communicate with each other, call out for medical aid, or contact the outside world. And Gaza's Ministry of Education announced an end to their current school year due to the number of students that are dead. Over 3,000 children are dead as the death toll in Gaza has reached over 8,000 since October 7th.

America since its foundation has actively chosen to be on the wrong side of history. You, Cleveland City Council, can reflect on the words you are hearing from your constituents, both Arab and non-Arab, on the Palestinian cause, and realize that you have been mistaken, that you have morals, that you cannot be bought out, and you want to go down in history as someone who used their position to speak up about an ongoing genocide. It is your choice now to decide what side of history you will end up on. Our community will continue to mobilize voters, as I know myself, I have voted in every election since I've turned 18. We will speak out at public comment, call you and all of our representatives, and rally together in solidarity alongside our non-Arab allies, because we all recognize that the fight for Palestinian liberation is not just a Palestinian issue, but an issue of humanity. There is no peace in occupation, there is no peace in genocide, and there will be no peace until Palestine is free. Thank you. Free Palestine. [Applause]

2:51 Permalink

Christin Li

Good evening. City Council, you may have noticed names and numbers lifted up by audience members here today. These are names and ages of children killed by Israel just in the past month. This is a mere fraction of the over 3,000 children murdered by the IDF in October. This room could not possibly contain them all.

Tonight I stand here to demand that Mayor Bibb and Cleveland City Council retract all statements made in support of the genocide committed by the state of Israel. Furthermore, I demand the council to publicly denounce the indiscriminate slaughter of Palestinians and call for a ceasefire. Finally, I demand that Cleveland City Council issue a resolution affirming Cleveland's support for the Palestinian people and truly represent where the hearts of their constituents lay.

Amnesty International is yet again investigating the war crimes committed by Israel. They are bearing witness to the indiscriminate bombing of civilian centers, the use of white phosphorus, and the blockade on the Gaza Strip, which Amnesty International has described as 'collective punishment'. Israel's government warns civilians to evacuate the north only to air strike them as they leave. The government warns civilians to leave Palestine but still maintains a militarized border fence while destroying humanitarian corridors. Israel warns civilians to evacuate hospitals, but how can you possibly move people on life-preserving machines without killing them? The WHO itself has said, quote, 'under international humanitarian law, healthcare must always be protected.'

Since the last time you on the council have heard our public statements, the Palestinian death toll has risen to 8,000 people. Because of the blockade enforced by Israel, Gaza has run out of fresh water, the rescue vehicles have run out of fuel, Palestinians are being forced to make decisions whether to retrieve the bodies of the dead loved ones from the rubble or to try and dig out the living. Over a hundred children are killed every day. Even the families of the Israeli hostages are now calling on Netanyahu to accept an all-for-all deal to exchange all Palestinian political prisoners for the 200 Israeli hostages. Why won't the Israeli government accept this exchange? Instead, the IDF air strikes with absolutely no regard for even the Israeli hostages at safety' What more could it possibly take for our mayor and our city council to show the bare minimum of humanity and acknowledge these atrocities? Richmond, California has passed a resolution supporting Palestinians in Gaza, accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing. To quote their Vice Mayor, 'Richmond is not an island. Our tax dollars are funding this war in Gaza and we have a moral obligation to speak out.' For council members still on the fence, this is your chance to stand on the right side of history.

2:43 Permalink

Karim Ragab

Dear members of Cleveland City Council, I stand before you today to request that you do more with your positions of power to fight for peace, for an end to bloodshed, and for a ceasefire in Gaza.

I work as a teacher in a mental health hospital and every day I deal with kids who have been traumatized by violence. Many of them want to kill themselves because of violence they have witnessed or violence that has been done against them. I imagine a kid growing up in Palestine, what they are surrounded by, how they're treated by the Israeli government, and it makes me want to cry. Any of those kids I see blown apart on Twitter could be my kid, could be your kid. I really think that the children of the world are a collective responsibility.

I hope for a world where we can all call each other sister and brother and mean it, where we don't hate based on lines drawn in the sand and the chance of birth, or by the words and legacies of dead men that haunt us like ghosts, halting us from creating a better world. I hope for a world where there are no second-class citizens, nobody forcing anybody from their homes, where everyone is treated like a true equal.

This summer, I took a trip to South Africa and spoke with a taxi driver in Cape Town where they have multiple statues of Nelson Mandela. I talked to him about apartheid. He said he saw the exact same thing being done by the government of Israel as had been done by the apartheid regime of South Africa. Right or wrong, history is written by the victors, and those with money and the status quo control the narratives we tell ourselves to be true.

Hundreds of Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces between January 1st and October 4th of this year, many of them kids. People who have grown up in Gaza have faced decades of denial, denial of being treated as valuable, denial of freedom, denial of any real voice on the world stage. Do you think Israel's treatment of Palestinians is normal? Is justified? We are told that Palestinians are human animals, according to one Israeli defense minister, and that Palestine needs to be turned into a parking lot according to a local politician. How do we allow humans to be treated like second-class citizens still in the 21st century? I suppose our country too was a European colonial project built on bones of genocide and slavery. Maybe that's why it's so easy to support Israel blindly without criticizing years of human oppression.

I don't believe violence is the answer. Ethno-nationalism, putting beliefs and identities which divide us ahead of the root human experience which we share, that as far as I can see it is the problem. We need to transcend ideas of national and religious identity and look one another in the face afresh. We are all just humans trying our best to be happy. We all want to love and receive love in turn.

Please, Council, use your voice to speak out for the Palestinians, too. I am Arab. We are human. We exist, and we are hurting. Hate, fear, and genocide are not the answer. We need to try to understand each other, because only together can we build a world where our children can grow up enjoying this miracle existence. The sky has no borders, it's all of ours to share.

3:03 Permalink