November 27, 2023

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Public Commenters (34 min)
Amira Zayed  Milo Schumann  Dallas Eckman  Ayat Amin  Basma Hamid  Lisa Sanches  Juan Collado  Saeb  Jacob Saliba  Nora Kelley 

Amira Zayed

Actually the topic is on behalf of the Ethiopian Jews in Israel. I'm going to read you just some titles of articles, and then I'm going to offer them to you if you'd like to read them yourself.

'Eugenics and ethnic cleansing, the values that unite the US and Israel.' 'Israel admits to sterilizing black Ethiopian Jewish immigrants without their knowledge.' 'Israel gave birth control to Ethiopian Jews without their consent.' 'In the story of Ethiopian Jewish immigration, is Israel really the hero?' 'Israel admits Ethiopian Jewish immigrants were given birth control shots.' 'Ethiopian women claim Israel forced them to accept birth control shots.' 'After a police shooting, Ethiopian Israelis seek a Black Lives Matter reckoning.' Foreign Affairs feature: 'The plight of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.' 'Ethiopian Israelis are angry over a double standard that leaves loved ones in danger.' 'Ethiopian Jews not Jewish enough.' 'Why is Israel kicking out the Africans?' 'Poverty and crime rates reveal Israel's failure to absorb Ethiopian immigrants.' 'Ethiopian Jews suffer racism in Israel.' 'Forced contraception of Jewish Ethiopian women is tip of global iceberg.' 'Israel's treatment of Ethiopians is racist.' 'Israel unblocks big immigration of Ethiopian Jews.' Why was it blocked? This is from 2020. 'Israel forcibly injected African immigrants with birth control, report claims.' 'The tribulations of being an Ethiopian Jew.' 'Israel admits Ethiopian immigrants were coaxed into receiving birth control shots.' 'How racism has shaped the lives of five Ethiopian Israelis.' 'Ethiopian Jews slam Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for being racist.' 'Ministry lifts ban on Ethiopian blood donations.' Why were they banned? 'Black soldier saga highlights racism in Israel.' 'Police shooting of an Ethiopian Jew prompts Black Lives Matter moment in Israel.' 'Ethiopian women claim Israel forced them to use birth control before letting them immigrate.' 'Israel's treatment of Ethiopian migrants as part of a legacy of violent xenophobia.' 'Black lives do not matter in Israel.' 'The Depo-Provera scandal takes place against the background of the Israeli government pronatalist policies that provide incentives for other fairer Jewish women to produce more children in part as a demographic race with Palestinians. Unfortunately, this contradictory approach to reproductive policy is in keeping with the social and ethnic stratification of Israeli society. In 'The Chosen Body,' Meira Weiss describes Israeli body politics that put white ashkanazi European Jewish male bodies at the top of the social hierarchy. In descending order, they are followed by the Mizrahi Middle Eastern Jews, and then by Ethiopian Jews. Only Israeli-Arabs, non-Jewish immigrants, and Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories are of lower rank. This is about reducing the number of births in a community that is black and mostly poor,' said Hevda Eyal, author of the report by women and to women, and she's referring to the birth control shots.

This oppressive system supports that oppressive system and they need each other. We know where you stand.

3:13 Permalink

Milo Schumann

Good evening everyone. Thank you audience members and Council for your time and attention tonight. I hope that my comment is interesting enough to keep you all off of your phones.

For weeks now, thousands of people who live and work in Cleveland have been expressing our disappointment in the council and the mayor for saying Cleveland stands with Israel. As someone who's lived in Cleveland city limits my whole life, I grew up in Ward 14 Santana's district, and currently live in Kerry McCormack's Ward 3. I am disappointed in the lack of response, and embarrassed that my local leadership has implied that I support a genocide.

I am here today in support of the citizen-proposed resolution to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Some people might be wondering what does that do, a resolution can stop a genocide, and sure this resolution is largely symbolic, but it's not like Council hasn't done that before. I've pulled some examples so you don't have to. In recent years, City Council has passed resolutions marking October 22nd a day of celebration for the band KISS, who aren't even from here, encouraging Congress to pass the Railway Safety Act of 2023, supporting the 2021 Women's March, and condemning Russia's attacks on Ukraine. And I could draw some parallels there, but I only have 3 minutes. Along with literally countless resolutions for congratulations, condolences, appreciations, welcomes, and recognitions. If Council thinks those things are worth their time, this is too. Council should pass this resolution because one, we're asking for it. It is your job to support city residents. Cleveland is a democratic stronghold, somewhere between 75 and 80% of voting Democrats support a ceasefire, and I'm sure you can do the math there. Two, it shows our Arab neighbors that they are a valued and protected part of our community, especially in the face of rapidly-rising xenophobic and Islamophobic hate crimes, and three, because it's the right thing to do, and that alone should be enough.

Our peers in Seattle, Atlanta, akan and Detroit among others have already passed similar resolutions to support a ceasefire. And I know the joke for as long as I can remember is at least Cleveland's not Detroit, but maybe we should be this time. And we can be if this resolution is passed.

One last thing. I mentioned a moment ago that around 75 to 80% of voting Democrats support a ceasefire. It is worth considering that if you refuse to act, you risk losing up to 80% of your votes in a city where voter turnout is already very low and margins are often really thin. I urge Council, and in particular my council person, Kerry McCormack, to pass the resolution. Thank you for your time. Free Palestine.

2:26 Permalink

Dallas Eckman

As stated, I'm a proud member of the Cleveland community. I live in Cleveland. I bought a home in Cleveland's Ward 17. I went to college in Cleveland. I'm a public school teacher, and I voted in every single election since I have lived in Cleveland.

I feel the need to emphasize these things today at the podium, which doesn't exist because of council's actions. I feel the need to emphasize these things because members of this Council have taken it upon themselves to accuse the constituents of this city coming to communicate with our own Council people of being majority 'outsiders', quote Joe Jones. Additionally, council members have routinely criticized their constituents here in comments made in safety meeting and on the city hall floor, that discussing international issues is beyond the purview of this Council.

These criticisms to me ring absurdly hollow, because when the Jewish Federation of Cleveland based in Beachwood, Ohio, so a Cleveland federation in name only, asked council members to sign onto a letter in support of the state of Israel, the following council members did so: President Blaine Griffin, Majority Leader Kerry McCormack, Kevin Bishop, Kris Harsh, Joseph T. Jones, Brian Kazy, Michael Polensek, and Charles Slife. I will iterate for the record that this Council has critiqued its own constituents for discussing international issues in Council and have critiqued us for being based outside of Cleveland with no evidence. But with no consultation of this body, signed onto a letter for an organization based in another city, concerning, yes international issues.

I am sick and tired of this body having a double standard for Palestinian people, of the Arab population at large. We introduced a resolution on this floor with resounding support with hitherto has been ignored by every single member of this Council. Councilman Harsh once said he was proud of Cleveland City Council for being one of the most progressive in the country. Yet at this moment, what this Council has produced since early October led to democratic participation in the body are, lies submitted to the public record about its constituents, two, attempts to curb free speech in this chamber. Noticeably, you'll see it on camera. Three, and dozens of cities, including Atlanta, Georgia, Akron, passing Cleveland to stand on the side of history and condemn genocide in Gaza. Your constituents tax dollars are being used to fund this genocide without popular will. 80% of Democrats support a ceasefire in the United States, but only one council member in this chamber has joined her constituency. Thank you again, Rebecca Maurer. Does this Council find it acceptable that its political positions are so deeply out of step and out of touch with the majority of its base? If so, why should the constituency which you claim to represent show you any deference, and presume you sit in this chamber in service of the people of Cleveland? 5% of you support what 80% of the constituency does.

Members of this Council must join councilwoman Maurer and call for a ceasefire by passing the aforementioned resolution. If not, the Cleveland community which does support a ceasefire, 80%, will commit to withholding our votes from every silent voice in this chamber. Myself, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation will fight deftly to ensure all voters in this city are aware its council members are derelict in their duties. Come every election we will not forget. Introduce and unilaterally pass the resolution to condemn the genocide in Gaza. Thank you.

3:06 Permalink

Ayat Amin

Dear City Council, my name is Ayat Amin, and I'm a resident of ward 3. I'm here joining the hundreds of others who showed up to to Cleveland City Council every week for the past month or so asking you to pass the resolution for a permanent ceasefire. I would like to spend my time responding to the reason this Council has given for not passing a resolution, primarily, that this is not a Cleveland issue.

I'll give you four points to dispute this. One, this body has already made the Palestinian conflict a local issue when you signed on to the Jewish Federation statement on October 20th. Eight council members, which Dallas has already mentioned, signed onto a statement which included a line that you stand with Israel. By signing the statement, you have already made this a local issue. Two, Cleveland is already home to a large diaspora community. There are 1,300-plus Palestinian migrants here, making Cleveland, Ohio, the seventh in the nation for the Palestinian diaspora. If the Palestinian community cannot find support from their local political leaders here, then where in America will they be able to find support? Three, one of the things I love about Cleveland is that we are home to so many in the refugee community. When Biden pulled out of Afghanistan in 2021, I helped newly arrived Afghans furnish their new Cleveland homes. When the Ukraine war started, I went grocery stopping to stock the fridges of those newly arrived Ukrainian families. And I guarantee you, in the next few years, we will see Palestinian families coming to our city.

As some of my peers previously told you, the Nakba in 1948 forced three-fourths of a million people to be displaced. Where do you think those people ended up? The Palestinian population we see in Cleveland today are a direct result of that event. This year we have more than doubled the displacement numbers of the Nakba, and I guarantee you, because of our history, many will end up here. How do you think those Palestinians who were displaced will feel when they come to the city and find out our local government did not use its voice to call for the stop of the bombing?

Lastly, I want to address the concern that a ceasefire resolution would be symbolic only and would not accomplish anything to the bombing in Gaza. First off, that symbolism would mean a lot to your Cleveland residents, to me, to the people who sit behind me, and to the thousands of residents who marched on the Cleveland streets in October and November.

But more importantly, I want to point to where we are in the grander movement. In 1989, the prime minister of South Africa resigned, which began the end of apartheid. That event happened because the American public wanted an end to apartheid. But it wasn't until they put pressure on their local governments, who then put pressure on their federal governments, who then put pressure on international governments that apartheid actually ended. We are at a similar tipping point now. In October, zero US cities had passed the resolution for a ceasefire. By November 20th, there are now eight, and I guarantee by the time we reach December that number will grow bigger. Pass a resolution for a permanent ceasefire.

3:09 Permalink

Basma Hamid

Good evening. As-salamu alaykum. I have witnessed the war of 1967. Once Palestine and Jerusalem became occupied by the Zionists, Palestinians became under occupation and mistreated by the Zionists as they have no human rights at all. Animals are treated much better in the so-called free world than Palestinians living in their homes on their own land. I have never heard of animals being bombed with 40,000 tons of chemicals, including white phosphorus, but Palestinians have. I have never heard of any animals being deprived from food, water, or heat, but Palestinians have. This is why we bring Palestinian voices for you here today.

As much as you say this is an international issue, this is also a local issue. Martin Luther King said, quote, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere', unquote. When we have our elected officials standing with an occupying apartheid state, it is up to us, the voice of the people, to let them know how we really stand. This is why we attend these meetings every Monday, to bring the voices of the Palestinians here, to open your eyes to the truth away from the media's propaganda.

And now I would like to bring the attention to Councilman Joe Jones's comment during the Safety Committee meeting. Councilman Jones not only went on a [inaudible]-filled rant this past Tuesday, but also threatening to bring a weapon to a government building to use against nonviolent protesters. While no one except Ms. Stephanie Howse was trying to stop him. I not only demand an apology, but I also demand accountability for the lies and fabrications he has made against us. Three young Palestinians students have been shot in Burlington, Vermont, due to ignorance and lies being spread by the media's propaganda and elected officials like Jones. We need to make a change, and it starts here. We are not here to pose any threat to anyone. We come here as humans talking to humans with our children, grandchilden, and friends. We come here demanding a resolution in support of Palestinian rights. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

2:43 Permalink

Lisa Sanches

Hello all, I'm here to speak to you as a Clevelander who's interested in a durable and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. I want to tell you a little bit about me. I am a resident of Cleveland. I've lived in Ward 16 for five and a half years. I own a home in Ward 16. I've lived in Cleveland for 15 years. I'm from somewhere else in Ohio, but I chose to move here in 2009, a very unpopular year for Cleveland. I work in Cleveland, and I vote in Cleveland, which is extremely impressive considering according to the Cuyahoga Board of Elections, very few people turn out to vote in Cleveland. And for weeks, this Council has listened to countless stories from people who have had family members killed in Gaza.

Palestinian-Americans and their allies have taken time to convey how important this issue is to you, and that thousands of people are being killed and a genocide is happening, and I want to put that carnage into context for you, because according to the Arab-American Voter Project, Gaza is actually larger than the Greater Cleveland area. It's approximately from Westlake to Euclid, and according to the Associated Press, the casualties in Gaza are difficult to count. But Al Jazeera cites that 14,500 people have been killed as of November 22nd of this year, and that includes 5500 children, have been killed, fully one-third of the casualties in Gaza. I want to put that into context for you, as we understand Cleveland geography.

According to the Center for Community Solutions, 5,821 residents under the age of 18 live in my ward, ward 16. That's extremely close to the number of children that have been killed in Gaza. There are 15,638 residents age18 to 64 in ward 16, and that is extremely close to the total number of people that have been killed in Gaza. According to the Center for Community Solutions, there are 3,792 people under the age of 18 in ward 3 where I work, and that is still less than the number of children that have been killed in Gaza. There are 5,393 residents under the age of 18 in ward 12, which is only close to the number of children who have been killed in Gaza.

With this information I ask you to support a durable ceasefire resolution like other US cities including Atlanta, Detroit, and Akron, Ohio. Because at this point, Cleveland, we can't even say 'at least we're not Detroit'. Thank you.

2:31 Permalink

Juan Collado

Actually, Libertarian Party, but okay. Council President Griffin, Council members, I am a Clevelander, a resident, I've been here for 5 years in Cleveland since I moved from Rochester, New York, where Council seems to be working better every day. I am a ward 11 resident. I own a house in ward 11, and I have been an advocate, a community organizer for different topics in our city.

While I'm standing here today, I stand as a very disappointed resident to all 15 of you, excluding two of your members. While some have addressed the ongoing event in the Middle East, free Palestine, I have prepare a speech about 20th-century politicians making decisions in 21st-century politics, and that's most of you. These are affecting our Palestinian communities and are affecting the people in Cleveland, and our Palestinian Cleveland community. However, after this past week, I'm outraged, I'm angry, and pissed. I am upset at this body and at this public committee over here. In what kind of city do we allow council members to threaten the community by saying that they need a gun, when you have police officers from head to toe in this damn building? In what kind of city do we tolerate members saying, and I quote, 'I even told the safety chairman today that I have to go and buy me a gun.' He's not here today. Is he scared because he knows what he did? Now no one has advocated for the death of anybody, and we have not threatened Council or the mayor of Cleveland in any way as he claimed, that we asked for the head of the Mayor of Cleveland, and you all know this because you were here every week that we have been here. There's no justification for cutting microphones as you has been doing for weeks. There's no justification for doing this right now other than violating our freedom of speech and stopping what we're trying to say.

I want to say thank you to Councilwoman Stephanie Howse and Councilwoman Maurer for their work supporting Palestine, and stopping Councilman Joe Jones when he said what he said.

Just in case you didn't know, in 2005, he was also named the most corrupt politician by Scene Magazine. This speaks volumes about our city. Let's just think about that. The same year he faced criminal charges for accepting political bribes, and since you all want to be the facts about this, let's just talk about them for a minute. You're surrounded by the most corrupt individuals in our city. You guys have not taken an opportunity to talk about what's happening. Some of you have, and some have not. You have ignored it and given it the blind eye, like most topics America has done. You are the right example of fascist Americans.

Now I want to take a moment to ask the Council President, not just ask, but demand for an apology and of the voluntary resignation of councilman Joseph T. Jones. I do not want this to occur again, and if in 30 days he does not resign, we will demand for all 16 of you to initiate a process to get him removed out of Council. If this does not happen, Clevelanders will protest and will come to this body for every day for the next however years needs to remove this corrupt person. Councilman Joe Jones, you're a disgrace to our city, you are a corrupt scum and we will vote you out.

3:08 Permalink


Distinguished members of the Cleveland City Council and fellow citizens. I became a transplant to Cleveland this summer. Like most men, one of the most challenging real relationships I first had to forge was finding a trusted barber. After making some rounds, I met Hasam, a brother originally from Gaza. Before the war, while he did mention the stresses of living through a blockade, he happily talked about the hospitality of his hometown. Since the war, even when he warmly greets his clients, I see heartbreak and the loss of many in his eyes.

Cleveland's motto, 'progress and prosperity', reminds me of General George Marshall, who ensured the unprecedented peace and prosperity for Western Europe through the ingeniousness of the Marshall Plan. We remain inspired that Marshall led us to victory in World War II, and after witnessing the horrors of war, advocated refugee resettlement for victims. And while he is most remembered for bringing sustainable peace to Europe, he firmly opposed President Truman in his efforts to split Palestine 75 years ago, anticipating that the treatment of the local Arab communities would risk broader violence and instability. Today, iIt feels like we are seeing the ripple effects that Marshall, the man who literally let the fight against evil and architected sustainable peace, had anticipated.

As Americans, we have seen the devastating impacts of wars based on misinformation, and today we call on our leaders to represent our values for human dignity, freedom, and justice for all. As a Cleveland resident, I am calling on this city to stand with the overwhelming majority of the American people to call for a full ceasefire, and to advocate for the freedom and justice for all. Humanitarian pauses are not enough as we do not take pauses in being human. Malcolm X said, 'you can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom', and Nelson Mandela stated, 'our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.'

Marshall's brilliance comes from understanding that the root causes need to be addressed to bring sustainable peace, and today, with America's strong relations with Germany, Japan, and Western Europe, we can see a testament of his leadership and vision. I urge Cleveland to follow the lead of Detroit, Atlanta, and Akron to endorse sustainable peace and to stand with the American people for a full ceasefire and a just future for progress and prosperity for all. Thank you.

3:06 Permalink

Jacob Saliba

My name is Jacob Saliba, and I'm a proud Palestinian and resident of Cleveland Ward 3. I'm also the Executive Director of the Arab-American Voter Project and its initiative, Allies Against Apartheid. While I'd rather talk about the current genocide in Gaza, tell you about how Israel forced my grandparents to flee with whatever they could carry 100 miles north to Lebanon, or detail the experiences people in the West Bank live under, nothing so far has been said sufficient to move you to show basic support, or at the least, impartiality, towards this issue. Instead I will give you a brief overview of my experiences an American tourist with no Palestinian ID while I visited Israel and Israeli controlled Palestine for late September to Mid October of this year.

At countless checkpoints, I was stopped, my trunk opened, my hood propped, and my belongings searched. I was subjected to countless questions, questions that probed into my family, my religion, and the locations of my family that reside within Israel. While trekking between checkpoints trying to get into Rahmallah in the West Bank after one night spent in Haifa, I drove past countless checkpoints and scenes of Palestinians being pulled from their cars and lined up on the road. Unable to get between Palestinian cities, I was trapped. I wondered to myself how Palestinians in Palestine were able to get home if they were worked and lived in another Palestinian city. The next day, as I attempted to get from the West Bank to the airport, I was told that multiple people, including boys not much younger than my littlest brother, were killed near or at the checkpoints I went through the night prior. Finally, as I made it to the airport after having to verify the names of all my relatives, stating my religion, naming the holidays I celebrate, having my face bio-scanned, having rashes that went down my neck and feet as I [attempted] to compartmentalize the fear I had of being shot trying to get to my hotel, having all my belongings checked and damaged over and over again, I got onto the plane.

After waiting for the doors to close, security came onto the plane and security announced my name, 'Jacob Saliba, will you please identify yourself.' My passport and boarding pass were taken, and security took photos of everything I had. I texted my family, 'I love you so much. I don't know what is going to happen, but I may need you if they don't let me leave. I love you, I love you, I love you', and imagine being a mother and reading that text.

When you fail to support or outright make bold statements in favor of Israel, remember my name, remember my story, because I won't forget what I saw, and I won't have my city gaslight me and allies against this apartheid when we demand that our basic humanity is recognized. Thank you.

2:58 Permalink

Nora Kelley

Good evening. My name is Nora Kelley. I'm a proud Ward 17 resident, and I'm pleased to be able to speak directly to elected officials closest to the people in the city of Cleveland.

I'm here this evening to urge this body to reject the impulse to take a page of the GOP playbook in Columbus, but instead serve as a contrasting model for 'small D' Democratic engagement that centers the needs of residents.

Just two short years ago after a successful resident-led campaign to return public comment to Cleveland City Council meetings, some members of this body are moving to neuter public comment to only items under consideration by Council. Residents understand the overwhelming problems this body faces with limited resources, but Clevelanders will not understand being muzzled because listening to resident stakeholders for 30 minutes before meetings seems tedious, or threatening, or tangential to what you do. Hearing the uncensored voices of Clevelanders may and should be uncomfortable at times, but it demonstrates your respect for your constituents and stakeholders, and a humility that not all wisdom and topics of concern flow from this body. American democracy has been and is a raucous enterprise, and those who reject the rambunctious give-and-take ignore the lessons from the civil rights movement and from the labor movement. Democracy and action can be untidy and sometimes loud and profane, and those who wish it to be tidier are out of touch with how real change has occurred in the world of politics and labor. A council move to limit voices during public comment will only add to the mistrust of public institutions. It will fuel the growing consensus in Cleveland that voting is not worth the effort because nothing changes after elections, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and we should expect nothing to change.

Let me take a moment to review how public comment came to be in Cleveland. There are a number of important champions here on City Council, as well as the current mayor, and we are grateful to these leaders, but it is essential to remember that public comment came despite the past Council leadership, and it was slow-walked and fought every step of the way for nearly a year. Having public Council prohibit comments to topics except those approved by you demonstrates a contempt for those that elected you to serve. Clevelanders deserve better.

Finally, I cannot leave tonight without offering a few words of gratitude to the organizers and elected leaders bravely working for a durable ceasefire in Gaza, working to ensure a peace is centered. Our human collective humanity. We must understand that our fates are inextricably bound. If we hope to build a world grounded in justice and basic decency.

3:15 Permalink