January 08, 2024

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Public Commenters (30 min)
Nuha Abuaun  Summer Husein  Cameron Irizarry  Kamar Taweel  Bayan Taweel  Tessa Xuan  Noelle Naser  Estelle Raskin  Koby Picker 

Nuha Abuaun

WEBVTT -hundreds of Palestinians in this city serve the people by saving lives and risking their own life, working pandemic after pandemic. We serve our city and our communities. This Council does not serve me or represent me or the hundreds sitting here or the thousands out there. We take an oath, and that oath is to do no harm, and I have to question this Council and ask whether you are upholding to your oath, are you serving this community equally and justly.

Week after week, we organize and stand in the cold to address this Council hoping this is the week you find your humanity, hoping this is the week you wake up and speak up against the genocide of the Palestinians, hoping this is the week you sign a ceasefire resolution. But every week, you disappoint us.

You are the so-called people who represent us, who protect us, the so-called people who are supposed to be our voices, yet you sit here silently and complicit. We are now 8 days into 2024 and thousands have been slaughtered while you sit here complicit,. You sit here on your phones ignoring us and disregarding us. You do not represent us. You do not represent the people of Cleveland. You sit here cold-heartedly and I question, how is it you can be so defected, how can you watch the images of innocent children being bombed day after day, hour after hour. Whether you want to believe it or not, their blood is on your hands and this Council needs to be held accountable, as well as every other Council across this nation that refuses to sign a ceasefire resolution.

Palestinian lives are not disposable. We are not disposable. How many will be enough for you to recognize us? It was not the 10,000 lives lost in October, but will it be now after 30,000 have been killed in Gaza by a military-crazed government that you support? So I want you to leave here tonight and I want you to think long and hard about your families, because our families in Palestine are being slaughtered. I want you to take it personal because for us this is personal.

2:36 Permalink

Summer Husein

Good evening, Mayor Bibb and Council. I hope you enjoyed your break with your families and your homes with heat and warmth and food and safety. While you decided to celebrate the holiday with your families, Palestine and the rest of the world canceled Christmas and all other their festivities. Despite our constant pleas and explanations you somehow aren't putting together the idea that if Palestine suffers, we are all suffering.

It is so beyond me that this Council and mayor have sat on their high horses for weeks while we have come time and time again to demand that you call for a ceasefire, and rather than even actively listening, you have shown that you could care less. Some of you sit on your phones while constituents are speaking, I'm looking at you, Mr. Griffin, while others like to do whatever they can to talk about anything other than the resolution that has been posed three separate times.

Each and every one of you was elected into these positions and swore to be the advocates for the people of Cleveland, and so your constant dismissiveness and disrespect doesn't seem to be adding up to your job title. Wael Dahdouh, a Gazan reporter, lost his son Hamza early this week due to Israel's constant bombardment, and not three hours later, Wael was again reporting live from Gaza doing his best to convince you and the rest of the world that this isn't some movie, this is real life, and your blatant ignorance is the fire that's allowing this genocide to continue to be ignited. The people of Gaza and the West Bank have been fighting this occupation for 82 days and 75 years. Again, I repeat, 82 days and 75 years. So this Council taking a break makes absolutely no sense to me. A break insinuates that work has been done in the first place. Your constituents have come week after week demanding that you call for a ceasefire. People in the Cleveland community have gone as far as to do your jobs for you and even write the resolution, on not one, but three separate occasions. How many times do we have to keep coming back and demand that you do your own jobs? We are all on the same team working on the same group project, and while we've done the entire project, you aren't even ready to put your own names on it.

Mayor Bibb, your entire campaign was run on the idea that you want to make our community a safer, welcoming place. You say you work on initiatives that are supposed to provide systems that ensure food, safety and shelter. That is what your job is supposed to be. You have already agreed to do your job, so do it.

Your job as mayor, if I have to say it a thousand more times, and as City Council members, is to ensure the peaceful progression of your city and its constituents. Beyond that, you're supposed to be representing us. You represent the people of Cleveland, and time and time again we have shown up both locally and nationally, carefully explaining to you where we stand. In case I have to say it once again, Cleveland stands with Palestine. You as a Council and as the Mayor of Cleveland claim to care about your constituents, and some council members have even said they are still learning about the genocide. Well it's time to put your money where your mouth is and stop putting it in Israel's pocket. We have educated you, and you said you care about your people, so either propose the amendment and pass a resolution, or just pass a resolution we've already proposed and call for a ceasefire. You've got four easy steps and one common goal. At least we do, considering we should all already agree that the loss of innocent lives is unacceptable to any capacity, and your goal as City Council members is to protect people's necessary items such as food, safety, and shelter. Pass the resolution. Call for a ceasefire. Free Palestine.

3:09 Permalink

Cameron Irizarry

I want to start by acknowledging that yes, we do have two council members that have had the bravery to speak up in favor of a ceasefire resolution. But I'm not here to give them that much credit because mild statements made in support of returning to the status quo is not the same as supporting the liberation of an oppressed nation.

It has been four months since the Zionist entity Israel has began a new renewed genocidal campaign against Gaza. For those four months you have had the privilege of a proactive community of diverse constituents coming here to implore you to do what you can with the power you hold. For 4 months you've derided our intelligence, accused us of not being Clevelanders, attempted to change the public comment rules to censor us, and you let Joe Jones go on a South-Park-level racist rant against Islamic people. Okay, to those of us who have known about the struggle of the Palestinian people for years, to those who were born into that struggle and have no choice but to be involved in this, it was not complicated or difficult to stand up with our neighbors. For you, City Council, a group of college-educated, democratically elected officials, leaders, you've lagged behind not only the entire world but your own citizens in being progressive on this matter.

While the people have given up their time continuously, missing out on work, missing out on money, to come down here and tell you what you should already be knowing, trying to appeal to whatever humanity is left in you, we've been met with insult after insult, whether it's your disinterest, you can't even look at us, you can't even get off your phones. Mayor Bibb only shows up maybe two out of five times. Okay. We met with insult after insult, we've got half-assed apologies coming up from Joe Jones talking about, 'I'm so sorry'. But what I've heard from these quote unquote 'people he's been collaborating with' is that he backed back on his statement that he would introduce the resolution, he said go get somebody else to do it. We've been met with insult after insult. Mayor Bibb has doubled down on his support for genocide, attending several pro-Zionist events in the last few months. Most recently, he's expressed interest in investing $400 to 500 million dollars in pro-Zionist Dan Gilbert's real estate ventures. The state of Ohio calls their hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds in Israel 'a great investment', and you wonder why we don't come up here to talk to you about the problems facing the city. You are the problem in our city. To hold the power to give millions to a billionaire to build more apartments when we're facing a houselessness crisis, when we're facing a opioid crisis, when there's not money for arts and education, or education in general, there's not money to renovate East Cleveland or Hough, or the 55th Woodland projects. You don't have any money for that but we have money to invest in Dan Gilbert, whose brother, mind you, was threatening Palestinian protesters. That's how Zionist they get, they like to threaten protesters.

It just seems like investing in your city, investing in your citizens, isn't a good enough investment for you. It's not enough to do the right thing, it has to line your pockets. Free Palestine, free all colonized people of this world. I hope y'all grow some spines and stand up for what's right.

3:22 Permalink

Kamar Taweel

Bismillah. In the land where my ancestors planted their roots, where the olive trees tell stories of resilience, and where their call to prayer echoes through the air, the cycle of violence has become a haunting reality. Our homes, our communities and the very essence of our well-being are being torn apart. The images of our children's innocence marred by the scars of conflict, our homes reduced to rubble, and our dreams shattered in the crossfire are etched in all of our hearts.

I don't feel safe as a Palestinian, would any of you? You see all the trauma, all the terror, all over the news, all over social media. You see children calling out to their parents after they have been bombed. You see parents clinging on to the children even though they know that they are dead. You see children being pulled out of rubble. Do you all not have any sympathy at all for any of the people that are being killed right now?

We demand for a ceasefire not out of weakness but as a desperate plea for humanity. We are not pawns in a political game but human beings yearning for a chance at a life free from the consistent shadow of war. We implore you to see past the political rhetoric and to recognize the human cause that this conflict has exacted upon us. You all get to leave here, go home to your own little bubble, your own little reality.

My reality, I see my people running away and hiding, I see my people being buried in rubble, and I see my people getting killed. I see Palestinians without homes, Palestinians with entire family lines wiped away. I see videos after videos of only Palestinians comforting each other, not any of you. 'Baby don't worry those are fireworks, baby don't worry. The world is seeing, the world is watching, the world will help.' But will they? We have people like you in our offices that don't want to help at all and we think that we're going to be helped.

For far too long, the aspirations and voices of the Palestinian people have been drowned out by the sounds of war. Our children deserve to live in a world where the sounds of laughter drown out the echoes of gunfire, where the vibrant colors of hope replace the bleakness of destruction. A ceasefire is not just a cessation of hostilities, it is a lifeline for a people who have endured enough pain and loss. Let us not forget that every moment we delay in seeking a resolution prolongs the suffering of innocent lives.

You are the people that we elected, that we chose to represent us, yet here you are making decisions against the people, not even listening to what we have to say. You would rather get a quick pay than make decisions that make sense, yet you believe that you will be reelected. Do you have no morals or principles? We have came for weeks on end asking for resolutions in hopes any one of you has even the smallest of hearts to not only have sympathy but empathy for what's happening in Palestine.

The world is watching and history will judge us based on the actions we take today. Let us be remembered as a generation that chose peace over violence, peace over war, compassion over indifference, and humanity over discord. The time for a ceasefire is now. The people of Palestine deserve nothing less. The same way you demand respect from us, we demand respect from you. You should be paying attention to what we have to say because we are the people that you are supposed to be representing. Free free Palestine.

3:09 Permalink

Bayan Taweel

Bismillah. Good evening. We have been coming for weeks, and you may be tired of hearing us, but we will not stop. My people deserve to be safe and we will not stop talking or resisting until a resolution is passed for a ceasefire.

I am a daughter, I am a sister, but most importantly I am Palestinian. Something you might not know about Palestinians is that we stand up for what we believe in and we will continue to resist until we receive justice.

Mayor Bibb, Cleveland does not stand with Israel. You do. The amount of protest that you see happening around Cleveland, around Ohio, and around all over the world shows that we do not stand for a genocide, we do not stand for the [ethnic] cleansing, and we most certainly do not stand with Israel.

My favorite quote comes from MLK, 'The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people', which you can question, are they actually considered good? Mayor Bibb, how can this be on the side of Israel. People of Gaza are writing on their hands their names, a birthday, so people in Gaza can identify when they are being bombed. Did you see what they did on Christmas? A Christmas tree was put up and dolls were hung to represent the death of innocent Palestinian babies, or did you hear about the IDF soldiers that was on the search for babies, yes, babies, to kill? He didn't find any so instead he killed a 12-year-old Palestinian girl. You know what he was doing while killing her? He was smiling and making a mockery out of all the innocent children that were being murdered every single day, and this is what you support. This is what you'll forever be known for supporting. Wow, simply wow.

I actually feel bad for everyone that supports the genocide. You are going down in history for being pro-genocide. I recommend you guys to educate yourself and see what this conflict is about, because October 7th is not the date. This is has been happening since 1948. It's not too late to be on the right side. Pass the resolution. Be on the right side of history. The main question asked when interviewing the children in Gaza is 'what do you want to be when they grow up?' They respond with, 'Why, why should I think of the future when I don't even know if I'll see tomorrow? What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be alive.'

How can you act so blind? People are being starved and traumatized, children are dying from cardiac arrest because of the fear of the genocide. Pass a resolution for a ceasefire and all the murders are happening as we speak, to my family and my people. We are Palestinians and more than 75 years later we are still fighting. But remember, no one can turn down Palestine, because you can't be a country that will always be protected by Allah. Free free Palestine.

2:52 Permalink

Tessa Xuan

Hello my name is Tessa Xuan. I'm a Cleveland resident and the co-director of OPAWL. We're a power-building Asian-American and Pacific Islander organization with over 300 members across Ohio, including 90 members living in Greater Cleveland. As an AAPI organization whose community has survived the violence of imperialism, forced migration, and displacement, OPAWL stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people, including our Palestinian-American OPAWL members.

I am the child of Chinese immigrants, and like many of my fellow OWPAL members and many Clevelanders, my family history has been profoundly shaped by war, occupation, and colonization. Occupation by a foreign power is an injustice and a threat to humanity no matter where it happens in the world. In the early 1900s, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded and occupied many parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands, including Korea, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Guam, Fiji, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and the Philippines. My grandfather was forced to flee his hometown as a teenager after he was nearly killed for resisting the system of Japanese domination. My great-grandmother was killed by a Japanese bomb in Shanghai with my grandma's baby brother sitting in her lap. Japanese soldiers committed countless war crimes during this period of imperial expansion and occupation, killing an estimated 20 million people in China alone.

I'm sharing my family's story not to compare it to what Palestinians have gone through, but to say that no land can ever be occupied without dehumanizing the people and children who live there, and the Israeli government has occupied Palestine for 75 years. The Japanese bombers that killed and injured my family members were fueled with American oil. The US was a top exporter for Japan's military, supplying over 50% of their weapons and military supplies until the summer of 1941. The bombs that are killing and dismembering Palestinian families and children at this very moment are also supplied by America. The mass murder and dehumanization and war crimes against Palestinians could not possibly continue without the US providing funding, weapons, and our unconditional political support. Because I know my family's history, I can come to no other conclusion than to support an immediate ceasefire and an end to Israel's unjust occupation. Your constituents whose families have also survived occupations and genocide and systemic injustice are watching to see where you stand. We cannot rest while the government that claims to represent us uses our tax dollars to bomb hospitals and schools in Palestine instead of funding healthcare and education here in Cleveland. If you truly represent us, if you truly represent the city of Cleveland and its people, show us where you stand and pass a ceasefire resolution as soon as possible. Thank you.

3:06 Permalink

Noelle Naser

My name is Noelle Naser. I'm a member of the Palestinian youth movement and also a Cleveland resident. The last time I spoke here at public comment was on October 30th, 2023, the first time we showed a resolution to this council. At the time we had just reached an estimated 8,000 Palestinians killed and what was proven to be only the beginning of a never-ending genocide perpetuated by the Israeli government. We are now well over 30,000 murders in the short time span of 3 months, and each day that has gone by without a ceasefire has contributed to this number of people. While many may have gone numb to this ever growing number, there are real people behind them, as well as real people on the ground right now in Gaza who even after a ceasefire, will still be left to work through trauma, illness, grief, and destruction, to rebuild their lives. That is, of course, if they're even able to return home, as more than 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced.

As we are witnessing Israel escalate their violence in Palestine and its surrounding areas, we are witnessing anti-Palestinian, anti-Jewish, and anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence rise here in the United States, once again showing how global issues are not so far away or disconnected from us as they may seem. This is why the resolution we have shared explicitly states it as an emergency measure necessary for the immediate preservation of public peace, health, safety, and welfare.

During this winter recess our community has been building relationships and connecting with the Cleveland community not only through our protests and marches but through teachings, healing circles, and most notably, in the community letter you all received via email and in physical form in your mailboxes. Over 80 organizations and businesses in the Greater Cleveland area have signed on to this letter asking you to pass a ceasefire resolution. The range of organizations that have signed on make up the beautiful diversity in our city - churches, various cultural organizations, social justice groups, truly a melting pot of voices of nearly every demographic. The intersectionality of the Palestinian cause touches human rights advocates and people everywhere. This is what real progressive work looks like. I have seen more leadership and advocacy coming from members in this community than I have seen from any of our elected officials. It is the reason I truly believe in the phrase 'power to the people', because the people, our community, are the ones who take care of one another when our politicians abandon us.

But this start to the New Year can be a start and a new chapter. This again is another opportunity for you to listen and engage with your constituents and the community that you represent so that we may move past these basics of something we all should be able to agree on, calling to an end of violence, and can move to creating a world that is safe for all of its members. This starts with passing a ceasefire resolution. Ceasefire now and forever. Thank you.

3:01 Permalink

Estelle Raskin

I'm here as a Jewish person to stand publicly alongside our Cleveland Palestinian community and our collective, united, and ongoing efforts to demand that the City of Cleveland pass a resolution that calls for an immediate ceasefire, condemns the genocide in Gaza, and condemns rising anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, Islamophobic, and anti-Jewish attacks in our city.

On January 1st of this year the Cleveland Palestinian advocacy community delivered a letter to each member of the council asking for a ceasefire resolution to be introduced and passed. This letter has been signed by over 95 organizations and businesses and over 500 Cleveland constituents. Those numbers are growing as we continue collecting signatures.

In these past 3 months over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, half of who are children. The New York Times reported that the rate in which Israel is killing civilians in Gaza is substantially higher than in the recent wars in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. More than twice as many women and children were reported killed in Gaza just 7 weeks into the siege then had been confirmed killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its attack nearly 2 years ago.

Let me remind you that within a week of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Cleveland City Council issued a resolution condemning it. Why is it acceptable for Israel to enact this level of devastation? 70 plus years of systematically dehumanizing Palestinians to the point where one child being killed in Gaza every 10 minutes is status quo, just acceptable casualties of war which break every international rule of war established by the Geneva Convention, including the rule of distinction, targeting military objectives and not civilians or civilian objects. What makes it acceptable for elected leaders to not only ignore but also fund this devastation? This Council rushed to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, so why is Gaza not worthy of the council's concern?

Golda Meir, the Israeli Prime Minister between 1969 and '74, famously said that there is no such thing as Palestinians. Does the Council also not see Palestinians as fully human and deserving of respect, life, and safety? What I see is an Israeli system deeply rooted in discrimination and oppression that has withheld equal rights and equal protection under the law from Palestinians for over 70 years, and is now doing it on a level tantamount to genocide. The human rights organization, B'Tselem, says that abandoning the basic principle that all human beings were created equal is a loss of humanity.

Dear City Council, open your ears and hearts and take into account how deeply impacted our Cleveland communities are by the siege. Our Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, Israeli, and Jewish families are scared and grieving alongside each other. We know that the only way forward is through our shared humanity. May this Council learn from the daily courage of its constituents and act with its moral conscience and call for an immediate ceasefire now.

2:58 Permalink

Koby Picker

My name is Koby Picker. I'm speaking for Cleveland's chapter of Jewish Voice For Peace. I'm also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America which has signed on to the letter that you've received calling you to pass a ceasefire resolution. I'm not speaking on behalf of DSA tonight. I've seen my Palestinian and Jewish comrades appealing to you week after week to recognize their humanity and to request that you perform your minimal responsibility as leaders in the city of Cleveland.

The first time I listened to what they had to say I decided that I had nothing more to offer and yet the weeks go by and Council has failed to act, so if you need to hear it from another Jew, let me be that Jew. My message is simple, show some spine, pass a ceasefire resolution.

Today it was reported that the Cleveland Jewish Federation has sent you a letter urging you not to do this. As a lifelong member of Cleveland's Jewish community, I am shocked and appalled by the letter, which is full of twisted facts and misinformation and is diametrically opposed to the Jewish values I [was] taught growing up as a Jewish boy at Jewish institutions that are supported by the Federation in Cleveland. The Federation's role as a hub for funding local Jewish nonprofits has positioned it as a powerful and chilling force in the Jewish community, but they are not a democratic organization, they do not represent me, and they have never represented the full spectrum of Jewish life in this city.

Please do not listen to the Federation board members who have told you in their letter that the IDF is taking extraordinary actions to prevent civilian deaths. The IDF itself claimed on October 10th that the focus is on damage and not on accuracy. There is nothing Jewish about killing innocent people, Palestinian or otherwise. Rather our Judaism directs us to pursue justice. Justice right now is a permanent ceasefire resolution. Do not believe the Federation when they tell you that this war is necessary for Jews to be safe here or in Israel. It is not. Rather my safety as a Jew is inherently bound up with the safety of the Palestinian people. Every gun, tank, and jet the US provides to Israel represents a promise that this conflict will only grow bigger and more permanent in scope.

Finally, do not be fooled by those who would claim that recognizing this ongoing atrocity as a genocide is anti-Jewish. In fact by speaking out against this horror you would honor Jewish memory. Council, your leadership is needed now. Pass a permanent ceasefire resolution. Thank you.

3:02 Permalink