While a temporary ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war was reached Tuesday night, Democrats in New York City had been showing a schism in support for such action.
It was reported by several news outlets, including the Associated Press, a deal that had to be approved by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was agreed to. That deal called for releasing 50 Israeli hostages in exchange for releasing 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. A total of more than 240 hostages were taken by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 during the initial attack.
Prior to the possible ceasefire news, 24 members of Congress had signed a letter sent to president Biden on Nov. 15 demanding a bilateral ceasefire in Gaza. Signatories included progressive Democrats who representing the Bronx, Queens and Westchester. The reason given was to protect the more than 1 million children in Gaza.
Three of those who signed are New York State representatives, U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Bronx and Queens), Nydia Velázquez (Brooklyn and Queens), and Jamaal Bowman (Westchester and Bronx).
Their support for a ceasefire stands against a majority of New York elected officials, who oppose a ceasefire, including local electeds like Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Eric Dinowitz.
In the letter the U.S. Reps. stated: “We write to you to express deep concern about the intensifying war in Gaza, particularly grave violations against children, and our fear that without an immediate cessation of hostilities and the establishment of a robust bilateral ceasefire, this war will lead to a further loss of civilian life and risk dragging the United States into dangerous and unwise conflict with armed groups across the Middle East. Further, we write urging clarity on your strategic objectives for achieving de-escalation and stability in the region.”
In the letter representatives condemned Hamas attack on Israel, but shared concerns with the IDF’s response. They emphasized that nearly half of those killed in Gaza were children. They cited that about 3,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 1,755 children, have been reported missing and presumed trapped or dead under rubble.
“We are profoundly shocked by the grave violations of children’s rights in the context of armed conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territory,” the letter stated. “International norms require that all parties to an armed conflict protect children and prevent the commission of grave violations against them, including killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, recruitment and use of children, abduction of children, and denial of humanitarian access.”
When asked if he believed the Israel government was doing the best to minimize civilian casualties, U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres told The Riverdale Press, “I think every government can do more; Israel is no exception. But in the Gaza Strip, Israel is confronting a hellscape of terror tunnels and booby trapped buildings and combatants camouflaged as civilians.
“So, those are the most challenging experiences in which to prosecute a defensive war. Those are far more challenging conditions than even the United States had to face in Iraq and Afghanistan. The combination of underground warfare and urban warfare is a nightmare.”
Torres told an estimated 290,000 pro-Israel supporters last week at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that a ceasefire with Hamas would be anything but peaceful.
“I want to be crystal clear,” Torres said Nov. 14 in a broadcast livestream. “A ceasefire with a terrorist organization is not a peace agreement, it is a death sentence for Israelis. Now not everyone who’s calling for a ceasefire wants Israel to cease to exist. But everyone who wants Israel to cease to exist is calling for a ceasefire. Hamas and Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran are all calling for a ceasefire. Our answer is no.”
That answer was also no for Assemblyman Dinowitz and Councilman Dinowitz.
“I think everybody can recognize the basic premise that death is bad,” Councilman Dinowitz told The Press. “But people asking for a ceasefire aren’t asking for Hamas to release the hostages, for Hamas to surrender themselves. They certainly weren’t condemning Hamas or calling for one on Oct. 7. Many of those calls are a little hollow.”
Assemblyman Dinowitz referenced Hamas’ expressed commitment to having another Oct. 7 as a reason not to say yes to a ceasefire.
“They’re not hiding. They said they’re going to do this over and and over again,” Assemblyman Dinowitz said. “It’s easy for us in the U.S. to say what we think should happen. Israelis have to decide best how to protect residents of Israel.
Assemblyman Dinowitz told The Press back in Oct. 8 that it would only be a matter of time until the world turned their back on Israel for retaliating so the increasing calls for a ceasefire have not been a shock to him.
One local resident in support of a ceasefire is Jennifer Scarlott, coordinator of North Bronx Racial Justice. While she condemned the Oct. 7 attacks, Scarlott told The Press calling for a ceasefire is the absolute minimum and a step to getting hostages released from both sides.
“The fact that Hamas was able to carry out a military raid against Israel that was in some measures successful does not mean that Hamas in any way is a threat to the state of Israel,” Scarlott said.
“It’s just laughable, it’s ludicrous. What the government of Israel is pursuing in Gaza now is not proportional response. It’s vastly disproportionate. It’s deeply illegal and the shame, the horrendous shame of our government standing with, cheering and supplying weapons to (Israel), it’s frankly racist.”
Another supporter of a ceasefire, Stuart Chen-Hayes, a professor at Lehman College, also pointed out the ratio of deaths in Israel and Gaza.
“Violence does not cure violence,” Chen-Hayes said. “The only way to do this is to do a ceasefire to come together and settle our differences in peace. Palestinians deserve to have a homeland, they deserve to have civil rights, human rights.”
SAR Academy principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss who met with families of hostages taken by Hamas last week at the National Mall alongside Torres, told The Press that he hasn’t seen a commitment, among those calling for a ceasefire, to have hostages released.
“I met with a lot of members of Congress,” Krauss said. “I was really proud to see they were for the most part not calling for a ceasefire without a release of hostages without clarity when we’ve got people claiming to want to do Oct. 7 again. I don’t think the people calling for a ceasefire are even clarifying what they mean.”
Torres told The Press there should be a diplomatic operation to secure the release of the hostages and humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip, as well as a military operation.