Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzáles said a “significant number” of people signed up for the public comment period of the council’s June 21 meeting. She asked commenters to stay on topic, though many still used their shortened one-minute allotment to push back on District 3 representative Kshama Sawant’s anti-Israeli “End the Deadly Exchange Resolution.”
Sawant said her office was “puzzled” by the strong reaction because the resolution is not yet up for a council vote. Sawant has few given details about the resolution and plans to unveil it in a future press conference.
“Anti-Israel rhetoric like this gives cover and rise to antisemitism which results in violence against Jews in our own community,” one commenter said.
Nearly a month ago, Sawant wrote a letter calling for President Joe Biden and the U.S. Congress to condemn what she calls the “brutal attacks on Gaza,” end military aid and weapon sales to Israel and pass House Resolution 2590, a bill to defend Palestinian human rights, which is cosponsored by Seattle-area Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda also signed the letter. Sawant made similar calls under the Obama administration.
“We completely disagree with those who equate opposing the Israeli state’s decades-long and brutal oppression of the Palestinian people with anti-Semitism,” Sawant said in an email to Real Change. “Such false equivalency is dangerous, and only helps embolden the forces of racism, bigotry, and the far right, and gives cover for oppression.”
Sawant said in a June 16 publicity email that she plans to introduce legislation to ban the Seattle Police Department from training with Israeli military, like SPD did in 2013 and 2015 as reported by Seattle Weekly.
“While we have been told that there are no current plans for SPD to have personnel train with Israeli military or police, our movement knows that has happened in the past and want to make sure that it never happens again, as long as Israel brutalizes the Palestinian people,” the email read.
Atop accusations that her proposed legislation is antisemitic, one commenter accused Sawant of “political grandstanding.”
Sawant supports other local movements showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. Her June 16 email also promoted the #BlockTheBoat campaign, which aims to disallow the Port of Seattle from unloading cargo from an Israeli shipping vessel as part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement to boycott companies that are complicit in Israeli state violence against Palestinians.
Although some commenters had different priorities, in the meeting, the council authorized spending for the Seattle Rescue Plan and passed an update to the Seattle Housing Levy Administrative and Financing Plan for 2021 through 2023.
Hannah Krieg studied journalism at the University of Washington. She is especially interested in covering politics, social issues and anything that gives her an excuse to speak with activists.
Read more of the June 30 - July 6, 2021 issue.