Emotions rise as City Council delays action on Israel-Hamas resolutions

Local News

Two resolutions, one in support of Israel and another calling for an immediate ceasefire, were briefly taken up Wednesday.

Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson stood to ask City Council President Ed Flynn (not pictured) to reprimand male councilors when they spoke out of turn as well as the female councilors in the chamber as she pointed to Councilor Michael Flaherty. Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe

The Boston City Council took up two resolutions regarding the war between Israel and Hamas Wednesday, eliciting strong emotions from a number of councilors. Protesters briefly interrupted the meeting by chanting, “Stop the genocide.”

One resolution, put forth by Councilor Michael Flaherty in the wake of the Hamas attacks and the ensuing war, includes language expressing solidarity with Israel as well as the many “innocent Palestinians suffering as a result of the terrorist acts perpetrated by Hamas.” It would have the City Council urge the federal government to “provide whatever assistance it can” to Israel.

“This resolution is focusing strictly on the terrorist act of Hamas, what took place, condemning that as a body, and supporting our allies,” Flaherty said Wednesday. 

Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson filed a resolution of her own, which called for an “immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine.” It also called for the lifting of Israel’s blockade on food, water, and other humanitarian supplies to Gaza. The resolution was cosponsored by Councilor Julia Mejia. (Also on Wednesday, with President Joe Biden visiting, Israel said they would allow some humanitarian aid to enter Gaza via Egypt.)

Both resolutions were briefly debated Wednesday before discussion was suspended and they were referred to the committee on the whole. Votes on the resolutions themselves were not cast, and they will be made subject to public hearings. 

Residents of Gaza are in the midst of a spiraling humanitarian crisis as Israel continues its retaliatory bombing campaign and prepares a potential ground invasion of the enclave with the stated goal of wiping out Hamas. 

“You’ve all seen what’s happening. We all agree that children should not be tortured and killed and massacred,” Fernandes Anderson said. “We all agree that they should have food. Do you agree that they should have water? Do you agree that civilians should have electricity? Do you agree that they should be in their homes safely, or that they should get at least safe passage to go to another part of the country, or maybe into another country? Do you agree that civilians should not be killed innocently this way?” 

Fernandes Anderson stressed that terrorism of any variety is reprehensible. She took issue with other colleagues bringing geopolitical issues into City Council business in the first place, saying that it was a way of “playing political games” during a campaign season while people are dying. Members of the audience at the meeting briefly broke out into applause after her initial comments.

Flaherty’s resolution caused friction even before Wednesday’s meeting. On X, formerly known as Twitter, Fernandes Anderson reposted criticism of the resolution from Boston Globe opinion writer Abdallah Fayyad. She then tagged Flaherty in a series of posts documenting the destruction in Gaza, Israel’s decision to block the flow of basic necessities like food and water into Gaza, the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a message from Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta International about not equating Judaism with Zionism.

On Wednesday, Fernandes Anderson forcefully called for an end to the bloodshed, including the return of Israeli hostages. Councilors should strongly condemn crimes against humanity around the world, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs, she said. 

“Get up, and oppose all killing, of all civilians, of all children, not just the ones that line up with your political bullsh–t,” she said, fighting back tears.

Not every councilor had the chance to weigh in on the topic. Both resolutions were automatically referred to a committee once objections were made to voting on them Wednesday. 

“I do wish we would have voted on each of these,” Council President Ed Flynn said. “I do think that there were some councilors that didn’t get the opportunity to speak on either one of them, because the conversation basically stopped when there was an objection. Those are the rules, whether we agree with them or disagree with them.”

Flaherty’s resolution, taken up at the beginning of the meeting, was sent to the committee on the whole by Councilor Gabriela Coletta’s formal objection. Colette said she objected because she wanted the resolution to be the subject of a hearing, but did not intend to immediately cut off conversation. 

“To put support in one resolution, I don’t think it speaks to the complexities of the history here. But it is an opportunity for us to stand up as leaders of this city and to show that there is an ability for nuanced conversation,” Coletta said. 

Fernandes Anderson’s resolution, filed late and taken up at the end of the meeting, was sent to the committee by a formal objection from Councilor Sharon Durkan. She opposed a vote on the resolution in the interest of fairness, because a vote had not been taken on Flaherty’s resolution either, she said.