Chicago lawmakers call for permanent Gaza cease-fire

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Chicago became the largest city in the U.S. to call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war on Wednesday, when Mayor Brandon Johnson (D) broke a tie among the city’s aldermen to pass the resolution.

The Windy City joins Detroit, Atlanta, San Francisco and other cities in calling for a cease-fire, adding to pressure from Democrats on the Biden administration to do the same, which it has resisted.

The Chicago City Council’s resolution cites a United Nations General Assembly vote in December when 153 of the body’s 186 members voted in favor of an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the conflict. The U.S. voted against the measure.

The alderman vote was tied at 23, after hours of public comments and contentious debate, with Johnson finally casting the deciding vote. Johnson’s “aye” was met with cheers from members of the public in the City Council chamber and a standing ovation from those who voted in favor.

The cease-fire resolution was backed by the influential civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and followed a mass walkout by Chicago Public Schools students on Wednesday.

“There is so much violence that has been visited and this cease-fire is the path out of that violence,” Ald. Daniel La Spata, a co-sponsor of the bill, said during debate. “Do I believe that the words that we speak today — how we vote today — influences directly international policy? I don’t. … But we vote with hope. We vote with solidarity. We vote to help people feel heard in a world of silence.”

More than 18,700 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have died in the war since early October. While the Biden administration has not backed calls for a cease-fire, it has consistently urged the Israeli government to slow its military operations in Gaza and support a Palestinian government, which it has refused to do.

Qatari negotiators reported this week that there was “good progress” toward a second cease-fire in the conflict to release the more than 100 hostages kept by Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected any concessions on Tuesday, insisting on “absolute victory” in the war.

Chicago, the country’s third-largest city, has the largest Palestinian population in the U.S. and the fifth-largest Jewish population in the world.

“As the minutes pass, more and more people are being killed and displaced,” Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez said. “We, as elected officials, have the power to save lives by uplifting a demand that is now shared by many and to be on the right side of history.”

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