Palestine solidarity activists filled Philadelphia City Council chambers on Oct. 19 to denounce a Council resolution. While it condemned Hamas for the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and called for peace in the region, it made no mention of the genocide Israel is engaged in against Palestinians. Even before the hearing had begun, more than 2,000 people signed an on-line petition opposing the resolution.
Indigo Jordan, an organizer with the Philadelphia Palestine Coalition, which organized the protest, said: “We expect better from our City Council members than passing a resolution that does not even acknowledge the 76 years of oppression and apartheid rule that Palestinians have had to endure. While we did see the loss of innocent lives, people were breaking out of one of the world’s largest ‘open-air prisons’ and fighting to reclaim land that has been systematically dispossessed and stolen from them.”
Council President Darrell L. Clarke began the meeting by acknowledging the “unprecedented” number of people signed up for public comment. He then arbitrarily reduced each speaker’s allotted time to 90 seconds from the usual three minutes. While pro-Palestine speakers clearly outnumbered Zionists, those supporting the resolution were given the first opportunities to speak, with few being held to the time limit until audience members shouted “time.”
Those opposed to the resolution called out Israel as a settler-colonial state with a long history of killing innocent Palestinians.
Nour Qutyan said, “Israel is an apartheid state committing real crimes against a stateless people. Genocide will not be endorsed in my name.”
Susan Abulhawa, Executive Director of the Palestine Writes Festival, put the resolution in its historic context, noting that a vote by another Philadelphia City Council in 1831 condemned Nat Turner for leading a historic rebellion of enslaved African people.
Another speaker noted that it took 35 years for the Philadelphia City Council to draft a resolution apologizing for killing 11 Black people, including children, in a murderous police attack on the MOVE family. The names were read of the MOVE members killed on May 13, 1985.
Betsey Piette, who has lived in the Philadelphia area for more than 35 years, asked why the Council had never passed a resolution condemning Israel for killing over 7,000 Palestinians in Gaza over the course of multiple bombing attacks since 2008, and why Council members had never spoken out against the Israelis living in illegal settlements throughout the occupied West Bank.
As the hearing went on, armed and uniformed City Council security guards began targeting Palestine solidarity activists and dragging them from the hall. As people began to voice outrage against this, Clarke abruptly shut down discussion.
After Council members unanimously passed the resolution, the demonstrators left City Hall to gather outside. There they were joined by dozens of Jewish activists, who had picketed outside Sen. John Fetterman’s office for supporting President Joe Biden’s stand giving full support to Israel.