Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Tensions mount at city council meeting over ‘Boycott Israel’ proposal"

News article on the Dearborn, Michigan City Council meeting, held on August 12, 2014:
[Next meeting is September 9th at 7:30 pm]

"Tensions mount at city council meeting over ‘Boycott Israel’ proposal"
By Samer Hijazi | Friday, 08.15.2014

DEARBORN – This week’s city council meeting ended on a tense note after several activists asked the city to consider passing a "Boycott Israel" resolution, which ignited a near confrontation with an Israeli supporter who was holding what appeared to be a gun and displaying the Israeli flag. 

The Israeli supporter took the podium at Tuesday’s council meeting to say that he feels like he’s among the minority in Dearborn. 
“What’s disturbing over the last few years in the city of Dearborn is the lack inclusion, the lack of acceptance for other people’s opinion and their ability to express themselves either religiously or politically,” the man said. 
He went on to state that he often receives criticism and backlash for displaying the Israeli flag and protects himself by carrying a gun in public.
“The reason why I carry it is because of the Hamas supporters, Hizbullah supporters and ISIS supporters,” he said.
Following the man’s statements, the meeting erupted in chaos as people began engaging in screaming matches. Council President Susan Dabaja made a quick determination to call an end to the meeting due to safety concerns.
Several activists had traveled from Ann Arbor to speak in front of the city council. Local Arab Americans also attended and displayed signs that read “Stop killing our kids” and “Boycott Apartheid.” Before the Israeli supporter had taken the podium, several other residents spoke. After the activists chanted “Boycott Israel” repeatedly, Ann Arbor-based activist Blaine Coleman addressed the council during the public comments section. Coleman stated that the city should consider boycotting Israel as a top priority, stating that it was a bigger concern to the local community than regulating hookah lounges.
“Stopping Israel from incinerating Gaza today and incinerating Lebanon tomorrow, is about a 1,000 times more important than hookah,” Coleman said. “We ask you to please pass the resolution to boycott all products imported from Israel to the maximum extent allowed by law.”
Dearborn comedian and author Amer Zahr asked the council to boycott major companies that have been affiliated with the siege in Gaza, including Hewlett Packard (HP), Motorola and Caterpillar. 
“The city of Dearborn’s constituents would be overwhelmingly behind this if you held a public hearing about it,” Zahr stated to a round of applause. “We are asking you to open up an inquiry and divest from Israel immediately.” 
Another local resident said the distress residents faced this week from flooded homes as a result of the record-breaking rain on Monday doesn’t pale in comparison to the suffering of families in Gaza. 
“It’s about the destroying of homes. We all felt it yesterday, our basements were destroyed,” the resident, named Osama, said. “But while our basements are under water, they are under fire. This is not their choice. They can’t go to a city council, they are being trapped.”
Councilman Tom Tafelski responded to the audience by stating that the city council does not engage in matters related to international politics. 
“Yes, there are atrocities all over the world; Israel, Palestine, Central America,” Tafelski said. "This body here is at a local level and we have a ton of things we have to deal with. You have representatives that can actually make that impact.”
Tafelski went on to suggest that residents contact their congressional representatives, because if the council were to tackle international politics then it would become a “mini United Nations forum.” 
The activists fired back by proclaiming that change starts at a local level. 
Coleman told the council that it wouldn’t be the first time the city engaged in an international matter. In 2009, the city council had voted unanimously to pass a resolution that condemned the attacks on civilians during a 23-day Gaza war. The resolution urged a truce and an end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip. 
The group of activists plan to bring the “Boycott Israeli resolution” forward again at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, September 9. 



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