Juneau Assembly rejects resolution calling for peace between Israel and Palestine

Assembly member Paul Kelly speaks during a meeting on Monday, April 29, 2024. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly rejected a symbolic resolution calling for a bilateral peace agreement between Israel and Palestine in a 2-5 vote Monday night. 

Residents packed the Assembly chambers during the meeting, and more than a dozen testified in favor of the resolution. Many wore the colors of the flag of Palestine and shirts with the message “ceasefire now.”

After the vote — which came at nearly 11 p.m. — some people with a group called Juneau for Palestine said they felt misled by the Assembly. 

Residents wait in line to give testimony on a resolution calling for a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine at an Assembly meeting on Monday, April 29, 2024. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

Sonia Kumar testified on Monday night. She’s one of several residents who have regularly attended Assembly meetings in recent months to advocate for a resolution. 

“I feel powerless, like, what can I do? I can talk to my Assembly members. I can talk to my legislators. We talked with Mary Peltola a couple of months ago. Not a single person is listening to us,” she said. 

Dozens of cities in the U.S. have passed local resolutions calling for a ceasefire. And last month the Anchorage Assembly passed one to “support negotiations which lead to lasting peace in the Israel-Hamas conflict.”

George Partlow said he was testifying Monday night on behalf of his great-grandchildren. 

“When my great-grandchildren read of the history of this time and the suffering of other children — Palestinians and Israelis — and ask ‘What did you do about it?’ I hope the answer will be ‘At least we spoke out against the violence,’” he said. 

The resolution does not mention the word “ceasefire.” Assembly member Paul Kelly introduced it, but he ultimately voted against it. In an interview after the meeting, he said he should have brought it to a committee first so it could be discussed and workshopped before going to the full Assembly.

“In retrospect, I probably should have asked it to be introduced at a committee. I do regret that, yes,” he said

Some testifiers were upset with Kelly and with Assembly member Wade Bryson, who they said was playing on his phone instead of listening during the meeting. One person, while testifying, asked Bryson to get off his phone, but he did not. Bryson voted against the resolution’s passing. 

Assembly member Christine Woll has long advocated for the Assembly to support a ceasefire resolution. She said it is the Assembly’s job to listen to constituents and their concerns. 

“Local voices speaking up is actually the only thing that is going to change the trajectory of our government’s actions on this, and we do have a responsibility to be responsive to the people coming and speaking to us,” she said. 

Assembly member Greg Smith said he didn’t believe the Assembly should be weighing in on international issues. Despite that, he was one of the two members who voted in favor, along with Woll. 

“We all want peace in the Middle East, we all want people to stop dying in Gaza,” he said. “But the Juneau Assembly should, I believe, focus its time and energy on things we can make an actual impact on. And I have concerns of precedent on this.”

Despite the failed vote, Kumar said she and others a part of Juneau for Palestine plan to continue to testify for city action at future meetings.

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