Sawant backs off on Council Gaza letter

After meeting resistance from other City Council members, she says that she will send the letter herself.
Kshama Sawant during her inauguration ceremony in January.

Kshama Sawant during her inauguration ceremony in January. Allyce Andrew

Kshama Sawant has abandoned an attempt to get her fellow Seattle City Council members to sign a letter asking the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama to condemn Israel's conduct in Gaza.

Instead she will send the letter herself. Sawant's decision came after the five councilmembers present at a Monday morning council briefing said that they would not sign the letter, which also calls for an end to U.S. military aid for Israel. 

Sawant's efforts to gin up support for the letter sparked debate in the Council about whether they should be weighing in on international conflicts, rather than focusing on local issues.

"This letter will be only from me," Sawant said in a full council meeting on Monday afternoon.

The tension the letter had created between Sawant and other councilmembers percolated earlier in the day at the Council's morning briefing.

"Council briefings, generally, are to talk about legislation and issues that are currently before the council," said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, shortly after Sawant brought up the letter in the briefing. "The more we stray from that, the more we're going to sound like, kind of, a show-and-tell of a fifth grade class, where we start reading articles and news bulletins from around the world."

In a meeting last week, Rasmussen said pointedly that the letter, which Sawant had publicly released, did not represent his views.

During the Monday briefing, Councilmember Sally Clark told Sawant that there is a typical procedure for a council member wishing to ask colleagues to sign a letter like this: The member should send a staffer to walk the halls and find out who is planning to sign. That way, Clark suggested, the letter has the appropriate number of signature lines when presented in an open Council session.

"You can leave my name off; you don't need to frame it up including a signature line for myself," Clark added.

Jean Godden and Sally Bagshaw also said they would not sign the letter. Nick Licata is drafting his own letter on the issue, which he plans to send as an individual. Mike O'Brien, Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess were all absent on Monday.

A draft of the letter from last week said that "the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is reaching a critical breaking point." It chronicled the death toll on both sides of the war, noted Israeli attacks on a school sheltering displaced people and a power plant. The letter also called on Hamas to stop shelling civilian areas in Israel. The closing paragraph asks the President and Congress to "issue a formal statement denouncing Israel’s siege and blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank."

"I think this is one of those issues where there has been silence from both the Democrats and the Republicans nationally," Sawant, a Socialist Alternative Party member, said during the briefing on Monday. "We're talking about federal money flowing for military, for global imperialism, we need that money for housing and education."

It's not the first time international affairs have surfaced in the Seattle City Council. In 2007 the council passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

But councilmembers said on Monday that Sawant's letter did not align with their views and that the war in Gaza was too far afield.

"I feel strongly that we're elected to govern the City of Seattle," Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said, "and really not to delve into the complexities of international relations."

Disclosure: Crosscut Board President Bradley Bagshaw is married to Councilmember Bagshaw.

Check out Crosscut’s City Beat page for all the news and commentary about Seattle.

Bill Lucia writes about Seattle City Hall and politics for Crosscut. He can be reached at bill.lucia@crosscut.com and you can follow him on Twitter @bill_lucia.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Aug 11, 7:37 p.m. Inappropriate

“Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ”
― Paulo Freire

This is disappointing. Most people I talk to don't want to have their tax dollars spent on supporting apartheid. Our money can be better spent on our community. I would love to hear Rasmussen's view on this topic. I think we should all know his view since he is one of our city representatives. So Rasmussen, why do you support apartheid? Sally Clark,Jean Godden and Sally Bagshaw shame on you too! I thought you were better than this Sally Bagsaw.

what most upsets me is that our city council members all have a certain amount of power and privilege that comes with there positions, and yet when our (Seattle people)tax dollars are funding an occupying state that has committing massive war crimes, and supporting apartheid, our city council members decide to stay silent.

thank you Nic for speaking your mind. I would love to see what you plan on sending if possible. Thank you Sawant. You two have my vote

I know who I'm not voting for next election...

Posted Mon, Aug 11, 9:55 p.m. Inappropriate

No wonder the city's finances are such a mess. While I thought the city just did not have enough money to resurface all the roads that need it, subsidize enough affordable housing and open community centers all the hours they needed, I now realize that they are instead sending large amounts of my local taxes to prop up Israel!

I am glad there are at least a few sensible council members although I must admit that Ms. Sawant livens things up.

WSDW

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 9:11 a.m. Inappropriate

Apartheid? Baloney. Here's a brief lesson in history from Jon Voight that Sawant and others fail to remember:

"They are obviously ignorant of the whole story of Israel’s birth, when in 1948 the Jewish people were offered by the UN a portion of the land originally set aside for them in 1921, and the Arab Palestinians were offered the other half. The Arabs rejected the offer, and the Jews accepted, only to be attacked by five surrounding Arab countries committed to driving them into the sea. But the Israelis won. The Arabs tried it again in 1967, and again in 1973, launching a sneak attack on the holiest Jewish holiday. Each time the Jews prevailed but not without great loss of life. And when Israel was not fighting a major war, it was defending itself against terrorist campaigns.

"And yet Israel has always labored for a peaceful relation with its Arab neighbors. It voluntarily returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in return for peace, and gave the Palestinians all of Gaza as a peace gesture. What was the response? The Palestinians elected Hamas, a terrorist organization, and they immediately began firing thousands of rockets into Israel.

"You have forgotten how this war started. Did Hamas not kidnap and kill three young teenagers for the sake of killing, and celebrated after the killing? What a travesty of justice."

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jon-voight-pens-letter-ignorant-723007#.U90bWw2vmtY.twitter

The terrorist Hamas organization purposely puts its rocket launch facilities near hospitals and other facilities so when Israel knocks them out it will result in civilian deaths and injuries. Comparing Israel's efforts to defend itself against terrorists to the practice of apartheid is pure propaganda.

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

Here are a few things I'd like point out about your comment, arthurking. I see that you cited your information from a site called "The Hollywood Reporter" on an article written by Jon Voight who is a well known racist, bigot as well as an outspoken Republican who doesn't even know who Hugo Chavez is.

The definition of apartheid is "racial segregation; specifically : a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa", however, I would argue that Israeli is doing much worse than apartheid. Calling the situation between Israeli and Palestine apartheid (if what you mean by apartheid is South African-like apartheid) would be a compliment to Israel.

Posted Mon, Aug 11, 7:57 p.m. Inappropriate

I would have liked to see some of the other Council members sign on to this letter. The recent Israeli assault on Gaza has been so atrocious, with strikes on schools, universities, hospitals, civilians walking with white flags, kids on a beach, and a home for the disabled, that to my mind the normal "rules of the game" no longer apply - this is a time when all people of conscience need to speak out however, whenever and wherever they can to say, "This is not acceptable and will not be allowed." And as Sawant pointed out, it does affect local communities when billions of tax dollars are funneled to war. I believe that one day we will look back on the current situation in Palestine with the same disbelief that we remember South African apartheid, and people will ask, "Why was this allowed to go on for so long?" It's too bad that we won't be able to say that the Seattle City Council took a stand, but kudos to Sawant for her effort.

Rudy

Posted Mon, Aug 11, 10:04 p.m. Inappropriate

So Sawant has joined the "Death to Israel" mob?

Simon

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 1:30 a.m. Inappropriate

why would you say something so hateful? what evidence supports your statement?

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 6:16 a.m. Inappropriate

Will she be banging pots and pans against ISIS? When is the meetup for that?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2719991/Horrific-new-photographs-ISIS-atrocities-prompted-Obama-act.html?login

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 10:03 a.m. Inappropriate

our tax dollars is what funds the apartheid in Palestine. And what are you going about the current ethnic cleansing being inflicted on the Palestinians? the land was tanked from them and they are now force to live in a area that is less than 5% of what this population has been utilizing for thousands of years. It was also a taboo to speak out for the Jews during WW2. I thought we learned something from ww3 - I guess a few people here didn't learn anything.

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 4:01 a.m. Inappropriate

ummm, Yes. She is theirs, there is not a millimeter of distance between her policy and theirs. Tone may vary, same same.

simorgh

Posted Mon, Aug 11, 10:35 p.m. Inappropriate

She has FIRST AMENDMENT rights, BUT she should NOT IN ANY WAY indicate that her action represents the City of Seattle since there has been no official action.

drwilda

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 6:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Wha??? The pots and pans banging didn't work?

http://mikereport.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/video-photos-take-a-walk-on-the-lame-side/

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 7:30 a.m. Inappropriate

Why is the council wasting time on this?

talisker

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 10:05 a.m. Inappropriate

because its our tax money that funds this apartheid system and we can better use this money. the amount of money that supports the occupation and apartheid in Palestine is enough to house our homeless people along. I think you need to get some more information so you too can understand what is happening.

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 10:46 a.m. Inappropriate

So there is a line item in Seattle's budget for supporting Israel's war machine?

Come on, this is just grandstanding and pissing in the wind

talisker

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 10:38 a.m. Inappropriate

it is so easy to act smug and apathetic when the people dying aren't on your front door step

Kaos88

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 3:37 p.m. Inappropriate

I wrote this email yesterday to the Seattle City Council. It made me late to the Seattle City Council Meeting. So I didn't find out until afterwards by talking with a City Hall Clerk that Council Member Sawant had withdrawn the letter from the Council. While my letter ended up not making a difference in their (correct) decision, I'm glad I sent it. I wish I had been able to read it at the Council Meeting. I didn't see anyone at the meeting for the Pro-Israel side, by that may be because I arrived late. I did unfortunately see too many Jews there who didn't seem to understand that for all their wishes for social justice and freedom that if Hamas were to win and annihilate Israel, they wouldn't be welcome there. I don't understand how they can be proponents for something that will only lead eventually to their own destruction. Anyway here is my letter.

Dear Seattle City Council Members,

I am a concerned citizen of Washington State. As a citizen, I feel very strongly that the letter that Council Member Sawant wishes to adopt is thoroughly misguided. While I agree with her that war is terrible, sometimes they have to be fought. It shouldn't be forgotten that the people of Gaza did vote in a terrorist organization to govern them. And now when that organization, Hamas, continues to bombard Israel on routine basis (present cease fire withstanding), I'm really shocked that Israel hasn't responded before now.

To put things more in perspective can you imagine our (the USA's ) response if Vancouver, BC should start shelling Seattle? And Gaza is much closer to Israeli population centers than Vancouver is to Seattle.

Another point to ponder, Israel had refrained from attacking until the murder by Hamas of the three Israeli teenagers combined with the need to stop the rockets and destroy the tunnels-tunnels which were built by Hamas for the sole reason of striking terror and committing massacres in Israel.

If the Gazans want peace, Israel is more than ready to let them have Gaza in peace. Israel would even be happy to open the borders if Hamas would repudiate their attempts to annihilate Israel. Israel has given up land for peace before. They captured the Sinai Desert after winning the Six Day War. During that war Israel was the one attacked. But to achieve peace with Egypt, Israel gave the land back. How often in history has a country that won a war- a war when they were not the aggressor given up conquered territory? I don't think you will find very many examples.

And even now, Israel had withdrawn from Gaza years ago. The only reason they imposed the current blockade to begin with was because of Hamas' practice of sending suicide bombers and their persistent launching of rockets at Israel. I literally tremble to think what force of arms Hamas might have been bringing to bear against Israel if there had been open borders all this time. Hamas is a terrorist organization whose charter calls not just for the dissolution but the annihilation of Israel. When an enemy is bent on your destruction, there really can't be any other answer but to fight-sometimes preemptively but definitely when attacked.

If any of you should think by my email that I am not upset by what is happening in Gaza, you'd be wrong. But my brother actually made a very pertinent post on Facebook today. On FB he wrote:

Being sensitive and caring is good.
Being so sensitive and so caring that we ignore facts and history and genocidal intent is unwise.
It's important to use our hearts and our heads.
It's vital to look beyond hate and propaganda.

There is definitely a pro-Gazan propaganda in most of the news stories reported- even on the major news outlets. It's not really hard to understand. Reporters are looking for a good gripping story. Presenting things as a David (Gaza) fighting against a Goliath (Israel) makes a more compelling story for them. But is it all true? Fatality accounts come from the Gazan government which is headed by Hamas. The reporters and photographers in Gaza are there on Hamas' sufferance. They are literally in danger of their lives if they report something that doesn't fit Hamas' narrative. And have you noticed that in the pictures coming out of Gaza, there are almost never photos of men? The photos are mainly of women and children. If there are men in the photos, they are usually elderly. There aren't many photos floating around that I've seen of men of the age to be actively fighting against Israel. And yet while men of the ages of 20-29
(prime ages for being a member of Hamas' military wing) only account for 7% of Gaza's population, they make up 34% of the deaths currently in Gaza implying that these men are part of Hamas' military and are actively fighting against Israel. The Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and the moral justification is on their side.

The following news story is report of a recent pro-Israel protest outside CNN in New York that I think nicely sums up many of the points I've made-

http://honestreporting.com/joe-hyams-at-ny-rally-we-wont-apologize-for-not-bleeding-more/

In closing I want to reiterate my strong disapproval of Kshama Sawant's letter again. If the Seattle City Council should decide to send any letter regarding the situation, then I think it should be something along the lines that Israel has the legal and moral right to defend itself against Hamas- a terrorist organization that has sworn to annihilate Israel. And that Hamas bears the blame for the current situation in Gaza.

Thank you for your kind attention to my email.

Sincerely,

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 11:19 a.m. Inappropriate

I appreciate your passion and the effort you put into your email BUT this is not something that the Seattle City Council should be spending time on. Your letter is an example of the time sink that can ensue when the council (or a rogue member) brings up issues which are beyond the Council's jurisdiction. It is bad enough to devote meeting time to Sawant's blatherings. It is salt in that wound that the Council, then, has to read and respond to citizen follow-up.

I am not admonishing you for writing your letter. I am saying Councilmember Sawant should have never put this as subject for the Council to entertain. Your letter - and doubtless, others like it - are now eating up time that should - rightly - be spent on City business.

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 5:10 p.m. Inappropriate

The money that Israel receives from the USA benefits the USA as much as it benefits Israel, though Sawant may not think so.

Israeli technology improves the hardware, and that is incorporated back into American defense.

The Iron Dome, for example, will help when missiles may be fired at American cities.

Democrat Steve Rothman of NJ explains in more detail:

http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=172721

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 10:22 p.m. Inappropriate

The ultimate aim of Hamas is to kill Jews and destroy Israel and have repeatedly stated there is no room for compromise. More and more is seems that Seattle progressives share the Hamas dream and aren't shy about expressing that support. Hamas's problem is that they aren't very efficient at killing armed people, and as such, target the unarmed, young children, and elderly. On the other hand Israel has become very efficient at defending themselves. The lopsided body count exists because one side is very good and the other side is terrible at it's stated mission. Mind you it's not from a lack of trying. I'd bet if the body count was somewhat equal the lefties would be ecstatic.

Djinn

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