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Village of Nyack Declines Request From Citizen Activists Asking For Resolution On Gaza Ceasefire

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Ari Rosenblum, CEO Of Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County Weighs In On Board’s Decision; Advocates For More Community Collaboration and Interchange

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Village of Nyack on Thursday declined to vote on a citizen-requested resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Prior to the meeting, Mayor Joe Rand on the We Love Nyack Facebook page wrote: “I want to explain why I will not support a resolution for the Nyack Village Board to call for a Ceasefire in Gaza.  Simply put, as a matter of principle, I do not believe it’s appropriate for the Board of Trustees to pass resolutions on issues that are not within the mandate we have to manage the affairs of the Village of Nyack.”

Rand reiterated that position, which was unofficially seconded by Trustee Joe Carlin, and loosely agreed upon by the three remaining members of the board, after more than a dozen citizens, not all from Nyack, pleaded with the village board to take a position and sign a resolution.

The exercise raises questions over whether village governments should wade into international affairs. The board did agree the village could do more to foster events or forums to come together to share ideas and cultural beliefs.

Ari Rosenblum, Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County, asked the board for a moment of silence for every life lost in the Middle East conflict but spoke out against the resolution. Rosenblum, an occasional columnist for RCBJ, has written the following in response to Thursday’s meeting.

RCBJ welcomes opinions from all members of the community.

By Ari Rosenblum

Feb. 29th was no simple evening of public comment for Nyack Mayor Joseph Rand and the Village Trustees. A request was made that they follow other municipalities (Albany and Newburgh) in passing a resolution calling for ceasefire, often framed in inaccurate and unbalanced language. Mayor Rand, in a thoughtful response released earlier in the day, expressed his belief that it was neither the place nor the purpose of the Nyack Village Board to weigh in on such a matter, and that while he had a personal perspective on the matter it was not appropriate for the Village to take it up.

But he valued the genuine concerns of those speaking out on both sides of the issue.

Several people spoke to advocate for a ceasefire resolution, sometimes using inflammatory or false language against Israel even while making a passing reference to the Oct. 7th hostages.

Others spoke out against a resolution, some saying it was not the village’s role to deal with an issue that falls under the purview of the Federal government and the executive branches in Washington.

As the meeting concluded, Trustee Pascal Jean-Gilles suggested the village find a way to recognize the suffering on both sides or do its best to bring people of good will together. This last suggestion might indeed be the most appropriate way for the Village to play a constructive role. Certainly, many in the Jewish community would welcome participation.

What was troubling to see, though, was that some supporters of a resolution ostensibly looking to bring peace and end the Simchat Torah War (so named as the October 7th invasion was purposely initiated on that Jewish festival/holy day), made accusations of genocide that fly absurdly in the face of anyone who has read and studied article II of the 1948 UN Convention. It is unconscionable to draw a comparison between Israelis and Nazis. It is a dereliction of morality to not call for Hamas to lay down arms.

I was truly disturbed to hear those who came to ask for a resolution repeat amongst themselves “From the River to the Sea,” an explosive slogan that essentially is a call to ethnically cleanse at best -and exterminate at worst- Jews who live there, in their ancestral aboriginal homeland, and who have asserted their right to self-determination as the indigenous inhabitants of the land.

It was challenging to wade through the variations on the number of casualties in Gaza – numbers contributed by the Hamas run Gaza Health Ministry, but one thing was not brought up. Former Jerusalem Post editor Yaakov Katz quotes the UN’s own figures that the combatant to civilian casualty ratio for the last several decades of conflict all over the world is about 9:1. That includes casualties caused by NATO, the US, Europeans, as well as by Russia, Middle Eastern and other armies. That is 9 civilians killed for every combatant. Even using the figures provided by Hamas that 30,000 have been killed (they never separate out their fighters from this number) and the IDF has killed by its own account about 13,000 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters, the ratio in this conflict is just over 2:1. More than four times lower than any other army. Four times.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition of antisemitism, used by governments, universities, and businesses across the world, is the most broadly accepted and used definition. Within it, there is clarity that while criticism of Israel’s actions or policies is not in and of itself antisemitism, the use of double standards, the comparison of the actions of a sovereign Jewish state to Nazi Germany, and the demonization inherent in the false accusation of genocide are certainly manifestations of it.

The Mayor and board are right in determining that the role for the Village is to help bring people together. There are many things we can agree on. Israel has an obligation to do more and better to protect non-combatants. It needs, and Gazans desperately need, a plan for the day after Hamas lays down arms or is eliminated and the hostages are liberated. It needs an exit strategy that will not leave any capacity for Hamas to do what it says it wants to – another October 7th, and another. Palestinians have agency, and they need to find better leaders and a strategy to accomplish statehood next to Israel. If they continue to expect to bring about statehood only with Israel’s elimination, they are doomed to a cycle of failure.

We will applaud the Village’s efforts – and we’ll take opportunities to share a factual narrative while finding common ground – but after October 7th, we don’t have the luxury of naivete anymore.

Ari Rosenblum is Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County