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Tucson City Council to Discuss Ceasefire Resolution

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen speaks during the “call to the audience” at the March 19 Tucson City Council meeting. (Photo courtesy Hava Leipzig Holzhauer)

The Tucson City Council will discuss a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza at its Tuesday, April 9 study session. Study sessions precede the council’s formal meetings.

At the March 19 study session, council member Lane Santa Cruz requested a 20-minute discussion of the topic be added to the agenda of the April 9 study session.

Ceasefire resolutions have become a pervasive national issue, says Hava Leipzig Holzhauer, CEO of Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona.

Across the country, activist groups have been pursuing ceasefire initiatives since Oct. 8, she says, referring to the day after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that started the current war in Gaza.

In Tucson, the big push for a ceasefire resolution began in December, says Holzhauer, who is part of a coalition of Jewish community professionals and volunteers working to oppose the resolution and the antisemitism the discussion engenders.

More than 70 city councils nationwide have passed ceasefire resolutions or proclamations, including the City of South Tucson on March 5. At least 20 municipalities have passed resolutions condemning Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, according to a Feb. 20 Reuters article. Many other cities have voted against ceasefire resolutions or declined to put a vote on their agendas, often stating that foreign policy is not the business of a city council.

“I would dearly love a ceasefire and a lasting and just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Nevertheless, when reading the toolkits and manuals that the pro-ceasefire groups have distributed to their members, there is no mention of the Israeli hostages or Hamas actions,” Rabbi Malcolm Cohen of Kol Ami Synagogue wrote in a message to congregants on Feb. 28.

Pro-ceasefire groups active locally include Jewish Voice for Peace and the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance.

Cohen, a member of the local Jewish community coalition working to ensure Mayor Regina Romero and the council hear a variety of views, says he’s heard several people at the council meetings state that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist.

Cohen acknowledges that there may be some Jewish voices speaking up for ceasefire resolutions. And he points out that U.S. Jewish leaders have been asking hard questions of the Israeli government, urging them to reduce civilian deaths in Gaza.

Holzhauer says the Jewish community desires peace.

“We want Israelis and Gazans to have lasting peace and security. We want Israelis and Gazans freed from Hamas,” she says.

But she questions the motives of the groups behind the ceasefire resolution campaign, which she sees as an extension of the longstanding Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Pro-Zionist groups say BDS aims to delegitimize and isolate Israel.

“On its face, to people who don’t know any more, asking for a ceasefire sounds very benign; it sounds good. Nobody likes war. Nobody likes death and destruction,” she says. “But what’s underlying this initiative are different goals, which are to replace the state of Israel with Palestine, to delegitimize what happened on Oct. 7 and ignore the atrocities and not give credence to the reality that Israelis were murdered en masse by a terrorist organization.”

Those speaking in favor of a ceasefire resolution at Tucson city council meeting also express no empathy for the Israelis who are still held hostage in Gaza, she says.

Inherent in these views, she says, “is the ideological idea that Israel doesn’t have a right to be, and to be where it is, and because they don’t, anything that is perpetrated, any kind of violence — against not just Israel but Jews is acceptable.”

In a March 8 Shabbat message to the Jewish community, Holzhauer notes that anti-Israel protests in at least 18 U.S. states, “including those accompanying efforts to pressure city councils to take up unilateral ceasefire resolutions … have featured flags, headbands, or signs bearing the logos of the U.S.-designated terrorist groups Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”

“And in Tucson we have now sat through scores of speeches at City Council meetings spreading rampant misinformation about Jews and Israel. This is not only difficult to listen to —- but contributes to the skyrocketing levels of anti-Jewish hate,” she says.

“It has been empirically proven that in cities where such a resolution has been passed, antisemitic acts have exponentially increased,” says Liz Kanter Groskind, JPSA chair. As a Tucsonan for 20 years, she has loved the city’s welcoming and inclusive nature, but she’s seen that change since Oct. 7, with many in the community who have “actively become not only virulently anti-Israel but crossed over to antisemitic.”

Holzhauer shares local examples of how pressure tactics have extended beyond the council meetings, including a theater owner forced to cancel a concert by a Jewish performer because the theater could not guarantee the performer’s safety, a radio station that stopped advertising for a Jewish performer after receiving pressure and threats, and a pressure campaign against a local non-profit, the YWCA, for hosting an event at a Jewish venue. She adds her gratitude that the YWCA did not give in to the pressure.

Pro-ceasefire protesters at the March 19 Tucson City Council meeting. (Photo courtesy Hava Leipzig Holzhauer)

At several recent Tucson city council meetings, Jewish community members opposing a ceasefire resolution have been outnumbered 5:1 by pro-Hamas protesters, Holzhauer says.

“We have experienced heckling, name calling, and outbursts, both inside and outside Council chambers,” she wrote in a March 4 email that was also circulated by several local rabbis.

The email, which encourages Jewish community members to attend the council meetings, also includes safety instructions, such as not walking alone to and from City Hall and not engaging with protesters.

“Having the opportunity to have our voices heard by the mayor and council has been an important part of the process,” says Holzhauer.

She says council members have said they are exhausted by the protests, which take time from legitimate concerns of the city government, such as budgets or helping the unhoused population.

In a March 29 Shabbat email, Holzhauer wonders why it is only Jewish Americans “being asked by our local governments to devise foreign policy with them.”

“This is what these unilateral ceasefire resolutions are asking of us,” she says, adding, “Can you imagine, for example, local governments — or any other level of government for that matter — pressuring Chinese Americans to hammer out foreign policy resolutions on Chinese labor laws — or China’s treatment of Tibet?” She further suggests there are constructive ways to work toward peace.

In an email to congregants on April 2, Rabbi Avi Alpert of Congregation Bet Shalom echoes this idea, stating that “it is not in the purview or jurisdiction” of a city government “to comment on international matters, especially calling out the only Jewish State while remaining silent on more volatile world conflicts.”

Alpert urges congregants to “express your disgust with the dangerous behavior at the Tucson City Council meetings and with this resolution” by writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper and emailing the mayor’s chief of staff, Charlene Mendoza.

For security coordination purposes, those planning to attend the April 9 study session, or the council meeting are encouraged to register with JPSA here. The study session is slated to begin at noon, with doors open to the public at 11:30 a.m. The formal council meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

To watch a livestream of the council meeting, go to

Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, April 9, Tucson City Council voted not to move forward with a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.