Resolution for Gaza ceasefire fails to gain enough support

(Flyer photo/File)

FAYETTEVILLE — A resolution to call for a ceasefire in Gaza failed to gain enough supporting votes to pass on Tuesday.

Four City Council members abstained from voting on the measure, while three voted in favor and one voted against.

The proposal was sponsored by Councilmember Sarah Moore, who said she was approached by local residents who wanted Fayetteville to take a stand against the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

The resolution (read it here) called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, for life-saving humanitarian aid for Gaza, and for the release of all hostages and political prisoners. It also condemned all anti-Palestinian, Islamophobic, antisemitic, xenophobic, and hateful speech directed against any person or group.

Tuesday’s meeting began at 5:30 p.m. but it was over four hours before the Gaza ceasefire discussion began at about 9:40 p.m.

City Attorney Kit Williams said he’d been told there were nearly 100 people waiting outside City Hall to speak, and if everyone used their entire allotted time of three minutes, the meeting would likely last until 3 a.m. He said out of respect for those at the back of the line, the council might consider reducing public comment to two minutes per person. The council agreed by a vote of 6-2, with Moore and D’Andre Jones voting against.

Over 50 people spoke, with all but two in favor of the resolution. Council members spent about 20 minutes discussing the proposal before the meeting ended shortly after midnight.

Jones said Fayetteville has a history of confronting topics that other cities in Arkansas typically don’t address, and that passing the resolution would be consistent with the city’s progressive reputation.

Bob Stafford said he believes in Fayetteville, there’s a universal desire to see an end to the war and its atrocities, but his elected role focuses on local issues like housing, homelessness, and community support, rather than worldwide affairs.

“As much as I’d like to think that I can have a voice on the international stage, I can’t,” Stafford said. “It’s not the duty of any of us up here.”

Stafford said he’d abstain from voting on the resolution as a statement of his inability to directly affect world peace, but also his reluctance to outright oppose it.

Jones said he understood Stafford’s comments about staying true to elected responsibilities, but argued for a broader interpretation of those duties that he believes includes advocating for world peace and compassion.

“I know this is very difficult,” Jones said. “But at the end of the day, I don’t think that it’s going to hurt me – not one bit – sending a statement that I care about someone else who lives in another community.”

Teresa Turk said before she was elected, she made a promise to ensure that all voices, especially minority ones, are heard and represented. She said despite her initial concerns that Fayetteville taking a stand might provoke political repercussions from state leaders, the testimonies and overwhelming support from the community during public comment made her change her stance.

“Tonight, there’s been at least 50 people that have supported this resolution and only a couple of voices against it,” Turk said. “It’s my job to listen to what you all have to say.”

Scott Berna echoed Stafford’s remarks, and said despite the strong support for the resolution from attendees at the meeting, his responsibility is to represent all 90,000 citizens of Fayetteville, not just those present. He said in his outreach to the community, including those with differing political views, the consensus was that the resolution was irrelevant to Fayetteville’s direct interests and could potentially create local division.

“It’s not that I don’t want peace in the Middle East, because I do,” said Berna. “But this does potentially have a negative effect on our community, and that’s what I have to stand on.”

Mike Wiederkehr said he was concerned about Fayetteville being targeted by external influences, and that he received phone calls and emails from people outside Arkansas before the resolution was even proposed. He said he was wary of the city becoming a mere item on an agenda for non-local entities, and that passing the resolution could be seen as a symbolic victory for outside movements instead of a decision that was based on local, organic involvement.

“So while I respect you, I hope that you would have some reason to at least give me some benefit of the doubt that I don’t want us to be a litany of one-off issues,” Wiederkehr told the audience.

Moore said the initiative was indeed brought forward by local residents, but admitted that they sought outside expertise to ensure its appropriateness and legality.

“I do apologize that there was a lack of understanding in the way that some of these things were communicated,” said Moore. “But the individuals that were contacting us, from what I understand, are connected to the Northwest Arkansas individuals that were writing the resolution.”

Wiederkehr said during public comment, some people cited concerns about the use of Fayetteville tax revenue in supporting the war, but said that was a misunderstanding. He said the money mentioned by attendees does not come from the city’s budget but rather from federal income taxes paid by residents.

“I don’t want anyone to misconstrue that the city of Fayetteville’s actual funding is being utilized for (the international conflict),” said Wiederkehr.

In the final vote, only Moore, Jones and Turk voted in favor. Stafford and Wiederkehr abstained along with Sarah Bunch and Holly Hertzberg, while Berna voted against.