Israel-Hamas War

Protesters gather as City Council condemns Hamas' terror attack in Israel

Several pro-Palestinian protesters opposed the city council's resolution, demanding that the council publicly acknowledge the impact the Israeli government has had on Palestinian citizens

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Protesters gathered outside and inside of Philadelphia’s City Hall on Thursday as City Council approved a resolution condemning Hamas’ recent terrorist attacks in Israel and calling for a peaceful end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Philadelphia City Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) and Mike Driscoll (6th District) first introduced Resolution #230706 on Oct. 12. 

“This Council of the City of Philadelphia unequivocally condemns the attacks by Hamas and any harm that falls upon innocent civilians in Israel, in Palestine, and in the occupied territories,” the resolution states. “This body is committed to promoting peace, justice, and security for all people, regardless of their nationality or religion.” 

City Council was at full capacity during Thursday’s public testimony prior to the vote. A video sent in by a witness who attended the testimony showed a woman being booed loudly while speaking in support of Israel.

“As a Jew I am grateful that you understand the significance of Israel as the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people for more than 2,000 years and recognize Israel’s unequivocal right to defend herself against Hamas’ terrorist attacks," the woman shouted as the jeering continued.

During the booing, Council President Darrell Clarke attempted to maintain order.

“If you insist on screaming and hollering when people talk, you’re gonna have to leave,” Clarke said. 

Jason Holtzman, the Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, told NBC10 a crowd of about 100 pro-Palestinian supporters were inside City Hall during the public testimony. 

“They just didn’t show any decorum and they didn’t have any sort of desire for there to really be a dialogue. They just wanted it to be a completely one-sided bash of Israel and Jewish people,” Holtzman said. “And whenever they spoke, and plenty of them did speak, no one from our side was shouting over them. We were letting them speak. We were letting them finish. Because we believe in dialogue. It’s not a one-sided thing. There are multiple perspectives on this. But the one thing that I think we should all agree on is that there’s no place for terror. Hamas is a foreign terrorist organization and no one should be condoning their actions. And many of the people in that audience who were shouting us down when we tried to speak, they were condoning the actions of Hamas. When somebody mentioned, for example, the 200 plus hostages that are being held in Gaza, one of the women in the audience screamed they should’ve taken more. So that’s the type of audience that we were dealing with.” 

Holtzman told NBC10 multiple people were escorted out of the meeting by security.

“Each speaker who would get up and share any perspective against terrorism and in favor of Israel, they would just be shouted over and people would yell really nasty things at them,” Holtzman said. “And so eventually the security did start to remove some of them. And when they started removing them they started fighting back. And that’s where things got physical.” 

After maintaining order, City Council eventually voted to approve the resolution. 

"I am happy that they passed the resolution but ultimately I'm still mourning. Fourteen hundred of my people have died,” Aliyah Stranger, an Israeli and Philadelphia resident who spoke during the public testimony, told NBC10. "Two hundred are still kidnapped. And to me this should have been very simple. We're condemning a terrorist organization."

A lot of emotion inside City Hall and outside as City Council introduced a resolution condemning Hamas. NBC10's Miguel Martinez-Valle spoke with people on both sides of the issue.

Outside of City Hall, about 100 protesters who opposed the resolution gathered and chanted, “Free Palestine!” 

Nora Elnarzouki of the Philly Palestine Coalition, spoke during the public testimony inside the council chamber.

"Where is the acknowledgment of the dehumanization and genocide that’s taking place to the Palestinian people in Gaza and the arrests and killings in the West Bank?” she asked.

Elnarzouki also spoke with NBC10 outside of City Hall.

"I'm very sad that a city that is supposed to be one of the most progressive cities in the entire country is failing to call this what it is,” she said. “A genocide."

While the protesters told NBC10 that they opposed Hamas, they also said they wanted a public acknowledgment of the impact the Israeli government has had on Palestinian citizens and the suffering they've endured during the conflict.

“It’s not so much about condemning Hamas, because they should be condemned for what they did, but the issue is condemning Hamas alone and not taking a second to look at the apartheid state that Israel is and their crimes that they are committing and have been committing since 1948,” Janat Zafar, one of the protesters, told NBC10. “That is the issue and I think I speak for a majority of people here. It’s never about condemning Hamas. Hamas should be condemned. They are doing wrong things but Israel is also doing much worse.” 

While speaking with NBC10, Holtzman denied that Israel was an “apartheid state.” 

“The notion that Israel is an apartheid state is a false notion. Israel does have policies in place like checkpoints. They put up a border wall. And those things only came into place after Palestinians blew up buses, nightclubs, hotels and attacked Israeli civilians in cold blood,” he said. 

Holtzman also told NBC10 that City Council’s resolution was focused more on Hamas’ actions rather than the entire history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

“It was about the heinous terrorist attack committed by Hamas,” he said. “Where they invaded Israel’s sovereign borders through air, sea and on the land, murdered 1400 plus people, injured several thousand others, shot almost 7,000 rockets, and kidnapped 200 plus civilians. So we can have a discussion about history. And it’s nice to hear that the person who your reporter spoke to condemns Hamas, but we didn’t hear any of the speeches that they were making that actually condemned Hamas.”

Holtzman also acknowledged the pain that the conflict has caused for all sides involved. 

“There is a ton of pain in the Jewish community right now. In the Israeli community right now. In Palestinian, Arab, Muslim communities. And it’s rightfully so that way. We understand why people are feeling pain. Because this is a tragedy, what’s been happening right now,” he said. “But I really do not want to see the problems from the Middle East spill over into our own community here in Philadelphia. We all live in this city. We want to share this society. We all want to have equity and fairness. And the problems from 5,000 miles away should not spill over into our own community. We need to have tolerance. We need to have respect. And every human deserves dignity. And we did not see that today. We did not feel that today.” 

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