Following a city council meeting on Tuesday evening, Seattle became the largest US city to demand a ceasefire in Israel/Palestine, where nearly 15,000 Palestinians have died, including 6,000 children, following Hamas' Oct 7 attack, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis. The council’s resolution ultimately passed 6 to 0, with Council members Sara Nelson, Alex Pedersen, and Andrew Lewis abstaining.

The resolution specifically called for “a long-term ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine, the return of all hostages, and the delivery of humanitarian aid,” and included language condemning Antisemitism and Islamophobia. The City will shoot that message up to Washington’s Congressional delegation, who—with the exception of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal—will continue to wait for their spines to develop as they watch the Israeli military bomb hospitals, slaughter civilians en masse, and permanently displace 2 million people in a genocidal campaign against Palestinians. 

Council Member Kshama Sawant got this whole ball rolling a couple weeks ago when she introduced a resolution calling for a ceasefire, a hostage exchange, humanitarian aid, an end to the occupation, and an end to US funding of Israel’s war machine. At that time, no one on council seconded the motion, which prevented the body from even discussing it. Nevertheless, Sawant and the antiwar movement in general kept the pressure on. 

In the intervening weeks, Palestinian community members from groups such as Baladna met with Aneelah Afzali, who runs the American Muslim Empowerment Network (MAPS-AMEN), to discuss and chart a path forward. Earlier this month, Afzali worked with a group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in crafting the Washington Solidarity Statement for Peace and Justice in Israel/Palestine, which currently boasts more than 2,500 individual signatories and over 150 organizational signatories. 

Ultimately, those Palestinian community members decided to work with their allies on an amendment with Council Member Teresa Mosqueda, who brought on Council President Debora Juarez and Council Member Lisa Herbold as sponsors. Mosqueda’s amendment did not include language demanding an end to US funding to Israeli’s military and an end to the occupation wholesale, but it did have support of a majority of council members. Members of the multi-faith coalition that pushed the Washington Solidarity Statement for Peace and Justice in Israel/Palestine also reviewed and commented on the language.

After publishing a Guest Rant in The Stranger urging people to pack City Hall, Sawant indeed packed City Hall and the public comment Zoom lines. Commenters, some of whom were also from Muslim and Palestinian communities, called for the Council to pass Sawant’s version of the resolution. As the commenters argued their points on behalf of justice and the mounting war dead, some critiqued the politicians for appearing in chambers remotely, a common if irksome practice for those who really want to feel heard by their representatives. Sawant was the only member present on the dais. 

When the two hours of public comment came to a close, the Council eventually voted 7 to 1 (with Nelson abstaining) to consider Mosqueda’s amendment in place of Sawant’s resolution, and then they passed Mosqueda’s amendment. 

The whole situation arguably put ceasefire supporters in a tough place. Watering down Sawant's resolution flies in the face of any coherent and principled stance on the issue. That said, no offense, but a resolution is already a glass of water. That said, as cities such as Atlanta and Detroit pass similar resolutions, a loss in Seattle could mean a major setback to the broader antiwar movement. Washington’s Congressional delegation, which is currently composed of eleven jellyfish plus Pramila Jayapal, could point to a failure as a reason to maintain their current opposition to a permanent ceasefire. That said, the failure would expose certain council members and the Democratic Party as lemmings who are unwilling to act decisively in the face of an ethnic cleansing campaign, and hasten an end to their political reign. That said, those same council members could point to process disputes as cover, and even win support in more hawkish circles, etc. etc. etc. 

Either way, in a statement, Sawant declared victory: "Our movement will claim this historic victory today and fight on. What we won today is a reflection of the balance of forces right now, and it shows we need an even stronger movement in order to address the root causes of the conflict—the Israeli occupation and the US military aid that facilitates the brutalization of the Palestinian people."