Column: Durham City Council, call it a genocide

Durham city council debates cease-fire resolution (Photo by Cornell Watson, via INDY Week)

Sunday, March 10, 2024

By Sydney Brainard

On February 20, the Durham City Council passed a cease-fire resolution, urging Biden “to call for and facilitate de-escalation and a sustained, bilateral ceasefire” and calling for “the release of all hostages held in Gaza,” as well as an end to U.S. military aid to Netanyahu. It was a hard earned victory for activists, who had worked for months to petition the council for a resolution, but still, something is missing.

Following its passing, Council Member DeDreana Freeman motioned to add the word “genocide” to the language in the resolution. Mayor Leonardo Williams, who voted against the initial resolution, immediately shut it down, stating that they needed to simply, “act on what we passed,” instead of “taking this any further.”

Durham is the second city in North Carolina to call for a cease-fire.

In 2018. Durham became the first city in the country to ban the practice of police exchanges with the Israeli military. Durham’s been putting the pieces together for years, so why won’t Durham City Council call this what it is?

Just months ago, South Africa brought Israel to the International Court of Justice on accusations of genocide and apartheid. The International Court of Justice ordered Israel to adhere to a series of provisions in order to prevent genocide in Gaza. Already, Israel has not fulfilled at least one of these orders. 

Members of Israel’s government have expressed their genocidal intent online. One official even stated that Israel’s goal is “erasing the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.” Over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel. Over 70,000 Palestinians have been wounded. Human Rights Watch has found that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war. According to UNICEF, tens of thousands of women have given birth within this devastation, with little access to care or nutrition for them and their children. Women are miscarrying from the environmental conditions. Nurses are giving C-sections to dead women. 

These are the tenets of genocide. What Israel is doing in Gaza is a genocide. We shouldn’t mince words on a national scale, and we shouldn’t mince words on a local scale. To not include the word genocide in this cease-fire resolution is to let national and foreign political interests win out over the truth. 

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, a clarification of Israel’s actions as genocide won’t make everyone happy, which is what Mayor Williams seemed to be so concerned with when he voted against a cease-fire. 

There is anger with any criticism, especially when it’s levied against a government so intertwined and enabled by the United States. But anger won’t outlive the truth and it shouldn’t distract from it. When the anger of certain constituents has faded and been directed elsewhere, and truths of the genocide in Gaza continue to be untangled and laid bare, this resolution will remain on the record. Let this resolution be true and accurate.