Chicago City Council

Jewish City Council member's resolution condemning attack on Israel gets pushback from mayoral ally

The Chicago City Council’s only Jewish member is facing a bit of resistance to her plan to champion a “resolution in solidarity with Israel” in response to the attack by Hamas that has killed 1,000 people in Israel and subsequent Israeli airstrikes that killed 900 in Gaza.

The surprise opposition comes from Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), Mayor Brandon Johnson’s handpicked chair of the Committee on Health and Human Relations.

In response to an email from Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) seeking support for the Israel Solidarity Resolution, Rodriguez Sanchez wrote, “Although I wholeheartedly agree that the attacks from HAMAS are brutal and that no one should be subjected to that violence, I also understand that the situation is more nuanced than what this resolution expresses.”

After saying she is “deeply sorry for all the violence, the pain and the loss of life” in Israel Rodriguez-Sanchez wrote, “Any resolution that speaks on this matter should, in my opinion, also center the humanity of Palestinians who are confined to an open-air prison and whose lands have been occupied for decades.”

Stressing the importance of seeking “unity and solidarity among all the People impacted by the horrible violence,” Rodriguez-Sanchez offered to “work together on this resolution so that it provides a more nuanced understanding of the situation” that plunged Israel into war after a monumental intelligence failure that caught the country off guard while celebrating a major Jewish holiday.

Rodriguez-Sanchez could not be reached for comment.

In an emailed response to Rodriguez-Sanchez, Silverstein, an Orthodox Jew, wrote, “Thank you for your comments. However, drawing a moral equivalency between one of the worst acts of terror in world history and Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself is absurd.”

Noting that “392 members of the U.S. House” have signed their names to a bipartisan resolution expressing support for Israel,” Silverstein wrote, “Our nation is united behind this cause and so should the Chicago City Council.”

Contacted Tuesday, Silverstein talked about the need to condemn the Hamas attack in the strongest of terms — not about her colleague’s offer to somehow soften the resolution.

“This resolution is about a terrorist attack on Israel. It’s about Hamas, that has come in and killed over 900 people. They’ve abducted men, women and children … This is a fight against terror,” Silverstein said.

“Hamas came in focusing on killing innocent people — men, women, children and elderly. That’s what this is about. This is condemning their attack on Israel and the way they went about doing it.”

Silverstein said she is “sticking with my resolution” as it is written.

“I am focusing on this brutal attack of innocent children, of innocent civilians. This is like U.S. vs. al-Qaida. This is a horrible, horrible situation,” she said.

“I have family that lives in Israel that have been called up to serve in the Army, putting their lives in harm’s way with children that they’re leaving behind. And Israel has a right to defend themselves after this brutal, brutal attack. Two hundred sixty people were murdered at this music festival, the worst civilian massacre in history. There are more than 2,500 Israelis injured.”

Silverstein was asked repeatedly whether she was offended by Rodriguez-Sanchez’s claim the situation is “more nuanced” than the resolution makes it out to be.

“I don’t want to go there. … I am condemning this violence, and I am supporting Israel 100% wholeheartedly in this resolution,” Silverstein said.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said he was outraged by Rodriguez-Sanchez’s remarks.

“How anyone can try to justify what we saw unfold this weekend, particularly someone who’s head of Human Relations for the [City Council] is beyond outrageous,” Lopez said.

“Her politics has clouded her judgment before,” Lopez said. “She’s mocked the Italian community. She’s making light of the terrorist atrocities and the killing of women, children and seniors this weekend. That is not how you build relations and lift up communities. It’s sickening that someone in a leadership role would not only espouse those beliefs but vocalize them. She is wholly unfit to lead that committee.”

Rodriguez-Sanchez isn’t the only member of the mayor’s leadership team to voice pro-Palestinian sentiments.

Zoning Committee Chair Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Johnson’s floor leader, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Democrats’ “sympathies in the Middle East now lie more with the Palestinians than the Israelis, 49% versus 38%,” citing a Gallup poll.

“Democratic voters’ compassionate values lead us to side with justice & human rights for all. #FreePalestine and #EndIsraeliApartheid!” Ramirez-Rosa posted.

He could not be reached for comment.

Silverstein said she plans to introduce her resolution and seek immediate passage at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, where Johnson will deliver his budget address.

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