Chicago’s only Jewish lawmaker is screamed down for opposing motion to call for ceasefire in Israel-Hamas war…days after she was jeered during Holocaust Memorial Day speech

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Debra Silverstein was jeered and yelled at as she pleaded with colleagues not to demand a ceasefire that left Hamas in power
  • Hundreds of protesters thronged the public gallery as Democrat Mayor Brandon Johnson used his deciding vote to force the controversial measure through
  • It came just days after Chicago’s only Jewish alderman was heckled on Holocaust Remembrance Day while honoring victims of the Nazi-led genocide

The sole Jewish member of Chicago’s 50-strong city council was howled down by an angry mob for the second time in a week as the city council slammed Israel for its war on Hamas.

Alderman Debra Silverstein pleaded with colleagues not to pass a resolution which called for an immediate ceasefire without the release of hostages and made no mention of the October 7 attack.

It came just days after protesters disrupted her remarks at City Hall as she spoke movingly of the Nazi-led genocide on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters thronged the building and the public gallery for the knife-edge vote which saw Mayor Brandon Johnson strong-arm opponents before casting the deciding vote.

‘There’s not even a single mention of the dozens of raped women,’ Silverstein said to heckles from the crowd, as a police officer stood close by.

Debra Silverstein, the only Jewish member of Chicago City Council, cut a lonely figure as she pleaded with colleagues not to demand a ceasefire that left Hamas in power

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian supporters thronged City Hall to pressure aldermen ahead of the vote which left Chicago the largest US city yet to demand an unconditional ceasefire

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian supporters thronged City Hall to pressure aldermen ahead of the vote which left Chicago the largest US city yet to demand an unconditional ceasefire

Several protesters were evicted from the council chamber for disrupting the meeting before the entire public gallery was eventually ordered out

Several protesters were evicted from the council chamber for disrupting the meeting before the entire public gallery was eventually ordered out 

‘No reference to the brutal depravity that is now seared into the psyche of every Israeli and every Jewish man, woman and child.’

The resolution made Chicago the largest US city yet to demand a ceasefire in the four-month war which has cost more than 26,000 Palestinian lives, and the Democrat Mayor worked furiously behind the scenes to make it pass.

He asked two senior aldermen to stay away if they could not support it, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, and was slammed for using his casting vote to inflame tensions.

‘We should not pass a resolution unless it makes clear that Hamas cannot and should not attack again,’ Silverstein said.

‘He had an opportunity to be a unifier, and he could have sat down with us and come up with a solution that could have potentially gotten all of us a unanimous vote, and instead he didn’t.’

Illinois’ governor JB Pritzker also slammed the vote in a city that is due to hold the Democrat’s National Convention in August.

‘I was disappointed that no consideration was given to the women who were raped by Hamas fighters who crossed over into Israel, kidnapped people, that the deaths that were caused by those terrorists were not acknowledged,’ he said.

‘And the City Council, if they’re going to talk about the challenge of war in the Middle East, you’ve got to make sure you include all of the perspectives. They did not do that.’

Silverstein's colleagues on the city council  remained silent as she was heckled by the crowd

Silverstein’s colleagues on the city council  remained silent as she was heckled by the crowd  

Chicago's Democrat Mayor was accused of strong-arming opponents and slammed for using his deciding vote to ensure the controversial measure passed

Chicago’s Democrat Mayor was accused of strong-arming opponents and slammed for using his deciding vote to ensure the controversial measure passed

Police struggled to keep order as the corridors were taken over by protesters

Police struggled to keep order as the corridors were taken over by protesters

And protesters erupted with joy when the controversial measure was passed by a single vote

And protesters erupted with joy when the controversial measure was passed by a single vote

Councilors struggled to get through as protesters occupied the building's corridors

Councilors struggled to get through as protesters occupied the building’s corridors  

The controversial 'From the river to the sea' slogan, denounced by many Israeli supporters as anti-Semitic was prominently on display

The controversial ‘From the river to the sea’ slogan, denounced by many Israeli supporters as anti-Semitic was prominently on display 

But the protesters did not have it all their own way with at least some support for Israel visible in the public gallery

But the protesters did not have it all their own way with at least some support for Israel visible in the public gallery 

Hundreds of anti-Israel protests have taken place in major cities since the war broke out and President Joe Biden is being repeatedly picketed at his speaking events by protesters slamming his support for the country.

Biden has been facing mounting pressure to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war that started on October 7 when Hamas launched a terror attack that killed some 1,200 people and took 253 hostages.

The president has privately told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he won’t support Israel’s war in Gaza lasting a year and is concerned both about the growing death toll in Gaza and about the impact the war is having on younger U.S. voters in the run-up to the 2024 elections.

The United Nations says that 85 percent of Gaza’s population have been forced from their homes, with hundreds of thousands at risk of starvation. 

And earlier this Biden ordered the Pentagon to review what weaponry Israel has requested that could be used as leverage to scale down their military attack on the besieged Palestinian enclave.

Silverstein who has represented the city’s 50th ward since 2011 is the only Jewish alderman in a city with one of the largest Jewish populations in the US.

She glared defiantly at protesters interrupting her remarks to the city chamber until they were ordered out of the public gallery and the debate continued.

But she has been repeatedly targeted and was met with howls of protest when she said the words ‘never again’ on Holocaust Memorial Day.

‘Never Again is a statement against all forms of anti-Jewish hate,’ she tweeted afterwards.

‘Holocaust denial and distortion are recognized forms of antisemitism and should never have occurred at City Hall.’

The Biden administration is reportedly considering using weapons sales as a means to convince Israel 's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scale back their attack in Gaza

The Biden administration is reportedly considering using weapons sales as a means to convince Israel ‘s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scale back their attack in Gaza

And some protesters voiced anger at the wider threat to peace in the Middle East

And some protesters voiced anger at the wider threat to peace in the Middle East 

Mayor Johnson defended the use of his casting vote and said the city council had already passed a resolution back in October affirming Israel’s ‘right and the obligation to protect its citizens against terrorism and attack by hostile foreign powers’.

‘We are still making sure that our city, as a global city, that we lend our voices in matters, whether it was calling out the hideous attack against Israeli people, or whether it was calling for a ceasefire and calling for the release of the hostages,’ he added.

But the Israeli consulate in the city slammed the resolution as pointless and counterproductive. 

‘While this resolution will have no impact in the Middle East, it will create more division among communities in Chicago and inspire more antisemitism, as we saw on the floor and in the galleries of City Hall,’ it added.

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