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Akron considers new resolution on Israel-Hamas war after hearing criticism from residents

Citizens hold signs in support of Palestinian community at Akron City Council meeting
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Citizens hold signs supporting the Palestinian community at an Akron City Council meeting on Oct. 30.

After getting feedback from residents over the past month, Akron City Council is considering a new resolution to express sympathy to both the Jewish and Palestinian communities in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

An initial resolution passed back in October focused on supporting Akron’s Jewish community while condemning Hamas.

Dozens of people have raised concerns during council’s public comment periods in recent weeks.

Ward 4 Councilmember Russ Neal, who introduced the new resolution alongside Ward 5 Councilmember Tara Mosley, said some Akronites in the Palestinian community feel the resolution was one-sided, Neal said.

“We should have [taken] time to take pause to make sure that the resolution that came in was more balanced and acknowledged the loss of life for both communities,” Neal said during a rules committee meeting Monday.

The new resolution expresses “sincere condolences to members of the Jewish and Palestinian communities of Akron and all over the world.” It also “affirms” that Akron welcomes people of “Jewish and Islamic faith and any other religion.”

At least one councilmember, Ward 8 Councilmember Shammas Malik, took issue with a section of the resolution that states the city urges “all” to “immediately end the occupation of the Palestinian people.”

“It really is suggesting that one side is, really, solely responsible for a 75-year conflict,” Malik said. ‘I think that, as we talk about the history, that there is not a consensus in this community around that language, and I think we would be mistaken to approve this resolution with this language in it.”

Malik added that he agrees with most of the resolution and wants to hear more from the community over the next week before voting.

The rules committee ultimately voted to take time on the resolution and consider it next week.

Tensions rose during the meeting when several members of Akron’s Palestinian community were not permitted to speak. Ward 9 Councilmember Mike Freeman, chair of the rules committee, said he was not given enough notice beforehand and needed more clarity on the resolution. He said they could speak next week.

“This is outrageous," one of the audience members said.

Another audience member said council needs to admit that they “rushed the resolution without consideration of the other parties involved.”

Council President Margo Sommerville said taking a week allows councilmembers to fully understand the resolution and hear feedback from the community.

“I think we have a real opportunity to do something that was not done originally, that should have been done, and that was to take time and make sure that all voices were heard,” Sommerville said.

The rules committee meets at 2 p.m.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.