I attended the Minneapolis City Council meeting on Thursday with great interest. Two key items were on the agenda: a resolution to declare Friday as "Minneapolis Pizza Day" and another vote for a "Support of Permanent Ceasefire and Preventing Loss of Human Life in the Middle East." The latter was a second vote on the subject, since Mayor Jacob Frey had vetoed the resolution after its initial passage. Nine council members had previously voted for the resolution, while three had voted against and one had abstained. Nine "yes" votes were required to override Frey's veto. All nine votes held, and the resolution's approval was final.
The first topic on Thursday, however, was the resolution to honor National Pizza Day in Minneapolis. Nine "whereas" statements proclaimed the many benefits of pizza throughout Minneapolis, and each council member proudly designated a top pizzeria in their ward. In fact, the resolution memorializes what we all know about pizza and specifically refers to the "opportunities to build community over a slice of pizza," and also refers to "diversity, bringing people together, and reflecting the rich cultural tapestry of Minneapolis."
Next, focus moved to the resolution declaring "Support of Permanent Ceasefire and Preventing Loss of Human Life in the Middle East." Shouldn't every member of Minneapolis and Minnesota applaud the City Council, because surely everyone supports a permanent cease-fire and an end to the loss of human life? Frankly no. Many people, organizations and the mayor himself were against the resolution as written, but all agreed with the core desire for a cease-fire and an end to suffering.
Words matter. The council should have stopped with its 14-word resolution title. It is short, sweet, clear — and likely had universal agreement. Or, the council should have listened to the many people, including Frey, who offered language for a unifying resolution. Instead, the council landed on a polarizing resolution that divides our city with inflammatory rhetoric, prejudice, offers opinions and a one-sided view of Middle East history.
One example is that the best the council could offer in its resolution was to refer to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack as "unacceptable." Yet the resolution offered four full paragraphs of anti-Israel statements relative to Israel's military response to Hamas' killings of more than 750 civilians in Israel and the taking of more than 250 hostages. Talking loudly in a library is "unacceptable." "Unacceptable" is not a synonym with butchery, savagery and depravity, which accurately describe the unimaginable terror Hamas perpetrated on innocent civilians.
Minneapolis City Council members were elected to address the more mundane and less exciting matters such as providing the essential city services for every Minneapolis resident and business — parks, schools, street repairs, etc. While I respect their desire to tackle broader issues, addressing complex geopolitical issues in the Middle East through a one-sided resolution does not bring together Minneapolis residents, it divides them.
Our City Council members are surely caring, passionate people who have a keen desire to serve. Respectfully, putting all Minneapolis' residents and business names to a resolution like this should have been done in collaboration with experts in the field of international hostage negotiations, cease-fire strategies, urban warfare and conflicts in which fighters are embedded with civilians.
We all sincerely mourn the loss of every Palestinian civilian and feel sadness with all war images. However, the council lost a timely opportunity to unite people, and it chose to divide people. It lost a chance to educate people (perhaps offer a debate series on this matter with experts invited), yet it chose to paint Israel as universally bad and to minimize Hamas' acts of Oct. 7 as well as that organization's role in the current suffering of the Palestinian people.
We did prove that our government can work: the pizza resolution was approved without dissent. However, I am quite sure that pizza was not served at the sessions where the City Council members drafted their cease-fire resolution, listened to feedback or reviewed an amended version. The almost magical ability of pizza to build consensus, applauded universally by the full Minneapolis City Council earlier in the morning, was immediately forgotten when the veto override on the other resolution came up for a vote.
Michael Siskin lives in Plymouth.