HomeCity NewsBurbank Protesters Call for Cease-Fire Resolution

Burbank Protesters Call for Cease-Fire Resolution

Weekly protest over war in Gaza outside of Rep. Adam Schiff’s Burbank office reached its fifth week on Tuesday.

Protesters, identifying their group as Burbank for a Free Palestine, recently succeeded in getting the City Council to set an agenda item on a cease-fire resolution after a flood of speakers called on Burbank to join more than 70 U.S. cities that have already issued resolutions, including Pasadena, Alhambra and Bell.

Councilman Konstantine Anthony wore a keffiyeh scarf, a symbol of Palestinian solidarity, when he introduced the agenda item to discuss a cease-fire resolution on March 19, “as soon as possible,” he said.

“This is something that is very important to community members,” said Burbank for a Free Palestine organizer Alissandra Valdez. “Over 55% of Americans disapprove of the actions by the Israeli military — 80% of Democrats. Supporting the genocide is not a popular position. The majority of people in this country want to see the violence end.”

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is in its sixth month, following an attack in southern Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. About 1,200 innocent civilians were killed and about 240 hostages taken in that attack, according to news reports. Since then, Israel has carried out a military campaign on the Gaza Strip which it says aims to eradicate Hamas. The death toll there now reportedly exceeds 32,000 casualties, most of which have been civilian deaths. The International Court of Justice recently ordered a cease-fire in the region and called for Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the affected area as journalists inside the Gazan city of Rafah report escalating civilian death.

Israel denies imposing limits on humanitarian aid to Gaza, also striking down claims made by South Africa that it is committing genocide.

The Burbank City Council is expected to consider a cease-fire resolution.

On Monday, 14 United Nations countries approved a cease-fire resolution, signaling broad international support for an end to violence in the war-ravaged enclave.

Valdez said that, while a cease-fire resolution may not put an end to the war, she feels local organizing is an essential piece of a larger effort to end violence in Gaza.

“We understand that we are one drop in the bucket,” Valdez said. “Eventually, that becomes a river — a flood of people putting pressure on their local governments, which put pressure on our congressmen and senators, who put pressure on the Biden administration to call for a permanent cease-fire and an end to the genocide.”

Valdez thanked Anthony for “listening to his constituents,” adding that Burbank taxpayers shell out a collective $1.59 million in direct spending to fund Israel’s war in Gaza.

“People ask, what does this have to do with city business? This is happening miles and miles away,” Valdez said. “But then you learn that over $1 million of our federal tax dollars go to funding Israel and paying for their weapons. So, we do have a very real stake in this. And even if it didn’t directly impact you, we should care because we’re human.”

Criticism of Schiff came to a boil in Burbank as he took the stage to thank supporters for favorable results in this month’s primary election. Schiff is seeking a coveted seat in the U.S. Senate, formerly held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

His speech was interrupted by protesters calling for a cease-fire.

In an earlier campaign debate, Schiff stated that he would not call for a cease-fire in Gaza, later amending his stance, saying “my position is the same as the [Biden] administration,” according to a Politico report. He later called for a temporary end to fighting but fell short of ordering an end to the war.

Valdez said after dozens of calls and emails to Schiff’s office, she has been unable to get a response to her questions and demands.

“We understand that maybe we’re not going to change Adam Schiff’s mind,” said Valdez “He’s very staunch in his beliefs, and he has millions of dollars in [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] money. We do believe in the value of protesting, not only for a cease-fire resolution, but for increasing our visibility, engaging with the community and having these conversations with our neighbors.”

Pro-Israel lobbies have contributed $840,467 to Schiff since 1990, according to campaign finance data.

Protests have bubbled up throughout Burbank over the past six months — one on Christmas Eve disrupted business at the Burbank Town Center — but protests this month have amped up with greater frequency and attendance. Several protesters were arrested at a sit-in at Schiff’s office on March 20.

Burbank for a Free Palestine is holding protests outside of Schiff’s office, located next to City Hall, each Tuesday at 6 p.m.

The group has said its goal is to secure a cease-fire resolution in Burbank by the end of April.

Palestinian Burbankers have also shared their experiences and views on the conflict, speaking out largely against the war in Gaza.

Omar Moheize, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian native, spent the last 21 years in service to the city of Burbank, most recently as the city’s principal civil engineer. Moheize called Israel’s occupation of Palestine an “apartheid state,” adding that he had more privilege in Israel when he returned to the country as a U.S. citizen than a native Palestinian does.

“It is very significant to have Burbank and Pasadena and Alhambra take a position, because it’s building up the pressure that Israel is losing the PR battle,” he told the Leader. “I want people to know that this is not a Muslim-Jewish conflict. I am so proud of all the Jewish people who have come forward and said ‘I’m Jewish and I’m against this and Israel needs to stop. It’s not in my name.’ Those are good, decent human beings rejecting the right-wing agenda.”

Nivine Grair, a Burbank resident born in occupied Palestine, said she had to flee the country due to Israeli prejudice against Palestinians.

“What Israel is doing in Gaza is genocidal. Over 30,000 lives have been lost forever, and over 13,000 of them are innocent babies and children,” Grair said.

The Council expects to hear a first-step report on cease-fire resolutions passed by neighboring cities “very soon,” though no formal date has been set for when the Council will hear the report. Depending on how the panel votes, they could request that city staff draft a formal resolution for approval at a later meeting.

More than 70 cities have passed cease-fire resolutions in recent months, including Pasadena, Alhambra and Bell.

First published in the March 30 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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