Arizona legislative Democrats are divided on Israeli-Palestinian battle

The anger, despair, sorrow and
division that the escalation of the battle between Israel and Hamas has
precipitated is deeply private to Democratic lawmakers in Arizona who lament
the lack of harmless lives however disagree on transfer ahead. 

Rep. Athena Salman, of Tempe, whose father got here to the U.S from Palestine, led the hassle amongst legislative Democrats to ship a Nov. 7 letter to President Joe Biden, asking for a cease-fire. 

“It’s very laborious to bear witness,”
Salman mentioned via tears throughout a Nov. 8 press convention. “It’s laborious
to bear witness as a result of I’m a descendant of a folks that, for 75 years,
has carried the degradation and humiliation of being an occupied

Salman was referring to the creation
of the state of Israel in 1948, which displaced lots of of 1000’s of
Palestinians. Salman doesn’t have household in Gaza, the realm of
Palestine that’s at the moment underneath siege, however nonetheless has kin dwelling
within the West Financial institution, which is occupied by the Israeli army. 

“Violence doesn’t make anybody safer,” she advised the Arizona Mirror on Nov. 9. 

On the opposite facet are Salman’s fellow
Democrats, together with state Reps. Alma and Consuelo Hernandez, who’re
Jewish. The 2 sisters, who each characterize Tucson districts, spoke out
towards the decision for a cease-fire, calling it unrealistic. 

“It palms a win to Hamas,” the 2 representatives wrote in a statement. “If Israel stops combating, there might be no Israel.” 

Simply 17 of the 43 Democratic legislators in Arizona signed the letter
asking President Joe Biden to name for a cease-fire between Israel and
Hamas “to cease the dire humanitarian disaster that’s unfolding in Gaza.”

Israel has agreed to each day four-hour breaks
in its assault on Gaza to present civilians time to flee, based on
the White Home, however the pauses will solely apply to restricted areas of
Northern Gaza. 

The Hernandez sisters mentioned of their
response assertion that that they had not been requested to signal the cease-fire
letter. Salman advised the Mirror that she tried to come up with as many
Democrats as attainable in regards to the letter, however conceded that contacting the
pair was not a precedence since she knew they wouldn’t signal it. 

Within the letter, the group of Democrats condemned Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault
on Israel, together with civilians at a music pageant, during which militants
killed 1,400 individuals and injured 5,000 extra. In addition they kidnapped lots of
of others, taking them again to Gaza, the place the destiny of many stays
unsure. The legislators described it as a “horrific assault” and
referred to as for the discharge of the roughly 240 hostages that Hamas took that day. 

“To at the present time, I really feel deeply for the
households that misplaced folks that day, and I really feel deeply for the households
whose family members have been taken hostage,” Salman mentioned in the course of the press
convention. “I’m with you, as a mom, as a state consultant,
calling for the return of the hostages. It’s simply completely tragic.”

Consuelo Hernandez mentioned she provides the
legislators who wrote the ceasefire letter credit score for condemning the
Oct. 7 assault, however advised the Mirror that she doesn’t imagine everybody who
signed it has a deep understanding of the battle and its historical past. 

“Sadly, there is no such thing as a method round (Palestinian) civilian lives being misplaced,” she mentioned. 

Alma and Consuelo Hernandez each advised
the Mirror that they’ve been finding out the battle since they have been
youngsters. Alma Hernandez, who describes herself as a Zionist, mentioned she has been to Israel a number of occasions and has many buddies there. 

“I don’t perceive how anybody who
signed onto the letter can assume that Hamas, a terrorist group,
would conform to a cease-fire,” Consuelo Hernandez mentioned, referencing reports of Hamas
burning a child alive in an oven in the course of the Oct. 7 assault. “They’re
displaying us who they’re. Individuals are studying in actual time.”

(It has not been independently verified whether or not a child was burned alive by Hamas militants.) 

Paul Rockower, govt director of
the Jewish Neighborhood Relations Council of Higher Phoenix, advised the
Mirror in an announcement that his group grieves for the lack of
harmless lives and would assist requires a cease-fire provided that all
events within the battle agree on timing, phrases and verification

“In any other case, there’s no such factor as a
cease-fire; it’s unilateral disengagement that leaves uncovered the facet
that stops firing,” Rockower mentioned. “Furthermore, this problem is way too
vital to show right into a partisan dispute between Arizona lawmakers. The
finest approach to transfer ahead, and to resolve this horrible disaster, is for
us to speak to one another — not by making unilateral calls for for the
goal of scoring factors towards our fellow Arizonans.”

Consuelo Hernandez mentioned she grieves
for the 1000’s of harmless Palestinian lives misplaced within the month since
Israel started bombing Gaza, however blames Hamas for orchestrating an assault
that it knew would elicit such a response from Israel after which hiding
behind these harmless civilians. 

“We’re coping with pure evil right here,” she mentioned. 

Alma Hernandez, who answered the
Mirror’s questions by way of textual content message as a result of she was in a foreign country
for a convention on antisemitism, mentioned she doesn’t imagine the Oct. 7
bloodbath justifies the killing of Palestinian civilians. 

“I mourn the demise of harmless
Palestinian civilians, however Israel doesn’t goal harmless civilians,”
she mentioned. “It is a battle between Israel and the terrorist group
Hamas. Israel has the best and duty to guard its households… 

“Palestinian civilians in Gaza are
struggling as a result of Hamas continues to make use of them as human shields. Hamas is
a menace to Israel and our democratic values.”

A member of Hamas’s management, Khalil al-Hayya, advised The New York Instances that the Oct. 7 assault was essential to “change your entire equation and never simply have a conflict.” 

“We succeeded in placing the Palestinian problem again on the desk, and now nobody within the area is experiencing calm,” he mentioned. 

A Hamas media adviser, Taher
El-Nounou, advised the Instances that he hopes “that the state of battle with
Israel will grow to be everlasting on all of the borders, and that the Arab world
will stand with us.” 

Salman mentioned she believes that Israel
has gone far past self protection in its response, finishing up bombings
which have killed an estimated 10,000 Palestinians, round 4,100 of them
youngsters, based on the Palestinian Ministry of Well being. Along with greater than 25,000 Palestinians injured, the United Nations estimates that round 1,200 youngsters who’ve been reported lacking in Gaza could also be buried underneath rubble. 

Salman, who gave delivery to her second
little one this summer time, mentioned she deeply empathized with the tens of 1000’s
of pregnant ladies in Gaza who’ve solely brackish water to drink and are
present process C-sections with out anesthetics as a result of none can be found attributable to Israel’s blockade stopping provides from flowing into Gaza. Israel has additionally minimize off the ability provide to Gaza. 

“We’ve hit a low level in our
humanity when the kids of Gaza are having to carry press conferences
in damaged English — in our language, in our tongue — pleading to not be
bombed,” Salman mentioned in the course of the press convention. “After I take a look at the
youngsters’s faces, once I take a look at the Israeli youngsters’s faces, I believe,
‘Oh, my God, how can this be a baby’s lived actuality?’”

On Nov. 8, Alma Hernandez shared graphic photos of the aftermath of the Oct. 7 assault, in what she described as an effort to make sure the general public is aware of what occurred that day. 

“We are able to’t flip a blind eye to those
photos, and the truth of what occurred,” she advised the Mirror.
“Complete households have been butchered collectively and, in some circumstances, burned
alive of their houses. Folks have been executed in chilly blood, ladies have been
raped after which shot or had physique elements butchered off whereas alive, and
innumerable victims have been tortured in acts of monstrous brutality, individuals
of all ages — from infants to the aged. They didn’t care. The world
should see these photographs. We’re speaking about terrorists, full cease.”

Within the cease-fire letter, the legislators accused Israel of committing battle crimes by violating the Geneva Conventions in addition to the Further Protocol II.
The conventions and extra protocols are worldwide legal guidelines that
present requirements for the remedy of victims of battle, together with

“There aren’t any justifications or
exceptions for such crimes,” the legislators wrote. “It’s crucial for
all sides to right away transfer to make sure that human struggling and ongoing
rights violations are stopped.” 

Salman hopes that the urging of the
Arizona legislators, together with legislators from different states and different
organizations, together with Jewish Voices for Peace, will push Biden to take motion in calling for a ceasefire. 

“What I need for the individuals of each
Palestine and Israel is to have self dedication,” Salman mentioned. “I
can’t dictate what that appears like, I’m not dwelling there. In the end I
hope and dream for my household and the individuals in that area that the
individuals have true freedom and Palestinians have liberation.”