Rash of N.C. city ceasefire resolutions shows “working behind the scenes” is ineffective

The North Carolina State Capitol building in Raleigh, N.C. Credit: Jill Lang/Shutterstock.

By Amy Rosenthal

(JNS) — Ceasefire resolutions are all the rage in cities across America these days. Rather than focus on returning the hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, these resolutions, which come clothed in “humanitarian concern,” demand relief for terrorists and foment hatred of Israel.

The pressure on communities to side with Hamas has taken many Jewish leaders by surprise.

Multiple cities in North Carolina have been targeted by pro-Hamas groups. Having observed four of these incidents, a problem with Jewish leadership has become apparent to me. The incidents shed light on the need for change.

The first incident took place in the smallest of the four cities: Carrboro, which is adjacent to Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina. Aside from Chabad, one synagogue serves both towns — the Reconstructionist Chapel Hill Kehillah. On Nov. 14, a ceasefire resolution passed by a 4-3 vote. The pro-Hamas crowd outnumbered the opposition about 40 to 3. No public announcement was made by Jewish leaders ahead of time to mobilize opponents. The following day, Reconstructionist Rabbi Jen Feldman sent a beautiful letter to the council pointing out the flaws in the resolution. She noted that the resolution did not mention Hamas and derided its moral equivalency between terrorists and their victims.

Over the following weeks, the hate group Students for Justice in Palestine and others at UNC pressured Chapel Hill to pass a similar resolution. No announcement was made by Jewish leaders, but the hate campaign was uncovered on social media in early January. Fortunately, newly elected Mayor Jess Anderson did not support a ceasefire resolution, believing it would be counterproductive and divide the community. Anderson made a statement on Jan. 24 after allowing equal time at a town council meeting to those in favor and those opposed. Our grassroots North Carolina Coalition for Israel got the word out. For the first and only time in our experience, the number of Israel supporters present was equal to the number of Hamas supporters. In fact, only about 20 Hamas supporters showed up, as they likely knew they were going to lose this round, as they did.

Simultaneously, the Raleigh city council was targeted. Yet again, Jewish leaders failed to adequately inform the Jewish community. In mid-November, a mob of Hamas supporters overwhelmed a city council meeting. They engaged in blatant psychological warfare by such performances as painting their hands red to suggest blood. Only one person was signed up to speak on behalf of Israel.

The head of Raleigh’s Jewish Community Relations Council worked behind the scenes against the resolution. The council members expressed their irritation at the high number of speakers at their meetings, so he decided that only three pro-Israel speakers should sign up for a Dec. 12 meeting. NCCI believed that more of our voices should be heard, so we added four more speakers. 101 people signed up to support Hamas. They continued their brutal psychological warfare, bringing onesies for babies designed to elicit sympathy only for Palestinian babies.

For the next meeting on Jan. 15, 217 people signed up to speak. Again, there were only a handful of opponents. The Raleigh Jewish Federation sent out only one call to action — apparently under pressure — to speak out against the Hamas supporters. The drama continued until Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin read a statement on Feb. 6 that the city would not take up a ceasefire resolution.

The terrorism supporters simultaneously went after Durham. That city is an easy target, given that it passed a boycott resolution against Israel in 2018 that was spearheaded by Jewish Mayor Steve Schewel. Afterward, Durham Jewish leaders returned to business as usual, supposedly working “quietly behind the scenes.” One exception was a free trip to Israel provided to Durham City Council member Mark Anthony Middleton. It had no effect whatsoever. Middleton continued to see the Jewish state as an apartheid oppressor.

On Nov. 3, the hate group Jewish Voice for Peace and their fellow Hamas supporters blocked the Durham Freeway while yelling “ceasefire.” Durham Conservative Rabbi Daniel Greyber published a letter in the Raleigh News & Observer on behalf of himself and the North Carolina Jewish Clergy Association that said those blocking the highway did not speak in their name. Aside from this article, his group apparently did nothing to inform, alert and/or engage their communities on the issue. As a result, our community was blindsided and unable to take action.

Although the ceasefire resolution was not on the Durham city council’s agenda at a Feb. 5 meeting, NCCI received a tip that the issue would be raised. We showed up and were surrounded by a mob of people wearing keffiyehs and holding red roses. Sure enough, a speaker hijacked the meeting and chaos ensued. The roses were used for further psychological warfare, being thrown onto a sheet (a fake grave) before the council dais. A Hamas supporter engaged in physical assault, forcefully grabbing the Israeli flag brought by NCCI and dragging the woman holding it to the ground. The perpetrator was not arrested at that time. We requested a police escort to our cars after the mob eventually settled down and left. Synagogues and the former Durham/Chapel Hill Federation, now called Jewish for Good, were publicly silent, but quietly sent a letter to the DCC on Feb. 8 expressing concern.

At a Feb. 8 DCC work session, comments about the proposed resolution — which did not mention Hamas — were heard. Again, those in favor significantly outnumbered those against. The Reform Rabbi Matthew Soffer initially spoke well, pushing to get Hamas named in the resolution. But then he falsely claimed that, while the Hamas charter is genocidal, so are the platforms of Israeli government ministers like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. He called for the passage of the resolution. We were told a vote would be held on Feb. 19.

When we returned for the DCC meeting on Feb. 19, only six Israel supporters showed up. We were again surrounded by a crowd of Jew-haters bizarrely carrying clementine oranges as their latest prop. Unsurprisingly, the resolution passed. Chelsea Cook, an appointed DCC member, spearheaded the resolution. She said, “As a Jew, it breaks my heart that we have tied ourselves to this idea of Zionism.”

Two things were of particular interest: First, the Hamas supporters present became enraged when the details of the Oct. 7 massacre were described. Second, they did not stand for the pledge of allegiance, as Israel supporters do. Their agenda is not only anti-Israel, it’s anti-American.

These incidents made one thing very clear: Solely “working behind the scenes” is a failed strategy. Those intent on our destruction are relentless, strategic, dramatic and emotional in public. This works for them. Many Jewish leaders will not understand this and are unwilling to adapt to the new reality. Some of them are complicit in it.

We ask our leaders to educate the community about anti-Israel antisemitism, actively monitor for threats, and alert and mobilize the pro-Israel community, both Jews and non-Jews alike. Our survival depends on it.

Amy Rosenthal, who lived in Israel as a child, is co-founder of the North Carolina Coalition for Israel.