Ethan Wolin, Contributing Photographer

New Haven alders heard nearly five hours of testimony about a proposed Gaza ceasefire resolution on Wednesday night. Dozens of residents shared sharply divided views of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and opinions on whether local legislators should officially call for it to end.

In a Zoom hearing that lasted past 11 p.m., about 80 people argued for or against the resolution in two-minute speeches that, at times, grew intense. The alders did not ask questions or deliberate on the resolution, which was first proposed in late November and has been the subject of a monthslong advocacy campaign. The alders plan to discuss it at the full Board of Alders meeting on Monday.

“Since our original submission, the death toll of Palestinians in Gaza has almost doubled,” Chloe Miller LAW ’25, who made the proposal to the board, said.

Israel has killed over 34,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza health officials, since Hamas killed 1,200 people in Israel and took about 250 as hostages on Oct. 7.

The resolution, titled “New Haven Palestine Resolution,” calls for “an immediate and permanent ceasefire,” the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian detainees and efforts to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia, among other provisions. Its passage would carry only symbolic weight as a marker of New Haven’s stance.

Members of the public were called to speak on Wednesday with largely alternating testimony from those for and against the resolution. The testifiers came from a pool of “over 1000” people who had emailed the board seeking to testify, according to Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison, who presided over the hearing. Morrison said she did not know what proportion of that group stood on each side.

Gayle Slossberg, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven and the first to speak against the resolution, said a large pro-Palestine march in New Haven on Sunday made her feel threatened, with chants she took to condone violence against Jews.

“This resolution wipes out the history, the lived experiences, the facts and the reality of the Jewish community here and in Israel, and does nothing but add to the hate and division that is already at a boiling point,” Slossberg said. She claimed that she was “speaking for the vast majority of the Jewish community of Greater New Haven.”

About half of the people who testified — including over a third of the ceasefire resolution’s 40 proponents — identified themselves as Jewish. Opponents of the resolution included a Holocaust survivor and three onetime New Haven alders, among them former aldermanic president Carl Goldfield. Yale affiliates spoke on both sides.

Those supporting the resolution argued that the Board of Alders has a moral responsibility to acknowledge and condemn the devastation of Gaza. Some tied the resolution to what they described as New Haven’s progressive values and legacy of promoting peace and human rights.

“New Haveners have implored you to take a moral stance for quite a while, and you’re still on time to do it before history judges this city,” Ximena López Carrillo, a lecturer in Yale’s Program in Ethnicity, Race and Migration, said.

Speakers against the resolution repeatedly raised concerns about its not mentioning Hamas, noting that Hamas has rejected some ceasefire deals offered by Israel. Some said that the resolution, which several of its critics in the hearing called “one-sided,” would make Jewish residents feel excluded.

Many opponents of the resolution contended that the Board of Alders should not make statements about foreign policy at all.

“It is totally unfair to me and the other citizens of New Haven to wake up one day to have our local elected representatives considering pronouncements about world affairs,” Jay Brotman, who said he has lived in New Haven for 36 years, told the alders.

Some proponents of the ceasefire resolution pointed, for precedent, to a 2022 resolution that expressed solidarity with Ukraine after Russia’s full-on invasion. However, Board President Tyisha Walker-Myers told the News that the alders decided later that year to avoid resolutions on foreign policy going forward because it is not in the alders’ wheelhouse.

Some supporters of the resolution argued that it is a local issue, citing federal tax dollars from New Haveners that have contributed to Israel’s war effort. Last week, President Joe Biden signed a bill to send Israel about $15 billion in unconditioned military aid.

Laith Aqel LAW ’21, a fellow at Yale Law School who introduced himself as a “Palestinian human rights lawyer,” also pointed to Yale’s investment in the manufacturers of weapons being used by Israel and to New Haven’s sister city of Afula-Gilboa, Israel.

“This is a local issue because we, the people of New Haven, say that it is a local issue,” Aqel said. 

Since the resolution was proposed just over five months ago, pro-Palestine activists, in a coalition of Yale student and New Haven organizations, held several protests at City Hall — including a 25-minute disruption of Mayor Justin Elicker’s State of the City address in February — aimed at pressing the alders to consider the resolution in a committee.

The board announced in early March that it had assigned the measure to the Committee of the Whole, composed of all 30 alders, for a virtual hearing on May 1. Morrison, who represents Dixwell and some Yale residential colleges, said the alders chose the Zoom format to ensure safety during the hearing. She said the scheduling took into account the holidays of Ramadan, Easter and Passover.

Ward 1 Alder Kiana Flores ’25, whose district covers most Yale residential buildings, has refrained from announcing a stance. After protesters set up tents on Beinecke Plaza last month to push for Yale divestment from arms makers, Flores wrote that she would oppose arresting the protesters in a newsletter the night before 48 were arrested.

One supporter of the resolution, Gabriela De Jesus ’15, was muted by the alders after she said the board would be “white supremacist” if it did not pass the measure. Morrison sternly warned those testifying not to insult alders. 

Near the end of the hearing, Morrison called on former mayoral candidate Tom Goldenberg, who appeared on camera asking his wife, seated beside him, to speak instead. After 45 seconds of back-and-forth, the two declined to testify.

At Morrison’s suggestion, the alders adjourned the meeting at 11:16 p.m. 

The next full Board of Alders meeting, set to include a discussion of the ceasefire resolution, is scheduled for Monday, May 6, at 7 p.m.

Ethan Wolin covers City Hall and local politics. He is a first year in Silliman College from Washington, D.C.