BURLINGTON, Vt. (WFFF) — Activists are asking the Burlington City Council and Mayor Miro Weinberger to pick a side in the Israel-Palestine conflict by approving a BDS-supporting resolution. BDS stands for the movement that wants to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel.
If passed, the resolution would make Burlington the first city in the country to declare support for BDS, which seeks to exert financial pressure on Israel and force its withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories. Advocates say BDS would allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
Almost 20 justice groups have signed the resolution. Wafic Faour, a member of Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, said city leaders have a moral obligation to boycott companies that profit from the occupation. “The goal of this resolution,” he says, “is for the residents and citizens of Burlington to recognize the rights of the Palestinians under the Israeli occupation, recognize the human rights of the Palestinians, and justice for the Palestinians.”
But members of Vermont’s Jewish community are worried the resolution could fuel antisemitism in the city. “This is a very divisive time in our world and in our country, and this resolution will divide our community further,” said Rabbi Amy Small from Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington. “There is such strong feelings about Israel-Palestine and the resolution that is presented is very one-sided and lacks some essential information.”
She says she would like to see the two sides “become informed and educated together,” adding: “To work toward a just and lasting piece together for two states, for Israel and Palestine, which is something I’ve been engaged in for many years in my own activism.”
On Monday, Weinberger released a statement calling the resolution “counterproductive” and “inappropriate.” The mayor, who reportedly comes from a Jewish family himself, said, “I find it very unfortunate that the sponsors have brought it forward during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest days of the year for our Jewish residents who are engaged in worship and acts of charity.”
The statement continues: “While I support efforts to advance full equality and human rights for all, I oppose the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to weaken and delegitimize an important and long-standing partner of the United States, the democratic State of Israel.”