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Mayor Justin Bibb declines to sign Cleveland City Council's Gaza cease-fire resolution

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb stands speaking behind a clear podium in front of a blue sign reading, "City Club of Cleveland State of the City"
Michaelangelo's Photography
Mayor Justin Bibb addressed the Israel-Hamas war in his comments to reporters following his third annual State of the City address on March 28, 2024.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb declined to sign a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza passed by City Council last week after five months of persistent cries from protesters to take action.

Despite public comments accusing council members of "supporting genocide," protests and disruptions at Monday night meetings that sometimes prompted the removal of activists from City Hall, Council refused to pass a resolution until March 25, the same day a similar resolution was adopted by the United Nations Security Council.

But the resolution, which is typically cosigned by the mayor, was returned to council by Bibb's office without his signature, a city council spokesperson told Ideastream Public Media Thursday. The spokesperson said this is only the second time that has happened since he took office in 2022.

"I chose not to sign Cleveland City Council’s resolution in support of the recent United Nations Security Council resolution," Bibb said in a written statement to Ideastream. "While there is much to commend about the push for peace, neither the UN nor the City Council resolutions adequately reflect my own views."

Council's resolution condemned "all forms of hate and discrimination" and called for a "halt to the fighting in Gaza," where Israeli air and ground strikes have killed more than 32,000 and injured 74,000 Palestinians according to the Gaza Health Ministry. It also condemned the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that the Israeli government says killed 1,200.

Some of the protesters, who have been outspoken about a social media post made by Bibb following the Oct. 7, 2023 attack, have turned their attention to the mayor: twice interrupting his annual State of the City address March 28, 2024.

"I understand the pain and the grief and the tragedy that we're seeing, in the Middle East, the conflict between Israel and Hamas," Bibb told reporters following the disruptions. "I don't like to comment on foreign policy because I'm the mayor of Cleveland, not a member of Congress. ... But I do believe it's my responsibility as mayor to make sure that whether it's the Palestinian community and those that are fighting for the struggle and liberation of the Palestinians or, our Jewish community who are fighting to ensure that Israel has a right to defend itself."

Bibb called the conflict a "complicated, nuanced issue" and said he was praying for peace. Similarly to Council President Blaine Griffin, who previously stated he did not want to be at odds with the federal government, Bibb said he supports President Joe Biden and his actions on the matter.

Griffin, however, told Ideastream last week that while the U.S. did not vote in favor of the U.N. resolution that prompted council action, federal officials did not veto it, which "gave me the inclination that the United States is supportive of it, and even though they might not be fully supportive of it, at least it felt like we're aligned with our government and the rest of the world."

Palestinian Task Force Cle, a coalition of Northeast Ohio Palestinians and supporters, said in a written statement Thursday evening that Bibb's words "ring hollow."

"Mayor Bibb’s inaction speaks louder than his words," the statement said. "He has failed to listen to his citizens or acknowledge their pain. His refusal to sign the ceasefire resolution is a political calculation to avoid accountability. We remain undeterred and draw upon the resilience of the Palestinian people to demand justice and an end to US complicity in this genocide. Our coalition is growing every day as we continue our grassroots efforts to bring accountability to Northeast Ohio and divest US taxpayer money from Israel’s military occupation and genocide to support our communities at home."

Read Bibb's full statement here:

"Our city was united in horror at Hamas's October 7 terrorist attack on Israel, and Israel has a right to defend itself. But at the six-month anniversary of those attacks, there is no question that civilians have borne tremendous suffering and loss as a result.

Cleveland is a diverse community with loved ones in Gaza and Israel both. As the tragedy there has grown, so has Clevelanders' grief. This is a grief I share, and the need for humanitarian assistance in Gaza is dire. I join the calls for a break in hostilities, for Hamas to unconditionally release the hostages, and for Gazans to receive vital food and supplies.

I chose not to sign Cleveland City Council's resolution in support of the recent United Nations Security Council resolution. While there is much to commend about the push for peace, neither the UN nor the City Council resolutions adequately reflect my own views.

I fully support the Biden-Harris Administration's diplomatic efforts to secure an end to the conflict. These are rooted not only in peace but in clarity. No durable peace is possible until Hamas releases the hostages. And Hamas has had multiple opportunities to secure a ceasefire under this framework—which Israel has accepted, and which Hamas has rejected. Any discussion of the current conflict must be centered in the condemnation of Hamas and a plain understanding that it is the fundamental obstacle to peace today.

Let me underscore that my priority as Mayor is to safeguard our residents against bigotry and hate. We must oppose anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at every turn. Cleveland will always be a city for all peoples, and as a Clevelander, I pray for peace here and abroad.)"

Updated: April 5, 2024 at 1:31 PM EDT
This story has been updated to add reaction to the mayor's decision not to sign the ceasefire resolution.
Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.