The recent Tempest article on the murder of six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and its call to “build a mass anti-racist movement which is in solidarity with the people of Palestine,” is an important one. The tragic death of the young Al-Fayoume reminds us of the enormous stakes for doing so. This work has literally become a matter of life and death. Nevertheless, I thought the article fell short on any mention of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s crucial role in letting the Pro-Israel resolution, sponsored by Alderwoman Debbie Silverstein, pass overwhelmingly.
By tossing pro-Palestinian demonstrators from the council chambers during the debate on the resolution, Johnson made his position clear. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. During the runoff election this past spring, Johnson said, “Any speech or any effort to delegitimize Israel and its right to exist, that’s how I view antisemitism.” For those of us in solidarity with Palestine, Brandon Johnson is not on our side, and we should say so.
Johnson, a favorite of the labor-left, upon taking office has disappointed many supporters on several fronts, including signing a no-strike pledge with the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL) during next year’s Democratic National Convention, signing a contract with GardaWorld, a dubious Blackwater-like security, to house the burgeoning migrants, and appointing Larry Snelling, the former head of the Chicago Police Department’s Counterterrorism unit, as the city’s next police chief.
The article also fails to mention Jim Gardiner, the 45th Ward Alderman, a so-called new “friend” of Palestine. Gardiner spoke eloquently against Silverstein’s resolution. “Palestinian people in our community are some of the nicest, kindest, warmest I’ve ever met as well as Jewish people. But I cannot again … if Palestinian members of our community are not in support, I cannot be in support,” Gardiner told the council.
Literally, within days of the city council vote on the resolution, Gardiner was slapped with a $20,000 fine by Chicago Board of Ethics for “retaliating against a frequent critic and political foe by directing a city employee to issue ‘unfounded citations’ that could have forced the Jefferson Park man to pay more than $600 in fines.” Gardiner has a long history of thuggery and is under investigation by the FBI for corruption. Like Johnson, he is no friend of Palestine.
Let’s be clear that the Chicago City Council pro-Israel resolution will further encourage hate crimes. The sight of Governor JB Pritzker and Mayor Brandon Johnson, along with a phone call from President Joe Biden, visiting Wadea Al-Fayoume’s family and expressing condolences after their offices and the city council expressed support for Israel is obscene. The Left must be clear-eyed in its analysis and willing to place blame where blame is due.
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Joe Allen is a long-time labor activist and writer. His latest book is The Package King: A Rank and File History of UPS.