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 UPDATED at 9 p.m. April 30: The Arlington Human Rights Commission (AHRC) voted April 24 to endorse a Special Town Meeting article seeking, among other goals, an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

The article's text: "To see if the Town will vote to adopt a proclamation in favor of an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Palestine and Israel, the release of all hostages, the immediate provision of lifesaving aid, and a diplomatic resolution for Palestinians and Israelis based upon values of dignity, equity, and justice; or take any action related there. "

It was brought to Town Meeting weeks ago by Chadi Salamoun and 100 signatories. At the meeting it was stated that Salamoun had had two coauthors of the text, named as Sarah McKinnon and David Fleig. A brief internet search shows that Salamoun has been known publicly for a decade as a harsh critic of the Israeli government's policies, especially those in the West Bank, by both those who agree with him and those who do not.

The commission vote was 8-1, with Commissioner Sharon Grossman the sole dissenter.

Commissioner Rajeev Soneja, who voted with the majority, on April 29 asked YourArlington to use this quote from the discussion a few minutes before the rollcall vote -- and which YourArlington has since compared both with the video of the meeting and the closed-captioning of the meeting and found to be materially the same content:

"From the listening sessions it is very clear that the events in Israel and Gaza have a very deep connection to Arlington. We have documented in the listening sessions about how we could address that deep divide, but that does not change what happens in Gaza. This resolution addresses how people in Israel can be safer if there is a ceasefire, while also acknowledging the hurt and the fear and the pain that people in Arlington feel, and about our commitment to bring people together to talk about that pain. We are not going to be able to allay everyone's fear or address any misconceptions that we will make it worse. But what we can do is to make people have conversations, and that is what this resolution does."

Grossman's statement, received via email April 30, was as follows: 

"Our by-laws state that the Arlington Human Rights Commission was, in part, established to 'advance issues related to the fair and equitable treatment of individuals' and 'to protect every individual in the enjoyment and exercise of their human and civil rights and to encourage and bring about mutual understanding and respect among all people who live, work, visit and travel within the Town.' As we saw and heard during the listening sessions, there is a great divide in our town regarding the issue of this proclamation. As a member of the Arlington Human Rights Commission who was appointed to ensure that we follow the mission outlined in our by-laws, I feel that this proclamation is outside of our purview and, more importantly, will continue to sow division and could serve to enable some to express their hate toward the ‘other,’ whomever that may be. In good conscience, I can’t support this article at the same time that I am outraged and distraught over the killing and humanitarian crisis that we are witnessing."
Commission, board, meeting's differing roles

The special meeting of the commission began just after 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at the community/senior center, 20 Academy St., and lasted about 20 minutes. It had been scheduled solely to decide whether to take a position on the article. 

 Commission Cochair Drake Pusey said that the commission vote would be conveyed swiftly to the Select Board, before it meets. He and others in favor of endorsement also spoke at that board meeting, at which it was decided to continue the question to next month.

Neither the commission's vote nor the board's possible vote has any direct effect on the article, being advisory only. The resolution, contained in the fifth and final article in the warrant for Special Town Meeting and set to be heard May 8, can be acted on only by the members of Town Meeting, whose regular sessions began at 8 p.m. April 24 and which are expected to continue on Monday and Wednesday evenings  until all 66 articles are dealt with.

The commission on its website states that it was founded in 1993 "to advance issues related to the fair and equal treatment of town residents and to address complaints arising out of these issues.” In its just-released report of Monday April 22, the commission described in general terms the comments made at its four "listening sessions" about Gaza and followup emailed input on the same subject in the first half of April.

Pusey mentioned this document April 24 in brief remarks before the roll-call vote. That five-page report states, in part, "After significant deliberation during the public AHRC Special Meeting on April 10, the AHRC decided not to issue a ceasefire proclamation of its own, since that contravenes recently adopted AHRC policy against issuing statements that do not directly concern issues in Arlington." 


April 11, 2024: Commission to write report on local input on Gaza, create addendum to 'Hingham statement'

This report was published Monday, April 22, 2024, and was updated several times the evening of Wednesday, April 24, to summarize that April 24 special meeting of the commission, whose sole subject was to consider endorsement of STM Article 5. It was updated April 30, to include expanded versions of previously brief quotes by Commissioner Rajeev Soneja, who voted with the majority, and by Commissioner Sharon Grossman, the sole dissenter.