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Since Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah threw his hat into the ring for New Jersey’s 2024 Congressional election, he has called for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. He is one of the few candidates in this state election season to make a stance on the conflict, which has become a top issue in the political community.

The war is shortly coming to its sixth month of ongoing conflict as Palestinian and Muslim communities are demanding a response from local leaders. With primary elections less than three months away, how candidates have answered to this pressure may determine the ballot. 

On Oct. 7, 2023, the Palestinian militant group Hamas led a deadly surprise attack on Israeli civilian communities killing around 1,200 people and taking many hostages. Israel formally declared war on Hamas the following day and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a grave retaliation. 

What followed is one of the most destructive military campaigns in recent history with bombings coming from Israel, Hamas and nearby countries in addition to ground assaults. The Gaza Health Ministry reportedly calculated more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in this war and even more people displaced from their homes.

Calls for a ceasefire are now ringing in the international community as Israel continues airstrikes further down Gaza and some hostages remain unreleased from both sides of the war. 

Call for Ceasefire in Hudson County 

Municipalities in Hudson County have recently joined the ceasefire call and signed resolutions formally calling for a permanent ceasefire and immediate release of hostages. Union City was the first in the county to pass a resolution followed by North Bergen and more recently, Weehawken. 

Jersey City tried to move forward with a ceasefire resolution but failed to pass by City Council. While nobody casted a vote opposing the resolution, five members abstained effectively killing the proposal. Hoboken has also been under pressure as a heated counsel meeting on Feb. 21 saw public commentators demanding council members to pass a ceasefire resolution. The members had no response after two hours of public comments and no formal proposals have been presented. 

Jersey City resident Meera Jaffrey is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern New Jersey (NNJ JVP) and Ceasefire Now NJ, a collective composed of various community organizations calling for ceasefire declarations from New Jersey’s local municipalities and leaders. 

Jaffrey told Slice of Culture that these organizations came together on a Oct. 15 vigil to mobilize into one movement. She said one of the biggest goals for Ceasefire Now NJ is to give residents a platform to amplify their voices and express their sentiments to elected officials. 

Jersey City and Hoboken have previously passed resolutions in support of international issues, such as in the Philippines and Ukraine, despite both citing a desire to stick to local issues as a reason not to pass a ceasefire resolution. Jaffrey said these are contradictory messages that may stem from ailing with the democratic party line, which is supportive of Israel. She said any type of criticism of Israel is often seen as antisemitic, and the fear of backlash drives elected officials not to touch this issue.

“We’re just trying to show them that we are a large voting block, and we are paying attention to their silence when it comes to stopping the genocide,” said Jaffrey. 

The Palestinian community is strong in New Jersey as the Garden State has the third highest population in the country, according to World Population Review. Palestinians and supporters of the ceasefire movement have made waves in this election season. In Georgia, thousands casted uncommitted votes in the presidential primaries to pressure President Joe Biden to call for a ceasefire. 

Jaffrey said large members of the Muslim community and supporters of Palestinian rights are disgusted with the elected officials who have supported continuous funding to the Israeli military or have not tried to stop the genocide. Just as in Georgia, an “Uncommitted” movement is growing in the Garden State that Jaffrey said will affect the ballot. 

“Local politicians should realize that they would have a significant [voter] base if they were motivated by their hearts and not motivated by fear of not having enough funding for their elections,” explained Jaffrey. 

Whether Jersey’s sprawling Palestinian population will answer the same call is to be seen in the upcoming congressional and presidential primaries this June. What potential voters can do right now is look at how their candidates view a ceasefire resolution. 

Senate Candidates View on a Ceasefire

The frontrunner for New Jersey’s senate race is Democrat Andy Kim. This previously included Tammy Murphy, Gov. Phil Murphy’s wife, but she has since dropped out of the race. 

Kim is New Jersey’s 3rd district representative for U.S. Congress and now takes aim at the Senate.

He provided his view of the Gaza conflict at a speaking event in collaboration with Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who is running for the state’s 8th congressional district. The representative said he supports “a negotiated, bi-lateral ceasefire” and emphasized that this is a solution that would take time to accomplish. 

Social media platforms Facebook and Instagram give more detail on Kim’s perspective of the Israel-Hamas war.

He immediately condemned the violence that occurred on Oct. 7 against the people of Israel and showed continued support for the nation including leading a letter campaign to Congress pushing emergency funding for Israel’s missile defense system. That same day, Kim led another campaign demanding Congress to deliver humanitarian assistance to Gaza through President Joe Biden’s funding request. 

On Nov. 22, Kim made a public press release statement in response to Israel and Hamas agreeing to a four-day pause in fighting and releasing hostages on both sides. He said it is not the full measure needed, but a positive sign of progress. 

“I call on all sides to abide fully in this deal and use its success to keep negotiations moving that would pave the way for every hostage to be freed, meet conditions for the security of Israel and the protection of civilians, and bring about a mutually-agreed upon ceasefire,” Kim’s press release said. 

More recently, Kim has stressed the necessity for captives to be released like his former opponent Tammy Murphy.

Murphy has closer ties to Judaism and Israel than most political candidates as she comes from Jewish descent and is heavily involved in the community. Murphy’s spokesperson reportedly told Jewish Insider that she is “an unequivocal supporter of Israel and…believes they have every right to defend themselves following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas.”

At various political events, Murphy has revealed she supports a ceasefire only if Hamas releases the hostages taken months before. She also said at a maternal health event in Newark that a two-state solution is the only way forward.

On March 24, Murphy pulled out of the senate rate, citing on Twitter:

“After many busy, invigorating, and yes, challenging months. I am suspending my Senate campaign today. It is clear to me that continuing in this race will involve waging a very divisive and negative campaign, which I am not willing to do.”

Congressional Candidates’ View on a Ceasefire

There is less to be said about New Jersey’s congressional candidates’ views on a ceasefire in Gaza. Most are focusing on local issues and deferring the Israel-Hamas war as an international issue not relevant to their job description. 

The current districts up for bid this election season encompassing Hudson County are districts eight, nine and 10. 

While Mohamed Khairullah is by far the most outspoken on the issue, 10th Congressional District Representative Donald Payne Jr. has done more than most congressmen regarding a ceasefire. He joined a letter-writing campaign with 10 other constituents to ask Joe Biden to support a bilateral ceasefire that would lead to a two-state solution. 

Current 9th congressional district representative Bill Pascrell has received much criticism from the Palestinian community because of his lack of support for an unconditional and immediate ceasefire. Pascrell’s district is home to an enclave called Little Ramallah in Paterson because of its high density of Palestinian Americans. It is also the second-largest Arab-American community.

This community of residents in New Jersey’s District Nine believe Pascrell should have done more to condemn Israel’s bombings of Gaza. According to a press release, Pascrell stated he supports a conditional ceasefire with the long-term goal of the two states living side by side.

Jewish Voice for Peace member Jaffrey said elected officials who have formed relationships with mosques and churches supportive of a ceasefire tend to be more receptive. Politicians like Brian Stack have held meetings with community leaders and the North Hudson Islamic Education Center in addition to organizing a Palestinian flag-raising ceremony.

“What [a ceasefire resolution] has helped to do is … people don’t feel so alone in their support for Palestinians and they feel more empowered to vocalize their feelings to their elected officials,” Jaffrey told Slice of Culture.

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