The following press release was obtained from this link.
West Orange Town Council Adopts Divisive and Controversial Resolution Intended to Silence Criticism of the State of Israel
West Orange, NJ, January 18, 2024 – West Orange for Humanity expresses outrage today at the decision of the West Orange Township Council to once again vilify and silence the voices of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim residents, as well as their many Jewish allies, by adopting a controversial resolution disguised as a “Resolution to Confront, Condemn and Combat Anti-Semitism,” which will do little to substantially address actual anti-Semitism and is intended to silence those who criticize the state of Israel.
“This resolution would more appropriately be called an ‘anti-free speech’ resolution because it cynically equates criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism,” said Jeremy Chatzky, one of the many Jewish members of West Orange for Humanity. “Bombs continue to rain down on Gaza every day, killing more than 24,000 people – nearly half of them children. Many of us Jews here in West Orange will not allow this Town to silence our condemnations of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza,” he continued.
The Town Council could have sent a signal that all West Orange residents deserve to feel safe, seen, and heard, and have the fundamental right to express their views free of censorship, which could have begun the process of reconciliation and healing the Town needs. Instead, this latest action further reveals a pattern of deeply disturbing events, statements, and rhetoric on the part of some elected officials and residents that can only be described as racist and Islamophobic.
For the last several months, the Town has singularly recognized the trauma experienced by some members of the community, while refusing to take any steps to recognize the pain and grief of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim community members. It has pressured and demonized students walking out to protest the death and destruction in Gaza, refused to allow a Palestinian flag-raising and cultural celebration, and now passed a harmful resolution that associates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism by endorsing a controversial definition of anti-Semitism.
“It is very clear from the statements of support for the resolution that the urgency around its adoption was driven by discomfort with increasing calls for a ceasefire or the characterization of Israel as an apartheid state by residents who oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza,” said Julia Greenberg, another Jewish member of West Orange for Humanity. “These are not anti-Semitic statements; they are political opinions. It is insulting to the memories of my ancestors who suffered greatly at the hands of actual anti-Semitism to so distort the meaning of the word.”
The Town Council has neglected to work effectively with all communities in West Orange to address everyone affected by the hate that has been stoked by this global crisis. Instead, the Town is proposing separate resolutions that protect individual groups, effectively taking a “separate but equal” stance.
“There is no ‘Hate Has No Home Here’ resolution that could be passed on the heels of last night’s Town Council decision that will now allow elected officials to say that they have brought our town together,” said West Orange for Humanity member Natania Kremer, also Jewish. “In the end, this resolution will continue to divide us, and attempt to silence us, as was its intention. But we will not be silenced.”
West Orange for Humanity members are clear that given what has transpired, the only meaningful resolution the Town can adopt at this time is a comprehensive and inclusive resolution calling for a permanent and sustained ceasefire. A ceasefire resolution that positions West Orange on the side of peace and humanity must be adopted now.
West Orange for Humanity is a group of justice-centered residents who came together in October 2023 in response to the silencing of pro-Palestinian voices and the indifference to Palestinian suffering in our town. We are committed to supporting historically and currently marginalized voices and perspectives in our community around issues with local and global impact while fiercely defending the shared humanity of all West Orange residents as we work toward collective liberation from systems of oppression.
- In October 2023, a diverse group of students at West Orange High School, including Muslims and Jews, planned a walkout in solidarity with Palestinians. School officials accused the students of using hate speech and persuaded them to postpone the event, after elected officials were pressured by pro-Israel adults. When the walkout did eventually take place on November 22, there were adults trailing them in their cars, leaning on their horns to drown out chants, and cursing at the kids as they marched on Pleasant Valley Way.
- In December 2023, following multiple meetings, Mayor Susan McCartney and her Administration approved a Palestinian Flag-Raising and Cultural Celebration, issued a permit, reviewed the announcement and publicized it, only to take the post down from the Township’s online calendar and digital display a few hours later, with the Mayor declaring on social media in early January 2024 that it was “unfeasible [sic] to proceed” with the event. In the subsequent days and weeks, the Mayor and other elected officials and residents continued to spread racist misinformation and falsehoods about the reasons for the cancellation, accusing the Palestinian community and other organizers of purposefully obfuscating their intent, using hateful terminology – namely, the phrase ‘Palestinian joy is resistance’ – bringing ‘outside agitators,’ and inciting violence, all common Islamophobic tropes.
- In January 2024, during several hours of public comments at a West Orange Town Council meeting, multiple residents, including those who were actively involved in drafting this resolution, equated Hamas with all Muslim countries and all Palestinians and said the following:
○ Using the slogan “Free Palestine” and calling for a “ceasefire” constitute anti-Semitic rhetoric
○ Calling Israel an “apartheid state” and referring to the “occupation of Gaza” is anti-Semitic rhetoric
○ The Palestinian flag represents the terrorists who committed the atrocities on 10/7
○ Calling the 24,000 murdered civilians in Gaza and displacement of over 2 million a genocide is anti-Semitic
○ Pro-Palestinians use secret code words that are anti-Semitic (including “resistance”)
○ One caller even said that our concern about the killing of Imam Shareef in Newark on January 3 was “coded language and blood libel”
 According to the IHRA definition used in the resolution, “Manifestations (of anti-Semitism) might include:
“…the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish [state], collectively,”
“…claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”
“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
 See Mayor’s statement at West Orange, NJ – One Community, One Strength: The Power… | Facebook
 The phrase “Joy is an act of resistance” was coined by the Black poet and feminist Toi Derricotte and has been used widely in social justice movements, including most recently during the peak of Black Lives Matter protests. It is widely understood to be a reclamation by oppressed people of their very humanity (see, for e.g., Black Joy: Resistance, Resilience and Reclamation, The National Museum of African-American History and Culture, Smithsonian).