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Commentary: Will the General Assembly stand for humanity and decency?

A view of the Maryland State House through a nearby office window. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

By Zainab Chaudry

The writer is director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Maryland office.

Last week, members of the House Rules Committee held a long-anticipated hearing on House Joint Resolution 2, Maryland’s Ceasefire Resolution. Introduced by Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery) and cosponsored by eight lawmakers, the measure conveys to Maryland’s congressional delegation the Maryland General Assembly’s support for an immediate, long-term ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine, the return of all hostages, and the delivery of adequate humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

Despite the hearing being announced with only a few hours’ notice for witness sign-up, leading to many experts and community members missing the deadline, and numerous clerical errors in the witness selection and testimony delivery processes, pro-ceasefire testimonies outnumbered anti-ceasefire testimonies 80-3. In recent weeks, Marylanders have sent over 37,000 letters to lawmakers and made hundreds of calls in support of this measure.

Constituents from diverse faiths and backgrounds from across the state signed up to testify in support of HJ2. Witnesses included physicians who took a break from seeing patients, a surgeon who stepped out of the operating room, and people who took off work or missed classes. Moms who couldn’t find childcare on unusually short notice brought babies. People rescheduled appointments, cancelled meetings, and dropped everything to travel to Annapolis, or join the hearing virtually.

Committee members who respectfully gave witnesses their attention heard compelling, moving testimonies from constituents whose loved ones have been killed in Gaza in recent weeks, and from Dr. Irfan Galaria, a surgeon who recently returned from a medical trip and shared his reflections in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that has garnered international attention.

For over 150 days, the violence in Gaza has taken a tremendous toll on civilians. At least 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in recent weeks, the majority of whom are children and women. There is no safe zone in Gaza.

Supporting a ceasefire in Palestine and Israel is a local issue impacting thousands of Marylanders, including hundreds of directly impacted constituents from Gaza whose loved ones were among the tens of thousands of civilians killed in recent weeks.

At the beginning of the session, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) announced the Decency Agenda. Decency demands that we speak up to help protect innocent lives, both Israeli and Palestinian. It demands that we summon moral courage to use our power, privilege and platforms to advocate for those who are suffering.

Nearly 70% of Americans support the U.S. calling for a permanent ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza. County executives in Montgomery, Howard and Anne Arundel counties recently joined at least 66 members of Congress, including Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Reps. Jamie Raskin, Kweisi Mfume and David Trone, and dozens of U.S. cities and counties in calling for a ceasefire to end the violence and bloodshed.

As discussions around this resolution take place within the Maryland General Assembly, it is crucial to prioritize the sanctity of human life. By supporting a ceasefire, lawmakers are championing a humane stance that aligns with most Americans and fosters a commitment to peace, diplomacy, and the well-being of innocent lives on all sides. They are supporting the safe release of all hostages and political prisoners.

This General Assembly rightfully unanimously passed a resolution supporting Ukraine two years ago. This resolution similarly serves as a beacon of empathy, acknowledging to Congress and the Biden administration of Maryland’s commitment to humanity and the urgent need to halt the ongoing deadly violence, promote humanitarian efforts, and to pave the way for meaningful negotiations towards a just and lasting solution.


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Commentary: Will the General Assembly stand for humanity and decency?