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Letter for peace rises from community and prepares for delivery to Victoria

The City is stepping up to promote peace in face of the conflict occurring in Gaza, according to one well-spoken City councillor.

Rik Logtenberg spoke at length during a regular council meeting on Dec. 5 about the reasons behind Nelson City council’s decision to provide an open letter addressing the conflict in Gaza.

The City had received numerous requests from Nelsonites asking for City council to provide an open letter calling for peace, advocating for the cessation of hostilities on both sides of the war.

The letter centred on what role does Nelson City council have in the war when the centre of the conflict is so far from the city, said Logtenberg.

Many of the city’s residents have either a history in the Gaza region, or family or friends in the region, but in moments when war breaks out people have a simple question to ask themselves, “are we contributing to escalation or de-escalation?” he asked.

“There is rarely a middle ground when the conflict is so extreme, and the answer is not so obvious. Sometimes, when we think we are seeking justice, we are actually seeking some sort of emotional catharsis, maybe even revenge,” Logtenberg said. “And this is not the answer we can give as a council.”

He noted that the letter — drafted by City staff — strikes the appropriate balance in commenting on the war.

“We are here not to strike a blow, not even a blow for justice, we are here to promote peace and advocate for peace, and that starts with not weighing in to the conflict itself and the historical reasons for the conflict that led to this moment,” Logtenberg said.

“And, as much as we would want to when the power differential is so great between the combatants, between Israel and Palestine, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we contributing to a calming of the waters, are we de-escalating in our small way the emotions in our city, and in our small way, the emotions in the Middle East?’”

As the calendar heads in to Hanukkah, Logtenberg called for compassion and understanding across the city and the region.

“I call out, as we all do, to respect that the people living here cannot identify with the combatants in the region,” he said.

On Oct. 7 Hamas launched an attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip. On Oct. 9 Israel declared war on Hamas, which has resulted in air and land attacks in Gaza. As a result, thousands of civilians have been killed in the war. There have been peace marches around the world calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The letter from Nelson City council adds to the message of peace, said Mayor Janice Morrison, and that everyone needs to show compassion.

“We want to see it go to a resolution that respects the rights of Palestinians and Israelis,” she said. “It is important and crucial to recognize that other regions around the world have conflicts and wars, and underscore the conflict and the prevalence of unrest on a global scale.

“I do believe that it is the belief of this city council that no more people should be killed, or families damaged, in this war or any other war.”

The letter will be sent to B.C. premier David Eby and Opposition leaders.

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily