Testifiers on Hawai‘i County Council resolution promoting world peace demanded inclusion of Gaza cease-fire

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A resolution affirming the Hawai‘i County Council’s commitment to seek and promote peace, diplomacy and civil discourse while demonstrating the values of understanding, cooperation and peaceful co-existence with aloha created some civil — and at one point uncivil — discourse Tuesday.

The Governmental Operations and External Affairs Committee voted 8-0, with Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy absent, to give a favorable recommendation to Resolution 449.

The measure also supports the United Nations’ International Day for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness, which is observed each year on March 5, and encourages the public to join in the observance by getting involved with activities or initiatives that raise awareness of disarmament issues and principles that contribute to humanity’s greater good.

These two X posts from Tuesday show some of the destruction and consequences of the Israel-Hamas war for the people of Gaza. (Screenshots of X posts)

While there was no opposition to the nonbinding resolution, including from the 70 people who gave in-person or submitted written testimony and comments on the measure, many — including some council members — thought it fell short of addressing the elephant in the room: the Israel-Hamas armed conflict that started at the beginning of October 2023.

Emotions ran high at times, with some crying as they spoke. The committee even had to take a nearly 20-minute recess to deal with a disruptive audience member, who became upset when they weren’t allowed to speak after time for public testimony had ended.

Members of the public testified that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and urged the council to put language in the resolution that would call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire and end to all military aid to Israel. Others wanted the need for humanitarian aid to the Palestinians included.


One testifier called the entire situation shameful, saying poll after poll shows Americans want peace and negotiations instead of continued conflict in the region, yet no one in power seems to want the same. He called that authoritarian and said despite the United States being trillions of dollars in debt, it can still find money to send bombs to Israel but there’s no money to address major domestic issues such as homelessness and housing.

Another testifier called the resolution fluff as he spoke with a sign next to him that read “Stop The Genocide.” Others said the indiscriminate violence happening in Gaza is not only a violation of law but it goes against humanity. One member of the public said what’s happening there rivals the atrocities seen in World War II.

A member of the public testifies on Resolution 449 on Tuesday during the meeting of the Hawai‘i County Council Governmental Operations and External Affairs Committee in Hilo. (Screenshot from video)

Following the break, Hilo Councilwoman Jenn Kagiwada agreed with the community’s sentiment, saying while she appreciates the aloha in the resolution, she didn’t see how the council could discuss peace without talking about Gaza.

Kagiwada also reminded the council that while the county’s legislative body might not be able to solve these types of international conflicts, it has a history of taking action, including a measure now nearly 2 years ago supporting the people of Ukraine and condemning the actions of Russian in its invasion of the former Soviet state. That conflict is also still ongoing.

She proposed an amendment to add the following to Resolution 449:

  • “Whereas, between Oct. 7, 2023, and February 29, 2024, armed violence has claimed the lives of approximately 30,000 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis and wounded tens of thousands more, the vast majority of whom are civilians.”
  • “Whereas, in response to this ongoing conflict in Gaza, Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 13, recently introduced in the Hawai‘i State Senate, urges members of Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation to support the Ceasefire in Gaza Resolution introduced by United States Congresswoman Cori Bush.”
  • “Be it further resolved that this body supports and hereby urges the adoption of Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 13 by the Hawai‘i State Legislature.”

Kagiwada appealed to her colleagues not to ignore the violence happening in Gaza.

“I have one child who voted for the very first time today. I have another child who’s been organizing at her college campus to stop the violence in Gaza,” said the Hilo councilwoman. “What message does this send to them if I, an elected official, don’t use my power and I say, ‘I have no power in this situation’ when they are doing what they’re doing as ordinary citizens?”

The audience applauded her as she cried after finishing her comments.

The majority of the council agreed and the amendment passed by a vote of 7-1, with Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz the only no vote and Lee Loy absent.

“I can get behind the intentionality of the resolution, but I have to say in reading the Senate concurrent resolution, which was introduced but not adopted by the Legislature, I feel like it takes a particular side,” said Kierkiwicz. “An Israeli life and a Palestinian life, no one is more valuable than the other. When we all cut, we all bleed red, and to me, it seems a bit too divisive.”


She supported the resolution in the end, even with the amendment, saying it’s important for the council to represent the value of aloha she said is being beautifully articulated in the measure.

Before the final vote was taken, Kierkiwicz said since the council decided to expand the scope of the original resolution, it’s important to recognize other terrible situations happening in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

She plans to put forth something that acknowledges that: “If we’re going to call for a cease-fire, let’s make sure that we are supporting folks that are experiencing sexual violence and call for the release of hostages,” Kierkiwicz said.

Olumuyiwa Ogunbamow and his 5-year-old son Adefie, visiting from Nigeria, take photos in front of the “Non-Violence” (or “Knotted Gun”) sculpture. (United Nations photo/Kim Haughton)

The International Day for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness is aimed at deepening understanding around the world about how disarmament can enhance peace and security, prevent and end armed conflicts and curb human suffering because of weapons.

“Disarmament and non-proliferation are critical not only to a peaceful future, but to our very existence,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“On this Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness Day, we must speak with one loud, clear voice. It’s time to stop the madness. We need disarmament now.”

Hāmākua Councilwoman and Council Chairwoman Heather Kimball, one of the resolution’s co-introducers, admitted the 9 members of Hawai‘i County’s legislative body can’t solve international atrocities such as what continues to happen to Uyghur Muslims, the largest minority ethnic group in China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang; decades-long armed conflicts in Africa; and Israel’s war on Hamas, which as of Tuesday has resulted in at least 30,631 Palestinians killed and another 72,043 wounded, many of them civilians including women and children.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything.

“In the words of the late Aunty Pilahi Paki, a beloved Native Hawaiian poet, philosopher, linguist, educator, songwriter, author and spiritual guide, ‘the world will turn to Hawai‘i as they search for world peace because Hawai‘i has the key; and that key is aloha,'” the resolution says.

Kimball echoed those words and said what the council can do is best represent behaviors and expectations that foster peace, diplomacy, dialogue, civic engagement and respect for people regardless of their background. She said the aloha spirit — which is law in Hawai‘i — is what the council can demonstrate and act upon locally and think about globally.

“The idea behind this resolution is that we, here, can be that genesis of the global proliferation of this idea of the aloha spirit and thereby, having these conversations in this public forum, promote that concept of peace and aloha globally,” Kimball said.

Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder, the resolution’s other co-introducer, thanked the members of the public who showed up to testify Tuesday, even the person responsible for the recess. He called it process in action.

“That is important. If it doesn’t happen, we don’t have a conversation. If we don’t have a conversation, we might as well just stay home,” said Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder. “We’re here. The resolution is in front of us and the intent is good.”

He said while the resolution is “beautiful,” it was a little vanilla. The amendment including state and federal legislation that already has been or is going through the process now gives it a little more teeth.

“There’s an old saying, ‘Bad things happen when good people do nothing,'” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “We are the people who did something, and maybe not at the right level; maybe we’re the County level, not federal, but we did something and we put our voices on something.”

Resolution 449 now moves on to the Council level for final approval during a future meeting.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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