Visalia councilman takes stance on Gaza conflict

(Rigo Moran)

Following an overpour of comments from constituents, Visalia Councilmember Soto independently plans to pen letter to Congress to urge action on ceasefire in Gaza

VISALIA – Emmanuel Hernandez Soto, the Visalia City Council representative for District 4, has announced he will independently author a letter to Congress calling for a ceasefire in Gaza after hearing concerns from constituents in his district.

For weeks, over a dozen people have shown up to Visalia City Council meetings to call on the council to issue a resolution condemning violence in Gaza and calling for a ceasefire. While supporting the right of residents to come to the council and be heard, the council’s position is to not weigh in on national or international topics in order to focus on issues within the city.

Councilmember Soto is the first member of the city council to decide to act on his own, telling residents at the meeting on June 17 that he would write a letter. While Visalia has remained neutral on the crisis, more than 100 cities nationwide have issued resolutions including at least a dozen in California. In some cases, these resolutions have been met with backlash by some residents.

In an emailed statement, a local Pro-Palestine group that has been in attendance to the council meetings, as well as protesting the Gaza-Israel conflict on the corner of Mooney Boulevard and Walnut Avenue every Sunday, commended Soto’s awareness on recognizing the urgency of calling for a ceasefire.

In an emailed statement, a local Pro-Palestine group that has been in attendance to the council meetings, as well as protesting the Gaza-Israel conflict on the corner of Mooney Boulevard and Walnut Avenue every Sunday, commended Soto’s awareness on recognizing the urgency of calling for a ceasefire.

“Writing this letter would be a symbolic act of condemning the genocidal acts against the Palestinian civilians and a call to support humanity and justice. It would validate the outcry of every supporter for the ceasefire,” resident Fida Taha, one of the group’s organizer’s, said in the statement.

Taha continued with, “However, we expect and hope for all of our elected officials in the city of Visalia to recognize and fulfill their constituents’ request, which is passing a permanent ceasefire resolution in Gaza, just as more than 100 cities across the US have done, including the cities of Kerman and Madera.”

Soto said in an interview with The Sun-Gazette that he was motivated to write a letter after meeting with constituents in his district, many of whom join the others in the community on Sundays to educate the public and promote a peaceful resolution in Gaza.

“Many of them are Palestinians who immigrated to our country and now have a life here,” Soto said. “One of my major points when running (for council) was that I am here to represent my constituents, and I feel this letter is the best route to take regarding an immediate ceasefire and release of all hostages, which would suffice for both sides.”

Among the reasons many Americans are against the conflict in Gaza is the amount of U.S. tax dollars being sent to Israel. Soto said that $12.5 billion in military aid has been sent since the conflict began. 

“Just imagine the things that could have been paid for here,” Soto said. “We have issues like homelessness that affect many cities across the nation, issues like mental health which that money could have gone towards. There are a wide variety of things that Americans suffer from that money could have gone towards.”

Soto noted that despite the council’s view of the conflict as an international issue, the outpouring of comments from his constituents makes it a Visalia issue for him. He said the letter he will write will largely follow the wording of a resolution recently adopted by the Madera city council.

The conflict in Gaza originated with a terrorist attack by militants aligned with Hamas. More than 1,100 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed and 251 were taken prisoner. The Israeli response began in the weeks after the raid and has resulted in widespread death and destruction in Gaza. A massive bombing campaign has shut down nearly all hospitals, water sources, schools and the majority of infrastructure. More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed.

The Palestinian Health Ministry claims that 40% of those killed are children. More than half of the 2.3 million residents of Gaza have been displaced by the fighting. Aid has been slow to arrive in Gaza due to the complexities of delivering supplies to an active warzone and desperate refugees that have mobbed trucks.

International calls to end the campaign have increased in recent months and a subtle shift has occurred at the Federal level as calls from U.S. citizens have put pressure on legislators to work toward a solution in Gaza. After vetoing several international calls for a ceasefire by the United Nations, the U.S. abstained from the most recent vote to allow the resolution to pass. Israel has been in negotiations with Hamas and a coalition of Arab nations in recent months seeking a path forward that includes a ceasefire and the release of prisoners and hostages by both warring countries.

Start typing and press Enter to search