October 31, 2003

Peterson Meets With CIPAC, Talks Human Rights

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Carolyn Peterson (D-4th Ward), the Democratic nominee in the Ithaca mayoral race, visited Cornell’s campus yesterday to discuss processes and strategies involved in local political activism with the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee.

CIPAC, a campuswide pro-Israel organization, is currently lobbying the City of Ithaca to pass a resolution supporting the peaceful existence of the Israeli state and condemning the violent acts of terrorism occurring in the Middle East. Eighteen cities across the country, including Reno, Nev., Berkeley, Calif. and Knoxville, Tenn., have already passed such resolutions. The resolution calls upon the U.S. Conference of Mayors to condemn these acts of terrorism, it calls upon the Palestinian leadership to act aggressively to prevent terrorism and calls on both parties to continue negotiations as the way to resolve the ongoing conflict.

Peterson, who has served on the Ithaca Common Council for 10 years, addressed CIPAC as an authority on the city and its political operational procedures.

During her hourlong appearance, Peterson provided insight regarding political action methods and processes in Ithaca; shared her disdain for local hate- and bias-related offenses, noting action she has taken against such incidents; and specifically articulated her support for the state of Israel and contempt for terrorist acts taking place in the Middle East as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Peterson began by underscoring Ithaca’s history of publicly positioning itself as a community with respect to human rights-related issues, specifically alluding to this year’s antiwar resolution and a statement against the USA PATRIOT Act, both passed in recent years by the Common Council. However, she also warned members of CIPAC that, if passed, the pro-Israel resolution may be amended as the council sees fit. Because both a specific council committee and the entire contingency of the council have the ability to act on any resolution proposed, members of the city government reserve the right to amend any resolution that they pass as they see fit.

“When a resolution goes through the city government, it may not always come out the same way it came in,” she said. “There are almost always rewrites.”

Peterson, who identifies herself as a strong opponent of bias-related crimes, communicated her commitment to human rights-related issues in a position paper that she sent in response to CIPAC’s pro-Israel resolution proposal.

“It is essential in the area of human rights to remain constantly vigilant and to not tolerate violence and prejudice,” she said.

Additionally, Peterson articulated her pro-Israel sentiments, her condemnation of terrorist acts and her belief that the city should pass a resolution condemning terrorism in Israel.

“A resolution condemning terrorism in Israel and urging both parties to resolve the conflict, to me, is an extension of the city’s own Bias-Motivated Crimes Law [Article V, Chapter 215] which was passed in 2000 and reaffirmed in 2002,” Peterson said. “The reaffirmation, on which I voted ‘aye,’ in part includes a resolve that reads, ‘Common Council unequivocally condemns all forms of bias-related intolerance and violence.’ Therefore, the resolution that CIPAC has forwarded is one that I could support.”

Republican mayoral candidate Lt. John Beau Saul ’97 offered no response to CIPAC’s request for a position paper.

Extending this invitation to Peterson is one of many efforts that CIPAC has made in recent months to encourage student political activism. Earlier in the semester, CIPAC helped facilitate a campuswide voter registration effort, hoping to see a high student turnout for the mayoral election day next Tuesday.

CIPAC executive board members appreciate Peterson’s commitment to community affairs and human rights-related issues.

“It’s awesome that we have such a receptive leader in [Peterson],” said Ari Nathan Stern ’05, CIPAC senior vice president. “CIPAC is proud of the strong position that she has taken on the resolution. We are happy that she has been willing to push its legislation in the Common Council and we look forward to getting this resolution passed.”

Peterson received the Democratic nomination for mayor in September’s primary. The City of Ithaca mayoral election will take place on Tuesday.

Archived article by Ellen Miller