Community Members Criticize Maplewood Town Council for Statements on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The recent Maplewood Town Council meeting was marked by heated discussions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on local communities. The council members and Mayor faced criticism from both Jewish and Muslim community members. Amid local issues such as traffic safety on Bowden Street and the amendment of employment positions and salary ranges, the council also addressed the controversy surrounding their previous comments on the Middle East conflict.

During the public comment period, Mikal Vman Lat, representing Jewish residents of Maplewood and South Orange, criticized the council members for their comments on Israel and Gaza. Lat accused the council members of inciting hate and violence through their lack of knowledge and accuracy about the situation. He emphasized that the term “apartheid,” used by some to describe Israel, was incorrect and aimed to delegitimize the country.

Lat’s comments sparked a broader discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Community members voiced their opinions, revealing a divide. Some advocated for support of Israel and condemnation of Hamas, while others emphasized the need to acknowledge the suffering of Palestinians and called for a ceasefire.

One resident, Fara CH, criticized the council’s silence regarding Palestinian casualties in Gaza, questioning whether the council’s leadership stood up for all people. Similarly, Seil Abud accused the council of alienating the Arab and Muslim community by not recognizing their pain and fear, and highlighted the increase in Islamophobia and feelings of threat within the community.

In response, Mayor Dean Dafis expressed an apology to both the Jewish and Arab community members for any harm caused by his language. He acknowledged the council’s lack of expertise in geopolitics and reaffirmed the council’s condemnation of Hamas and expressed solidarity with Israel.

Council members Deborah Engel and Nancy Adams also expressed their support for Israel, emphasizing their commitment to unity and community. Engel condemned the hateful rhetoric at a recent rally and expressed a desire to create an inclusive community. Adams echoed these sentiments and called for civil dialogue.

On local matters, the council discussed the traffic safety issue on Bowden Street with residents reporting an increase in speeding vehicles and near-miss accidents involving children. The council committed to investigating speed reduction measures to improve safety.

Additionally, the council passed an ordinance to amend employment positions and establish salary ranges within the township, aiming to address salary inequities and improve the work culture. The council also discussed the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and its application to fund curb cuts in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The meeting began with a community board appointment. Teddy Hager Paris, a long-time Maplewood resident, expressed his interest in serving on the community board on police. His commitment to supporting the local police force was well received by the council members.

Did we get something wrong? Let us know.
Dean Dafis
City Council Officials:
Deborah Engel, Nancy Adams, Jamaine Cripe, Victor De Luca, Amari Allah (Deputy Township Clerk)

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