A new effort in Colorado pushes the state’s members of Congress to call for a ceasefire in Gaza

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
State Rep. Iman Jodeh speaks at a rally of elected officials and residents calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on the steps of Colorado’s Capitol building. Dec. 21, 2023.

Dozens of current and former Democratic state lawmakers, along with city and local officials and an array of civic, non-profit and religious organizations, are calling on Colorado’s congressional delegation to push for a bilateral ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. 

Organizers of the effort gathered on the west steps of the state Capitol Thursday morning to urge Colorado’s federal delegation to take action.

“We believe that the essential and sole focus of the United States should be to facilitate the immediate release of the remaining Israeli and all foreign national hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians; the restoration of clean water, fuel, electricity, and all basic services to Gaza; and the passage of extensive humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip,” states a letter the coalition intends to send to each of the state’s 10 federal lawmakers.

Democratic state Rep. Iman Jodeh of Aurora wrote the letter and is spearheading the effort. Jodeh, who is the state’s first Palestinian American lawmaker, grew up in Aurora after her parents immigrated to the United States. She maintains a home in the West Bank, where some of her family lives, and has extended family in Gaza.

“This is about humanity,” said Jodeh in a press release before the event. “We cannot afford to sit back as the world pleads for the United States to demand a ceasefire. We cannot allow our congressional delegation to ignore the will of constituents calling for a ceasefire. We need to talk about what needs to happen right now.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. was the only no vote to block a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the conflict.

Former Democratic state lawmaker Jonathan Singer released a statement describing how his Jewish faith played a factor in his decision to sign the letter. He said he understands what it means for Jews to be able to call “Israel our home after millennia of displacement,” but added, “the Palestinian people have also experienced displacement and deserve a sovereign state to call their own home.”

Singer said the only way to forge a path forward is to broker a diplomatic solution, including a ceasefire and the return of hostages.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Former state Rep. Jonathan Singer speaks at a rally of elected officials and residents calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on the steps of Colorado's Capitol building. Dec. 21, 2023.

Other signers on the letter include current Democratic Reps. Regina English, Elisabeth Epps, Lorena Garcia, Tim Hernández, Mandy Lindsay, Javier Mabrey, Tammy Story and Elizabeth Velasco. Democratic Sen. Julie Gonzales also signed it, as did outgoing Democratic state Rep. Said Sharbini. 

Sharbini, announced this week that he would resign from the legislature at the end of the month. He also has Palestinian ancestry.

Sharbini’s father is Palistian and from Nazareth, Israel, where many on that side of his family still live. 

He has long promoted peace in the region. 

“I'm supporting the people that are caught in between and making sure that we get humanitarian aid to those that need it in Gaza,” he told CPR News.

Democratic Congressman Jason Crow sent a letter to the president this week urging Biden to use all his leverage to push Israel to shift its military strategy in order to limit civilian casualties and humanitarian impacts. While the letter does not call for a ceasefire, Crow said terror ideology can not be destroyed through military force alone. 

“The mounting civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis are unacceptable and not in line with American interests; nor do they advance the cause of security for our ally Israel. We also believe it jeopardizes efforts to destroy the terrorist organization Hamas and secure the release of all hostages,” states Crow’s letter.

Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette has also called for a long-term peace deal. 

“In the long term, the U.S. and our allies in the region — together with Israeli and Palestinian leadership — must urgently work towards a peace accord, including a two-state solution, that upholds the equality of dignity of all citizens to ensure the violence we saw on October 7 never happens again.”

Both of Colorado’s Democratic senators, John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, have called for more aid to Gaza but have not pushed for a ceasefire.

The war between Israel and Hamas is expected to be front and center when state lawmakers return to the capitol in January for the annual legislative session. 

At least one lawmaker is working on a resolution voicing support for Israel, and lawmakers are anticipating pro-Palestinian protesters will be in the public gallery for the governor’s State of the State address, as they were during a special legislative session last month.