Nearly every city council president faces controversy that clouds his year at the top of Jacksonville’s legislative branch.
They usually involve urban issues such as Confederate monuments, the expansion of LGBTQ+ rights, redistricting, crowd control at Council meetings, etc.
For Ron SalemHowever, the problem is one of personal identity itself.
Salem, a Republican of Palestinian descent now in his second term, continues to face blows for his no vote against a city council resolution offering swift and unqualified support for Israel as he prepares to retaliate against attacks by Hamas and to mobilize against the Palestinians.
When I asked him about his no vote the next day, his response was terse, but said enough: “I mourn the death of the Israeli and Palestinian people in this conflict. »
This is a relevant thing to say for someone who has been a member of the Ramallah-American Club since 1995. Could he have said more?
Of course, but it wasn’t his obligation to do so.
With all due respect to Finance Chairman Nick Howland, who introduced the resolution, no one really expected the Jacksonville City Council to intervene in this (or any) foreign war. Not considering local issues that are repeatedly neglected or neglected. We don’t go to City Hall to discuss foreign policy, just like we don’t go to the U.S. Capitol to complain about local zoning issues.
The resolution, intentionally or not, placed Salem in a box, where he was forced to deny his own heritage if he voted with the Council, or where he could vote his conscience, as he did.
Salem seems to receive the most criticism from the right. Looking at Jacksonville, who demanded his resignation. In terms of direct media coverage, Action News Jax has focused on the issue in two articles as of this writing, including an examination of the Council President’s emails after the no vote.
Salem responded to a voter who mentioned “the suffering Palestinians have endured at the hands of the Israelis” with: “God bless you. I appreciate your comments.
UNF pollster Michael Binder addressed the controversy in this article, saying that Salem’s vote made “a little bit of sense” because he is Palestinian, adding that he didn’t “know what was in it.” had in Salem’s heart when he voted.”
The reality is this: we never know what is in a politician’s heart when they vote for something.
We know their passionate and repeated speeches. We know their rhetorical flourishes and logical fallacies. But we also know that most votes are about political expediency. And if we pay attention to the process for a while, we also know that we want them to vote for what they actually believe.
That’s exactly what Ron Salem did. And this will probably have consequences for his political future.
As Council President, he has strived to be an honest broker, while dealing with a Donna Deegan administration that still seems to be wondering how City Hall works and how far a strong mayor can actually go . He was instrumental on budget night in keeping Deegan’s plan as intact as possible, resisting his fellow Republicans to that end.
It’s been a balancing act. But compared to the foreign policy blowback that sees people attacking him for his identity, Budget Night was easy.
Salem’s no vote preceded a predictable intensification of rhetoric against the Palestinians at the state level as well, with Gov. Ron DeSantis leading the way.
DeSantis has repeatedly made a hallmark of his speeches denigrating Palestinians as inherently anti-Semitic. In the unlikely event he is elected president, he has pledged not to take in refugees from Gaza.
At the same time, it has beefed up DeSantis Airlines in recent days, with the state paying for charter flights from Israel to Florida, at least some of which make a stop in Greece to pick up passengers.
Although DeSantis started the program as a way to evacuate Floridians, he has since admitted to an expanded mission in which out-of-state people also get flights to Florida at the expense of Florida taxpayers. The governor’s reasoning for doing all this for free is that the State Department, in rolling out its evacuation program, said people had to sign promissory notes — much like those on student loans that DeSantis said should not be forgiven because, he said, it would cause truck drivers to pay for degrees in gender studies.
Infamous flights of undocumented immigrants from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard cost $12,000 per person, according to 60 minutes. In his multiple interviews touting flights from Israel, the governor has not given an estimate of the program’s costs, and he likely won’t provide that information (if migrant flights are any indication) for many months. .
Writing as someone who accompanied DeSantis to Israel and stood behind him and other state officials as they walked through Yad Vashem and saw the horrors of the Holocaust, I have no doubt that he s This is an issue that the governor feels strongly about. I would also argue that his answer to this question is exponentially more emphatic than his malicious neglect we saw for months as white supremacists and neo-Nazis projected and demonstrated in the name of toxic and hateful ideologies, sometimes with placards pro-DeSantis.
It is ironic that Ron Salem, coming from a dispossessed people like few populations in the world, is at least on this issue a man without a country. This issue will not make him a reliable vote for left-wing causes and issues – he is still the same level-headed, rational conservative leader he has been.
In this political climate, however, there are downsides. And in a city steeped in Middle Eastern heritage, with a mayor of Lebanese origin, many judges of Palestinian origin, and a long history of colonization of the region, it is a damning indictment of this city than having a President of the Council who was threatened. for having voted according to his conscience on an issue with which he has much more personal connection than his detractors, both public and those who operate in the shadows.
It is almost certain that at Tuesday’s city council meeting, this issue will dominate public comments. Let’s hope that our colleagues in Salem understand what they have done by passing a resolution that goes far beyond local politics, a resolution that only serves to divide people at the expense of our sense of community, which often proves too fragile.
Main image: Ron Salem shortly after taking office as Council President | Will Brown, Jacksonville today