Constituents speak out on Councilperson Kamillah Hanks' Travel to Israel

Councilperson Hanks traveled to Israel on Feb 21st, just one day after the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for the fourth time.

Constituents speak out on Councilperson Kamillah Hanks' Travel to Israel
Constituents pose for a photo in front of Councilperson Kamillah Hanks district office on March 8 (Dominique Hood, 2024)

Councilperson Kamillah Hanks, representing Council District 49 on the North Shore, visited Israel with other New York state and city officials on a three-day solidarity trip in late February as 29,313 Palestinians and 1,723 Israelis were confirmed dead by their respective national ministries. Despite the death toll, her comments to the press on the trip spoke strictly of the fear experienced by Israeli settlers.

Staten Island 4 Palestine, a coalition of local grassroots groups including Staten Island DSA, Peace Action Staten Island, Staten Island Against Racism and Police Brutality, About Face, Al Awda, Mamas for a Free Palestine, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation organized a speak out on March 8, at Councilperson Kamillah Hanks district office, to condemn her visit as not in line with constituents' desires. "We know that their loyalty is being bought, and they are not beholden to us, they are beholden to AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee]," commented Omnia Hegazy on Councilperson Hanks and Assemblymember Charles D. Fall representing Assembly District 61.

Speak out at Councilperson Kamillah Hanks District Office (Staten Island 4 Palestine, 2024)

Hanks leveraged her Staten Island upbringing on the visit to Kibbutz Kfar Aza as she provided comment to the Jewish News Syndicate stating "I come from a rough neighborhood in Staten Island so I know a little about living in fear, but nothing like this." At the speak out Najla Khass, a Palestinian-American from Gaza, called upon the Councilperson to "talk to a Gazan child and a Palestinian mother to understand the real fear of living, the real fear of trying to survive." The Councilperson's office declined to comment on Hanks' stance on the fear and controlled famine experienced by 2.3 million Palestinians collectively being punished to rescue 159 Israeli captives.

The visit was the Councilperson's second in three years to Israel. The Councilperson's first visit in November 2022, freely provided and organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York was initially not disclosed to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board until Hanks' office was contacted by reporters. The Councilperson's office declined to comment on whether her most recent trip was also in an official capacity as Councilperson of CD 49.

"We've been trying to talk to Councilmember Hanks, to let you know how this issue affects us - there is no reason we should be picketing here to ask you to do your job" said Palestinian-American Roxanne Mustafa whose family is from the West Bank. Councilperson Hanks did not make herself available, nor did anyone from their office attempt to engage with the constituents present. When contacted, her office declined to comment on why that decision was made.