Far-left, pro-Palestinian movement is coming to a small town near you

ETNA, Pennsylvania — In January 2022, the local news reported that a homemade gray flag with a swastika in the center of it was hung from the front porch of a resident on Greeley Avenue of this tiny working-class Pittsburgh suburb along the Allegheny River.

The community’s response was immediate. Within days, borough Councilwoman Jessica Semler was part of a creating a “hate has no home here” sign effort and a GoFundMe campaign to raise $1,000 to make yard signs. They nearly tripled their original goal, and soon 120 cheery green “Etna is for everyone” signs popped up in yards, on business fronts, and along the sidewalks.

Allegheny County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam, and borough of Etna Councilwoman Jessica Semler. (Courtesy photo)

At the time, Semler told a local newspaper, “The Etna is for Everyone and Hate Has No Home Here signs show our neighbors that there are lots of us who are loving and supportive,” adding, “While the swastika flag is a threat to our marginalized neighbors, it also empowers others in the area who share white supremacist beliefs and we must emphatically combat that.”

It was a shining moment for the small community to demonstrate that a borough of 3,000, a picturesque town filled with small businesses and mixed industries along the outskirts and rolling hills, aspired to be an idealized small town.

Two years later, Semler, along with the majority of the council members, brought forth a resolution at a sleepy April meeting that called on the Biden administration “to call for and facilitate de-escalation and a permanent cease-fire to urgently end the current violence” in Gaza. The resolution also called for “recognizing the need to address the root causes of crises.”

The only elected official to reject the resolution was Etna Mayor Robert Tunon, who said the language of the resolution went too far, much further he said than what was discussed in the borough’s March meeting, and that the reference said “the root causes of crises” implied that Israel was solely to blame.

In March, local resident Judith Koch spoke of the importance of passing a ceasefire resolution, saying in part she was aware she would be considered an antisemite for doing so but that it was the fault of the war machine who uses that term as a tool to silence people to let genocide happen.

After Koch finished and the council chairman thanked her for “her impassioned” words, Semler said that over 100 municipalities across the country have passed similar resolutions and that while municipal officials may not have a say in international affairs, those in higher elected offices are not listening to their constituents or explaining their positions, and therefore it does fall on municipal elected officials to speak up.

The borough of Etna’s council meeting last week discussed the ceasefire resolution adopted by the council. (Courtesy photo)

The chairman thanked Semler for her statement but said that he is not sure how the council can speak for the entire community on issues this diverse.

To which Semler said that more than 70% of the country supports a ceasefire.

Semler was echoing what the organization Cease Fire Democrats states on its website, but the reality is much closer to this month’s Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll that showed the vast majority of people support Israel over Hamas.

The survey showed 80% of registered voters support Israel more in the war, with support for Israel lowest among the youngest age groups.

So not exactly 70%; not even close.

If you go to the website CeaseFireDemocrats, an “all volunteer” effort that says its objective is to get ceasefire resolution passed in councils and state parties across the country, you can see their successful efforts have happened at low-attended meetings.

The efforts have been very organized from the top, not grassroots. What they are great at doing is getting the fringe to show up with a megaphone but with little to no input from the residents.

In talking to people in Etna, few knew it had even happened.

It is likely that in the 140 city councils and dozens of county councils and borough councils that have passed similar resolutions, many of the people who live in these cities, counties, and small towns across America have no idea their town has done the same thing.

In most cases they elect those council members to make sure their infrastructure is up to code, their water is safe, their streets are paved, the garbage is picked up, and the fire and police departments have adequate funding. The voters surely don’t expect their councils to speak on foreign policy.

When Etna’s resolution passed in April, observer Julie Paris described a chaotic and confusing council meeting with the wording of the resolution not being available to the general public.

The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle reported the resolution had been written by council members Semler and Alice Gabriel, that it was altered three times during the meeting, and it could not be readout loud because of computer issues.

Two years ago, Etna Councilwoman Jessica Selmer was part of an effort to distribute “Etna is for Everyone” signs after a swastika was displayed in front of a house in the neighborhood. Two years later, she was part of the ceasefire resolution adopted by the council. (Courtesy photo)

Instead, Semler insisted the appropriate changes were made.

At the borough meeting last week, the resolution stood despite concerns of members of the Jewish community.

Paris, a longtime resident of the region and the Mid-Atlantic regional director of StandWithUs, an international nonprofit and nonpartisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism, attended a meeting last week and left disheartened.

What deeply concerned her was the repeated use of the words genocide and famine aimed at Jews. What also deeply concerned her was the number of small towns and boroughs across the country and even in her home state whose council members have approved measures just like this.

“Many of the council members don’t understand the scope of the wording in the resolutions, nor do they understand about the dangers of misinformation contained within them,” she said.

At the meeting last week, Semler and others dug in their heels and insisted the resolution was not antisemitic.

“One council member who was for it said it was them who was on the right side of history,” Paris said.

Paris, there are so many things to unpack that are wrong with what happened in Etna and Erie and the hundred-plus other small cities and towns that have adopted these resolutions, even beyond the sophisticated antisemitic code words, that the average person doesn’t understand how dangerous it is.

“Etna or Erie are now these small towns and cities that the organizers can shout to the world and say ‘look, small town America is with us’ and use it as a boilerplate to bully other places in doing,” Paris said.

Erie City Council in northwest Pennsylvania passed a ceasefire resolution in a 4-3 vote at its February 22 meeting, with over 30 people speaking out against Israel at the council meeting, while only 10 shared sympathy for Israel.

Erie, a city of 94,000, is the home of two synagogues.

“The effort comes across as a ground swell that is coming from the community, as each one happens with many people either unaware or concerned about pushing back. I’m not sure what it looks like when they say we have the majority on our side,” Paris explained.

The challenge for people today is getting involved against a very small, but very organized and very loud, very well-funded far Left that isn’t just making noise at universities and big cities but in small towns across the country.

Who steps up? Who says not in my hometown?

On Friday Semler, who has made her social media X account private, which clearly lists “Free Palestine” on her bio, was tagged and photographed with Allegheny County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam saying the two were in Etna “plotting, scheming and checking out Etna’s newest restaurant.”

Right after the Oct. 7 massacre, Hallam reposted a poem on X about breaking down walls, along with a celebratory video of the terrorists breaking down the security gate on their way to murder, rape, torture, and kidnap Israeli civilians, including children.

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It took her 20 days to remove the post after staunch criticism from across the ideological spectrum, especially within the Democratic Party.

Paris stresses how incredibly dangerous the spread of misinformation and propaganda about Israel is not just for the Jewish community but for everyone. “Everyone has a voice, whether your town is large or small we have to use our voices to speak up and not let this spread and creep into every little place in America.”


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