Calls for a ceasefire color first collaboration between Kim & Bhalla in Jersey City


Calls for a ceasefire colored the first collaboration between U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3), a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 8th District, at the Jersey City Theatre Center.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The event was hosted by Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon, who thanked the 250 or so in attendance for coming out before laying out the current state of affairs for this primary with some humor.

“In mid-October, it was right after Senator Menendez got indicted and I was at a … networking event and you were supposed to introduce yourself by saying your name, your city, and to sort of brag about yourself professionally,” he began.

” … So I said hi, my name is James Solomon, I’m from Jersey City, and my professional brag is I’ve yet to be indicted in Hudson County politics,” he said to great applause.

He continued that while he appreciated the laughs, on a serious note, he said it is sad that the bar here is so low before commending Kim and Bhalla for their service.

The Downtown councilman also took aim at the Hudson County Democratic Organization, whom the aforementioned duo are looking to defeat despite long odds.

“We have to fight to keep property taxes reasonably low because there’s too many political hacks that give their second cousin a third no-show job in Hudson County, right? And that’s the system we need to fight against. And it’s still true at the federal level,” Solomon stated.

“What’s at stake at this election? Building out Obamacare to get a truly universal healthcare system, right? Codifying Roe v. Wade and the women’s right to choose in that state. And fighting against Donald Trump’s corruption, hypocrisy, and nepotism is at stake.”

Kim and Bhalla then introduced themselves to the packed house.

The Mile Square City mayor noted humble beginnings, pointing out that his father grew up in a trailer park in Pennsylvania who ended up owning a small business, getting married, and raising two sons.

He denounced the fact that the HCDO refused to hold Democratic conventions like the one Kim recently won in Monmouth County and emphasized that democracy is supposed to involve elections, not selections.

The congressman recalled his family moving to New Jersey for a better life, noting that his father was a polio survivor that was wheelchair-bound but still managed to earn his phD.

He also recalled that he won by the slimmest margin in all the House races in 2018 before becoming just one of seven Democrats to win districts that Trump won in 2020, which came after serving in President Barack Obama’s administration.

Before Kim could finish, a woman stood up and began shouting about the conflict in the Middle East, to the vocal dismay of many others in the crowd.

“Congressman Kim: When will you call what is happening in Palestine a genocide? On February 11th, you posted on Twitter about enjoying the Super Bowl, that same day … over 1.5 million Palestinians that had been displaced by the Israeli government was bombed. 67 people died, 14 houses were destroyed, and three bombs were destroyed – these are genocidal war crimes that you support with your silence.”

She was heckled quite a bit, being told to shut up and sit down, among other things, but Kim implored the audience to let her finish before he responded.

“I understand that you think I’m not at the level that you want me to be at and I respect that opinion. But I’m someone that worked in diplomacy and national security, I served in war zones, I understand all the toll that it has taken,” he said.

“And I’m someone who is a diplomat and I absolutely believe that there is no military solution, no violence that’s going to be able to bring ground to the kind of release we want to see there … I would support a negotiated, bi-lateral ceasefire that will make sure that we do and hopefully we can get that agreement right away.”

He continued that he supports a two-state solution, which is not something that will happen immediately, which is why he supports diplomatic efforts for the here and now in hopes of putting an end to the violence.

It wasn’t long before another woman in attendance yelled out that it’s time for a ceasefire now, prompting Bhalla to weigh in this time.

“We could have what would be an academic debate about a ceasefire: what does it mean, is it negotiated, is it temporary, but what we all want, I think we can all agree, is we want an end to human suffering,” he said.

“Okay, nobody is for a military solution, nobody is for war, nobody is for seeing children who are dying, woman who are dying: nobody supports that whether you’re Jewish, whether you’re Palestinian, or any other religion. We all want to get to the same place, it’s a disagreement about how we do it.”

Bhalla also called for a two-state solution that recognizes the Palestinians right to self-determination and indepedent states, noting that he has spent time in Palestine and Israel, as well as that he respects the sovereignty of the state of Israel.

Others continued to yell out throughout the session, with one group holding a sign that said “no $ for bombs” and questioning Kim’s voting record on the topic.

Still, several in attendance had questions that had nothing to do with a ceasefire, such as Ricardo Rojas asking Kim if he’d support Medicare for All.

“We absolutely need to get to universal healthcare: I’ll support it if it’s single payer, I’ll support it if it’s multi-payer, I think that’s absolutely what we need to be pushing for. When it comes to Medicare for All, absolutely something that I think could be the gold standard for our country. That would be ideal in terms of being able to have that kind of approach.”

Bhalla has previously come out in support of Medicare for All.

Kevin Bing, who ran for the Jersey City Ward C council seat in 2021, asked what the candidates would do about getting rid of the party line if they get elected.

Bhalla said he’d love to have a debate and/or compare records before a committee decided on who to support as they do in Monmouth and Burlington Counties, which Kim agreed with.

“People in New Jersey don’t want to be told who to vote for, they want to be able to make up their own mind.”

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