Audience members interrupt a speech from Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau and start chanting on Feb. 5. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Audience members interrupt a speech from Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau and start chanting on Feb. 5. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Fireworks fly at Orland Park meeting over Gaza conflict

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PEKAU RECESS

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau bangs his gavel before a recess after audience members would not stop shouting during the Feb. 5 meeting.

By Jeff Vorva

A packed Village Hall was filled with people strongly asking the Orland Park Village Board to draw up a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Mayor Keith Pekau and the board refused.

In between the request and denial at the Feb. 5 meeting there was some chanting, a lot of shouting, Pekau banging his gavel and, ultimately, the room being cleared by police while the board took a 20-minute recess.

After the recess, Pekau continued his speech to an empty board. But his message, all of which was videotaped by the village as all meeting are, will likely enrage those community members who are passionate about how Palestinians have been treated during this international conflict.

“Clearly, I am the mayor of Orland Park and this is the board of Orland Park,” Pekau said. “I’m not a state representative, I’m not a U.S. Congressman and I’m not a U.S. Senator. The board and I have zero impact on U.S. foreign policy.”

He said that this matter has no bearing on the business of Orland Park. During a portion of the meeting in which the public had time to speak, it was brought up that Chicago and San Francisco had voted on a resolution for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

“I’ll tell you what – I’m Orland Park and I don’t want to look anything like (Chicago) or San Francisco,” he said. “It that’s where you want to live and that’s how you want to live, go live there because Orland Park ain’t it.”

PROTEST

Rama Atieh, of Orland Park, speaks to the village board on Feb. 5.

Residents feel no support

A handful of community members spoke up and one brought a petition of 800 signees who want to see the village support them. There were also comments that constituents will remember the action the board takes when it comes to the next election.

Orland Park resident Rama Atieh said there is a lack of support and compassion for the Palestinian community in Orland Park.

“As you all know by now, there is a genocide happening,” she said. “Your constituents, Mr. Mayor, have been mourning for the past four months over the atrocities that have been committed in Gaza and have yet to provide a statement to show support for the Palestinian community.

“Since October, we’ve felt alone, unheard and silenced. Watching our brothers and sisters suffering has taken a toll on our mental health here at home. This is an attack on our dignity and on humanity.”

She asked where the support was from Pekau, the local businesses, community organizations and schools.

“We haven’t heard anything from anyone,” she said. “Mr. Mayor, the truth is that there is a disconnect. Orland Park is voted one of the safest cities in Illinois. Let’s continue to work on keeping it safe so that all children can grow up and understand that there is more to life than just our own selves.”

Feeling ‘invisible’

Resident Sawsan Jaber said that Palestinian suffering has been erased from the area schools’ curriculum by design and by information from the media.

“The data has shown that our children feel invisible in this community,” she said. “This greatly impacts their standing as academics and as citizens. What does it say to our children and how you value them when you are photographed in the newspaper, Mr. Mayor, supporting a Ukrainian school and youth fundraising efforts while actively hindering Palestinian and humanitarian efforts?

“It is saying that their trauma and well-being are of no value to you.”

She was angered that tax dollars are being used “to support this genocide” and Palestine is an American issue.

“This is not about an Arab community or an American community or a Palestine community – this is about community,” Jaber said.

“We’ve been on the wrong side of history with our Black community and our Japanese community. What side of history are you going to be on, Mr. Mayor?”

Siding with America

Pekau said he is on the side of American policy when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“In that situation, Russia was a U.S. enemy,” Pekau said. “They invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine. That is an ally. We supported our ally and condemned our enemy.

“Our action was nearly unanimously supported by Orland Park residents, Orland Park residents are highly divided on this current issue and therefore, we’re not getting involved.”

Pekau then spoke his own opinion about the Gaza situation and added that these were his views and not the board’s views.

“I see no reason to currently demand a ceasefire,” he said. “Prior to Oct. 6, a ceasefire existed. On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas, a terrorist organization, attacked and fired upon Israel, killing over 1,200 people and taking 240 people hostage including at least 12 Americans.”

He called it the third-most deadly terrorist attack in world history.  He called Hamas “cowards” who are hiding in and among Palestinian civilians while the civilians are getting caught in the middle.

“The situation is horrific,” he said. “And everyone here agrees with that. But the blame needs to be laid at the feet of the people who have ruled Gaza for the last 17 years. There is no doubt that many Gaza people are caught up in this and are suffering and it’s heartbreaking.

“However, Hamas was elected in January, 2006 by the Gaza people and there has not been an election since…and on Jan. 24 Hamas rejected a proposed ceasefire.”

While he said his heart goes out to the innocent people caught in this conflict, Pekau said he is an American first.

“That is where my allegiances lie, period, dot, end of story,” he said. “If you are an American citizen and you don’t feel that way, in my opinion, you are entitled to that opinion, but you can certainly go.

“You can go to another country and support that country and all power to you if you choose to do that. But as long as I’m an American…I will always support America’s interest, which means to support our allies and opposing our enemies.”

POLICE scaled

Police remove visitors from the board room at the Feb. 5 village board meeting in Orland Park.

4 Comments

  1. James Annerino on February 10, 2024 at 11:41 am

    I support our Mayor Mr. Pekau and his opinion 100%. How dare those people use Chicago and San Francisco as good examples as we are in complete opposite views. Gaza = Hamas who are terrorists and killers. It has nothing to do with Palestinians..

    • Fatina on February 11, 2024 at 10:03 pm

      Since October 7th, IDF murdered over 30,000 Palestinians (yes Gazans are Palestinian) from bombing and dropping chemicals, meanwhile Israel is killing off reporters/ journalists so the rest of the world do not witness Israeli war crimes.. current Israeli aggression is still recorded and fortunately viewed daily by the rest of the world….the remainder of the 2 million population being starved, rounded up and humiliated and tortured or killed.. blocking any medical/food aid into Gaza, bombing hospitals and ambulances… homes, schools, universities, churches/mosques flattened.. those who do survive cannot return to a normal life due to lost limbs or lose most if not all their family members. The list goes on.. evil after evil actions from Israeli government… NO not a coincidence, definitely Genocide… Israel and those who support their Genocide will be charged with war crimes… history books will tell another story to brainwash/confuse your children that Israel was innocent and the victim. Orland Park Palestinians want to be acknowledged such that genocide will not repeat itself.. It’s not about them, it’s for the future generations to come. Those who don’t acknowledge the suffering and deny what we all see clearly coming right out of Gaza is complicit with Genocide.

  2. Holly Logan on February 10, 2024 at 1:04 pm

    I like your style Mr. Mayor.
    Too often, political figures bow down and acquiesce just to smooth things over. I respect and agree with your stance. Your argument was valid and factual, not just your own opinion. It’s a shame more American politicians didn’t have your integrity and love and honor of their country.

  3. Jason on February 16, 2024 at 12:11 pm

    Gaza is one giant concentration camp!

Leave a Comment





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