State Rep. Ruwa Romman said this is a moment to promote de-escalation and to understand that everyday people are being impacted by violence.
DULUTH, Ga. — Georgia’s first Palestinian elected official is decrying violence in the wake of escalating violence surrounding the Gaza Strip and calling for a ceasefire.
State Rep. Ruwa Romman issued a statement Saturday night after Hamas ambushed Israel on the ground and via air strikes. As of Saturday, the Israeli death toll sits at around 300 with around 1,500 wounded. In Gaza, at least 232 Palestinians have died and more than 1,600 are wounded.
“What we are seeing unfold is the result of decades of policy failures and an inability by leaders to come to a just solution for all living in the region,” she said in a statement. Read it in full at the bottom of this story.
The lawmaker was 7 years old when she and her family moved from the Middle Eastern country of Jordan to the Peach State. She is the daughter of Palestinian refugees.
Romman was elected last year to the Georgia House of Representatives, District 97 where she represents parts of west Gwinnett County. At 29 years old, she made state history twice. She is the first Muslim woman serving in the House and the first Palestinian ever elected to any office in the state.
“That role comes with an added responsibility of representing a diaspora that rarely has democratically elected representation. As such, I feel compelled to comment on the horrific bloodshed we are witnessing surrounding Gaza,” she said.
In an interview with 11Alive’s Karys Belger, Romman said she was in disbelief when she heard of the escalating violence, calling it unprecedented. She was just as surprised to see local and state officials weigh in knowing they have little jurisdiction over international issues.
“It’s not like one statement in one day is going to sway what happens on the ground,” she said. “Escalation happens regardless of what we do or say.”
That’s why, in her statement, she is aiming to provide context and is encouraging lawmakers to join her in calling for an immediate ceasefire and de-escalation.
“What we are seeing in the region is not sustainable. We absolutely can, and should, condemn violence and terror,” she said in a statement she posted on social media, which can be found in full at the bottom of this story. “We should also condemn escalating settler violence and terror aimed at Palestinian business owners and farmers that has served as a rallying cry for this most recent escalation.”
As a product of the Palestinian diaspora, Romman said people are watching history at play. She also clarified to those unfamiliar with the ongoing conflict, that Hamas is not representative of all Palestinians. Hamas is the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S.
“It’s important to keep in mind that the Palestinian areas are not actually connected,” she said about the state’s geography.
This means there’s not one acting Palestinian authority; there’s no one entity that can speak on behalf of the entire people, she explained.
“It’s incredibly important to remember that this is a diverse group of people and that this has been an ongoing issue and that we can’t keep ignoring the realities on the group,” she said to 11Alive. “All that’s going to do is keep kicking the can down the road until the next escalation, the next set of violence, and then more people are going to get hurt.”
Historically, Romman said, peace treaties and policies were determined before roping in Palestinians – leaving a group of people with little say. She called this a repeated policy failure that needs to change to give the region a chance at peace. It starts with people backing the movement for peace.
“The sad reality is that when there’s oppression and violence – it ends up affecting everybody,” she said. “The worst part is – those impacted the most are civilians who have little to no say in the final decisions that are made on their behalf.”
This is why she wants to use what little power she has in this situation to shed light on generations of violence and encourage those who can help bring an end to it to do so peacefully.
“I sincerely mean this: my heart, and my prayers and my thoughts go to everybody impacted by this because violence is terrifying; violence is scary and it can be very permanent whether physically, mentally or emotionally,” she said.
Watch her full interview below. Her statement can be found after the video.