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Lancaster City Council chief explains why he blocked motion on Gaza ceasefire

Mark Davies (left), chief executive of Lancaster City Council, and (right) Green councillors Tom Fish, Suhir Abuhajar, Caroline Jackson, Sarah McGowan and Hamish Mills

The chief executive of Lancaster City Council has explained why he has not allowed a motion which asked the council to call for a ceasefire in the Middle East.

Mark Davies, the council's chief executive, said the Green party motion is "primarily concerned with international affairs and in my opinion is not a local issue".

The Lancaster Green group put forward the motion asking for issues in Gaza to be discussed at the next full council meeting on December 13.

Councillor Tom Fish, of the Greens, said the motion "would have condemned all anti-semitism, Islamophobia and hate crime and asked the chief executive to write to the Prime Minister to urge Parliament to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza".

And his colleague Councillor Suhir Abuhajar said she was "extremely disappointed" at the decision not to allow it.

Councillors are able to submit proposals, or motions, for discussion at Lancaster City Council meetings, which can then be voted on by members of all political groups on the council. 

But Mr Davies said: “Under the council’s Constitution motions must be about matters for which the council has a responsibility, or which affect the area or residents, workers or visitors to the district.

"The motion is primarily concerned with international affairs and in my opinion is not a local issue.

Councillor Fish, who represents the University ward in Lancaster, said: "We wanted Lancaster City Council to respond to the deep concern and pain of residents over the violence in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank.

"We feel strongly this is a matter that affects local residents- we are an international city -  as has been demonstrated by the turn out to peace vigils and marches in recent weeks in Lancaster.

"Our motion if passed would have condemned all anti-semitism, Islamophobia and hate crime and asked the chief executive to write to the Prime Minister to urge parliament to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. We called on the Prime Minister to end military aid for the conflict and resource and support peace talks.

"This conflict will only be resolved by negotiation.  Unless the voices of all those calling for a ceasefire are heard, the terrible violence will continue."

The image below from Sky News shows the impact of strikes on a refugee camp in Gaza.

Councillor Abuhajar, who represents John O'Gaunt ward in Lancaster, said: “I am extremely disappointed that our motion was ruled out of order.

"We want to ask the Government to do all in its power to advocate for peace and for an immediate and permanent ceasefire.

"So many of our residents want the UK to be the driving force behind a peaceful resolution to this dire humanitarian crisis. I  am proud that the Green Party has consistently called for a permanent ceasefire.

"We have set up a petition so that people can express their support in calling for the council to add its weight to the calls on Government for a ceasefire.“

The motion, backed by all 21 of Lancaster district's Green councillors, said:

"This council notes

- that many people in Lancaster have been deeply affected by the violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, especially those with family members living in the region;

-that protests in Dalton Square in recent weeks have been attended by hundreds of people calling for a long term ceasefire and the end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories;

-that all over the world humanitarian organisations are calling for a ceasefire including those agencies working on the ground in Gaza including; Oxfam, Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontières, Action Aid and Amnesty International.

-that Save The Children have highlighted that the number of children reported killed in Gaza since the beginning of October has surpassed the annual number of children killed across the world's conflict zones since 2019;

Condemns

-all anti-semitism and islamophobia – and hate crime against Palestinians, Israelis, Jewish and Muslim people;

- those people involved in causing hateful and criminal graffiti in our district such as the abhorrent anti-semitic graffiti found in Skerton last month

- the tragic loss of civilian life in both the Hamas attacks on the 7th of October and the ensuing bombardment of the Gaza strip by Israel;

Believes

- Peace among nations is experienced when mutual concerns are justly addressed with understanding, respect and cooperation; where resolutions to disputes come through dialogue and negotiation, arriving at non-exploitative settlements that give consideration entrenched injustices, future generations and our shared environment.

-That community cohesion in our local area is threatened by international violence and can only be improved though peaceful resolution of international issues

Regrets

-the UK Government’s abstention at the UN and against supporting a sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities;

Therefore, this Council resolves to ask the Chief Executive to write to the UK’s Prime Minister, Home Secretary, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to support our residents with connection to Israel and Palestine by :-

1. Calling for an immediate full ceasefire; and to vote for this at the UN;

2. Working for the immediate release of all remaining Israeli and Palestinian hostages;

3. Ceasing all arms sales, and ending military aid to those involved in the conflict;

4. Resourcing and supporting an intense diplomatic initiative to create peace talks and a peace process to find a pathway for a lasting end to violence and a long-term political settlement."

Other councils across the country have had motions on the Gaza crisis allowed and passed by councillors, including in Sheffield, Liverpool and Oxford.

Last month, Preston City Council overwhelmingly backed a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in the region of Gaza and the unconditional release of all hostages and to lobby the Government accordingly.

Ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militant groups have been taking place chiefly in and around the Gaza Strip since early October. Thousands of people have died in the conflict.

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