Manchester City Council

Gaza and Manchester

This is the text of a statement I made at today's meeting of the City Council;

 

Can I quote from a letter sent on behalf of Labour Councillors in the city:

“This senseless loss of civilian lives is shocking and horrific; the cycle of mutual threat and retaliation have no lasting effect except to reinforce the misery and insecurity of everyone in the region and is making the road to peace even more difficult. There is no military solution for either side in this conflict.  

Further acceleration of violence in recent days requires that our government, together with other countries redouble their efforts to bring about an immediate cessation of violence from both sides”.

That letter about Gaza was sent to the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary five and a half years ago and if anything with over 1000 people, primarily Palestinian civilians killed in the last few weeks, peace is even further away.

I am not going to take sides.  Whatever the justification given, I cannot support Israel ’s bombardments of Gaza , nor can I support Hamas firing rockets into Southern Israel .  Gaza is now in the midst of a humanitarian crisis that requires the immediate opening of crossings to permit the flow of aid, commercial goods and people. It has gone on for far too long.  Israel and Palestine need a permanent ceasefire and the population, Arab and Jew alike need the opportunity to build a secure and prosperous future.

There is no doubt that the current conflict has inflamed emotions in this country and we support as we always have the right of Manchester people to peacefully protest.  However, this Council cannot support those who seek to bring this conflict into our city and drive wedges between communities whose home is not the Middle East but is here in Manchester .  We cannot support the use of language that would not have been out of place in 1930s Germany . We cannot support Manchester businesses, their staff and their customers being subject to abuse and intimidation as they attempt to go about their ordinary, everyday lives.

We do expect GMP to ensure that right to peaceful protest is maintained but we also expect them to deal robustly with anti-semitic incitement, just as we would Islamophobia, homophobia or any other hate crime and we expect them to protect the right of shops to trade, shopworkers to work and their customers to visit them and to do so without fear.
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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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