Two reports from the Leicester Mercury, with JPost’s version in between.
Leicester Mercury: This evening saw hundreds turn out at Leicester’s clock tower to protest against the treatment of Palestinians under attack in the Gaza Strip. The event which started at around 5pm was organised by the ‘Friends of Al Aqsa’ a group which wants freedom in Palestine.
Suleman Nagdi from the Federation of Muslim Organisations said “the event will highlight the issues and will show the people of Palestine that they are not alone, all over the world, I’m sure there are many many cities in many countries that are in solidarity with the Palestinian people”
Leon Charikar from the Leicester Progressive Synagogue was also showing his solidarity and said “I think its important that people can express themselves, express their views, and I hope it’s an opportunity for Jews and Muslims in this county to maintain our good relationships. I have relatives in Israel who are currently going to shelters and I’m sure there are people here as well who have relatives in Palestine, so we just need to try and step back from the violence and try to work together as we do very well in Leicester”
Councillor Dawood’s motion in full:
Leicester City Council recognises the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and free from incursion, but condemns the Government of Israel for its continuing illegal occupation of Palestine’s East Jerusalem and the West Bank; for its continuing blockade of Gaza; and the illegal appropriation of land in the West Bank and settlement buildings.
The Council welcomes the decision of the United Nations on 29 November 2012 to recognise Palestine “non-member observer State”, but for the people of Palestine the suffering since 1967 continues.
The Council also welcomes UK Parliament’s vote on 13th October 2014 to recognise Palestinian Statehood even though the United Kingdom Government fails to do so.
It is with regret we note the Government of Israel continues to ignore and breach International Law, Geneva Convention and UN Resolutions and continues with its occupation of Palestinian territories.
Therefore, Leicester City Council resolves, insofar as legal considerations allow, to boycott any produce originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank until such time as it complies with international law and withdraws from Palestinian Occupied territories.
Leicester is the UK’s 10th largest city; other local councils in Britain may well follow suit.
By Jerry Lewis, JPost
November 26, 2013
LONDON – Leicester city council, which is controlled by Britain’s main opposition party, Labour (it holds 51 of the council’s 55 seats), has instituted a ban of all Israeli goods despite Labour’s leader Ed Miliband saying he and his party oppose any boycotts.
Leicester is the UK’s 10th largest city, situated in the middle of the England, and has a population of 330,000, of whom approximately 93,000 are first or second generation immigrants from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Some 61,000, about 19% of the city’s population, are Muslims, making it the 11th largest concentration of Muslims in the UK.
Its dwindling Jewish community was – at the last census taken in 2012 – just 295 strong, representing 0.1% of the population.
The resolution calling for a ban on Israeli goods was proposed by Councillor Mohammed Dawood and was passed by the city council on November 13.
The motion’s preamble said that Leicester was “renowned for its tolerance, diversity, unity and its strong stance against all forms of discrimination,” which it stated “enables different communities to live together.”
Justifying the motion, Dawood added that was important that “when there is oppression and injustices, that Leicester City Council takes up a position to support communities experiencing such inequalities and in this instance it is the plight of the Palestinian people.”
The council agreed to recognize “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and free from incursion,” but went on to condemn the government of Israel “for its continuing illegal occupation of Palestine’s East Jerusalem and the West Bank; for its continuing blockade of Gaza; and the illegal appropriation of land in the West Bank and settlement buildings.”
While regretting that the Israeli government “continues to ignore and breach international law, Geneva Convention and UN resolutions and continues with its occupation of Palestinian territories,” the councilors resolved “insofar as legal considerations allow, to boycott any produce originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank until such time as it complies with international law and withdraws from Palestinian occupied territories.”
All this flies in the face of the often repeated but rarely publicized statement of Miliband, who, a party spokesman said, “has made clear that Labour does not support boycotts, they are not the answer and do not progress the cause of peace or help foster negotiations and dialogue.”
The Jerusalem Post also understands that another Midlands town council, that of Dudley, near Birmingham, has a similarly worded resolution coming before it next week, and that, emboldened by the recent parliamentary nonbinding vote favoring recognition of a Palestinian state, other local authority councils may well follow suit.
Luke Akehurst, the director of “We believe in Israel,” the UK’s major support organization for Israel and a former Labour councillor and member of Labour’s National Executive, told the Post that he was surprised and disappointed to see a local authority making “such an contentious and unhelpful intervention in a complex international conflict.”
He added that he had hoped that Leicester City Council would have had more regard for local community cohesion and would have realized that gestures such as the resolution were “divisive.”
But drawing on his experience in local government, Akehurst highlighted the laws on procurement of goods and services, which mean “that councils cannot legally discriminate against companies with Israeli connections.”
By Dan J Martin, Leicester Mercury
November 14, 2014
Leicester’s city councillors have voted to condemn Israel’s government for its actions in the Palestine.
City council members held a 70 minute debate on the issue at a full council meeting at the Town Hall last night.
The situation in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank was discussed because Labour member Mohammed Dawood proposed a motion that the council should show solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians.
He also suggested a council boycott of any goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements.
Opposition members had questioned whether it was appropriate for the matter to be raised in the council chamber suggesting local matters, not international ones, should be the council’s priority.
Councillor Dawood, who visited Jerusalem and the West Bank earlier this year with colleague councillor Patrick Kitterick and city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, said the issues’s importance could not be underestimated.
He said: “I know the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) will not be trembling in its shoes and neither will the Israeli state be worried by what we are saying.
“It will show Leicester City Council stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine like we stood against the apartheid system in South Africa because these people are going through the same thing.”
A number of Labour councillors spoke in support of the motion and it was pointed out that hundreds of people had protested at Leicester’s Clock Tower about the recent Israeli military operation in Gaza.
Tory councillor Ross Grant accepted the importance of the issue but he felt it was wrong to single out this one when there had been no council discussions about other international crises like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He said: “Hasn’t this got more to do with coming elections than serving the people of Leicester? I don’t feel this issue can be debated effectively in this council.”
Sir Peter had left the chamber four hours into the meeting, before the debate began but had earlier told Coun Grant it was right to discuss the “desperate” situation in Palestine.
He said: “It is certainly my view that matters such as these are of public concern for residents and the people of Leicester and so are justifiably a matter of concern for its council.
“The argument we should not, as a city and a council, express an opinion on national or international matters is not a new one.
“It is however a very narrow-minded one. There is a strong sense in our community that what is taking place in the West Bank is in many of its facets similar to apartheid.
“The council was right to express opposition to apartheid in South Africa and the concern we are now expressing about the situation in Palestine is equally appropriate for us to debate in the council chamber.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Porter said the boycott amounted to very little and criticised the mayor for leaving the chamber before the debate began.
Labour councillor Patrick Kitterick said the Lib Dem’s comments were disgraceful.
It was pointed out Coun Porter himself left before the debate concluded.
Deputy mayor councillor Rory Palmer said Coun Porter’s comments were silly. He said: “He (the mayor) isn’t here at this point in the meeting for family reasons and anybody who has read or has heard his comments following his visit to Palestine and the fact that he was part of the delegation make pretty clear what the city mayor thinks about this debate this evening.”