Following a vote on the following motion, two BCP councillors abstained on the following motion.

The Motion

That this Council:

Expresses deep sympathy for all those affected by the conflict in Israel and Palestine. To those in the BCP area who have been affected by this conflict we offer our support in this difficult time.

• Hopes for an immediate further release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire to allow more aid and the possibility of a peaceful resolution.

• Believes Muslims, Jews and people of all faiths and none should feel safe and supported throughout the world; that the increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic violence in the UK is reprehensible and should be punished to the full extent of the law. This Council resolves to

• Through the equalities action commission explore how the council can better support and facilitate events for people of all faiths and none where they can come together and express solidarity and sadness in response to these events.

• Offer appropriate support to any local resident who needs our assistance as a result of these violent events. • Stand ready to provide support and open our arms to innocent people displaced and affected by these events.

• Condemn the use of all dehumanising language and calls on our communities to treat each other with respect and refrain from inflammatory terms to describe either the Palestinian or Israeli populations.

• Continue flying the UN flag as a symbol of peace outside the Civic Centre until a ceasefire is agreed.

A motion that supported the victims on both sides of the conflict appeared to be a straightforward human response. However, two councillors, the Liberal Democrat leader of the council, Vikki Slade (Broadstone), and the Labour councillor, Partick Canavan (Boscombe), chose to abstain.

On contacting Councillor Slade, she was very clear why she could not vote for the motion but would have if worded differently:

“I worked really hard with Cllr. Joe Salmon on the wording of the motion in advance of it coming to the council in November and had every intention of supporting it.  The only reason I had to abstain is because of the wording around the Equalities Action Commission. This group no longer exists, and despite my efforts to make this clear and ask for this element of the motion to be removed, it was retained. 

I was the Cllr who was instrumental in getting the UN Peace Flag flown outside the council, which continues to fly and will do so until a ceasefire is agreed.  At the time, we were asked by Michael Gove, Secretary of State, to fly the Israel flag, and I refused to do so.  This felt to me like the right way forward, and I hope your readers agree that we have demonstrated a supportive way forward to enable safe protest and support for all those who feel strongly about this.

Finally, I would add that you only have to search my social media to see my absolute support for the people of Gaza, my condemnation of both the Hamas terrorists AND the Government of Israel over the civilian attacks, and the terrible toll on people just trying to live their lives.  The Liberal Democrats have the only Palestinian MP in the UK Parliament, Layla Moran, and she has led the way in calling for a ceasefire.  Our party’s position is to call for an immediate bilateral ceasefire and I support that.  Had Cllr. Salmon removed the element around the EAC, I would have voted for this motion alongside my colleagues.”

We contacted Patrick Canavan but have not yet received a response.

Councillor Slade’s response very much throws up a very concerning development. The fact that Michael Gove asked councils across the country to promote a genocidal and apartheid state by flying their flag at council offices is a very sinister act. When attempting to unite behind a peaceful settlement, it is crucial not to be partisan, especially when supporting a state (Israel) with such a long history of cruelty and controversy. The people of Gaza are not HAMAS. The actions of Hamas are independent of those of Palestinians.

If this were Northern Ireland in the 1970’s, would we support the widespread slaughter of Irish people because of the actions of the IRA or UDF, for example? No! therefore we should not be doing so now.

Michael Gove is effectively a supporter of terrorism and war crimes by making this request, and this should be remembered when judgement falls.

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