By John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter: Campaigners have urged Bath and North East Somerset Council to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza — but an attempt to table a cross-party motion on the issue fell apart.
Protests have been happening repeatedly in Bath — as in many cities — since the current conflict between Israel and Hamas began in October, calling for a permanent ceasefire. Campaigners have also called on the council to speak out on the issue.
Delivering a statement at a full meeting of Bath and North East Somerset Council on November 30 as a member of the public, Nicola James urged the council to “act on its moral responsibility to speak out.”
Speaking on behalf of Bath Campaigns Network and a host of other local organisations, she told councillors: “We would like to start by saying that we unequivocally condemn all violence, express deep mourning for all victims, and call for the safe return of those illegally held on both sides in the Israel/Gaza conflict.”
She added: “The civilian death toll in Gaza is catastrophic, including over 6,150 children, thousands still lying under the rubble, and countless wounded in need of urgent medical attention and humanitarian support. This is particularly poignant for our community, with constituents directly impacted.”
She urged councillors to sign a letter calling for a permanent ceasefire. She added: “Past precedents set by this council — such as the climate emergency resolution and lighting up council-owned buildings in Ukrainian flag colours — clearly illustrate a collective belief that our responsibilities extend beyond local boundaries.”
Other organisations supporting the statement included Bath Trades Union Council, Bath Friends of Palestine, Bath Stop War, and Rethinking Security BANES.
Joanna Wright, who leads the Green group on the council, said she reached out to the council’s other political groups about tabling a cross-party “peace motion” but only the Labour group had responded to her with an interest in supporting it. Without support from other groups, a cross-party motion could not be tabled.
Ms Wright told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s the biggest conversation people have with you. A lot of people are devastated by what is happening in the Middle East; people want it to stop.
“I just felt that the voice of our local authority reaching out across the divide as a community is important. We did that for Ukraine.”
The motion would have emphasised solidarity with people affected in Israel and Palestine and underscored the importance of Article 9 of the Human Rights Act, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
In the attack on October 7 by Hamas, the group, which runs Gaza and is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK, crossed into Israel and killed 1,200 people and took about 240 others others hostage. More than 14,800 people have since been killed in Israel’s campaign against Hamas in Gaza according to figures from Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.
A temporary ceasefire lasted for seven days while Hamas released more than 100 hostages and Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners, but ended on the morning of Friday November 1.
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