Bath Voice News: Emotions run high as Council debates statement supporting a ceasefire in Gaza but stop short of the Green Party’s proposal to urge the Government to demand a ceasefire

By Local Democracy Reporter John Wimperis: A council meeting in Bath was dominated by the issue of Gaza on Thursday, as protestors urged their local councillors to do more to support a ceasefire.

Main photo: Green councillors on Bath and North East Somerset Council Joanna Wright (centre left), Saskia Heijltjes (centre), and Sam Ross (centre right) at the protest outside the Guildhall on Thursday March 14 (Image: John Wimperis)

A statement from all group leaders expressing their “deep sympathy” for all those affected and hope for an immediate ceasefire and release of all hostages was read out, but protestors argued that Bath and North East Somerset Council should still pass a motion to tell the government to call for a ceasefire.

Sophie Higgins holds a sign at the protest reading \”Do Better B&NES\” (Image: John Wimperis)

It comes after ceasefire motions were passed by Somerset Council and North Somerset Council, but an attempt by the Green group on Bath and North East Somerset Council to table a motion was judged to be unconstitutional as it did not relate to the council’s responsibilities and functions. As well as calling for a ceasefire, the motion would have called on the government to freeze assets of some Israeli cabinet members and review arms sales, amongst other actions.

Protestors gathered outside the Guildhall in Bath on Thursday night (March 14) from an hour before the meeting was due to start. Protestors held placards bearing pictures of Gazan children and read out the names of children killed since October 7, with a chant of “killed by Israel.” Inside, six members of the public addressed the council on the issue.

Mohammed Alruzzi addresses Bath and North East Somerset Council (Image: Bath & North East Somerset Council)

Among them was Mohammed Alruzzi, who comes from Gaza. He told councillors: “When you neglect the call for a ceasefire you are not only turning away from the suffering of the people in Gaza. But you are also turning away from the values that we claim to uphold too. You are telling our citizens and residents that their efforts for peace and justice are supine and their voices do not matter.

“This council has a responsibility. It has a responsibility to reflect the conscience of our community, should represent us. By abstaining from calling for a ceasefire, we are not only failing the Palestinian people in Gaza, where the death toll includes significant numbers of children and women, but we are also failing our own principles and values of human life.”

Protestors read out the names of children killed in Gaza outside the Guildhall on March 14 (Image: John Wimperis)

Mr Alruzzi thanked council leader Kevin Guy for the council’s statement, which Mr Guy described as a “unanimous” call for a ceasefire. But others warned that the statement was not the same as the council passing a resolution.

Green group leader Joanna Wright said: “This statement has no teeth because it does not call for the council to write to the government and demand action be taken.” Commenting in a statement issued by the group, Greens also called it “inconsistent” that the council had passed a motion supporting Ukrainian refugees in 2022 and signed a friendship agreement with a Ukrainian city.

The council statement, read out at the meeting by chair of the council Sarah Moore on behalf of all group leaders, stated: “We would like to express deep sympathy for all those affected by the conflict in Palestine and Israel. To those in the Bath and North East Somerset area who have been affected by this conflict, we offer our support during this difficult time. 

“We hope for an immediate ceasefire and a peaceful resolution to this conflict. We hope for the immediate release of all hostages and for aid to be delivered.

“We believe that Muslims, Jews and people of all faiths and none should feel safe and supported throughout the world and we therefore condemn the increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic violence and abuse in the UK. In particular, we condemn the use of all dehumanising language and call on our communities to treat each other with respect and refrain from inflammatory terms to describe either the Palestinian or Israeli populations.”

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