Issue of the Day: 13 January 2009

In view of:-

(a) the decision of the Israeli government to attack Gaza from the weekend of 3rd January 2009 which has resulted in a humanitarian crisis; the major importance of preventing the loss of any further lives; the need to minimise the danger for Birmingham City Council and Birmingham citizens of a negative impact on community cohesion and to pre-empt any violent extremist agenda;

(b) the matters proposed being related to the business of the City Council as per (a) above and directly related to the great disquiet being expressed by thousands of Birmingham citizens in demonstrations taking place in the City – including one that took place in the Council Chamber on 5th January 2009 at 6:30pm, at which Councillors from all the Political Parties addressed the gathering; and

(c) the fact that there are no other means under the Council’s Standing Orders to allow a reasonable debate on this important issue for promoting world peace and harmony between citizens of all faiths,

Councillors Salma Yaqoob, James Hutchings, Tariq Khan and Tahir Ali invite the Council on a cross-party basis to note that:

• Over 900 hundred people have already died as a result of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, including many innocent women and children. Thousands more have been injured and many more are likely to lose their lives, their livelihood and their homes;

• Over 10 Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets;

• This latest war on the Palestinians comes after they have been imprisoned, for the past 18 months or so, by Israeli blockades and sanctions that have restricted the essential supplies of food, water, electricity and medical supplies;

• In the words of John Ging, Gaza’s Director of Operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, “these sanctions are not working, but because of their profound inhumanity, they are counterproductive to their stated purpose and while Gaza is not yet an entity populated by people hostile to their neighbour, it inevitably will be if the current approach of collective punitive sanctions continues.” (Independent Newspaper, 23 November 2007)

• The EU has applied sanctions of its own on the Palestinians following the election of Hamas as government

• Despite the violation of over 100 UN Resolutions no sanctions have been applied to Israel;

• War in the Middle East has the potential to act as a recruiting sergeant in the UK, Birmingham and elsewhere for those who seek to exploit the plight of the Palestinians and thereby increases the risk to UK and Birmingham citizens of terrorist attacks;

• The roots and solutions to the present conflict lie in politics, not in division along religious lines. Birmingham is proud of its multicultural identity. It is a city of many faiths and no faith. The City Council is committed to combating racism and intolerance in all its forms, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia;

• Thousands of people in Birmingham continue to demonstrate their concern about the current humanitarian crisis. We believe there are peaceful alternatives to war and international pressure needs to be applied to all sides, including the Israeli government, to seek a diplomatic solution to the problems of the region and, to that end, the UK Government, Local Government and other community leaders must continue their calls for an immediate cease-fire and the end of hostilities, by both sides, and ensure the economic blockade of Gaza is lifted to avoid any further humanitarian disasters; and

• Birmingham, as the largest local authority in Europe and a Fair Trade City which seeks to uphold high ethical standards, should show leadership to the rest of local government and requests the Executive to consider lobbying the government to permit local authorities to exercise moral, ethical and human rights considerations in the procurement, commissioning or otherwise sourcing of any products, goods or services from countries which continuously flout international laws and UN resolutions.

Councillor Salma Yaqoob………………….. Councillor James Hutchings……………

Councillor Tariq Khan……………………. Councillor Tahir Ali …………………………..