Success! Edinburgh City Council Withdraws Discussion on Twinning With Gaza
Last week I posted about Edinburgh City Council’s formal announcement that it will discuss on March 29th (today) a petition – created by antisemite Pete Gregson – calling for the twinning of Gaza with Edinburgh.
I have some great news:
Petitioners bid on Edinburgh- Gaza twinning spiked
At 17:00 hrs on Monday 28th March, just 17 hours before twinning Edinburgh with Gaza City was to be discussed, Edinburgh Council announced that the item had been withdrawn from the committee agenda, to allow officers to “give full consideration to legal matters raised since publication of the agenda”.
We were told that the Israeli authorities have challenged any consideration of the matter, even to negatively consider, as unlawful, on grounds it “could” support Hamas- a listed terrorist organisation. The Council Legal team had no expertise on that part of law so they’re having to check.
The Israeli intervention was prompted by the UK Lawyers for Israel threat of 24th March which warned Councillors that if they went ahead and twinned, they could be facing 14 years in prison, using Priti Patel’s anti-Hamas legislation of last November.
Petitioner Pete Gregson, who was due to address Committee after calling for the bid, said “Israel are saying that even to discuss Hamas NEGATIVELY is to support it. This is ridiculous conjecture. Israel is undermining our democracy with threats, stopping friendly relations between cities.”
Our last posting includes the Gaza Council press release, also sent to Edinburgh Councillors, which also shows no Hamas involvement
On Monday afternoon, Edinburgh Council leaders had also been informed by Cllr Padraig McShane, ex-Moyle Council, who has been through this before, not to worry.
(Cllr McShane is currently with Causeway Coast & Glens Council, who absorbed Moyle a couple of years ago, which meant the twinning with Gaza, set up in 2012 by Cllr McShane, ceased.)
Cllr McShane had faced a similar legal threat back in 2012. A similar communication was sent to Moyle District Council. It resulted in the Council choosing to hear from the Home Office, Foreign Office and the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). None could find fault with the Twinning. Cllr McShane has told the Edinburgh Council Legal Dept and Council leaders: “This UKLFI threat is entirely a red herring. A twinning agreement is between two sets of people.”
However, the Council officers felt too threatened to listen and pulled the report from the Policy Committee meeting agenda that was scheduled for Tuesday – it was originally item 7.8 on https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/documents/g6094/Agenda%20frontsheet%2029th-Mar-2022%2010.00%20Policy%20and%20Sustainability%20Committee.pdf?T=0
The Gaza Mayor, Dr. Yahya Sarraj, was originally planning to address the meeting. A number of other groups supporting the twinning bid expressed disappointed sentiments (there had been 15 letters of support in all).
Pete Gregson, the petitioner, said:
“This is the terrible news that we feared most. It appears that the UKLFI weren’t getting anywhere so they called up Israel itself, who made such a fuss that the Council officers caved in. The UKLFI told the Council to pull the twinning item last Thursday, the Council ignored them… and then on Monday at about 3pm it seems Naftali Bennet might have called them himself- anyway, the corporate lawyers at the Council just said “this is beyond our expertise” and told the Councillors to pull it. [yes, it does seem odd that officers now tell the Councillors what to do, and not the other way round, but that is where we are]. What it is very important, though, is for us not to attack the Council for being so fearful- we must keep them on our side.
I would like to think my post, coupled with many of you contacting the council, also had an impact (as I am sure David Collier’s post did).
Gregson and his terror-buddies are imploring people to contact major media outlets and “kick up a stink.” They also found an as-a-Jew lawyer to help them.
“It’s only if we kick up a stink that we can stop Israel doing this. There is a group in Hastings trying to twin with Al-Mawasi in Gaza- they’ll be next.
“Now that the report has been pulled, it will be mid-June before the Council discuss it again, during which time the Israelis will do their very best to make sure twinning with Gaza never happens. They mean to isolate the Gazans forever- we don’t want to let them beat us on this.
“There is an election coming on 4th May and all through April there will be husting events- I have done these before- it’s a perfect time to put candidates on the spot, asking them for their view on Israel controlling our democracy. To tell us that “even negatively considering” twinning is to commit a crime is outrageous..
“The Israelis are drunk on their own power and now is the time to take a stand on this.
“Please help us to get our politicians and our media going on this. Many of you used the website to write to the Councillors once- let’s use it to write to them again, expressing our dismay that Israel is dictating to our elected members what they can and cannot say about Palestine. There is a new letter you can use at What you can do – Twin Edinburgh with Gaza (twingaza.com) “
Michael Mansfield QC may help us
The petitioner knows Michael from previous campaigning and asked him to help; Michael got back to say “Stand firm”. We’ve asked Michael if he will get more involved and we’ve asked our Council Leaders if they might consider working with him.
Michael is simply the best rights lawyer we have in the UK. Recently described as the King of Human Rights work (see Michael Mansfield – Wikipedia). There is no case that he has not been at the centre of- Grenfell, Bloody Sunday, Birmingham Six, the Hillsborough disaster and the deaths of Jean Charles de Menezes and Dodi Al-Fayed and the McLibel case.
Michael is Jewish. And he is angry about Israel; see www.electronicintifada.net/content/un-must-prosecute-israel-war-crimes-says-bloody-sunday-lawyer/10987 He says of Palestine “I cannot turn my back to it.”
For now, I am glad they have suffered this setback. I hope it is one of many!
Update: Gregson has sent David Collier this racist email:
He also contacted me and wrote:
Let’s have a discussion on Amnesty’s 15 minute video “Israel Apartheid Explainer” at youtu.be/AUGICfaULXA.
Any time, Gregson. Want to set up a “discussion” so I can rip you a new one?