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Council / SIC to debate Gaza ceasefire motion later this month

Councillors Ian Scott and Alex Armitage seen here at a rally outside Lerwick Town hall last year.

A MOTION calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire by all parties in Gaza is set to be debated by Shetland Islands Council after all.

It comes as the scale of air attacks on the city of Rafah, which houses more than a million displaced civilians, has increased significantly over recent days, with the UK Government expressing deep concern about the prospect of an Israeli ground invasion.

An online petition by the Palestinian Solidarity Shetland group has just been launched in support of the motion before councillors.

See a separate open letter to all councillors here.

An urgent motion calling for a ceasefire put forward by Green councillors Alex Armitage and independent Ian Scott at short notice was rejected by council convener Andrea Manson back in December.

At the time Manson ruled the motion incompetent prior to it being lodged, suggesting there were more pressing issues closer to home for the council to consider.

However, a new motion, lodged within the required timeframe for the next full council meeting, will now be part of the agenda for the council meeting on 22 February. The agenda is due to be published on Thursday.

The motion reads: “Shetland Islands Council calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire by all parties in Israel/Palestine, for the immediate provision of all necessary humanitarian aid and the release of all hostages. Shetland Islands Council urges the UK government to use the power at its disposal to achieve these ends.”

Presenting the motion, Armitage said: “I feel strongly that what is happening in Gaza right now is wrong and I believe that our country is complicit in this wrongdoing.

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“I believe that the values of our Shetland community do not align with the stance of the UK government and that the Shetland Islands Council should use the power that we have to speak out.

“Our country is arming the perpetrator, and I think the precautionary principle should apply which means we should hold arms sale to Israel until the court has made its decision.

Council convener Andrea Manson. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

“Meanwhile foreign secretary David Cameron has floated the idea of recognising Palestine as a state, and I think that is what the UK government should do, which would have a political effect on the overall situation.”

Council convener Manson, however, said she had not changed her mind on the issue and felt that Shetland Islands Council should concern itself with matters that affected local people.

“I don’t think the council should be used for grandstanding on international issues, and that is what this is,” she said.

However, she confirmed that the motion will be on the agenda and councillors will vote on whether they want to discuss it.

Spokesperson for Palestinian Solidarity Shetland, Leanne Goodlad, meanwhile said that members of the local group, which regularly meet outside the town hall for a Saturday vigil, were “extremely disappointed” to see the earlier petition turned down.

“I hope that this motion, with the support of the petition signed by local constituents, and following all procedures as expected of a council motion is considered properly instead of being brushed aside, or seen as too political, or too far away,” she said.

“We feel that it is crucial that an action that is morally right should always be done regardless of futility.

“If the concern is that Shetland is unaffected by the ongoing crisis, [then] this is wrong; a number of attendees have personal ties to Palestine and Israel.

“It is increasingly clear that without immense international pressure, the military action will continue.

“With the recent interim judgement of the International Court of Justice, and anticipated ground invasion of Rafah, we are now at a crucial stage of the conflict, and we must consider our country’s own complicity in acts of a potentially genocidal nature.”

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