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Letters / SIC should use its voice to support justice and peace

Last week I submitted a notice of motion to the council: “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 for the release of all hostages. Shetland Islands Council urges the UK government to use the power at its disposal to achieve these ends”.

The motion is seconded by Cllr Ian Scott, and has now been included on the agenda for the next meeting of the SIC on 22nd February. I have had conversations with a number of other councillors who have told me that they will support this motion.

Although SIC has debated motions related to international affairs in the past, it is unusual for issues to be debated that are not directly related to the business of the local authority.

I have previously had discussions with the convenor of the council, Cllr Andrea Manson, about submitting a motion on the issue of Israel/Palestine. Though we both agreed that the events currently unfolding are terrifying, we disagreed about whether it was suitable to discuss this issue in the council chamber.

At that point, I understood that the convenor had the power to veto motions from being on the agenda, but I have since been advised that this is not the case.

I feel strongly that what is happening in Gaza right now is wrong and I believe that our country is complicit in this wrongdoing. 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.

The scale of the destruction, barbarism and killing that has taken place since this conflict reignited early on 7 October 2023 has been horrific. In the space of five months, 28,000 Palestinians have been killed, more than half of whom are women and children, with a similar number losing limbs and suffering other life changing injuries.

Well over 1,000 Israelis have been killed and over 100 Israelis are still held captive in Gaza by Hamas. This has become a political issue in Shetland, with regular letters and articles in the local press and dozens of people on the streets, demonstrating each week outside the town hall.

I understand that hundreds of folk have now signed a petition calling on the council to support our motion.

Both Hamas and the Israeli government have perpetrated actions amounting to war crimes. The International Court of Justice recently found that South Africa’s claim that the Israeli government is conducting a genocide has merit, and needs further investigation.

I am extremely concerned that an international court has found that a genocide may be taking place, and that despite this our government is so reluctant to call for a ceasefire and moreover is still providing arms and political support to the Israeli government.

I stand in solidarity with all ordinary Israelis and Palestinians who are affected by this terror. Whilst the violence has been disproportionate towards the Palestinian people, and demonstrations around the world have rightly tended to focus on the extreme injustices they face, I feel it is also important to highlight that the continuation of this conflict also endangers the lives and the future of Israelis too.

The future security of Israeli people cannot be built on a foundation of Palestinian trauma and subjugation. There must be justice and peace.

In calling for peace, I have been challenged as to how I intend to get rid of Hamas. Let me be clear: we must be rid of Hamas, and their ideology. But far from being extinguished, Hamas’ ideology is only being fuelled by the tyrannical actions of Netenyahu, Smotrich, Ben Gvir and other far-right Israeli ministers.

We get rid of Hamas and their ideology by supporting Israeli and Palestinian movements for justice and peace, not by supporting these tyrants in the Israeli government, who, through their actions, give Hamas so much political oxygen and drive so many traumatised Palestinians into their ranks.

Because of the actions of this far-right Israeli Government, tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians have been killed, dozens of Israeli hostages have been killed, ordinary Israeli citizens are less safe and Hamas is more popular and more powerful than ever.

I believe a genocide is currently taking place. British politicians must withdraw our support from this tyrannical Israeli regime and instead support the growing movement of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians who are calling for peace.

Though we are small and geographically isolated, now is the time that the Shetland Islands Council can and should use its voice, on behalf of our community, to support the principles of justice and peace in the world.

Cllr Alex Armitage
Bigton
Shetland South
Scottish Green Party

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