BELFAST City Council has given a big lead to the workers of Ireland and the UK by voting to urge the UK and Republic of Ireland governments to immediately expel ‘Israeli ambassadors’ from the UK.
At a special meeting councillors have passed a motion stipulating that the local authority would ‘write to the Irish government and the UK government, urging them to expel from office Israeli ambassadors, with immediate effect.’
The motion was proposed by Councillor Fiona Ferguson, of the People Before Profit Alliance Party, and was backed by Sinn Fein, the Green Party and the Social Democratic Labour Party. The minority unionist parties on the council voted to oppose the motion.
Addressing the meeting, Councillor Ferguson said: ‘I think the expulsion of ambassadors is a first step – a preliminary step – to greater action, but it’s an incredibly important and symbolic step.
‘We can set and lead an example for countries in this region of the world … most importantly it answers the call from Palestinians across the world who have asked for ambassadors to be expelled.’
Prior to voting, the council was addressed by an anti-Zionist Jewish activist and a Palestinian nurse living in Belfast.
The resolution states that Israel’s military operation in Gaza amounts to the ‘ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians’ and that the regime’s ‘illegal settlement expansion, represents flagrant breaches of international law’.
It further says normal cooperation with Tel Aviv is ‘untenable’ at a time when ‘a growing list of human rights organisations has determined that Israel’s actions amount to apartheid’.
‘The council recognises the rich history of solidarity and activism in this city from all communities for Palestine, including very recently when a huge demonstration called for an end to Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians; and that such solidarity on the part of our citizens can be an important tool in dismantling support for Israel’s actions,’ the motion reads.
Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian students and activists staged a sit-in protest in front of the Irish Foreign Ministry in Dublin. They blocked the entrance to the ministry, waving signs urging Ireland to expel the Israeli envoy.
The Belfast resolution follows on from two giant marches in London, the second march on May 22 having an attendance of 250,000 plus!
There were a number of UK Labour and trade union leaders on the march.
Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington John McDonnell said: ‘Netanyahu must be imprisoned for war crimes. The campaign for disinvestment in Israel must be stepped up.’
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: ‘Make no mistake, we have seen a victory for Palestine. The young people who have led the fight have stood up to and beaten a nuclear armed state, the most heavily armed in the world.’
National Education Union General Secretary Kevin Courtney said: ‘I am standing here in front of the Trade Unionists for Palestine banner, bearing the names of 15 major unions, the four largest unions in the country – Unite, Unison, GMB, NEU, along with ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, PCS, CWU, UCU, FBU, POA, Equity, the Bakers Union and the United World Transport Union. Trade unionists are here today in solidarity with the general strike in Palestine last week and we need to take similar action for Palestine here.’
The trade unions and Labour MPs must follow the example set by Belfast City Council.
They must demand in the House of Commons that the Israeli ambassador is sent home and that the trade unions must carry out the action called for by NEU leader Courtney at the demonstration and call a general strike in support of Palestine, not just to send the ambassador packing but to recognise the state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.
There is not the slightest doubt that such a call by the TUC would have the immediate support of millions of workers and youth.
There is not a moment to lose. With Israel in a desperate crisis, with no working government, there will never be a better time for taking decisive action.