Press release: council refuses to vote on petition

Yesterday we presented the petition signed by at least 7500 people both online and on paper, but the council at the behest of leaders and advice of senior officers, hid behind procedural barriers to avoid having to face the strength of support on this issue and delegated the issue to the Strategy and Resources Committee.

Below is the press release issued by Sheffield  Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid as a result of this cowardly approach.

Here are questions being sent by the Coalition to the Strategy and Resources Committee.

PRESS RELEASE: Sheffield City Council sells itself short

Sheffield City Council was presented with a petition this afternoon calling on them to stand in unity and solidarity with Palestinians currently faced with a genocidal assault in Gaza following years of living under occupation by Israel which Amnesty International, among several international organisations, has designated an apartheid state.

“Supporting the International Court of Justice ruling on genocide, accepting Amnesty’s designation of Israel as practising apartheid, and issuing a statement of unity and solidarity with Palestinians is the next crucial moral step which recognises the reality of life in Palestine and the legally incontrovertible explanations for it.  That would be a major step.” Annie O’Gara summing up in support of the petition.

The petition was signed by over 7,500 people, collected in less than two weeks; it represents the overwhelming view of Sheffield citizens

Offered this opportunity, the Council neglected their duty to set a moral climate, hiding behind narrow legalistic “advice” which they couldn’t adequately explain. But even this advice would have allowed them to make a decision in “exceptional” circumstances. What more “exceptional circumstances” do they need than genocide in Gaza?

As Jonny Feldman said in presenting the petition “For these reasons the council must step up and not be silent. Do not betray your humanity, your basic decency by looking the other way or by kow-towing to external pressures and then pretending that what is happening is justifiable”.

That is precisely what the leadership of the Council then did. Every speech from the floor of the Council gave moving and powerful support to the petition and in favour of accepting it.  As Councillor Peter Price said, in his last meeting after 53 years as a Councillor, said: “if this was Russia we’d be screaming the room down…. I don’t accept that we don’t have influence. Our history is built on this Council taking leads, whether it’s on apartheid or Vietnam, always took a stance and made a statement. It doesn’t change the world but it helped to change minds”.

But the leaders, the Lord Mayor, and senior officers of the Council called an adjournment and then instructed all Councillors, except the Greens, to kick the discussion into the long grass by referring it to the Strategy and Resources Committee that next meets in June! How many more Palestinians have to die before they can decide that this is genocide?

“At the end of their joint statement on Ukraine, the 3 party leaders said the Town Hall would be lit in Ukrainian colours and promised Sheffield will do all it can to “be a light in the darkness.” How dark does life for Palestinians have to get before you do the same for Palestine? You can do it today” said Annie O’Gara speaking to the Council today.