Tag Archives: israeli apartheid free zone

Solidarity – but with who?

On 6th March the Sheffield Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid presented a petition signed by over 7500 Sheffield citizens at a full council meeting. They refused to debate the issue – even though 7500 was well above the threshold number required of 5000 – passing it to the Strategy and Resources committee, as we have reported previously. Instead they committed to issuing ‘a cross-party statement of solidarity’

This statement was issued on 25th March. It is completely inadequate. It does not even mention Palestine in the title so who it is in solidarity with is perplexing and the word Palestinian does not get a mention in the document itself.

This is in complete disregard to the swell of opinion in Sheffield in support of Palestine and in complete contrast to the statement of support for Ukraine.

The council and your councillor is letting us down. We urge you to vote in the local elections on May 5th for the candidate that most sympathetic with Palestine.

You can read the council statement here . You can read the full Coalition response here.

Here are some questions you can put to your candidate

  • Do you accept Amnesty International’s designation of Israel as a state practising Apartheid across historic Palestine?  YES / NO
  • Do you agree with the International Court of Justice that credible evidence exists that Israel is committing the crime of Genocide in Gaza? YES / NO
  • Do you support the International Court of Justice’s inquiry into the legal consequences of the 57 year long Israeli Occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan? YES /NO
  • Do you support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement? YES/NO

Three Days of action this weekend 5th to 7th April

As Israel pleads the ‘most moral army in the world’ has made a terrible mistake when it has killed some white people, let us make sure the voice for Palestine is heard clearly in Sheffield.

When the complicit and racist governments of the West try to unglue themselves from being seen holding the bloody hands of the Israeli government, let us make sure the voice for Palestine is heard clearly in Sheffield.

When Suella Braverman, the arch backer of genocide, declares with no understanding of the deep irony ‘this is the time to stand with Israel if we believe in democracy and human rights’ let us make sure the voice for Palestine is heard clearly in Sheffield.

Join us on

  • Friday at the train station, for a protest and then the weekly moving tribute to the most targeted group of workers, Gazan health workers;
  • on Saturday in front of the Town Hall for a rally at midday
  • on Sunday to cheer on Sheffield Half Marathon runners who are running for Gaza look out for their signs and wave flags: we are suggesting a couple of places 1/ bottom of Knowle Lane as they turn right off Ecclesall Rd South on the way out. Runners will be coming past there from about 9.50 onwards. 2/ Charter Row, near the junction with Fitzwilliam St from about 10.30 onwards.

Council Update

“our clear intention is to issue a cross party statement of solidarity in line with the petition.” (Tom Hunt council leader)

The presentation of the petition to the council on March 8th was met with a decision by the Full Council not to vote on the petition itself.

So , on Tuesday 12th March, we returned, this time to the Strategy and Resources Committee, to pursue this vital matter on behalf of the 7,500 and more people who signed the petition.

 We asked key questions and here is a very brief summary of the replies:

Q1. When and how will the petition be discussed by Strategy and Resources?

Not on April 12th meeting which falls within the purdah period (too close to local elections) and the issue is deemed “politically sensitive” but as soon as possible after the elections.

It will be considered in its separate component parts and the Committee with reach a decision on each part. Officers will need to give the Committee advice on matters such as legality.

Q2. When will the Cross-Party Group meet to draft the statement of “unity and solidarity” with Palestine, (as Sheffield Council did for Ukraine) and who will be on that Group?

This group will meet as soon as is possible, aiming to do so before the local elections.The group will be the party leaders: Tom Hunt (Labour), Shaffaq Mohammed (Lib Dem), Douglas Johnson (Green) and Diane Hurst (Sheffield Community Councillors group).

Tom Hunt assured us the group would not be partisan in any way.

the flag being flown by protesters on the town hall shortly after the assault on Gaza in 2023

Q3. Why is the flying of the Palestinian flag not included in the new Flag Policy being introduced by the Council, in particular, why is it not being flown on the United Nations Day of Solidarity with Palestine on November 29th, as has been done in the past?

The Palestinian flag will not be flown, in line with the new policy.

NOTE:  We are keeping up the pressure on our Council and will continue to do so. A good number of people came inside the meeting in support and a group outside kept up their chants, all of which could be heard inside as the meeting progressed.

The encouraging comment made by Tom Hunt, cited at the top of this short report is important and we trust this will be the case – never was a statement of solidarity needed more than in the midst of this genocide. We look forward to reading it!

Questions to Strategy and Resources Committee March 12th

As we have reported elsewhere the council has tried to duck any action and responsibility for setting a moral climate in this city by referring the petition signed by 7500 people to the Strategy and Resources Committee.

We are sending three questions to Strategy and Resources Committee March 12th 2024:

Question One

As we understand it, Strategy and Resources is the committee charged with debating matters of “significant strategic importance” and for considering “any policy matter not otherwise allocated to a committee.”

In the light of this, we note that the drafting of a statement of unity and solidarity, agreed in full Council on March 6th, has not been referred to a committee per se, but to a “cross-party group”. Our questions relate to that group.

  • When will this group meet?
  • What is the composition of that group to be?

Matters pertaining to the composition of the group:

In a previous cross-party group of three, a decision was taken by two of the three members to fly the Israeli flag on October 10th 2023. Other West Yorkshire Councils chose to fly the peace flag, so discretion was an option.

  • Would it be appropriate to reconvene only this group of three, given a past decision by two of them to adopt a partisan position?
  • Would it be appropriate to include a member who said on March 6th (inter alia)” …Passing a resolution at Sheffield City Council in November didn’t bring about a ceasefire… If you really think that passing a resolution is going to change the situation on the ground, I have to disagree with you.” ?

Does this committee agree that those utterances suggest a lack of understanding of:

  • the central importance of statements of moral leadership to the role of elected representatives?
  • the way that this builds confidence in the electorate that those elected to serve have high moral integrity?

Can we assure petitioners that the composition of the cross-party group will be made up of members who:

  • inspire confidence that they are equal to the task and understand the clear brief of producing a “statement of unity and solidarity with the Palestinian people”
  • Reflect the supportive tone of Councillors’ contributions in the chamber on March 6th?

Question Two

At the full Council meeting on March 6th , the petition signed by some 7,500 people was discussed. After some intense and revealing debate, it was decided to refer the petition to this committee. Petitioners expressed strong concerns about further delays to the Council’s response to this important petition. They had no option but to
contrast the numerous supportive measures, offered without let or hindrance by the Council, to the Ukrainian people, clearly demonstrated on the city Council’s website.

Unnecessary delays will exacerbate concerns about what is seen as the Council’s selective morality when it comes to some sorely oppressed people, in contrast to others, like Ukrainians.

Community cohesion, often referred to as a priority by Council leadership, cannot be achieved by failure to oppose genocide, apartheid or by flagrant double standards on whose lives we value.

This committee now has the weighty responsibility of discussing further the petition. Our questions today require urgent answers which must then be communicated to the large number of petitioners.

  • What is the time frame for this discussion?
  • Will the matter be tabled for the April 17 th meeting, the agenda of which has not yet been set?
  • How will that discussion be structured? E.g. Will the Strategy and Resources committee consider each element of the petition separately and also reach a determination on them separately (as we understood from comments in Full Council ) ?
  • Will the Strategy and Resources Committee undertake to reach a full decision on all the petition’s elements within that meeting

Question Three

I note that this committee is today considering a report recommending a new flag protocol, and that the report contains a number of days which will be marked by specific flags being flown each year. I note the absence from that list of the United Nations Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, marked on November 29th each year.

General Assembly resolution 32/40B, passed in December 1977, introduced the day of solidarity, and the UN has marked the day ever since. The UN resolution also encourages Member states to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the day of solidarity.

Some of you may not be aware that Sheffield City council flew the Palestinian flag on 29th November each year between 1995 and 2000 but has failed to do so since then.

Recently the leader of the Council has reaffirmed that the Council recognises the State of Palestine. If this is to mean anything at all, it is surely time for the Council to commit to fly the Palestinian flag each November 29th. Will this committee agree to do so?

The council MUST act now!

For 8 days two Palestinian women camped outside the Town Hall supported by many hundred of Sheffield people – who came to visit or stay with them throughout the day and night. They had three clear demands.

Lean (right) and Sahar (left) with Tyneside supporter Annabelle during the camp

The one demand in our grasp at a local level was that the council declare Sheffield an Israeli Apartheid Free zone and take action to ensure none of its operations can have ties with Israel. Please read this to find out what this means and what you can do.

On February 7th hundreds of people will take action for Gaza in their workplace while the council meets in full for the first time this year. In the wake of the ICJ ruling, surely it is time for the council to act:

Apartheid Free Zone now in Sheffield!

(Press release 30th January 2024)