Tower Hamlets council backs emergency calls on Gaza as Palestinian flag flies over town hall
PUBLISHED: 12:58 31 July 2014 | UPDATED: 16:17 31 July 2014
Lutfur Rahman (@MayorLutfur)
Emergency resolutions were agreed at Tower Hamlets council last night for solidarity with the people of Gaza as Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s controversial Palestinian flag flew over the Town Hall.
Both Labour majority and the independent Mayor’s own Tower Hamlets First administration put forward motions about the Israeli-Hamas conflict.
Only the small Tory Opposition group voiced concerns about councillors getting involved in international politics with no time left to debate the threat to NHS surgeries facing closure in east London.
The Town Hall said it raised the flag “as a humanitarian gesture of solidarity with the victims of the Gaza crisis,” the first local authority to do so in London.
But Labour was first to table its resolution, proposed by cllr Sharia Khatun, urging the Prime Minister to help bring an end to the conflict.
It called on the East End’s two Labour MPs, Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick, to continue pressing the government to take a leading role to “end the humanitarian crisis and secure a cease-fire on the path to peace”.
Tory opposition councillors pointed out the “wider tragedy across the Middle East” with conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya claiming many more lives.
Cllr Chris Chapman said: “This is not really the appropriate place to discuss Gaza, which is more a matter for the government and international bodies.”
But he was booed by Rahman’s councillors and supporters in the gallery.
The Rahman camp, which recently led a delegation the West Bank as part of the Tower Hamlets Jenin Friendship Association, were furious they hadn’t been involved in Labour’s emergency resolution—so they put forward their own motion on Israel’s military actions against Hamas.
Cllr Oli Rahman, who proposed it, said: “The Prime Minister should use his influence and the experience of the Northern Ireland peace process to aid a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Fellow-cabinet member Rabina Khan feared any ceasefire would only be a temporary lull in the fighting.
“We need a long-term solution,” she urged. “There are no winners in the Middle East conflict—just tears, sorrow and body bags.”
But there was disquiet among some backbench councillors that the 45-minute debate had left no time for discussing threats to 22 GP surgeries across east London.
GPs arrived to lobby support to resolve the NHS healthcare crisis—but time had run out in the council chamber.
Conservative Andrew Wood told the Advertiser after the meeting: “Far more civilians are being killed in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria and Ukraine—but Tower Hamlets only focusses on Gaza.
“Nothing was mentioned of the Malaysian Airlines flight shot down in the Ukraine which killed innocent passengers.
“I have spent time in Syria. Hundreds die every week in that conflict, but we don’t fly their flag.”
Councillors are going into foreign policies “making judgement from what they see on TV”, he added.
The sceduled discussion on the NHS healthcare crisis in east London was squeezed out by the Gaza debate.
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