Last Tuesday’s debate in the Council was mostly one-sided and only one voice spoke against the motion and its various amendments, all condemning Israel out of hand for retaliating with ‘disproportionate force’, without bfingeringthe root cause of the latest conflaguration, Hamas firing rockets at Israel. For the record, here is what I said during the debate.
Speech on Gaza Motion 27 January 2009 Cllr Ricky Duveen
I understand that many people in England have been upset by what has happened in
Gaza in the last month. However, to propose a motion that is one-sided in outlook and aimed solely at blaming Israel for the trouble is both narrow-minded and pointless, but also divisive to the people of
Reading that we represent.
I should make clear here that I have a personal interest in the Middle East, as an Israeli citizen (I hold dual nationality) and as someone who lived there for many years, did his national service there and who has many friends and family still living in Israel. Three years ago Israel withdrew from Gaza and the world held its breath hoping for a new dawn of progress towards an overall settlement in the region. Since then, Hamas has won an election, taken over the government of Gaza and brutally suppressed supporters of the rival Fatah movement.
Gaza is very much a one-party state. Hamas has dedicated itself not to just ruling Gaza but to destroying the State of Israel. Despite the 1.5 million Palestinians living in abject poverty in
Gaza, most of whom are reliant on aid from donor countries, it has spent much of its time and resources stockpiling rockets to fire at Israeli towns. They fire these rockets from within one of the most densely populated areas of the region and hundreds have been launched at
Israel before during and after the ceasefire the ended in December, never mind the last few weeks of actual war. They did so in the knowledge that Israel would defend itself by attacking the rocket launchers and the Hamas fighters that launch them. They almost prayed for Israeli retribution and the propaganda victory they would take from it. I do not doubt their attachment to their cause, but let us be clear – their cause is the destruction of
The Israeli government has stated on numerous occasions that it will take whatever measures are necessary to halt the rocket attacks on its citizens. The warnings went unheeded and the rockets continued to be fired.
No-one celebrates the loss of 1,200 lives, innocent or otherwise. No-one celebrates the destruction of the last month. No-one celebrates the suffering inflicted on a civilian population. But wiser heads will realise that there was no other way to stop Hamas.
This motion is borne out of support for Hamas, an avowedly terrorist organisation whose sole aim appears to be the spilling of Jewish blood and the destruction of the State of Israel.
The motion itself appears to stem from a meeting some weeks ago which was apparently held in the spirit of community cohesion. It just happened to avoid inviting members of one particular community who would have had a very different view. I do not think community cohesion had much to do that particular meeting.
The motion then utterly fails to mention Hamas at all and lays all the blame for the recent fighting on Israel. Someone really should remove the blinkers from Labour Party councillors once in a while and allow them to see reality. What started a war was Hamas firing off rockets at Israeli towns and villages. Their whole purpose was to goad
Israel into a response and when it happened it was, of course, disproportionate. The use of disproportionate force is why armies concentrate their resources to attack the other side, its what wins battles quickly. The motion fails to make any mention of Hamas’ tactics of hiding itself in amongst the densely populated area of the
Middle East, using schools and hospitals to conceal weapons and fighters.
To those who say Israel’s blockade of Gaza has been debilitating and that the response to rocket attacks was disproportionate, let me say this – that without them the rockets would still be falling on Israeli towns and villages and not just hundreds, but in their thousands. No-one has ever yet managed to talk Hamas into stopping rocket attacks, they are an organisation of terrorists dedicated to death and destruction. Only the brutal use of force has stopped them. This motion merely gives them the succour and support that they crave from Europe. It does not even pretend to be even-handed.
This Council must never be seen to offer support to blatantly terrorist organisations like Hamas.
The resolution ends by “instructing the Chief Executive to investigate what options are open to the Council in terms of its purchasing and other policies to bring pressure to bear on the Israeli government.” So that’s clear then, its OK to trade with China, Bielorussia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other bastions of democracy, but not Israel.
I would also like to point out one or two things to those who have not noticed the undertones of the debate outside these walls.
Reading is proud of its international links, with people from many nations across the world living and working in Reading in peace and harmony. Yesterday we heard the Muslim Council of Britain, which represents 500 Muslim organisations in this country has decided to boycott the national Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations in protest at the Israeli actions in Gaza. They do not distinguish between Jews who live in
Britain and Israelis, they are all, apparently, the enemy. I would like to take this opportunity of asking
Reading’s Muslim community not to boycott this Memorial Day but to use it to reflect on where blind hatred leads.
To sum up – this insidious motion, put together by blinkered Labour Party hacks, is one-sided, it ignores the role of Hamas entirely and serves only to divide the community of
Reading in which we all live. I urge members to join me in voting against it.