In my previous post I shared my open letter to the leader of Edinburgh Council, Andrew Burns (Lab) in response to his motion supporting raising awareness of the Disasters and Emergencies Committee’s appeal for aid for Gaza, it’s seeking of an agreement to raise the Palestinian flag over a Scottish Town Hall and its political attack on Israel.
The motion can also be viewed on that previous post.
I sent the letter to all 58 councillors. Their names and affiliation can be found on the Council website here: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/councillors/name
Since sending the email as an open letter I have had five replies: three from Conservatives and two from Labour, including Mr Burns himself.
I was initially a little wary of posting the names of those responding, but as they are public figures, I cannot see why I should not do this.
The first to reply was Cameron Rose (Con):
Thank you for copying me your email to the Leader of the Council.
Some of the points you make are the very points I made a I, and my 10 Conservative colleagues, opposed the decision.
You may wish to check out the webcast of what I said (11mins) and the blog posts below.
WEBCAST & LINKS
· Council meeting 21/8/14 http://www.edinburgh.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/144748/tab/speakers#speaker_18501
· Cameron’s blog page link http://cameronrose.blogspot.co.uk/
· Edinburgh Conservative blog page http://edinburghconservativegroup.blogspot.co.uk/
The link to the debate demonstrates the complete ideological blindness, lies, misconceptions, distortions which plague the conflict. Mr Rose’s speech echoes much of what I wrote. His speech can be found around 1hr 49min.
As you can see it’s not just about Gaza, it’s about BDS. That video is worth posting on its own. Gaza is completely confused with the PA territories. The entire narrative of terror is ignored. A Palestinian is asked to speak but the other side is not given at all. This is basically a PSC meeting.
My reply to Cameron Rose.
Thank you, Cameron, I shall certainly do that.
Many thanks for your quick response.
The next email was from Joanna Mowat:
Thank you for this – on this occasion we let the Group Leader, Cllr Rose, speak for the group as he made the points that needed to made well and we were keen that not too much time was expended on this matter given where our duties lie which is not in resolving the Middle East’s problems but delivery of good services for the people of Edinburgh.
Conservative Councillor City Centre Ward
City of Edinburgh Council
0131 529 4077
07718 666 454
Thank you Joanna, I quite agree. He has already responded to me.
It seems only Conservative councillors are willing to respond so far.
I appreciate your reply.
The next email was from Mark McInnes:
Dear Mr Cook
Thank you for your email. I along with the other Conservatives voted against the flag proposal. Unfortunately we were outvoted by the other parties.
Councillor Mark McInnes
Meadows /Morningside Ward
Thank you, Mark
I appreciate your response.
Only Conservatives are responding to me – this is telling.
Next up was Robert Aldridge (Lib Dem) with whom I had an interesting exchange:
Thanks for your email.
The flying of the flag is a gesture of sympathy for the innocent civilians killed in Gaza. Whilst the precise numbers quoted are to be treated with caution it is clear that innocent civilians are being collectively punished for the actions of their government. I think every speaker in the debate was balanced in recognising that Israeli citizens had been subject to rocket attacks, but it is the scale of the bombardment in Gaza and the large numbers of innocent casualties which has it raged so many throughout the world.
I am proud that Edinburgh has shown it stands up for innocent victims and against the disproportionate approach of the Israeli State.
Thank you for your reply.
I would make the following points.
Collectively punished? Do you understand the legal meaning of that slur? Hamas chose to fire rockets at Israel after it evacuated Gaza in 2005. Hamas is dedicated to Israel’s destruction, Hamas uses schools and hospitals and disregards all protected buildings. Hamas builds tunnels in people’s kitchens and under mosques.
Israel tries to minimise casualties with warnings, phone calls, leaflets. What other army in history has done that?
Hamas built dozens of tunnels to infiltrate Israel to terrorise its citizens.
Hamas fires indiscriminately every time it launches a rocket – each firing is a war crime. it even fires at Jerusalem.
By all means criticise Israel’s tactics and allow it to explain why it uses the methods it does, but I would ask you – what would you do in response to thousands of rockets being fired at your family, your schools? How would you like to be running to a bomb shelter with your kids and your elderly? How do you stop this when Hamas embeds itself deliberately in civilian infrastructure in order that YOU have this natural reaction to Israel’s attempts to stop it?
You say a large number of casualties. Let’s say it is 1000 innocents or 1250 innocents. This is appalling. I agree. But as I said in my letter, there need not be ANY. Israel made thousands of attacks, yet ‘only’ 1,000 people were killed – compare to Syria. Is this deliberate targeting or indiscriminate? Name one conflict of this kind where SO FEW have been killed.
I repeat, one death is one too many, but if Israel did not have the defences it has to protect its citizens would you be so glib? 10s of thousands would be killed or injured in Israel. It is Hamas who are indiscriminate, it is Hamas who are collectively punishing Israelis.
Go listen to Col. Richard Kemp who says Israel has done more tha any other army in history to avoid civilian casualties.
So, I agree with your concerns for Gazans, but their plight is mostly due to the actions of their government. Israel is not beyond criticism, but I think that the Left in this country all too easily aligns itself with this particular cause and not so many other deserving causes. Hamas is an Islamist regime that wants to wipe out all Jews.
Think again about where your sympathies lie – it should be EQUALLY with both sets of citizens and not predisposed to demonise Israel defending itself against murderous, genocidal fanatics who hold their own people to ransom with no regard whatsoever for their safety.
Thanks for the email. Without wishing to extend the debate I would simply state that too many people on both sides confuse the people and their governments. I find the actions of the Israeli Government unacceptable, but am a strong supporter of the State of Israel and of Jews throughout the world. Similarly I find the actions of Hamas reprehensible but have expressed sympathy for the innocent civilians who are suffering, perhaps because the Israeli Government has confused Palestinian civilians with one political party which is currently in power in Gaza.”
I understand the meaning of the comment about collective punishment and I continue to believe that a country with the most sophisticated weaponry outside the superpowers could not make so many ‘mistakes.’ My argument is with the Israeli Government which is extremist and not with the State of Israel which I respect and whose right to live in peace .
As you say, we won’t solve the conflict by email, but I appreciate your remarks.
I think the idea that the Netanyahu government is extreme rather than Right wing is not correct, but >90% of Jewish Israelis supported the recent action. This is unprecedented. There are far more extreme elements in Israel and remember, it’s a coalition with many hawks. You may be familiar with coalition politics! All previous peace agreements have been made with Right wing governments!
With regard to distinguishing Hamas from civilians, you must know that Israel daily delivers tonnes of goods and aid, provides power for free, takes in thousands of Gazans to be treated in Israel every year, for free. The blockade and restrictions could be eased but Israel must be assured that this will not simply allow Hamas to rearm.
Some of the ‘mistakes’ were not actual mistakes but maliciously misreported and misunderstood. No point in elaborating in an email but I’m sure every single outrage will be analysed and many truths will come out. I think it’s facile to say just because a country has sophisticated weaponry it will not make mistakes. UK and US make plenty. The implication is that it is negligent or worse. With regard to the boys on the beach, this was an outrage and there is no excuse, except one wonders what sort of parents would allow kids to play in an area used by Hamas for rocket fire.
Anyway, I am grateful for your time and your courtesy. We are not going to agree or persuade each other of everything, but at least we have some common ground.
Kind regards and best wishes
Many thanks for the measured tone of your email. I do appreciate the conflict is not one sided and note that we do have areas of common agreement. I hope that peace talks will be at least as productive as our email exchange and that they result in real progress to a solution which recognises the right of both sides to live within secure borders.
From Lesley Hinds (Lab):
Thank you for your e-mail which I read with interest
No further comment from her, but nice to reply.
Finally, from Mr Burns himself:
Many thanks for your e-mail below … I appreciate the fact you’ve taken the time to get in touch, and do respect the points you make.
Just by way of further background/information – the local Coalition Motion which was agreed, is as at 9.1 on the attached Order Paper – with the inclusion of paragraphs 1,2,3 and 5 of the Green Motion at 9.2. It was further agreed to allow the Palestinian flag for 1 day only.
A draft News Release from yesterday follows immediately below …
… and more generally, the overall wording of the local Coalition Motion attempts to focus on the humanitarian element of the crisis in Gaza, and provides a practical mechanism for providing aid to those in desperate need: not just through the ‘Disasters Emergency Committee’ (DEC) flag being displayed for a considerable time at the front of the City Chambers, but also through the website promotion that will accompany it.
Further information on the DEC Gaza Appeal can be found here: http://www.dec.org.uk/appeals/gaza-crisis-2014
And the Council website now has further details here: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/1628/gaza_flag_to_be_flown_at_city_chambers
& the DEC Gaza Appeal also now features on the Council homepage, bottom-centre here: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk
I appreciate this won’t necessarily be the response you were looking for, but can only hope that you’ll understand we were trying to find a practical mechanism for providing aid, in very contentious circumstances.
many thanks, I appreciate your replying, as I would guess you have had many emails and letters to respond to.
Although it is an extremely sensitive issue to criticise charities, and the Jewish Chronicle found out how contentious it can be with regard to DEC when they printed a full page ad recently, at least one of the members of DEC has alleged links directly to Hamas. This is why I would neither support them nor seek to stop others. It shows the difficult and complex issues of Gaza.
Of course, what Gaza really needs is to get rid of Hamas and build a civil society that does not wish to destroy its neighbour. Until that happens, building and destruction will repeat. No-one wishes for peace and good relations with its neighbour more than Israelis.
Practical mechanisms for aid and humanitarian relief are welcome, they do not require partisan flag-flying or political attacks on Israel. You may not know that in Israel itself there are organisations that provide aid to Gaza (which Hamas tries to refuse) and Israel sends hundreds of trucks through the crossings daily, whilst Egypt keeps its crossing closed. Hamas does not fire thousands of rockets at Egypt.
Over the weekend, Hamas attacked the Erez crossing as Israel was evacuating Gazans for free treatment in Israeli hospitals. Three Israeli Arab drivers were injured and, possibly, the Gazans, too. This was a deliberate attempt by Hamas to kill Israelis in an act of charity and to get the crossing closed so that Israel could be further condemned in the media. They did not spare their own people, which is hardly surprising.
As I write, rockets continue to rain down on the South. All fired from civilian infrastructure. I ask you to think carefully about what you would do. Remember that the maritime blockade and the current restrictions on movement are purely the result of Hamas attacks since 2006. In 2005 there was no blockade, no ‘siege’ and Israel left millions of dollars of agricultural equipment to enable Gaza to kick start its economy. This was all trashed by the people of Gaza. Hamas illegally won the ‘election’ by murdering Fatah members and throwing them off buildings. They then began their terror regime. In the last two days they have summarily executed 21 ‘collaborators’ including two women.
The flag of Palestine does not show sympathy with the civilians in Gaza any more than flying the North Korean flag shows sympathy for those enslaved by that regime. It is a political statement of support for an Islamist, antisemitic, homophobic, misogynist, genocidal regime, whether it’s Hamas or the ‘moderate’ Fatah. One day is one day too long. It is a sop to ignorance and misplaced empathy which continues to rewrite history and reverse cause and effect. Hamas has the same aims as ISIL. Building a Palestinian state is not one of them. Destroying Israel is.
I find it staggering that a local council, which has enough problems to contend with, should devote any of its time to pandering to those malign forces in this country and across the world whose real agenda is to destroy Israel and kill every Jew. Your actions, however insignificant or well-intended, add to a groundswell of ant-Israelism which morphs into antisemitism and is having an increasingly unsettling effect on the Jewish population of the whole of the UK. I don’t for one second suggest that you or anyone else on the Council harbour such views, but words and symbols are very powerful.
I shall be lobbying strongly for the banning of any flags, of any nation, including that of Israel, to be flown by councils in the future. It is divisive and unnecessary.
It would take someone with more time and patience than me to listen to the entire debate and to rebut. I guess that would be an empty exercise. The sound of closed minds is deafening, but it is clear that these people have the views they have because of a combination of ignorance and belief in a false or edited narrative.
The Palestinian is utterly plausible and apparently moderate. His grievances are matters for discussion, but he also tells untruths and is completely unchallenged. What he says is deemed undeniable because he is a Palestinian. He is clearly an objective and reliable source as far as the council coalition is concerned. Were an Israeli to give his/her side of the story, they would not be afforded the same credibility.
The whole exercise conflates so many issues. It’s about Gaza, but they get someone from the territories. They want to show solidarity with the Palestinians but do not condemn Hamas, mention rockets etc. and when the Palestinian speaker does, he says it’s all an excuse because they do the same in the ‘West Bank’, anyway.
No mention of Palestinian rejectionism and the complete unchallenged acceptance of a one-state solution, eradicating the ‘Zionist dream’ in a cloud-cuckoo-land where everyone respects everyone else’s human rights.
I recommend listening to as much of this as you can bear. It is a calm, unemotional debate. It does not take too much imagination to put most of what is being said into the mouth of George Galloway and barely notice the difference.
Maybe this is an insight into how a Lab/Lib Dem coalition would have operated in the UK. Hardly bears thinking about.