Eastbourne councillors back calls for ceasefire in Gaza

Eastbourne councillors have backed calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
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On Wednesday (February 28), Eastbourne Borough Council committed to write to the government and urge it to press all parties to agree “an urgent permanent, bilateral ceasefire in Gaza, Israel and the rest of Palestine”.

The commitment came as part of a motion tabled by Liberal Democrat council leader Stephen Holt, which also called on the authority to offer support to residents who have been affected by the conflict and to facilitate “events for people of all faiths and none, where they can come together and express solidarity and sadness in response to these events.”

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Cllr Holt said: “I am sure, first of all, that all councillors would want me to share their sympathies on behalf of the council to all those affected by the conflict in Israel and Palestine and those, in Eastbourne particularly, who have suffered.

Demonstrators outside Eastbourne Town Hall ahead of a ceasefire motionDemonstrators outside Eastbourne Town Hall ahead of a ceasefire motion
Demonstrators outside Eastbourne Town Hall ahead of a ceasefire motion

“These are undoubtedly tragic events and they cannot be allowed to divide our communities or be justification for antisemitism or Islamophobia, which has sadly increased across the country.

“I want to make clear that any forms of hatred are unacceptable not only to this council, but our town.”

He added: “This motion follows others, passed across the UK, calling on the government to push for an urgent, permanent, bilateral ceasefire.

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“I would like to add the weight of this council to their calls to try to do our bit to bring a cessation of violence now that will help alleviate the tragedy impacting innocent civilians on both sides and pointing the way to a two-state solution and a lasting peace to the 75-year conflict forevermore”.

Before discussing the motion, councillors heard from Martin Smith of the Eastbourne Palestine Solidarity Campaign who spoke about the impact of the conflict, saying Gaza had “become an uninhabitable bomb site”.

Mr Smith also welcomed the motion saying it was “in the spirit of generosity shown by the people of Eastbourne to others in peril.” Members of the group held a demonstration outside the town hall to express this support ahead of the meeting.

While the motion was agreed on a majority vote, it passed without support of the council’s Conservative group, with its members expressing unease about writing to the government on an ‘international issue’.

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Conservative group leader Robert Smart said: “My group deplores all loss of life and freedom, whether in Israel, Gaza, Ukraine, UK or elsewhere, but does not believe this is the appropriate forum for proposing political solutions to such international issues.

“We are not putting forward an amendment, but could have supported resolutions one and two [to support residents affected by the conflict and to facilitate solidarity events]. We will therefore abstain on this motion.”

In response, Cllr Holt said: “I appreciate the opposition may feel it more appropriate to abstain, but regardless of their position on this I am sure they will be very willing and keen to work with us on points one and two with regards to the council resolution.

“I thank them for their support on that and I look forward to working with other community groups with regards to finding ways that when something like this happens, regardless of where, we can come together as a community to support those who need it the most.”