Monday, 25 August 2014

Flying the Palestinian flag

Below is the full text of a comment which appears in a shortened version in the Edinburgh Evening News 25.8.14

"On Thursday as I made my way to the City Chambers, I noted that yet again a street on my route had the pavements obstructed by bins – unemptied from the previous day’s collection.   On my bike I bumped over a section of street surface worthy of a third world country.  As I arrived at the City Chambers I was mulling over what I would say on Gaza at the Council meeting.

The council leader had wisely decided to focus on humanitarian relief in the motion he had put before us but there was still the partisan couple of letters he wanted us to authorise him to send – one castigating the Israeli ambassador and the other expressing ‘solidarity’ with the people of Gaza.
". . . the one sided motion from the council leader is hardly the kind of rush to judgement local councillors in Edinburgh should be making."
The first issue in my mind was the selectivity.  I am moved by the suffering when I see homes destroyed and people killed or injured.  But what of over  190,000 reported killed in Syria; the barbarism of ISIS in Northern Iraq;  the 1.5million refugees facing critical life or death existence in Southern Sudan;  civil war in Libya; over 2,000 deaths in Gaza.  All of these have been widely reported.  Why only compassion for Gaza? 
The next issue is the context.  Does the leader not know that Israel, for all its faults, is a rare functioning democracy in the Middle East?  Does he not know anything of the terror of the thousands of rockets launched against civilian areas of Israel?  Or has he not seen the dramatic footage of the Indian TV crew earlier this month of a rocket being launched from the heart of a residential area of Gaza?  Or the existing threats to eliminate Israel? Or the BBC, Al Jazeera and New York Times articles pointing out that amongst claimed casualties there is a disproportionate number of young men and advising caution about treating the Hamas controlled casualty figures as mainly innocent civilians?  Perhaps some of these things are not clear because of the fog of war – but certainly this readily available information suggests the one sided motion from the council leader is hardly the kind of rush to judgement local councillors in Edinburgh should be making.
But the decision was duly taken to fly the Palestinian flag above the City Chambers in Edinburgh and to promote the DEC appeal for Gaza.  I don’t know for sure if the claims that DEC relief is channelled largely through Hamas control – regarded by some as a terrorist organisation comparable to ISIS – are verified.  But it is certainly a complex and muddy situation.

"The council leader’s empty excuse for refusing to broaden out the compassion in this way does him no credit. For him it is Gaza, Gaza, Gaza. Selective compassion shored up by a jaundiced view of international events."

Much better anyway would have been to support humanitarian relief to the crisis hotspots I mentioned above via Mercy Corps.  Its European HQ is in Sciennes and the Council has already established it as a favoured means of contributing to humanitarian relief.  The council leader’s empty excuse for refusing to broaden out the compassion in this way does him no credit.  For him it is Gaza, Gaza, Gaza.  Selective compassion shored up by a jaundiced view of international events.
And so it seems to be for his Labour and SNP colleagues in the administration who, along with the Greens and LibDems, voted to pronounce judgement on a complex and intractable conflict, fly the flag of one side and decline to show comparable compassion to others in terrible conflicts.
As I made my way home with sadness at the decisions taken, I passed along the same streets.  The waste was still uncollected and I cycled over the same potholes."
You can hear what Cllr Cameron Rose said in the debate last Thursday at this link Council meeting 21/8/14 here:   http://bit.ly/VHSA61

1 comment:

Tom Reilly said...

And with you-with your Edinburgh E News col.
Tom

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