Dundee council votes to recognise Palestine in ‘symbolic’ move

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The move, described as “largely symbolic”, was backed by 23 of the city’s councillors.

Three councillors from the Conservative group opposed the motion, voting instead to back an amendment which said it should be for UK Government diplomats to determine when recognition would be most appropriate.

Council leader John Alexander said it was disappointing not to have unanimity in the vote.

City leaders heard from the Dundee Nablus Twinning Association alongside Mike Arnott from the Dundee Trades Union Council.

Mr Arnott reminded councillors of the city’s historic links with the territory and the ‘historic decision’ taken in the 1980s to twin with Nablus despite fierce opposition at the time from the UK Government.

Historical connection

Mr Arnott said the twinning project had “deepened and flourished”, with delegations from Dundee visiting Nablus to deliver aid and supplies.

He said that after twinning was announced the then Mayor of Nablus, Bassam Shaka’a, who had his legs blown off in a car bomb, visited Dundee.

“Dundee at the time was home to a pioneering limb manufacturing and fitting centre, one of the presentations the mayor received was a top-of-the-range pair of prosthetic legs,” he said.

Referring to the twinning link, Mr Arnott said nursing students from Nablus had studied at Abertay.

The Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Dr Husam Zomlot, also spoke at the meeting.

Urging councillors to back the motion, he said: “40 years ago Dundee blazed a trail, it did so in the face of fierce opposition.

“Recognition of the State of Palestine will again make history as Dundee will become the first Scottish city to recognise Palestine.

“Of course recognition at local government level is symbolic, we realise that, but it is historic and brave.

“It would I hope send a clear message to the central government here in the UK that it is high time to end one of the world’s longest-lasting injustices.”

He also praised councillors for the proceedings and said he had enjoyed listening to discussions on local issues at the meeting.

He said: Dr Zomlot said: “It is a great honour to welcome a great service to your communities. This is a real inspiration.

Cllr Fraser McPherson, who proposed the motion, said councillors should be proud of the decision to twin with Nablus.

He said: “I think it is very disappointing that the UK Government has not acted on the vote in October 2014 whereby 247 votes to 12 the House of Commons did state that the government should recognise the State of Palestine in securing a peaceful future.

“I think it’s really important on the part of us that we put as much pressure as we can on our own government to act on the decision of the House of Commons.”

Cllr McPherson also asked for councillors to agree to a letter about their decision to be sent to both the UK Government and the Scottish Government.

Oppositon

Conservative councillors instead proposed a motion which asked the council to note the motion but take no action at this time.

Conservative councilor Derek Scott also congratulated the twinning association for its work in promoting cultural ties.

 

He said was supportive of any action to provide a “just and lasting resolution to the occupation”.

He added: “I do agree that Palestine should be recognised a state, but where I differ from the contribution so far is the timing of that.

“The government has said that the UK will recognise Palestine when it best serves the objectives of peace.

“I think I would defer to the diplomats in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who are best placed to make that judgement.”

The vote, which was carried by 23 votes to three, was welcomed by the Palestinian delegation in the UK who tweeted their thanks shortly after the decision.

Source: This article first appeared in the Evening Telegraph, aalong with the cover photo.

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