The recent attack on Israel carried out from Gaza by Hamas was an appalling act of terrorism that killed many civilians, and has been rightly condemned.

Israel has the right to defend itself, but the current actions of the Israeli government seem to amount to collective punishment of the people of Gaza and may be in breach of international law. They have created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and millions of people who played no part in the attacks, many of them children, are suffering. People in Gaza have no food, water, or power. Hospitals cannot function. There is no safe place, no exit, and currently very little aid is being allowed in.

I grieve for everyone killed or harmed, in Gaza or in Israel, by acts of terror or in retaliation. I want Hamas to stop terrorising not just Israel but the population of Gaza. I want the Israeli government to turn from its current path and operate within international law, allowing aid and supplies to a desperate population that has already suffered so much.

And I want those politicians and others in the UK who may have some influence on the Israeli government, particularly the leadership of the Labour Party, to make it clear that Israel must pull back from causing such suffering to those living in Gaza. Standing to one side is to side with the death of many innocent people, and we must speak out.

I also endorse the statement which was read by Mayor Jenny Gawthrope Wood at the meeting of Cambridge City Council on October 19 2023. It is published on the council website, but I wanted to reproduce it here:

“As Mayor I now wish to make the following statement on the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

“On behalf of the city council and residents of Cambridge, I would like to express this city’s collective condolences, support, and solidarity to everyone that has suffered and is suffering in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

“This is a horrible situation and we are appalled by all and any acts of violence. Any loss of civilian life is unbearable and unacceptable.

“We recognise that different communities have suffered loss, and we call for a cessation of violence, for international diplomacy, and for peace.

“All communities in the Middle East are entitled to have their human rights respected. We must also respect the needs of all communities to grieve the devastating loss of family members and friends on their own terms. 

“We know that some Cambridge residents have been directly affected by the tragic events of the last two weeks.

“The city council and us as Members have a duty to support and facilitate community cohesion and promote good relations between the different faiths and cultures that live and worship side by side peacefully in Cambridge.

“We take this responsibility seriously and care about it deeply. We must all play our part to help heal the tragic wounds caused thousands of miles away in Israel, in Gaza and in the West Bank.

“As Chair of this council and Mayor of the City of Cambridge, I call on all communities in Cambridge to continue to respect each other, each other’s right to express themselves peacefully, within the law, and to be able go about their daily lives without the fear of threats, reprisal, or intimidation.

“I would like to remind you all that Cambridge is a City of Sanctuary. We are a proudly diverse city and we have a tradition of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees, and for upholding and respecting the human rights and dignity of all peoples.

“On 24th October many communities and nations will mark United Nations Day. It is a day of reflection, and a day of aspiration – for the world we want to become. Above all, United Nations Day is ‘rooted in a spirit of determination to heal divisions, repair relations and build peace’.

“As a council we recognise that it is the responsibility of all nations, and governmental bodies at all levels, including local government, business, and civil society to help build that world of peace, of sustainable development, and human rights for all.

“We call on the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, to use his good offices to support a peaceful resolution of the conflict, to ensure that humanitarian and international aid can safely reach the people of Gaza, the return of hostages, and to continue to support a two-State solution.

“And we call on all Heads of State and Government around the world to demonstrate leadership at this important time – to build bridges, to support peace in the Middle East and to avoid actions that could spill over into further bloodshed.

“Mahatma Gandhi taught us all that we, ‘… must be the change [we] wish to see in the world’, and also that, ‘an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.’  

“May I now ask you all to stand for a minute’s silence.”

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