Sheffield Labour Muslim councillors condemn “Israel’s relentless indiscriminate bombing of Gaza”

Nine Sheffield Labour Muslim councillors have issued a joint statement, condemning “Israel’s relentless indiscriminate bombing of Gaza”.
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Their statement calls for an immediate ceasefire as a path to peace and says that the siege of Gaza is in contravention of international law, adding: “Israel’s actions amount to collective punishment and we cannot shy away from using such language.”

The councillors say: “We would encourage all our MPs in Sheffield and beyond to speak up in debates that will no doubt follow in the next few days and weeks in Parliament to condemn Israel’s actions unequivocally and call for an immediate ceasefire.”

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The councillors, who include Labour’s Sheffield Central Parliamentary candidate Coun Abtisam Mohamed and finance committee chair Coun Zahira Naz, have taken a position in direct opposition to the Labour leadership’s stance of backing the right of Israel to defend itself.

Protesters at an October 10 demonstration called by Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign in support of the people of Gaza. People later marched up to Sheffield Town Hall, where protesters climbed up to take down an Israeli flag and replace it with a Palestine one. Picture: Claire ChandlerProtesters at an October 10 demonstration called by Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign in support of the people of Gaza. People later marched up to Sheffield Town Hall, where protesters climbed up to take down an Israeli flag and replace it with a Palestine one. Picture: Claire Chandler
Protesters at an October 10 demonstration called by Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign in support of the people of Gaza. People later marched up to Sheffield Town Hall, where protesters climbed up to take down an Israeli flag and replace it with a Palestine one. Picture: Claire Chandler

Labour cabinet member and Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh made that point in response to a protest outside her constituency office by Palestine Action last week. She also called for all sides to act in accordance with international law and for humanitarian aid corridors to be opened.

A Hamas attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip earlier this month killed more than 1,400 people, with Israel launching retaliatory air strikes.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backed Israeli military action and rejected calls from MPs for a ceasefire. He said the UK will “stand resolutely with Israel as it defends itself”.

Sheffield councillor Abtisam Mohamed, the Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Central when MP Paul Blomfield stands down, was among nine Labour councillors to sign a statement criticising Israel's actions in Gaza. Picture: Sheffield LabourSheffield councillor Abtisam Mohamed, the Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Central when MP Paul Blomfield stands down, was among nine Labour councillors to sign a statement criticising Israel's actions in Gaza. Picture: Sheffield Labour
Sheffield councillor Abtisam Mohamed, the Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Central when MP Paul Blomfield stands down, was among nine Labour councillors to sign a statement criticising Israel's actions in Gaza. Picture: Sheffield Labour
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MP Ms Haigh condemned Hamas for “terrorist atrocities” but said the people of Gaza must not suffer collectively for them.

If Labour moves against the group, it will mean losing its position as the largest party in a situation of no overall control. Labour currently has 31 councillors, two ahead of the LibDems.

That follows the departure of seven Labour members to stand as independents in a row over a new traveller site near Crystal Peaks, which they oppose. Woodhouse Coun Paul Wood announced this week that he has also left Labour to join the group of seven, now called the Sheffield Community Councillors Group.

The Greens have 14 councillors, there is another independent and one Conservative.

Protesters gathering for a Palestine Action demonstration outside Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh's constituency office. Picture: Julia Armstrong, LDRSProtesters gathering for a Palestine Action demonstration outside Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh's constituency office. Picture: Julia Armstrong, LDRS
Protesters gathering for a Palestine Action demonstration outside Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh's constituency office. Picture: Julia Armstrong, LDRS
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A series of large protests have been held in Sheffield in support of Palestine and another will be held on Saturday (October 28) at noon outside the City Hall in Barkers Pool. There is also a national demonstration in London.

At one demonstration, protesters climbed up on to the Town Hall roof to take down an Israeli flag that had been flying and replace it with a Palestinian one. That act was seen on social media around the world.

Here is the full statement:

Sheffield City Council finance committee chair Coun Zahira Naz, who also signed a statement condemning Israel's bombing of Gaza. Picture: Sheffield LabourSheffield City Council finance committee chair Coun Zahira Naz, who also signed a statement condemning Israel's bombing of Gaza. Picture: Sheffield Labour
Sheffield City Council finance committee chair Coun Zahira Naz, who also signed a statement condemning Israel's bombing of Gaza. Picture: Sheffield Labour

When we became elected members we did not just do so as individuals, we did so on behalf of our communities in Sheffield.

We cannot in good conscious remain quiet or be unclear with our language as people look to us to articulate our views in a fair and responsible manner.

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We have been inundated with messages and calls from across Sheffield expressing deep concern and distress over the current situation in Gaza. They look to us to show leadership and do whatever we can to prevent the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in the region and most of all prevent the loss of further life.

Israel’s relentless indiscriminate bombing of Gaza has damaged half of the besieged residential units and displaced 70 percent of the population.

It is devastating that the death toll now exceeds 5,000, of whom 40% are children. This cannot be seen as defence and nor are the actions defendable when innocent civilians are caught up in the devastating situation.

International law forbids sieges of civilian populations, and it is a grave violation of international law to hold them under siege and while doing so deprive them of basic necessities such as electricity, food, and water. Israel’s actions amount to collective punishment and we cannot shy away from using such language.

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We would encourage all our MPs in Sheffield and beyond to speak up in debates that will no doubt follow in the next few days and weeks in Parliament to condemn Israel’s actions unequivocally and call for an immediate ceasefire.

We have had many residents ask why the United Kingdom abstained on a United Nations Security Council resolution authored by Brazil that called for “humanitarian pauses” in the Israel bombing of Gaza. Why would our Government abstain on something that would allow aid and food to get to people in Gaza?

If wars in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and beyond teach us anything, it is that more violence and the killing of civilians do not lead to positive outcomes. What we are witnessing is a stain on humanity and a historic failure of the international community to shy away from resolving this on-going catastrophe.

The images on social media and television of dead children are horrifying. They evoke a universally intuitive anguish that does not come from religious affiliation or political persuasion, but from basic human decency. There is a moral common denominator that we hope we can all agree on: we cannot stand by and watch as innocent civilians die.

We are advocates of peace.

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War does not provide a solution of any kind for any civilian in the region, Israeli or Palestinian. All that will happen is an exacerbation of suffering, an increase in the number of victims, and an increased feeling of injustice.

We echoes the calls for an immediate ceasefire. It is the only path to peace.

Cllr Safiya Saeed, Burngreave ward

ClIr Talib Hussain, Burngreave ward

Cllr Abdul Khayum, Firth Park ward

Cllr Abtisam Mohamed, Firth Park ward

Cllr Zahira Naz, Darnall ward

Cllr Mazher lqbal, Darnall ward

Cllr Nabeela Mowlana, Park and Arbourthorne ward

ClIr Ibby Ullah, Nether Edge and Sharrow ward

Cllr Nighat Basharat, Nether Edge and Sharrow ward