Image Credit: A K M Adam via flickr

Oxford City Council passes unanimous motion for ceasefire in Gaza

Councillors for the Oxford City Council have voted unanimously on November 27th to pass a motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The motion obliges Council Leader Susan Brown to write a letter insisting on an “immediate, permanent” ceasefire, addressed to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, and Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds.

The letter plans to also be addressed to David Cameron, the newly appointed foreign secretary, urging him to “work to ensure full access for humanitarian aid”. It demands an “immediate unconditional release of all hostages” and for “Palestinians in arbitrary military detention to be given access to justice through an independent, non-military system”’”. 

This comes after many weeks of protests. The proposer of the motion, Councillor Paula Dunne, a member of the newly formed Oxford Socialist Independent group, addressed this public pressure from “the hundreds of people in Oxford” who have “joined protests, written to their MPs and councillors backing calls for a ceasefire”. 

The Oxford Socialist Independent group was formed by six of the ten councillors who recently resigned from the Labour Party following Keir Starmer’s comments about Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’.

The group highlighted the support for a ceasefire from UNICEF, Save the Children, Oxfam, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Oxfordshire MP Layla Moran. Councillor Paula Dunne expressed her condolences for Layla Moran, who experienced the loss of a family member in Gaza earlier this month.

She said: “What is happening in Gaza is horrific. Hospitals have been bombed, water and electricity cut off, and thousands killed. In the Council chamber, we heard of civilians being bombed while trying to retrieve the bodies of loved ones from the rubble.”

This is in reference to the address Professor Nick Maynard, a Consultant Surgeon in Oxford, made to the Council. In the past, he has travelled to teach medicine to students in Gazan hospitals. He recounted the story of Maisara, a recently married doctor in Gaza, whose wife is pregnant with their first child. 

He said: “I have eaten with his family in Gaza. He stayed in my home in Oxford, ate with my family. He was killed the other day by an Israeli bomb, with his parents and two sisters. His brothers were searching in the rubble for him, when another bomb killed them. His wife and unborn baby are the only surviving members of the family.” 

He also emphasised: “Aid going into Gaza cannot help unless there is a ceasefire to allow full access for this humanitarian aid.”

Councillor Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, another member of the Oxford Socialist Independent group, said: “Councillors have taken an important step to condemn the breaches of international humanitarian law. 36 UN experts have called the actions of the Israeli state a genocide in the making.” 

“The UK diplomatic, political and military support and cover for the state of Israel as it carries out this genocide, this ethnic cleansing, shames us all and must end. This illegal 16-year occupation of Gaza must end.”

The Council has also agreed to arrange a meeting of religious leaders, including representatives from the Jewish and Muslim faiths, and community safety stakeholders, to address the rising prominence of antisemitism and Islamophobia in Oxford.

This follows an incident at Central Oxford Mosque, where an empty petrol canister inscribed with the words ‘IDF’ and ‘IDF rules’ was thrown over the walls of the mosque.

The Leader of the Green Group on the Council, Cllr Chris Jarvis, expressed his support for the Council’s decision: “I am incredibly proud that Councillors put aside party differences and voted unanimously to back a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, to condemn war crimes and to stand up for our Muslim and Jewish residents facing antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

He added: “It is incumbent on all our political leaders and institutions to use whatever leverage they have to push for a path to peace. That requires an immediate and lasting ceasefire and an end to the occupation in Palestine.”

Image Credit: A K M Adam via flickr