Gathering will take place at Edinburgh’s City Chambers from 10am 23 March
A rally will take place tomorrow in support of a move to twin Edinburgh with Gaza, supported by Scottish parliamentarians and academics. The event will mark the start of a six-day campaign to see Scotland’s capital twinned with the largest city in the state of Palestine. Other Scottish cities have already made similar twinning arrangements with Palestinian cities – Glasgow with Bethlehem and Dundee with Nablus.
Petition organisers say that on 29 March, the Council’s Policy Committee will debate the petition, which was first scheduled for debate in June 2020 but delayed because of COVID, and that the SNP/Labour coalition council is ‘sympathetic’ – and the bid is fully backed by the
Greens – but that wider support must be demonstrated, including letters of support and letters from Edinburgh residents to their ward councillors in order to secure “sister” city status for Gaza City. Edinburgh has a population of around 450,000, while Gaza City has roughly 550,000 people. Full details on the bid can be found at twingaza.com.
In addition to the rally a major publicity drive is planned across the city with 13,000 flyers distributed by volunteers to shops and eateries, backed up by adverts in the Edinburgh Evening News. Once a threshold of 200 signatures has been reached on Edinburgh Council’s petition site, the council is obliged to debate it.
The petition is backed in the UK by MSPs Tommy Shepherd and Philippa Whitford, the SACC community action group, the Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh, noted Jewish academics Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe, Interfaith for Palestine UK and Palestinian ambassador Husam Zomlot. In Gaza, IT incubators Gaza Sky Geeks , GGateway and Gaza City mayor Dr Yahya Sarraj.
The petition’s organisers said:
This is a great opportunity. If successful it will mark a significant step forward in ending the international isolation of Gaza. The 29 March meeting will hear Wesam Wadi from Gaza, who will tell the assembled councillors what life is like in Gaza and input is planned from Mohamed Al Shaqra, International Cooperation coordinator at the Municipality of Gaza about how this initiative can be promoted
and the ways in which the two cities might work together.
A sister petition addressed to Edinburgh City Council Leader Adam McVey and Lord Provost Cllr Frank Ross, signed by 154 Gazans at the time of writing, is attracting new signatures on a daily basis. A key political supporter, Cllr Padraig McShane, was with Moyle Council in Northern Ireland when he led its twinning with Gaza in 2012. MacShane helped promote linkage in football, health care, women’s issues, libraries, parks, sewage processing and education. Due to reorganisation, Moyle Council no longer exists but as the organisers say:
If Moyle can do this with a population of 17,000, what could Edinburgh offer, with a population of half a million? Cost is no issue: twinning did not cost Moyle Council a single penny.
In a worry twist, the petition cannot now be found on the Council website – its previous page now returns “page not found”. The council has not responded to the organisers’ enquiries about the reason for its removal. Those seeking to read the petition in full visit the TwinGaza website.
The bid was refined with the help of the Dundee-Nablus Twinning Association (DNTA). The DNTA works around the oldest twinning in Scotland and has been running since the two cities were twinned in 1980. The organisers hope Edinburgh Council will base its agreement with Gaza City on the pioneering work that the Dundee group has done. If Edinburgh Council agrees to twinning, the Edinburgh-Gaza Twinning Association which will be created to take twinning activities forward on behalf of Edinburgh Council, in the same way that DNTA does for Dundee Council, despite the destruction of Gaza’s airport by Israel in 2001.
Two million people live in the Gaza Strip, in what former prime minister David Cameron described as an open-air prison. This situation has now existed for more than 15 years and the blockadehas been condemned by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and other major human rights organisations.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon condemned the siege in May 2017, when she told the Israeli envoy to the UK that the situation in the Palestinian enclave must end.
The papers for the Policy committee meeting on the 29th March will be published today (22 March).
In a further worrying development, the bid’s steering group noted that the tinyurl links on the old campaign flyer were no longer linking to the intended destination webpages and appeared to be infected with malware. One link, instead of taking users to the Amnesty International video declaring Israel to be practising apartheid, was instead taking users to a site declaring the opposite.
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