Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Local Green Parliamentary candidate Becca Horn speaking at a ‘Ceasefire Now!’ rally in Hastings Town Centre on Sunday 5 November 2023. PHOTO: Katy Colley

Green councillors told Gaza ceasefire motion ‘not within the Council’s functions’

Two Green councillors on Hastings Borough Council (HBC) have been refused permission to bring forward a motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza to this Wednesday’s (22 November) Council meeting. Gabriel Carlyle reports.

The motion, which was put forward by Green councillors Tony Collins (Central St Leonards) and Amanda Jobson (Gensing), calls for ‘an immediate … release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire to allow more aid and the possibility of a peaceful resolution’, noting that Hastings had ‘for many years … been a refuge for refugees’ and that this record ‘gives us the right to make this call’.

The motion also resolves to ‘explore how the council can better support and facilitate events for people of all faiths and none, where they can come together and find common ground’, to ‘offer appropriate support to any local resident who needs our assistance as a result of the war in Gaza’, and to ‘stand ready to provide support and refuge to innocent people displaced and affected by these events’ (see below for the full text).

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry more than 11,000 people have been killed since the Israeli bombardment began on 7 October, including over 4,500 children. More than 1.5m people have been displaced.

The call for an immediate ceasefire is supported by a wide range of civil society organisations including Oxfam, Save the Children and Amnesty International, but has been rejected by the UK Government and the Labour leadership.

‘We are not detached from the world’

Rule 14.1 of HBC’s constitution requires motions submitted to the council to ‘be about matters for which the Council has statutory powers, duties or functions or address the built or natural environment of the Borough of Hastings or address a matter of local, regional or national policy that affects the lives of people in the Borough of Hastings. The ruling of the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Mayor shall be final as to the relevance of the motion.’

It was on these grounds that the motion was refused by the Monitoring Officer (an unelected official). The Mayor’s position has not yet been made public.

Responding to the rejection, Councillor Collins said: ‘Our town is a place of refuge. There are many residents who first came here fleeing from war, most recently from Ukraine. It is all too likely that the war in Gaza will bring a fresh wave of hurting people. We are not detached from the world.’

Demonstrator outside Hastings Borough Council’s offices, 3 November 2023. PHOTO: Richard Wolff

‘Profound despair … amongst the local population’

Last month an open letter, signed by a wide range of local groups and individuals including The Refugee Buddy Project, Hastings Community of Sanctuary, Amnesty International Hastings & Rye and the Rev Luke Dean (Vicar of St John’s Hollington), took HBC and others to task for ‘fail[ing] to demand a ceasefire during [the first] 16 days of Israeli bombardment of Gaza.’

That letter noted that:

‘Hastings has always prided itself on being a community of sanctuary and an inclusive community that supports peace and recognises the sanctity of human life. We urge our leaders to rise to this moment and to recognise the profound despair that Israel’s current campaign is provoking amongst the local population and the wider electorate. This is the moment – will you join our calls for peace?’

The call for an immediate ceasefire has also been the focus of local marches, rallies and other protests, involving hundreds of local people.

Who spoke up?

Earlier this month the five Green councillors on HBC had a letter published in the Hastings Observer, calling for an immediate ceasefire.

However, with two exceptions, none of the Labour and Conservative Councillors on HBC appear to have made their views on the topic public.

The two exceptions are Labour councillors Maya Evans (Hollington) and Andy Batsford (St Helens) who both joined over 330 other Labour councillors from across the UK in signing an open letter to Keir Starmer calling on him to back an “immediate ceasefire”.

In Oxford, eight Labour City Councillors resigned over Keir Starmer’s initial endorsement of collective punishment of Palestinians, writing that ‘Labour Party branches have been banned from discussing the conflict, and elected representatives have been strongly advised not to attend pro-Palestine demonstrations.’

The full text of the rejected motion, which councillors will not be allowed to debate:

‘For many years this town has been a refuge for refugees, a fact celebrated every year in our Sanctuary Festival. We are good at picking up the pieces, and sharing what we have. Hundreds of our citizens are actively engaged in this task.

‘Conflict is the primary reason for people to flee their homes. This council therefore joins United Nations Secretary General António Guterres in calling for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza to allow aid to reach those caught in the crossfire. The record of Hastings as a place of refuge gives us the right to make this call. Therefore:

‘This Council:

• Expresses deep sympathy for all those affected by the conflict in Palestine and Israel. We offer our support in this difficult time to everyone in the Hastings area who has been affected.

• Calls for an immediate further release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire to allow more aid and the possibility of a peaceful resolution

• Believes Muslims, Jews, and people of all faiths and none should feel safe and supported throughout the world.

• Condemns any antisemitic and Islamophobic violence and abuse in the UK.

• Asks the Leader of Hastings Borough Council to write to the Foreign Secretary and to the Shadow Foreign Secretary bringing this motion to their attention.

‘This Council resolves to:

• Explore how the council can better support and facilitate events for people of all faiths and none, where they can come together and find common ground.

• Offer appropriate support to any local resident who needs our assistance as a result of the war in Gaza.

• Stand ready to provide support and refuge to innocent people displaced and affected by these events.

• Condemn the use of all dehumanising language. We specifically call on our communities to treat each other with respect and to refrain from using inflammatory terms to describe either the Palestinian or Israeli populations.’

Arms company protest

Another connection between Hastings and Gaza is that the Hastings contains a factory run by General Dynamics, a major supplier of arms to Israel.

According to the American Friends Service Committee:

‘General Dynamics supplies the Israeli military with a wide variety of weapons, including various bombs. The company’s technologies are also integrated into Israel’s main weapon systems, including fighter jets and armored combat vehicles. These weapons are often gifted to Israel through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program.

For years, these weapons have repeatedly been used against Palestinian civilians, resulting in numerous casualties as well as mass destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and water and electric systems. These attacks include war crimes that Israel committed during several military offenses against the Gaza Strip …’

Hastings Friends of Al-Mawasi and Hastings and Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be holding a protest ‘Stop Arms to Israel from Hastings!’ outside the factory (100 Castleham Road, TN38 9NJ) at 12 noon this Thursday (23 November).


> On 21 November the Labour Group of Councillors on Hastings Borough Council finally issued a public statement calling for ‘[a]n immediate humanitarian pause to hostilities leading to a meaningful and permanent cease fire’.

> Councillor Margi O’Callaghan (Labour, Braybrooke) did not use her powers as Mayor to contest the ruling of the Monitoring Officer that the proposed ceasefire motion did not ‘[affect] the lives of people in the Borough of Hastings’. Consequently, no ceasefire was debate or voted on at Hastings Borough Council’s meeting on 22 November.

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Posted 21:58 Sunday, Nov 19, 2023 In: Campaigns

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