Belfast City Council passed a motion on Tuesday supporting the expulsion of the Israeli ambassadors from both Ireland and the United Kingdom. The local authority will write to the governments in Dublin and London urging them to expel the ambassadors "with immediate effect".
The motion was proposed by Councillor Fiona Ferguson and was backed by Sinn Fein, the Green Party and the Social Democratic Labour Party. It follows Israel's latest military offensive against the Gaza Strip which killed hundreds of Palestinians, including children and women, and wounded thousands more.
"I think the expulsion of ambassadors is a first step, a preliminary step, to greater action, but it's an incredibly important and symbolic step," said Ferguson. She urged the two countries to lead by example and answer "the call from Palestinians across the world who have asked for ambassadors to be expelled."
Announcing the victory of the motion on Twitter, she said: "PASSED!! Belfast City Council supports the expulsion of Israeli ambassadors by the Irish and UK governments. Thanks to all [councillors] who supported my motion. An important and symbolic act of solidarity with the Palestinian people against enforced apartheid by the Israeli state."
PASSED!! Belfast City Council supports the expulsion of Israeli ambassadors by the Irish and UK governments. Thanks to all cllrs who supported my motion. An important and symbolic act of solidarity with the Palestinian people against enforced apartheid by the Israeli state 🇵🇸 pic.twitter.com/Zd6IUSjizC
— Cllr Fiona Ferguson (@fiona_ferg) June 1, 2021
The motion was debated on Tuesday evening. It described Israel's offensive in Gaza as the "ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians", and pointed out that "illegal settlement expansion represents flagrant breaches of international law."
It also cited a growing list of rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, which say that Israeli policy amounts to apartheid and crimes against humanity. "Normal co-operation with the Israeli state is therefore untenable in these circumstances."
The motion urged the council to recognise "the rich history of solidarity and activism in this city from all communities for Palestine, including very recently when a huge demonstration called for an end to Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians; and that such solidarity on the part of our citizens can be an important tool in dismantling support for Israel's actions."
The Belfast motion follows calls by the Irish parliament last week to impose sanctions on Israel. Gino Kenny, a member of the Irish parliament (TD) and spokesman for the People Before Profit party, accused the European Union of hypocrisy and double standards in sanctioning Belarus for the hijacking of an aircraft, while turning a blind eye to the Israel aggression.
"What I do doubt is your policy of appeasing apartheid Israel," said Kenny in the Irish senate. "It doesn't work. It never will work. You can't appease racists and murderers. And even today, the hypocrisy of the European Union is unbelievable. They mention they will sanction Belarus and at the same time a number of days ago, Israel was murdering children, over 65 children murdered by an Israeli state."