REACTION TO Moyle Council’s support for a twinning arrangement with Gaza has come in from the Israeli community.
The Council split on the issue but a majority did back the proposal brought forward by Independent councillor Padraig McShane who visted Gaza last year.
Cllr McShane says the ‘twinning’ will help give humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a group which Israelis heavily criticise.
On ‘Facebook’ many people in Gaza have welcomed the decision by Moyle to twin with Gaza but the Jewish Chronicle newspaper reported that Steven Jaffe, co-chair of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, said: “Is Moyle District Council prepared to turn a blind eye when it invites Hamas officials to tea at the town hall?”
And the London-based pro-Israeli ‘Fair Play Campaign Group’ has contacted Moyle Council on the matter.
Arieh Kovler said the Fair Play group is an organisation created by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, the main institutions of the British Jewish community.
The letter said: ‘I am writing to express extreme concern at media reports that Moyle District Council is proposing to twin with Gaza city. The Council should be aware that Gaza City is ruled by Hamas.
‘Hamas is recognised by the USA, UK and the Republic of Ireland as a terrorist organisation. Hamas has been linked with more than 400 terrorist attacks including more than 50 civilian-targeted suicide bombings.
‘The Hamas charter rejects all peace negotiations with Israel and calls for Israel to be obliterated. Hamas came to prominence in the 1990s by rejecting the Oslo peace process which sought to established a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
‘The manner which Hamas governs Gaza has brought widespread concern internationally relating to the killing and torture of political opponents, the treatment of women and homosexuals and the indoctrinating of children as young as eight to anti-Jewish hatred and violence.
‘A twinning between Moyle District Council and the Hamas-dominated Municipality of Gaza City would make a formal and symbolic link between your Council and an antisemitic, internationally proscribed, terrorist organisation. This has very serious ethical and legal ramifications for the Council.
‘I would be obliged if you would please bring these concerns to the attention of the councillors.
‘If Moyle District Council wishes to make a humanitarian gesture towards Palestinians who are suffering because of the conflict there are many organisations which are seeking to brihg together Palestinians and Israelis.
‘I would be delighted to provide information about appropriate initiatives which the Council would, I am sure, approve and may wish to support,’ said the letter.
There was no discussion of the letter when it was tabled in front of councillors at the main April monthly meeting of the Council.
In another development, Moyle councillors did not like the “tone” of a letter sent to them about Gaza by the head of Nenagh Council in County Tipperary.
Moyle Council has a long standing association with Nenagh but recently when the SDLP said they wanted more information on the Gaza proposals, before they finally backed it last month, Seamus Morris had been touch urging the Council to back the Gaza link.
But, at a recent meeting, Councillor Catherine McCambridge (SDLP) proposed, seconded by Councillor Willie Graham, ‘That a letter be sent to Nenagh Council to express Council’s disappointment at the tone of the letter sent by the Mayor to Moyle Council regarding the proposed twinning with Gaza.’
On a vote being taken, there were nine votes in favour of and none against the proposal which was carried.
Earlier this year Nenagh Mayor, Cllr Seamus Morris (Sinn Fein) urged Moyle Council to back Cllr McShane’s Gaza proposals
In the letter, Cllr Morris said: ‘Back in the 80s when it was not a popular thing to do Nenagh Town Council twinned with Moyle District Council.’
And in the letter Cllr Morris said it was a “mystery” to him why SDLP councillors were ‘holding up’ the plan.
Last year Moyle Independent councillor Randal McDonnell said he would rather go to ‘Outer Mongolia’ than Nenagh.
At the time, Seamus Morris said he wouldn’t allow the comment to sour relations between the two towns.