Open Letter to Hackney Councillors

An open letter from Dave and Carmela Kellaway to local councillors in Hackney.


Context: Around 150 protesters heard speeches outside Hackney town hall, including from local MP Diane Abbott. Some later disrupted a pensions committee meeting, which was transferred to another room. Local Palestine solidarity activists called for a ceasefire motion to be taken at a full council the next day, but The Labour party were said to be trying to make the motion untenable by declaring it ‘not a local issue’. However, Labour councils have passed similar motions elsewhere.

Labour councillors,

As you will know around 76% of the British population are in favour of a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Given Hackney’s history and ongoing sense of justice this would probably translate to more than 90%. The current leadership line of opposing the ceasefire is not even very clever in electoral terms. Communities which have traditionally identified with the Labour party as well as progressive youth are deserting the party.

Diane Abbott speaking outside Hackney Town hall at Palestinian solidarity protest for Hackney Council to disinvest funds from Israel
Diane Abbott speaking outside Hackney Town hall at Palestinian solidarity protest for Hackney Council to disinvest funds from Israel

This current pause is welcome but it is not a ceasefire. The Israeli government has already said the bombing and the war will continue. Giving the Israeli government carte blanche by supporting its ‘right to defend itself’ has been translated into a vastly disproportionate response to the war crimes committed by Hamas on the 7th of October. A whole people is being forcibly displaced and thousands of women and children are being massacred. How many more thousands of deaths are justified for the Labour leadership to continue to support Israel’s unconditional ‘right to defend itself’.

The Labour leadership has said a ceasefire is not possible because you ‘cannot negotiate with Hamas’. The current hostage/prisoner exchanges show that in practice it does negotiate. It is also said that people like us calling for a ceasefire are just being emotional and not acting like the government that Labour aspires to be.  But Labour calling for a ceasefire and a political solution will have a political effect on the situation as it is likely to be the next government. Israel is very dependent on the political support of the UK and US in diplomatically and in international bodies.

This notion that the Labour leadership is being governmental and responsible while our position is emotional and purely one of protest is patronising and insulting. Our protest is a serious one that recognises that any solution to the Palestine crisis requires a change from the current US/UK government consensus that supports an extreme right wing Israeli government that does not even countenance a two state position. Indeed the Palestine solidarity movement has been labelled antisemitic when it raises the slogan ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be   free’.  Historically this includes the current Israeli population in a one democratic state solution. It is the Likud party and others in the Israeli government who campaign today to have a greater Israel that excludes even the current occupied territories

If we had adopted the so called ‘governmental approach’ that is closely aligned to the line of Sunak and Biden we would never had changed the debate on the Iraq war and its illegality. The protests then did make a difference. Today’s protests by millions are making a difference right now. They have already moved Starmer away from unconditionally supporting the siege of Gaza that he put forward in his notorious LBC interview.  At the same time the debate on Palestine cannot today be closed down inside the Labour Party.

I would therefore expect that you, as our Leabridge Councillors, represent the people of Leabridge and Hackney by voting for the motion on a Permanent Ceasefire in Gaza, being submitted at the Council meeting on Wednesday, initially so that the motion can be heard, and then in support of the motion.

The atrocities to which the people of Gaza have been subject cannot be allowed to continue, and any person or representative of conscience must do what they can to try to ensure that these atrocities cease.

I hope I may count on your support. In calling for a ceasefire you will be aligning with a number of Hackney Councillors, many local Councils and MPs across the UK, and most Nation States throughout the World. Macron, Sanchez and the Irish prime minister have already called for a ceasefire. The United Nations and the majority of humanitarian organisations like War on Want or Amnesty have also called for a ceasefire. These leaders and other states are not antisemitic or particularly radical.

In solidarity,

Dave and Carmela Kellaway

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