Cambridge councillors call for Gaza ceasefire and consider joining bank boycott

Councillors in Cambridge have backed calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and have agreed to consider joining a bank boycott. Cambridge City Council unanimously passed a motion calling for a ceasefire, but also setting out some actions it will take itself.

Councillor Alice Gilderdale (Labour) said the city council had waited “too long” in bringing a motion on the conflict and said they could not “continue to watch the horrors in Gaza without speaking out”. At a full council meeting this week (May 23) cross party support was given to the motion calling on the government to “press for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, Israel, and the rest of Palestine”.

Councillors said they also want the government to “ensure humanitarian law is upheld” and that civilians are protected and have access to humanitarian support. The city council also called on the government to “immediately revoke all licences for arms exports to Israel” and to “suspend arms sales to Israel”.

Read more: Council accused of 'failing to help' Gypsy and Traveller families

Read more: Government breaches funding cap after giving another £50m to Cambridge sewage works

On top of this the city council said it will look into the implications of stopping banking with Barclays, which it said was “providing financial services to companies arming Israel”. Councillors said they would also “continue to condemn all forms of Islamophobia and antisemitism”. Cllr Gilderdale said she was “proud to live in Cambridge” highlighting the campaigning that has been taking place in the city in support of Palestine, including referencing the students who had organised the Cambridge for Palestine encampment in the city.

She said: “As a key institution in Cambridge it is not enough for the city council to stand by while injustice is ongoing and we therefore must take action. Today we are reconfirming our strong call for an immediate ceasefire, a suspension of British arm sales Israel and for the council to stop banking with Barclays bank.

"If this motion passes today Cambridge will be the first local authority to publicly consider moving away from a banking relationship with Barclays, which has long been the target of a boycott campaign, initially from South African apartheid, to climate campaigns, and to the bank’s profiteering from Israel’s apartheid and occupation regime. I am therefore proud to be proposing this motion today, which will show Cambridge is on the right side of history. This is what makes Cambridge a special place.”

Councillor Elliot Tong (Green Party) said the motion was “fantastic” and said the Green Party councillors would be supporting it. He said: “One thing I do want to flag, even though this is a really good step forward, I don’t think we can get complacent yet and we really need to work hard to challenge racism, discrimination against both Jewish people and Palestinians wherever we can. I think there is a lot of stuff we can do going forward, however for now I think this is a great thing and it is really good to see this step which lays the groundwork for future progress.”

Councillor Anthony Martinelli (Liberal Democrat) referenced the calls for a ceasefire and prohibition of arm sales to Israel that had been made by the national Liberal Democrat party. He said he was glad these calls were “achieving wider agreement both national and within the international community”.

Cllr Martinelli said: “Ultimately of course within this chamber we do have to acknowledge that many of the issues raised are primarily for national if not international resolution and we would hope and expect elected councillors and activists to hold whoever is Prime Minister in July to account on this issue.”