AS I made my way to the City Chambers last Thursday, I noted that yet again a street on my route had the pavements obstructed by bins – unemptied from the previous day’s collection. On my bike I bumped over a section of street surface worthy of a third world country. As I arrived I was mulling over what I would say on Gaza at the council meeting.
The council leader had wisely decided to focus on humanitarian relief in the motion he had put before us but there was still the partisan couple of letters he wanted us to authorise him to send – one castigating the Israeli ambassador and the other expressing “solidarity” with the people of Gaza.
The first issue in my mind was the selectivity. I am moved by the suffering when I see homes destroyed and people killed or injured. But what of the 190,000 reported killed in Syria; the barbarism of ISIS in Northern Iraq; the 1.5 million refugees in Southern Sudan; civil war in Libya. Why only compassion for Gaza?
The next issue is the context. Does the leader not know that Israel, for all its faults, is a rare functioning democracy in the Middle East? Does he not know of the thousands of rockets launched against civilian areas of Israel? Has he not seen the dramatic footage of a rocket being launched from the heart of a residential area of Gaza? Or the existing threats to eliminate Israel? Or the BBC, Al Jazeera and New York Times articles advising caution about treating the Hamas-controlled casualty figures as mainly innocent civilians? Perhaps some of these things are not clear because of the fog of war – but this readily available information suggests the one-sided motion from the council leader is hardly the kind of rush to judgement local councillors should be making.
But the decision was duly taken to fly the Palestinian flag above the City Chambers in Edinburgh and to promote the DEC appeal for Gaza. I don’t know for sure if the claims that DEC relief is channelled largely through Hamas control are verified. But it is certainly a complex and muddy situation.
Much better would have been to support humanitarian relief to the crisis hotspots I mentioned above via Mercy Corps, whose European HQ is in Sciennes. The council leader’s refusal to broaden out the compassion in this way does him no credit.
And the same goes for his Labour and SNP colleagues who, along with the Greens and Lib Dems, voted to fly the flag of one side and decline to show comparable compassion to others in terrible conflicts.
As I made my way home with sadness at the decisions taken, I passed along the same streets. The waste was still uncollected and I cycled over the same potholes.
Cameron Rose is Tory councillor for Soutside/Newington