Stormont is lobbied on Israel motion

A Northern Ireland Assembly motion, singling out Israel for criticism over its handling of Gaza, was defeated after the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel group lobbied political parties to vote against it.

The unprecedented emergency debate last Friday was supported by Sinn Féin and nationalist members.

It came as Ulster Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire
travelled on the MV Rachel Corrie boat as it approached Gaza.

The motion called on Israel to conform with human rights and international laws.

This result should encourage everyone

Democratic Unionist member Peter Weir accused Sinn Féin of a "publicity stunt" as the Assembly has no foreign policy powers.

Mr Weir told the Assembly members: "The DUP will certainly not jump on the bandwagon and kick Israel. It is noticeable that when Israeli schools are shelled or suicide bombers hit Israeli citizens, not a word is said about it."

The non-sectarian Alliance Party split its vote after NIFI members Terry McCorran and Israeli-born Paula Tabakin lobbied members in person at Stormont five minutes before the vote took place.

Steven Jaffe, Northern Ireland Friends of Israel co-chair, said: "The Assembly vote was tied at 40-40. The Alliance declared that they would support the motion "with reservations" but thanks to our direct lobbying it was clear that not all their members shared this approach.

"The motion made no reference to Hamas at all. Many Assembly members were shocked at the call of the Hamas charter to kill Jews everywhere."

Mr Jaffe said the direct impact of NIFI's efforts on the result should "encourage Israel supporters everywhere to be more active in lobbying their elected representatives".

    Last updated: 2:00pm, June 10 2010