Belfast City Council votes to back expulsion of Israeli ambassadors

A motion was proposed by the Trotskyist People Before Profit Alliance and supported by Sinn Fein, the Greens and the SDLP


Belfast City Council has voted to urge the UK and Republic of Ireland governments to immediately expel “Israeli ambassadors” from office.

At a special meeting last night, councillors passed a motion stipulating that the local authority would “write to the Irish Government and the UK Government, urging them to expel from office Israeli ambassadors, with immediate effect.”

The motion was proposed by Councillor Fiona Ferguson, of the Trotskyist People Before Profit Alliance party, and was backed by Sinn Fein, the Green Party and the Social Democratic Labour Party. 

Minority unionist parties on the council voted to oppose the motion. 

Addressing the meeting, Councillor Ferguson said: “I think the expulsion of ambassadors is a first step – a preliminary step – to greater action, but it’s an incredibly important and symbolic step. 

“We can set and lead an example for countries in this region of the world… most importantly it answers the call from Palestinians across the world who have asked for ambassadors to be expelled.”

Prior to voting, the council was addressed by an anti-Zionist Jewish activist and a Palestinian nurse living in Belfast.

Both speakers urged councillors to vote in favour of the motion. 

Speaking in defence of the Jewish state and against the motion, Councillor John Kyle, of the Progressive Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, said: “The Jews are the original indigenous inhabitants of Palestine and as such have the right to exist as a nation state.

“Israel is confronted by organisations which do not recognise its right to exist… and this is antisemitism.

“We have a difficulty with motions that focus exclusively on the violence inflicted by one side when both sides are complicit in the conflict…”

Steven Jaffe, co-chair of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, said: "This vote is no surprise given the composition of the council. While some parties speak about their advocacy for a two-state solution, they are willing to endorse motions that clearly intend on the destruction of Israel and give succour to Hamas. 

“The views of mainstream Jews are ignored in favour of Marxist anti-Zionist Jews who are presented as more significant voices. 

“The Jewish community in the rest of the UK needs to take note because what we are seeing today in Belfast is merely the next step forward of what has already long been brewing in British politics.”

Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “The refusal of the proposers of this motion to even condemn Hamas terrorist rockets aimed at Israel’s Jewish and Arab civilians speaks to the motivations behind this political grandstanding.

"The greatest contribution those outside the region can make is supporting those who recognise the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians. Having had to face its own difficult conflict, it is particularly sad to see Belfast city councillors voting to expel ambassadors and curtailing dialogue, rather than taking steps aimed at helping to resolve conflict.

"We hope that Belfast City Council reflects again on where its own experiences of this path has led and decides to take a different approach.”

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