UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Edinburgh Council rejects twinning with Gaza 

Edinburgh Council has rejected a twinning petition with Gaza following “legal advice”. The Edinburgh-Gaza twinning petition had been listed on the agenda for the Policy and Sustainability Committee meeting at 10am on Tuesday 30 August.

However, the Committee refused to allow  allow Pete Gregson who was leading the twinning campaign to speak to the council meeting, or to hear any other deputations in favour of the twinning, including  from The Mayor of Gaza and the Dundee Nablus twinning association. Councillor Cammy Day, Convener of the Policy and Sustainability Committee said “We have had legal advice that has given us some warnings and I propose we do not hear the deputations this morning”.  

Instead SNP, Labour and the Lib Dems passed a motion asking for an officer’s report into how the Edinburgh Partnership (a group consisting of the police, the health service, the colleges, the voluntary sector and traders’ reps) might consider doing more to partner with other cities.  The Greens, moved an amendment that Gaza be included specifically within the “other cities” but this was rejected.

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI commented: “I am pleased to see that Edinburgh counsellors have the good sense to follow legal advice”.

Earlier this year, on 29 March 2022, the petition calling for Edinburgh to be twinned with the Palestinian city of Gaza was pulled from the agenda of the city’s council’s policy and sustainability committee at short notice so legal advice could  be taken.

This followed UKLFI’s letters to Edinburgh council’s head of legal services, warning that the councillors would probably commit criminal offences if they participated in twinning between Edinburgh and Gaza City.

The letters are here: Letter to Edinburgh Head of Legal Services re twinning with Gaza 25.3.22  and here: 2nd Letter to Edinburgh Head of Legal Services re twinning with Gaza 29.3.22

According to the Edinburgh News, at the start of the meeting on 29 March,   a council official told councillors the item had been withdrawn from the committee agenda to allow officers to “give full consideration to legal matters raised since publication of the agenda”.

The letter from UKLFI to Edinburgh City Council’s Head of Legal Services explained that a person commits a criminal offence under section 12 of this Act if he invites support for a proscribed organisation or arranges or addresses a meeting to support or further the activities of a proscribed organisation.

The letter noted that the activities of Hamas include governing Gaza City and controlling nearly everything in the city so “Joint economic development arrangements” and “joint civil undertakings” as proposed in the petition would almost certainly contravene section 12 of the Act.

Hamas is also designated in its entirety under The Counter-Terrorism (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. Under Regulation 12 of these Regulations, it is an offence to make funds available directly or indirectly to a designated person, including any person controlled directly or indirectly by a designated person.  UKLFI’s letter observed that the funding of any joint activity would be likely to contravene these prohibitions.

UKLFI suggested that the Head of Legal Services should advise councillors about these provisions and the serious consequences that would ensue from breaching them.

UKLFI would also like to thank David Collier for his fantastic research and reports, which he sent to the Edinburgh Counsellors, which also contributed to this result.

The full decision of the committee is available here: Item 7.2 – Decision v2