UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Edinburgh Council withdraws discussion on twinning with Gaza

A 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 follows UKLFI’s letter to Edinburgh council’s head of legal services last week, warning that the Councillors will probably commit criminal offences if they participate in twinning between Edinburgh and Gaza City.

According to the Edinburgh News, when the meeting began today (29 March 2022) a council official told councillors the item had been withdrawn from the committee agenda to allow officers to “give full consideration to legal matters raised since publication of the agenda”.

A council spokesperson told Edinburgh News: “The report to consider the petition calling for Edinburgh to be twinned with Gaza City has been withdrawn from the agenda so legal advice can be taken.”

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UK Lawyers for Israel commented: “Since Gaza City is ruled by Hamas, which is proscribed in its entirety under the Terrorism Act 2000, it seems inevitable that Councillors or Officers who participate in twinning activities would commit criminal offences.”

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. Accordingly, “Joint economic development arrangements” and “joint civil undertakings” as proposed in the petition would almost certainly contravene this provision.

A criminal offence is also committed under section 17 of the Terrorism Act if a person enters into an arrangement as a result of which money or other property is made available to another person with reasonable cause to suspect that it may be used for the purposes of terrorism. Under section 1(5) of the Act, action taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation is deemed to be taken for the purposes of terrorism.

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 observes that the funding of any joint activity would be likely to contravene these prohibitions.

UKLFI suggests that the Head of Legal Services should advise Councillors on the applicability of these provisions and the serious consequences that would ensue from breaching them.

UKLFI also pointed out the need to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, including the requirement to have due regard for the need to foster good relations between persons of different religions and ethnicities.