Debate rages as councils take positions against genocide in Gaza

December 2, 2023
Geelong residents outside the council meeting on November 28. Photo: Jacqueline Kriz

Three Victorian councils have supported motions condemning Israel’s war crimes in Gaza and calling for a permanent ceasefire. They are Merri-bek, Maribyrnong and Dandenong.

Yarra Council has foreshadowed a discussion on December 12.

The City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) CEO refused to allow Socialist Alliance councillor Sarah Hathway to table a ceasefire motion for discussion.

Residents have repeatedly mobilised their support Palestine and have expressed their concern and disappointment at the lack of democracy, including ahead of council’s November 28 meeting.

Hathway had been told by the CoGG CEO that her ceasefire motion could incite violence.

It has since been revealed that councillors were locked in the chamber prior to the start of the November 28 meeting and given details on how to escape in an emergency.

Tim Gooden, from Free Palestine Geelong, told Green Left he was shocked. “It would be a laughable overreaction by CoGG if it didn’t have such racist, anti-Arab overtones.”

With council under such pressure, Mayor Trent Sullivan read out a statement which called on the federal government to “support an ongoing Humanitarian Ceasefire”.

Sullivan is a member of the Liberal Party.

His statement also calls for the “unconditional release of all hostages” and to “facilitate the delivery of life sustaining aid to all in need of humanitarian support”.

Hathway told Green Left that it “has no standing because the elected councillors have not had an opportunity to debate and vote” on her two drafts.

Hathway’s motion called on Labor to support a permanent ceasefire, support a lifting of the siege on Gaza and support an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank.

“No one has been allowed to say anything about how people in our community are traumatised by the killing of so many people in Gaza, nearly half of whom are children. It is very undemocratic.”

Greater Dandenong Council passed a motion on November 27 calling for a permanent ceasefire and peace in Palestine. A big crowd gathered outside and a smaller number squeezed into the public gallery for the debate.

The motion condemned Israel’s war crimes, called on council to end relationships with weapons companies involved in the war on Gaza, for the release of hostages and an end to the occupation of the West Bank.

Dandenong Councillor Jim Memeti told the Dandenong Star he supported the motion because people in his community feel abandoned. “They love Australia ... They just don’t know why Australia is not supporting a ceasefire.”

“I can see people from the community sitting over there, I see doctors, teachers, milk bar owners, factory workers, people living in my street this is my community and I am standing up for my community,” he said.

Five days earlier Maribyrnong City Council carried a similar motion, initiated by Victorian Socialist Councillor Jorge Jorquera. The motion passed, four to three, with Labor councillors opposing it.

Since then Councillor Anthony Tran — who voted in favour of the motion — has changed his mind. His rescission motion will be debated on December 12.

Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance Councillor for Merri-bek, who initiated an extensive pro-Palestine motion on November 8, told Green Left that people have been turning to local government because of Labor’s refusal at a state and federal level to even consider calling for a permanent ceasefire.

“People want governments to recognise Israel’s war crimes and support equal rights for those in historic Palestine.”

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.