Local row breaks out over UK council twinning with Palestinian town
Officials and locals in the borough of Pendle, UK, have expressed concern over the twinning of the town with Beit Lid in the West Bank
Accusations of 'Islamophobia' and the wasting of resources have been levelled across partisan divides in the northern borough of Pendle in the United Kingdom, following a local government decision to utilise taxpayer resources to twin the town 'in solidarity' with the Palestinians of Beit Lid.
While twinning is a common part of establishing cross-border links, the contentious message being advocated by members of the Labour, Lib Dem and Green parties in Pendle is that the borough should twin with the Palestinian area because it has "had a hard time of it".
Conservative councillors argued that the Israel-Palestine issue was one the council should not involve itself in. The advocates of the motion to twin called for the signing of an agreement as well as a motion to welcome the “observer status” of Palestine, granted by the UN. The motion also called for the council to condemn Israeli government plans to build settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Heated discussions have involved the public intervention of residents and councillors, including one British National Party member stating, “I do not wish to see my area forever associated with a regime inseparably linked to terrorism”. This statement has been widely seen as unhelpful, as it has been interpreted as accusing ordinary Palestinians of being terrorists.
But the Pendle-Beit Leed group, represented politically as the Pendle for Palestine Twinning group, also has some explaining to do regarding its links in the UK. On January 28th 2012, the group announced a partnership with the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association (CADFA), a group led by a man who has expressed support for Khader Adnan - a jailed terrorist leader from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The PIJ is a banned terrorist organisation under UK law, whose car and suicide bombings have murdered hundreds of Israeli Jews and Arabs.
CADFA stands accused of propagandising for the eradication of the Jewish State, with one screenshot of their presentations showing 'Palestine' as the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Munir Nusseibeh, CADFA's Chairman, has also led the group in supporting Hana Shalabi, whom they describe as a “political prisoner”. Shalabi is also a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
CADFA continues to express support for the Abu Jihad Museum in Abu Dis. The Abu Jihad Museum memorialises imprisoned terror operatives, whom the museum lauds as ‘martyrs’.
At a recent debate watched by members of the Pendle for Palestine Twinning Group, Councillor Mohammed Iqbal (Lab) praised two young Pendle activists who had "increased public awareness of the situation" by organising a rally in Nelson last month. He also congratulated Tory MP Andrew Stephenson for his efforts to secure a peace deal between Israel and Palestine through Parliament. Stephenson has previously been on trips to the region organised by the Conservative Middle East Council, a well-known, pro-Arab lobby group.
Speaking about the recent twinning decision, one Pendle resident, Rusksar Ahmed wrote to the Pendle Today newspaper, stating, "Some of Pendle’s Labour councillors, particularly Councillor Iqbal, are deliberately seeking to create a rift in the community for political gain, and are attempting to use this emotive issue to cynically purchase the votes of Nelson’s Muslim electorate in the forthcomng county council elections."
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