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Sheffield becomes first UK city to recognise Palestine

Sheffield has become the first UK city to recognise the State of Palestine, a move it hopes will pressure other cities and ultimately the UK government to follow suit.

Sheffield City Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a motion to formally recognise the sovereign state of Palestine, making it the first city in the UK to do so. The motion “noted that the current UK Government appears to have no intention of recognising Palestine,” a stance which “is in contrast to the Labour Party’s commitment to recognise Palestine as a full state as part of the United Nations and under UK law.”

Sheffield City Council, like most city councils in the north of the UK, consists predominantly of Labour Party councillors. It now hopes its action will increase pressure on the Conservative-held UK government to follow in its footsteps.

The passing of the motion was preceded by a ceremony during which the Palestinian flag was raised outside the city’s Town Hall by Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot.

Zomlot described the recognition as a “great act” of historic significance, while Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) “welcome[d] the Council drawing attention to the continuing denial of self-determination to the Palestinian people”.

“We know from our campaigning activities that most people in the city will welcome the Council’s position,” Sheffield PSC’s statement continued. “We hope that this initiative will be followed by measures aimed at ending British military and economic collusion with Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land.”

READ: BBC defends claim that Israel is ‘ancestral homeland’ of Palestinians

The move will be given added poignancy in light of the ad hoc visit to the UK by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, during which he met with recently-instated British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In what was largely interpreted as part of Netanyahu’s re-election campaign ahead of Israel’s do-over election on 17 September, the Israeli prime minister discussed the two-state solution and regional foe Iran with his British counterpart.

“Both prime ministers agreed on the need to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon and stop wider destabilizing Iranian behaviour,” a UK Downing Street spokeswoman said.

For his part, Netanyahu thanked Johnson for his continued support of Israel, saying: “I want to say that you’ve been a great friend of the Jewish people and Israel. I applaud your staunch stance against anti-Semitism and your support for Israel’s security. Our relations are at an all-time high: economically, trade, technology, defense cooperation. These are all great things.”

Meanwhile demonstrators lined the streets of UK capital London to protest against the visit, holding placards reading “Netanyahu, war criminal, terrorist” and “Judaism condemns Zionist terrorism in Gaza”.

One demonstrator explained: “I came from Liverpool to stand with the innocent people of Palestine here against Israeli government and Netanyahu, because he is killing innocent women, children and the elderly without any reason.”

“I think there’s this surprise visit because Netanyahu is scared of the public. He can’t face the public because he is a criminal, he is a butcher.”