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Whanganui Council Calls For Gaza Ceasefire

Whanganui District Council has called for a ceasefire in Gaza. (Supplied)

Whanganui District councillors have called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

The decision came after the Whanganui branch of the Palestinian Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA) marched on Tuesday (7 May) from Majestic Square in the city centre to a meeting at council chambers with a petition calling for ceasefire.

After the petition was presented, councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay moved a notice of motion calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, seconded by councillor Charlotte Melser.

Chandulal-Mackay said it was important to speak up.

“I know people sometimes see an awful situation out there in the world and feel powerless to help – but speaking up to apply pressure does make a difference.

“While a ceasefire has not yet been achieved, you can already see the impact of countries within the global community adding their voices to the call for a ceasefire.

“One thing we know for sure is that silence does not result in progress.”

The petition was signed by 2279 people and accompanied by letters of support from 48 local businesses and organisations.

In further motions, the council condemned all acts of violence and terror against civilians and called for a release of hostages on all sides in the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.

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PSNA organiser Sophi Reinholt spoke in place of Whanganui doctor Nafiz Ghamri, a Kiwi-Palestinian cardiologist whom she said had served the community for 19 years.

Reinholt said Ghamri’s first cousin was shot dead by an armed drone while helping people escaping debris after a bombing and 40 members of his family were still missing.

“Until there is a ceasefire there can be no end to the suffering of civilians on both sides.

“The passage of aid cannot be guaranteed and essentials such as water, food, maternity kits, antibiotics and anaesthetics will continue to be blocked from entering Gaza.”

She urged the council to act.

“Without political pressure on a nationwide and international scale, nothing will stop."

Reinholt reminded the council it had in 2022 unanimously called for ceasefire in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Chandulal-Mackay said the situation in Gaza was a humanitarian crisis.

“In an area around half the size of Auckland you’ve got two million civilians – men, women and children – in dire conditions with very little access to hospitals, a lack of sanitary facilities, and limited food and resources, facing a daily bombardment by Israel.”

Chandulal-Mackay said collective pressure had driven social, political and civil change throughout history.

“We saw it with the apartheid regime in South Africa, we saw it with the civil rights movement in the United States, and while Whanganui District Council might be a small, seemingly insignificant part of this, as part of a collective we can all make a difference."

Councillor Rob Vinsen said he thought council chambers were not the place for “the echo of international politics”.

“We’re a local council and let’s stick to local business. In saying that, I know an Israeli in this community whose family, two of them were murdered on the October 7 attack into Israel.

“This resolution, as it’s worded, speaks to both sides in this conflict. That’s important to me and that’s why I will be supporting it.”

Councillor Jenny Duncan said the situation in Gaza had gone beyond a war with children dying, being starved to death and orphaned.

“There is no political justification for that, there is no economic justification for that and there is certainly no humanity in that.”

Mayor Andrew Tripe described the situation in Gaza as horrific.

“Citizens in this area are experiencing unimaginable suffering and the impact of this conflict will have generational consequences.”

The council also received a second petition from the PSNA, signed by 495 people, requesting a change in its procurement policy by adding that the council would not contract with companies identified by the United Nations Human Rights Council as being involved in the building or maintenance of illegal Israeli settlements.

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