Tuesday, November 21, 2023
LONDON: British-Pakistani Conservative Councillor Jamal Chohan has quit the party over its stance on Israel’s war on Palestine and the killings of over 13,000 Palestinians.
Chohan, a lawyer, was threatened with suspension by the Conservative Party for signing an open letter for councillors across England and Wales calling for a ceasefire.
He didn’t send the letter that he co-authored with independent Councillor James Giles from the Kingston Council but the party asked him to apologise or face suspension.
Giles emailed all 19,102 councillors in England and Wales on Sunday, asking them to sign a public letter calling for a Gaza ceasefire. He had threatened to publish the names of anyone opposed to a ceasefire in Gaza and the Green Party and others have already done so. The letter stated that anti-Semitism had been “weaponised” to silence those who opposed Israel’s actions in the wake of the Oct 7 attacks by Hamas and anyone who criticised the state of Israel was called an “anti-semite”.
The original letter by a group of elected representatives has called on PM Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer to “call for an immediate ceasefire and that you focus your efforts towards driving lasting peace in the region through meaningful impartial mediation for a two-state solution”.
It said: “To be clear and stating the obvious, antisemitism is wholly unacceptable. However, this term cannot continue to be weaponised to absolve Israel of any accountability for how it has contributed to the ongoing tensions and its failure to comply with international law. Several respected international organisations including the International Criminal Court, United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are concerned that these events are amounting to war crimes, genocide and ethnic cleansing.”
Following the above original letter, the Conservative party threatened Chohan with suspension and asked him to apologise which he refused.
In his resignation letter, Councillor Chohan labelled the party as a "sinking ship" trying to "silence advocates for peace".
“I cannot continue to associate with this type of politics and find that far too often I am having to apologise for representing the Conservative party,” wrote Chohan.
Councillor Chohan said he felt that he was scared to speak out on the issue and that his views were met with disregard by party colleagues.
Both the Conservative and the Labour parties have shown unwavering support for Israel and refused to call for a ceasefire. Those calling for a ceasefire have either been suspended or isolated and several Labour front benchers and dozens of councillors have resigned on the issue.
He further said in his scathing resignation letter: “I am not prepared to represent Conservative Party under its current administration. Please therefore accept my resignation with immediate effect.
“The Conservative Party professes that it has always stood for personal liberty, democracy and rule of law. I regret that this is not the case in 2023. I have not been allowed the personal liberty to advocate for peace whilst remaining a Conservative, and neither has the general public when their democratic right to protest is undermined and dismissed as 'hate marches'.
“The Party has adopted policies which are extending to the far right. Whether that be aggressive anti-immigration rhetoric that has since been ruled to be illegal, suppressing freedom of speech by denouncing legitimate protests, and plans to rewrite human rights laws to persist in a deportation strategy that lacks compassion. The Party looks very much like a sinking ship which is losing its dignity in the process. Something the Party should know all about given that it leaves refugees in the same predicament.”