City councillors condemn visit as ‘provocative’
A PROPOSED visit to Birmingham by a high-ranking Israeli army chief was forced to cancel following protests.
Colonel Geva Rapp, Deputy Commander of the Israeli Ground Forces was due to speak in the city on Sunday in an event organised by the Israel Information Centre Midlands and the Birmingham University Jewish Society.
He had already spoken at ten events, including one in London which attracted protests, and was expected to attend over 20 more.
But following a protest at a London event just 24 hours earlier, organisers of the Birmingham event were forced to pull the plug at the last minute.
Anti-war campaigner and Respect MP, Salma Yaqoob, accused organisers of ‘provocation’ in inviting Colonel Rapp to speak in the city.
In a statement co-signed by Conservative Cllr James Hutchings, Cllr Tariq Khan of the Lib Dems, and Labour Cllr Tahir Ali, Ms Yaqoob said she welcomed the cancellation.
“We utterly condemn the decision to invite Colonel Rapp to Birmingham as offensive and provocative”, the statement said.
“In view of the massacre of innocent Palestinians in Gaza, including over 400 children, we feel this person should be charged with war crimes instead of being encouraged to travel freely in the UK.
“We have been very clear in our opposition to anti-Semitism, and to anything that would cause division between our communities in Birmingham. We are not prepared, however, to be silent in the face of the injustice being done to the Palestinian people.”
Provisions had been made to keep Colonel Rapp’s visit to Birmingham as low key as possible.
In leaked e-mails, organisers of the Birmingham event urged invitees not to post details of the visit on networking site Facebook, adding the event was for “known supporters of Israel only”.