Dec 17 2010 By Robert Cumber
The Palestinian town of Ramallah
HOUNSLOW is to revive links with the Palestinian town of Ramallah despite claims the move has 'an underlying theme of anti-semitism'.
The towns have been twinned since 1988 but links had broken down in recent years. However, a twinning group was formed last year at the height of the Gaza conflict in what founders claim is a bid to develop sporting, cultural and educational links.
At Tuesday's council meeting, councillors voted to formally recognise the Hounslow-Ramallah Town Twinning Association despite fierce opposition from Conservative members.
Councillor Gerald McGregor said: "I don't believe this is worthy of our support. The underlying theme is an attack on one group by supporting another. I think the underlying them is one of anti-semitism, which is to be avoided at all costs."
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been raging for years and any move to establish links with a town on either side of the divide was likely to prove controversial, despite assurances from Hounslow Labour Group the move was non-political.
Deputy council leader Ruth Cadbury said: "This link's important because we're a diverse borough and we have schools and other organisations which want to restore it. If it (the twinning association) oversteps the boundary into politics we will withdraw the connection. We're not spending any council money on this; we're simply putting our name forward in support."
She added that various groups had expressed an interest in building links with Ramallah, including Brentford Girls, Oaklands and St Michael and St Martin schools, and Brentford FC.
However, Conservative councillor Adrian Lee said the council was repeating previous mistakes by taking a 'foreign policy position' and fellow Tory Peter Thompson questioned the democratic record of the Palestinian government.
Hounslow is believed to be the only council in the UK to be formally twinned with any Palestinian town. Ramallah has a population of just over 25,000 and lies just north of Jerusalem.
As well as Ramallah, Hounslow is twinned with Lahore, in Pakistan, Russia's Leningradsky District and Issy-les-Moulineaux, in France.