WORCESTER is seeking to twin with war-torn Gaza City in the Middle East.
City councillors have backed a plan to pursue twinning links with Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, seen by many as a terrorist organisation.
Worcester already has a number of twin towns, with which it arranges exchange trips, encourages links with local schools and sends representatives to take part in local festivals.
In return, members of Worcester’s existing twin towns take part in the Victorian Christmas Fayre.
The idea of twinning with Gaza, put forward by Warndon councillor Alan Amos, received the backing of city councillors on Tuesday night.
They voted in favour of the carefully worded amendment tabled by David Tibbutt: “The City of Worcester invites the City of Worcester Twinning Association to consider twinning Worcester with Gaza City”.
A final decision now rests with the association’s members.
Coun Amos said he felt moved to do something following the Israeli offensive against Hamas earlier this year, which is thought to have killed 1,500 “mostly civilians”, including 450 children. Branding the bombing, “the worst atrocity since the Second World War”, Coun Amos said: “We can do something or we can do nothing.
“This is about offering hope and help to people who have lost all hope.”
Coun Amos said it was “patent nonsense” to call the move anti-semitic.
Allah Ditta, who supported the amended motion, said more practical help could be given through aid donations.
There was only silence in the chamber after Coun David Clark asked if anybody had contacted the people in Gaza to discuss twinning.
“I suspect the people of Gaza have far too much on their mind and I repeat that they would far more appreciate aid than having us twin with them,” said Coun Clark.
“Without exchanges I’m sure it will end up as just a piece of paper.”
The motion was passed with six abstentions and no objections.
After the meeting, Mike Foster, Worcester MP, said: “I understand that people feel very strongly about the situation in Gaza. I’m not sure that the city council should necessarily be spending time debating this though.”
Nevill Swanson, chairman of the City of Worcester Twinning Association, said he was aware of the idea.
“Once we receive a formal letter and have looked at the wording, we are duty bound to consider it,” he said.
The association’s 14-member executive committee will discuss the issue at its next meeting in the Guildhall on Monday, March 9.
The committee is currently working to build links with the Lithuanian town of Ukmerge and has fostered successful agreements with Kleve in Germany, Le Vesinet in France and more recently Worcester, Massachusetts, in the United States.
Mr Swanson said the constitutional purpose of the twinning association was to help learn about other cultures mainly through visitor exchanges and particularly through youth exchanges.
UPDATE: Worcester News Editor Kevin Ward has been interviewed about this running story for BBC Midlands Today. The programme can be seen on BBC1 this evening (Thursday, Feb 26) at 6.30pm.