Banyule City Council has become the eighth metro council in the Melbourne area to formally call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The Banyule Palestine Action Group has welcomed this decision as conveyed by the mayor, Tom Melican, at a council meeting on 18 March. However, BPAG has also said that the council statement does not go far enough.

While the mayor was speaking, more than 200 Banyule residents held a peaceful rally outside the chamber for the second time in a month.

Victorian Socialists members have been central to the organising efforts of local Palestine activists in Banyule, which covers the area from West Heidelberg to Watsonia, Greensborough, Macleod and Ivanhoe.

Speaking to Red Flag, Victorian Socialists member and BPAG activist Lucas Moore said the group had worked hard to mobilise the community. “We’ve had stalls in shopping centres every weekend and leafleted the transport hubs. There’s posters everywhere across Banyule too.”

The mayor’s statement comes after six weeks of campaigning by BPAG, including collecting more than 1,600 signatures on a petition. “Our petition now holds the record for the most signatures collected on a petition in Banyule”, Moore said.

The most important news in the mayor’s statement is a commitment to write to the prime minister and the foreign minister expressing Banyule’s support for an immediate “humanitarian ceasefire” and “pursuit of a permanent ceasefire”. The mayor also said that his correspondence with the Australian government would include ensuring “assistance to those who arrive in Australia after fleeing the conflict”, “an unconditional release of all hostages”, and “safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to the people of Palestine and Israel”.

BPAG welcomed the mayor’s statement but noted that it does not condemn Israeli genocide or the deliberate starvation of civilians, does not call for Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories, does not address issues of Banyule City Council divesting from any contract with businesses that support the Israeli government, does not call on Australia to stop the shipment of weapons and military hardware to Israel and does not mention the prosecution of war crimes by Israeli occupation forces in Gaza.

“The statement is a good start, but we’re going to continue lobbying council”, Moore said.

Moore added that council also needs to say something about the weapons industry in Banyule. A local company in Greensborough, Lovitt Technologies, is the only global supplier of a particular part for the F35 stealth bomber that Israel has deployed in Gaza.

“The war in Gaza might seem to be distant from Banyule, but the Zionist war machine uses parts manufactured here to kill and maim thousands of civilians”, Moore said. “Our campaign is determined to shut down weapons manufacturing in Banyule. The equipment at Lovitt’s factory can be used for lots of other things but the company is profiting from death and destruction.”

BPAG is calling on Banyule City Council to take a stronger stand and to recognise the resolve of Banyule residents to denounce Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Several Banyule councillors have told BPAG that they are worried about a Zionist backlash if they push too hard. “Council needs to show some courage”, Moore said. “A debate in the council chamber will give Banyule voters a clear picture of where their representatives stand, or where they’re trying to hide.”

The Banyule Palestine Action Group has also announced that it is planning to stand candidates across Banyule in this year’s local government elections.

“Victorian Socialists is working with the BPAG activists to put together a progressive ticket in Banyule”, Moore said. “The plan is to stand in all nine wards on a community-oriented platform.”

Banyule Palestine Action Groups has called on Banyule City Council to build on the mayor’s statement and take much stronger motion to the next council meeting.

“We want council to fly the Palestinian flag, to condemn genocide, to join the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, and put more pressure on the Australian government to stop arms sales to Israel”, Moore said. “It’s the minimum they should be doing.”