UPDATE at 11.30am: The flag was removed this morning as police arrived at Mulberry Place to discuss concerns raised with them by the Jewish community. There had been worries about inciting hatred…this in a borough that has a No Place for Hate policy. Full story on Express.co.uk here.
This is a Guest Post by Cllr Shahed Ali, Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet member for environmental services. He has been a passionate supporter of the Palestinian cause for many years and was at the forefront of yesterday’s decision to raise the Palestinian flag at the town hall. That decision by the mayor was backed by the Labour group at a full council meeting last night. (As always with guest posts, by hosting them, I’m not necessarily endorsing them.)
The UK and USA governments trot out the same excuses: “Israel has a right to defend itself, it needs to protect its citizens.” But as always with the media, whether that is the BBC or Sky News, this is not the full story. The military onslaught by the fourth largest military power supposedly targeting Gaza is so brutally disproportionate and indiscriminate that it makes it impossible not to view Israel’s actions as nothing short of war crimes against humanity.
Four Israeli citizens have died from these primitive rockets, with approximately 50 Israeli soldiers killed fighting on the ground. Compare that to the death toll in Gaza? Of the 1,200-plus already killed, more than 80 per cent are civilians, mostly women and infants. Israel brands them terrorists but it is acting as judge, jury and executioner in the concentration camp that is Gaza.
What happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis is appalling. But you would think those atrocities would give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto. Where can these people escape to when Israel is bombing hospitals, places of worship and even UN schools acting as shelters, where exactly is it safe to flee to?
I was born and brought up in London. I grew up learning, being taught in secondary school, about the story of Anne Frank during Nazi Germany. I grew up reading the book and also watching the movie series ‘Holocaust’.
I recall these memories very fondly and close to my heart. This history of Nazi genocide upon the Jewish people brings a wave of emotion and tears to my eyes, and rightly so.
That is the reason why my IQ does not allow me to comprehend just how such atrocities can now be committed upon the Palestinian people in this day and age – the ideology to the denial of rights, dispossession and expulsion of the “indigenous population of historic Palestine”?
No doubt many will and have already questioned and criticised Mayor Lutfur Rahman for the decision to fly the Palestinian flag at a British public Town Hall. I say this to those who say Palestine is not an issue for Tower Hamlets: it very much is because we do not want the UK to become a breeding ground for young people who feel they have no choice but to express their anger and frustration for injustice by participating in military conflict abroad, whether they are Muslim, Arab, Jewish or Israeli.
Hamas is wrong to continue its DIY rocket attacks. But as Channel 4’s Jon Snow said this week: “If you strangle a people, deny them supply for years, extreme reaction is inevitable.” One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
Tory Party chairman Grant Shapps is wrong to state we should not intervene on foreign affairs in the Middle East. It is we the people who vote to elect our government. Thousands of people have marched the streets of London and capital cities around the globe in solidarity against this injustice.
Foreign policy is most certainly in our interest and of concern to the British public. The attacks which took place on 7/7 cultivated from disgruntled British citizens in response to our foreign policy in the Middle East. Israel’s indiscriminate attacks upon civilian lives and our government turning a blind-eye will not solve this dispute.
They will just continue to create another generation of hate-filled Palestinians and others around the world, determined to fight against the injustice of being occupied, oppressed and slaughtered. The media is quick and correct to demonise British Muslims who choose to go abroad and participate in conflicts. But the same demonization should not be excluded to British Israelis who have also equally chosen to go abroad and participate with the Israeli Defence Force – both are wrong and both should be condemned.
I am extremely proud to be a member of Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet today at Tower Hamlets Council. I salute him for the courage he has demonstrated by agreeing to fly the Palestinian flag in solidarity with the hundreds of innocent children who are being slaughtered as we speak.
The British public cannot be a silent witness to this carnage one minute longer. Our government and the world must force Israel and Hamas to end this endless cycle of death, or we risk death and destruction much further afield to just the Holy land.