Sheffield Council to review flag protocol but not apologise following Israeli flag backlash
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The council flew the Israeli flag in solidarity with those affected by the Hamas attack on Israel last month.
It hit headlines as a viral video showed someone scaling the 200ft Town Hall and replacing it with a Palestine flag as protesters cheered from below.
More demonstrations followed and a petition – which gathered 1,316 signatures – calling on the council to apologise was presented to this month’s full council meeting.
Chants of free Palestine protesters outside the Town Hall could be heard inside the chamber where council leader Tom Hunt responded to the petition.
He said the UK government asked local authorities to consider flying the Israeli flag on public buildings to show solidarity.
All but Coun Johnson supported flying the flag. Coun Hunt said this decision was made before the attacks on Gaza started.
Coun Hunt said: “The flag of Israel was flown to show solidarity with the victims of that attack. Raising the flag was not about endorsing any actions taken by the Netanyahu government either before or after October 7 – a government that has a shameful record of human rights abuses and that has shown little interest in securing peace in the Middle East.
“Nor was this about taking sides in a decades-long conflict. This was about showing solidarity with the victims of a terror attack.
“I know that this matters to many people and I understand why people feel this was not the right thing to do and I fully respect people’s rights to hold that view.”
Israel has been bombing Gaza since the Hamas attacks that killed 1,400 people, with the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza saying more than 9,000 people have been killed.
Coun Hunt said an apology would risk further hurt but the authority would review its flag protocol.
“The decision was taken in good faith and of course, I and others have reflected on it over the last few weeks as the horror of what we have seen in Israel has been replaced by the horror we have seen in Gaza,” he said.
“It was right to show solidarity but I recognise that this act of solidarity caused hurt for some people.
“Flying the flag was not a straightforward decision and it has prompted a range of responses and heartfelt emotions.”