Why won’t Sheffield Council fly the Palestinian flag on town hall?

Sheffield Town HallSheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall
Two months after the Israeli flag was first hoisted and then removed from Sheffield Town Hall, questions have arisen about why the council wouldn’t fly the Palestinian flag.

Sheffield council flew the Israeli flag in solidarity with those affected by the Hamas attack on Israel in October – however, the flag was then removed by a protestor. Now, the council’s leader has said the Palestinian flag won’t be flown as it could be seen as racist.

Sheffield Green Party, as the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported, opposed the raising of the Israeli flag on Sheffield Town Hall in the first place and condemned the terror and violence being waged against civilians in both Gaza and Israel.

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Then Cllr 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.”

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A review into the council’s flag protocol was then announced.

At last week’s full council meeting, Cllr Maroof Raouf (Nether Edge and Sharrow, Green Party) asked Cllr Tom Hunt, the leader of the council, whether he would call on the chief executive of the council to honour the Green Party’s request to fly the flag of Palestine.

In a written response, Cllr Hunt said after the last full council meeting the chief executive and other senior officers met faith and community leaders to explore options for demonstrating solidarity with the victims of violence in the Middle East.

He said the leaders of the three largest groups have agreed with the recommendation of the chief executive based on the findings of those community meetings, a comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) and Community Tension Impact Assessment from South Yorkshire Police that the Palestinian flag should not be flown.

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He said: “When considering visible acts of solidarity with Palestine, consistent feedback from community and faith groups opposed the flying of flags of nation states on grounds including that such flag flying is divisive.

“Only a very small minority thought that flying the Palestinian flag would help send a clear signal of support.

“South Yorkshire Police’s engagement highlights that the city’s small and largely elderly Jewish community are feeling isolated, vulnerable and raising the Palestinian flag in the current environment would be seen as offensive and threatening and could be reported as a racist incident, leading to further heightening of tensions.”

The answer ends with Cllr Hunt saying flying the flag would likely attract national interest – as Sheffield would be the first local authority to fly it – which could lead to further division.