Green, white and black with a red triangle – the Palestinian tricolour is not typically seen above Dublin City Hall, however, there is a proposal to fly the flag there next month. Cormac Murphy explores the debate.
A motion to fly the Palestinian flag above City Hall has been passed by a Dublin City Council sub-committee with a full council decision expected on 8 May.
The flying of the Palestinian flag which is expected to occur between 15 May and early June, has sparked condemnation from the Israeli Government.
If Dublin City Council pushes ahead with the decision, it will coincide with Israel’s declaration of independence on 14 May.
Meanwhile for Palestinians, May 15 is known as ‘Nakba Day’ – Arabic for catastrophe. It commemorates the displacement that followed the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The Israeli Embassy stated that the decision is “counterproductive and will ultimately defame the good name of the city of Dublin and its citizens.”
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon added in an interview to Ynet “If the Dublin municipality approves the decision, it will essentially be waving a white flag of surrender to terrorist organizations, hatred and extortion.”
Meanwhile, People Before Profit Cllr John Lyons, who put forward the proposal, said it was a “gesture of solidarity with the people of Palestine living under occupation.”
The proposition is the latest in a series of Irish actions that have provoked a strong response from pro-Israel groups.
From 31 March to 2 April, a conference was held in UCC and Cork City Hall which questioned Israel’s legitimacy as a state.
The event drew ire from groups such as The Jewish Humans Rights Group who offered strong condemnation.
The gathering of academics at UCC was initially scheduled for the University of Southampton, but was cancelled on safety grounds.
Speaking to The City, a spokesperson for Irish4Israel said the flying of the Palestinian flag “serves no purpose…. Irish people pride our neutrality and this is not a black and white conflict. To fly the flag is against our spirit of neutrality.”
However, Fatin Al Tamimi, chairperson of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) welcomed such initiatives but said “the Irish government continues business as usual with Israel and has so far refused to take any meaningful action to hold the Apartheid state to account for its crimes against the Palestinian people.”
A long-running conflict
Around 750,000 Palestinians were displaced during the First Arab-Israeli War of 1948. The conflict followed Israel’s declaration of independence.
In the wake of additional hostilities with Israel in June 1967, more Palestinians were displaced and brought under direct military occupation.
Israel continues its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Syria’s Golan Heights. Under the unanimously adopted UN resolution 242, this is in defiance of international law which deems such actions illegal.
Today, some five million Palestinians are classified as refugees and are eligible for UNRWA services across the Middle East. This includes healthcare, relief, camp improvements and emergency assistance in times of conflict.
According to Foreign Policy, successive governments in Ireland have championed the Palestinian cause for self-determination and sovereignty, since joining the European Economic Community (now European Union) in 1973.
Ms. Al Tamimi of IPSC added “there are parallels with Ireland’s own colonial past that perhaps better help people understand the issue.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Irish4Israel suggested that Irish Republicans conflated the conflict with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, seeing it as “their new struggle.”
Israel’s embassy in Dublin was only opened in 1993 following the Oslo Accords which set a framework for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry deemed Ireland “the most anti-Israel member of the EU” following a decision to upgrade the status of the Palestinian delegation to a mission in 2011.
Ireland’s contention with the Israeli state largely stems from the role Irish peacekeepers have played in the region.
Since 1978, Irish troops have been part of the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) where more than 300 Irish soldiers are currently based.
Southern Lebanon is also home to over 400,000 Palestinian refugees, the vast majority of whom are denied basic citizenship and reside in squalid conditions.
To date, 47 Irish soldiers have lost their lives, with the government holding the Israeli Defence Forces accountable for at least fifteen of these deaths.
This includes the April 1980 kidnapping and execution of two Irish privates by the South Lebanon Army – a militia allied with Israel.
In addition to its presence in Lebanon, the Irish government provides over €10 million to Palestinian refugees.
Both sides do, however, believe Ireland could play a part in the conflict. The head of Irish4Israel said “Ireland could play an important role” but “consistent bias” has undermined the country in the eyes of Israelis.
The IPSC chairperson called the flying of the flag “an important act of solidarity” but believes boycotts, divestments and sanctions will ultimately have to be pursued to force Israel’s hand on the matter:
“The Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike in the 1980s reverberated around the world,” she added.
With half a century having passed since the Six Day War in June 1967, there is no denying that 2017 is an especially symbolic year in the decades long conflict.
Featured Image by Andrew E. Larsen via Flickr