The Palestinian flag has been flying above the town hall in Nelson, Lancashire this week - prompting fury from local residents expecting instead to see the Union Flag marking the Queen’s Jubilee.
The flag was put up last Friday after a motion was put forward by a Labour councillor citing the “assassination by Israeli government forces” of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin last month.
The motion was passed unanimously by both Labour and Tory members of Pendle borough council.
Local Tory MP, Andrew Stephenson, told the JC he shared the “deep concerns” expressed by numerous constituents who had contacted him to say that the Palestinian flag should not be flying from the town hall in Jubilee week.
He acknowledged it is vital that Ms Akleh’s death should be rigorously investigated. But he added: “I do not think it is appropriate that this flag should be flying in the week of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee.
“I was unaware that this was going to happen and I was not invited to the ceremony when it was run up the pole. The only flag that should be flying there now is the Union Flag.
“My longstanding view is that local councils should focus on local issues, not foreign policy.”
After being alerted to the flag by the JC, Mr Stephenson said he had written to the Tory council leader, Nadeem Ahmed, asking for it to be taken down immediately.
It was finally taken down at 11.30am this morning – but only after flying since Friday, to the dismay of local residents, who had expressed their dismay on community Facebook groups.
One called the event an “idiotic and purposefully divisive move”, claiming that those who supported the flying of the flag were “foisting their persona ideals on everyone else regardless. A whole town stolen and wrecked by a few”.
Another wrote: “Surely the Union flag should be flown at this time in respect for Queen’s Jubilee.”
One resident said: “Nelson council chose to fly the Palestinian flag you bloody disgrace, it’s our Queen’s celebration, get it down”.
Another post called the move “disgusting”, saying “it’s the Queen’s time to celebrate 70 years of service”.
The motion to fly the Palestinian flag was moved last week by Labour group leader Mohammed Iqbal, awarded an MBE by the Queen last year, but also supported by the Tories. It called for an “independent urgent investigation into the assassination” of Ms Akleh, who was fatally shot following clashes between the IDF and Palestinian gunmen on 11 May.
Mr Iqbal told the JC he was certain that she been deliberately targeted and killed by the IDF.
He told the JC: “In my view, she was assassinated. Hopefully an investigation will confirm this.”
Mr Ahmed said that the Union Flag would be flown again later today. He refused to say why he had supported the motion, saying: “I don’t need to answer questions from a media journalist.”
The ceremony last Friday was attended by Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian diplomatic mission to the UK, a longstanding friend of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was a guest at his 2010 wedding.