The Israel-Palestine conflict continues to be a heated topic in international politics. Following Israel’s recent launch of Operation Protection Edge in July, the conflict has reached a new level of despair, with death tolls in Gaza approaching two thousand, most of these, innocent civilians. A series of bombings directed at UN schools and refuges in Gaza has resulted in absolute desolation, and the discrimination against innocent individuals continues. Unsuccessful negotiations between Hamas and Israel prolong the unstable conditions, however, on the 10th of August, an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire was introduced, and accepted by both sides.
At this time, Glasgow City Council raised the Palestinian flag over the city chambers, and described it as a symbol of solidarity for the victims of the conflict. Naturally, mixed reactions followed, with Jewish groups on the one hand condemning the act, suggesting that such a gesture solves no problems but rather triggers anger, and Palestinian supporters on the other hand, carrying signs imprinted with messages such as “Free Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.
Solidarity acts aside for a minute, it is important to mention the fact that the United Kingdom plays a significant – and highly destructive – role in the Israel-Palestine conflict. With the United States of America in the lead and the UK by its side, both actors are today confirmed providers of weaponry to Israel. Political activist Noam Chomsky – an expert in US politics and foreign policy – recently raised the insightful point that these actions are not only in horrific violation of global human rights, but also in violation of the US government’s own laws, referring to it as “sadism masked as compassion”.
And rightly so; it would be naïve to disagree with Chomsky, especially given recent hard facts. The religious, political and territorial issues between Israel and Palestine are deeply enhanced by western governmental influence, and unfortunately, not positively. However, the majority of the international community is, without doubt, highly concerned for the people in the Middle East. Therefore, what we should remember here is the importance of domestic pressure, showing solidarity and support for our fellow human beings, while also spreading awareness to the public.
Nevertheless, with bold decisions comes harsh criticism – people will always be displeased with actions like these. The president of the Jewish Representative Council in Glasgow, Paul Morron, stated that the act was merely “gesture politics”. The Israeli Embassy in London also disapproved of the decision, because “the flag over Gaza is the green Hamas flag, which expresses the one-sided ideology of blind hatred.” Yet, I cannot help but wonder – does gesture politics have to be doomed a bad thing? Yes, the definition of the phrase tells us that it has little practical effect. However, it also tells us that the intention of it is to attract public attention. Again, the importance of domestic pressure comes to mind. In a situation where the grotesque violation of human rights seems to be the ceaseless case, it is of utmost importance that a community, in this case Glasgow, can show its support to the suffering community of Palestine.
As for the resemblance to the green Hamas flag flying over Gaza being blatantly compared to the Palestinian flag flying over Glasgow, this point comes across as rather defective. First of all, by stating this, the Israeli Embassy is misleadingly equating the flag of a group deemed a terrorist organization by the EU with the state flag of Palestine, something that definitely should not be generalised as the same thing. Again, in no way is Glasgow showing support for terrorist groups, nor are they discriminating against minorities. Rather, Glasgow is flying the Palestinian flag for the sake of showing sympathy in times of desolation.
For these reasons, it is essential that we do not misinterpret this gesture as something immoral and offensive towards the Israeli community. What the flag is primarily doing, is showing Glasgow’s support for the victims of this devastating conflict, and condemnation for the violation of human rights.