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Monday, April 22, 2024

Palestinian flags to be taken down from all council-owned buildings in Tower Hamlets

The mayor of Tower Hamlets has said Palestinian flags will be taken down from all council-owned buildings in the borough. On Wednesday evening (13 March), Lutfur Rahman said the council will begin to remove Palestinian flags from its buildings but rejected that they were ‘symbols of division’.

The flags started to emerge in the borough shortly after the Israel-Hamas war began on 7 October of last year. The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands Tower Hamlets Council had been threatened with legal action by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), demanding the flags be taken down after receiving a number of complaints from Jewish residents who felt intimidated.

Some Jewish residents had reportedly felt so distressed they were considering moving out of the borough. Mr Rahman said the flags had been put up by residents as a symbol of solidarity and sympathy for those ‘enduring extreme suffering’ in Gaza, but claimed they had been used to ‘further the Islamophobic narrative’.

In an official statement posted on X, Mr Rahman said: “Following advice from the Chief Executive, the council will begin to remove the Palestinian flags from council-owned infrastructure. Although these flags are an understandable expression of solidarity, I now feel they are being used to unfairly attack the people of the borough and further the Islamophobic narrative.”

He added: “I am concerned this situation is becoming a distraction for the council as we continue to work to improve the lives of our residents and deliver much needed services. I ask residents for their understanding on this decision. Please be assured I will personally continue to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.”

According to the 2021 census, Tower Hamlets has the largest Muslim population in the UK at 39.9per cent. Mr Rahman said the recent rise in Islamophobia has made Tower Hamlets a target, but added it did not mean that he wasn’t aware of a ‘rise in anti-Semitism and other forms of racism’.

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