(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The Irish cities of Dublin and Sligo voted to fly the Palestinian flag above their respective city halls, in a show of solidarity to mark the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and villages during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
“This city council will fly the flag of Palestine over City Hall for the month of May 2017… as a gesture of our solidarity with the people of Palestine living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, with the Palestinian citizens of Israel denied basic democratic rights, and with the over seven million displaced Palestinians denied the right of return to their homeland,” the Dublin motion read.
The motion, sponsored by Councillor John Lyons, passed in the Dublin city council with 42 votes in favor, 11 against, and seven abstentions.
A competing motion seeking to fly the Palestinian and Israeli flags side by side was defeated, the newspaper reported.
Meanwhile, the Sligo city council unanimously voted to fly the Palestinian flag between May 15, which marks Nakba Day, and May 31, local news outlet Sligo Today reported on Tuesday.
Israeli Ambassador to Ireland Zeev Boker denounced the decision as “highly politically charged,” and said that it would promote a “negative message,” the Irish Times reported, without expanding.
However, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) welcomed the decisions on Monday, as IPSC chairwoman Fatin al-Tamimi called them “important symbolic measures."
“I’m sure I am echoing the views of all Palestinians in Ireland in saying that these gestures have been truly soul-stirring and deeply emotional on a personal level,” al-Tamimi said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We Palestinian Dubs will hold our head high knowing that the people of Dublin support our struggle for justice and self-determination,” she added.
Speaking with Ma’an, Tamimi called the decision an “amazing act of solidarity with the Palestinian people,” which she said reflected the broad support for the Palestinian cause among Irish citizens, despite some opposition to the Dublin city council decision, including the competing motion which she called “ridiculous.”
Palestinian legal rights NGO BADIL encouraged Dublin to go through with the decision in April, quoting a 13-year-old boy from Aida refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank as saying: “Imagine what would happen if all people around the world became like Irish people… We will get our freedom.”
The NGO went on to encourage Irish municipalities to “ground this symbolic gesture” by embracing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“Given the situation of ‘ongoing Nakba in the context of a belligerent occupation, apartheid, and colonization, acts of international solidarity with Palestinians are of the utmost importance,” BADIL said in its April statement.The official commemoration of the Nakba is held on May 15 and is observed by millions of Palestinians and rights activists around the world.
Some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands in 1948 and were scattered across refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Today, there are more than five million Palestinian refugees who remain displaced from their original homes and villages following the mass expulsion that occurred almost 70 years ago.
Ireland has long fostered strong ties with the Palestinian cause, due in part to the perceived commonalities between Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation and Ireland’s own centuries-long battle to free itself from British rule.
Last month, Martina Anderson, a politician from Northern Ireland who spent 12 years in British jails, was one of a number of European parliament members who staged a sit-in in solidarity with hundreds of Palestinian prisoners currently on their 23rd day on hunger strike.
In December 2014, Irish lawmakers urged their government to recognize Palestine as a state, in a symbolic motion that sailed through parliament unopposed.Meanwhile, Boker warned the Israeli government in February that Ireland could soon recognize a Palestinian state, owing much to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s advancement of some 6,000 new illegal settler units on occupied Palestinian land and the passage of the outpost Regularization law, which has paved the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of illegal Israeli settlement outposts.
Since 2014, when Sweden became the first Western European country to recognize a state of Palestine, support for recognizing a Palestinian state has surged in Europe through various government resolutions and pro-Palestinian activism, particularly following Israel’s devastating military offensive in 2014 which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians.