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Irish fly the Palestinian flag in solidarity

by Daniella Peled
Totally Jewish
August 1, 2002

In a bizarre twist to the Middle East conflict, sectarian groups on the already troubled streets of Belfast have taken to marking out their territory by flying Israeli and Palestinian flags.

In Republican areas this summer the Palestinian flag has been strung up alongside the Irish tricolour, whilst Unionists have reacted with a profusion of Israeli flags displayed alongside the Union Jack.

There has traditionally been Republican support for the Palestinian cause, with many alleged links between the IRA and the PLO in what both parties see as an anti-imperialist struggle against occupation.

But the newfound Loyalist empathy with the Jewish state is particularly curious given their paramilitary wings have a long history of connections with neo-Nazi groups such as Combat 18.

Amanda Moss, Belfast representative at the Board of Deputies, describes this development as “sinister”.

She said: “These flags tend to be most prominent in areas that border Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods. I noticed one street where half of the houses had Irish and Palestinian flags and the other half had British and Israeli flags.

“This time of year is particularly tense as it is the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, a major date in the Loyalist calendar. But for them to be flying Israeli flags is quite ironic due to their past connections with the far-right.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “It’s true that historically the republicans have been more associated with the Palestinians, and the Loyalists have looked more towards the Israeli side.

“But right now I think the majority of republicans actively identify with the Palestinians, whereas with the Loyalists it’s more of a reaction rather than being based on any ideological feelings.”

However, you try telling that to notorious Loyalist leader Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair, who reportedly even draped his pet alsatian Rebel with a Magen David flag.

A Democratic Unionist Party spokesman said: “It’s traditional to fly flags throughout the summer in Belfast, and especially in areas of cross-community strife where people want to mark out their boundaries.

“I think some people feel they are in a similar situation as communities under threat in Israel. It’s another reflection of the tensions we live under here.”