Israeli flag removed from Speaker’s office inside Town Hall, council confirms

Protesters hold up a sign on the Town Hall steps earlier this year. Photograph: Noora Mykkanen

Hackney Council has confirmed that an Israeli flag has been removed from the Speaker’s office inside the Town Hall – along with two other flags representing the borough’s twinning relationships.

Hackney is twinned with three towns: Haifa in Israel, Suresnes in France, and St George’s in Grenada.

The removal of the flags comes amid increasing pressure for the borough to cease its twinning relationship with Haifa following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas.

Members of the local Muslim community wrote to the council recently to call for an end to the twinning relationship with Haifa, as part of wider criticisms of its response to the conflict.

Sulekha Hassan, one of the letter’s signatories, told the Citizen that the removal of the flags is a “cop out”, and accused the council of failing to “recognise the issues people are having with Israel in the context of what’s happening now”.

Other signatories included Azziza Mosque, Clapton Forum, Hackney Central Mosque, Mussala an Noor Mosuqe, Tarbiyyah Mosque, the Turkish Cyrpriot Islamic Association and Al Hashim Trust.

The letter, sent in mid-April, also called for Hackney Council to divest any stocks that its pension fund holds in Israeli arms company Elbit.

Hassan met with the Town Hall’s new chief executive Dawn Carter-McDonald following that letter and described the meeting as “positive”.

“There was a clear difference between speaking with [Carter-McDonald] and the local politicians,” she said.

Hassan revealed that during the meeting, Carter-McDonald said a commitment to reviewing divestment was “on the table”.

Martin Sugarman, chair of Hackney’s twinning relationship with Haifa, did not respond to the Citizen’s request for comment about the removal of the Israeli flag from the Speaker’s office.

Sugarman recently made a public apology after appearing to label all Green party members “terrorists”.

Pro-Palestinian campaigners have set up an encampment outside the Town Hall and have pledged to remain there until its demands for divestment are met.