Al Jazeera Blogs


Europe

Glasgow stands with Gaza

Scottish city's decision to fly Palestinian flag over its most important building seen as bold display of solidarity.
Last modified: 7 Aug 2014 22:39

Glasgow is no longer the city of shipyards and engineering workshops that it used to be. 

Anyone who watched the recent Commonwealth Games saw that the Clyde waterfront is now characterised by squinty bridges and gleaming modern buildings. 

One thing that has not changed, though, is the city's reputation for controversy and fiery left-wing politics. 

At 8am on Friday morning, the Palestinian flag will be raised over the City Chambers, the seat of Glasgow City Council, in a very public statement of solidarity and support for the people of Gaza. 

In a letter to the Mayor of Bethlehem, with which Glasgow is twinned, Lord Provost Sadie Docherty said: "Glasgow is home to many friends of Palestine and this is a deeply distressing time for them.

"They represent a variety of ethnicities, political persuasions, faiths and none. However, they are united by a common desire to support the Palestinian people."

Unsurprisingly, the move has divided opinion. 

Paul Morron, the President of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, fumed that: "Flying the flag is the worst kind of gesture politics." 

He added that the decision "does nothing to alleviate the suffering on either side of the conflict, nor does it bring peace closer by one single minute". 

Glasgow Conservative councillor, David Meikle, echoed those concerns and said that the city should also raise the Israeli flag “to show that we are not political but in sympathy with all who suffer in the Middle East”.

His comments spectacularly miss the point that Glasgow is political to its core and has done this kind of thing before. 

Back in 1981, Glasgow decided to award Nelson Mandela the Freedom of the City. This might not seem much now, but Britain's then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, regarded Mandela as a terrorist and Glasgow was the first city in the world to stand up and make such a public show of support for him. 

Michael Kelly, who was Lord Provost at the time, says: "That led to widespread publicity for his cause. So we followed it up in 1986 by changing the name of the place where the South African Consulate was located to focus further attention on the issue."

The decision meant that South Africa's Consul General had to include the name of the country's most famous political prisoner on its address. 

In Scotland, the word we would use to describe this is "gallus". It means cheeky, self-confident and daring. 

The same irreverence was on show when a tartan-clad John Barrowman planted a kiss on a male dancer at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games last month.

It was both a snub to homophobia in countries which criminalise homosexuality and a joyous celebration of diversity. 

There is nothing joyous about what is happening in Gaza, but activists say unfurling the Palestinian flag over the city's most important building is a proud, historic and important act of international solidarity.