News / Politics

Palestinian flag to continue flying until a ceasefire 

Council pledges $10,000 to support refugees from Gaza

An activist holds a Palestinian flag at a rally outside the Coburg civic centre in November.

Mark Phillips

MERRI-BEK Council has hardened its stance on the war in Gaza, resolving to continue flying the Palestinian flag until there is a permanent ceasefire and to lead other councils around Australia in opposing Israel’s military assault. 

The council has also tightened its procurement rules to prevent any contracts being made with companies linked to the Israel Defense Forces. 

And it has allocated $10,000 to a special fund to support any Palestinian refugees who are resettled in Merri-bek. 

An estimated 31,000 civilians have now been killed, mostly by Israeli bombing of Gaza, in the current conflict, while tens of thousands of people have lost their homes. Israel launched the attack with the intent of destroying the Gaza-based Hamas organisation which was responsible for the murder of 1139 Israelis and foreign nationals, including 764 civilians, and the taking of 248 hostages on October 7 last year.

Merri-bek was the first council in Victoria and one of the first in Australia to show solidarity with Gaza when it voted in November to temporarily raise the Palestinian flag above the Coburg Civic Centre

Since then, another eight Victorian councils have passed similar resolutions, although the City of Melbourne last month rejected one. 

“I think it’s entirely appropriate that we as a council have a position on this,” said Mayor Adam Pulford. 

“It’s obviously affecting members of our community. Also, I believe the only way that change happens is more and more people get involved and speak up … I’m really proud that the council’s been part of leading the charge here in Victoria and in the country.” 

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With the resolution passed in November only committing to fly the Palestinian flag for six months, Councillor Sue Bolton successfully pushed at the council meeting on March 13 to extend it indefinitely until there is a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. 

Bolton’s resolution also commits Merri-bek to take a motion to the Australian Local Government Association’s national assembly in July to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and for Israel to abide by international law. 

Other measures approved by the council are the provision of up to $10,000 to faith, cultural, and asylum seeker organisations to assist in their support of recently arrived families from Palestine in Merri-bek. 

The council will also continue to investigate all of its existing contracts to identify any that may be linked to the war in Gaza. 

Despite some councillors and staff being issued with Hewlett-Packard laptop computers, Bolton said that she had been assured that the council had no ongoing contracts with the company and its subsidiaries. Hewlett-Packard is a target of a boycott campaign because of its links as a supplier to the IDF. 

Bolton said that no individual council or resolution would stop the war, but as had occurred during the Vietnam War, they were part of a growing movement for peace in Palestine. 

“I think this is part of the push from ordinary people who can see that this genocide is indefensible,” she said. 

Councillor Angelica Panopoulos, who was Mayor when the first resolution of solidarity with Palestine was passed in November, said Merri-bek had been criticised for its stance on the war but it was important that councils did provide engage on global political issues. 

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Council to fly Palestinian flag in gesture of solidarity

The resolution was also supported by Councillor Oscar Yildiz, who voted against raising the Palestinian flag in November. 

Yildiz said that during 16 years as a councillor, he had always believed that global political issues should be off limits. But he said he had experienced a change of heart following dozens of messages from the community. 

“If my community believe that the flying of the Palestinian flag over the council chambers has significance and if flying the flag demonstrates our solidarity with the innocent regardless of which side they are on in the conflict then I say let us fly the flag until the ceasefire is called,” he said. 

“If it influences the outcome of the war, then I’m absolutely in favour of it … we are past the blame game now.” 

The motion was passed unanimously, although three councillors – Lambros Tapinos, Helen Davidson and Annalivia Carli-Hannan – were absent when the vote was taken. 

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