The International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has removed two Palestinian flags containing anti-Israel slogans from the window of its Wembley bookshop and headquarters.
The flags, which featured the slogans “Boycott Israel” and “Free Palestine”, were prominently displayed in the window. The shop, which is situated next door to a kosher bakery, had refused to remove them, despite requests from the local MP, Barry Gardiner.
Several Jewish residents of the area were uncomfortable and concerned about these flags and approached UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) for help.
The flags have been removed despite IHRC stating on their website on 29 April 2023 that: “IHRC continues to display the flags in its shop front and will not be bullied by politicians or the authorities into backing down over its support of Palestinian rights….”
UKLFI first wrote to Brent Council on 20 April 2023, informing them that the bookshop was in breach of The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (“the Act”) and The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 (“the Regulations”). We requested that Brent Council take enforcement action against the shop, requiring the flags to be removed.
UKLFI pointed out that it was illegal to display the flags without planning consent, since they contained “subject matter additional to the flags” – namely, the anti-Israel slogans “Boycott Israel” and “Free Palestine” – and they were displayed within one metre of the window (in fact on the window).
UKLFI further reminded Brent Council of their Public Sector Equality Duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (The “Act”).
This Act states that :
(1) A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to—
(c) foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
Allowing the IHRC shop to retain these divisive flags in its window would not foster good relations between Jewish people and other groups.
The flags were eventually removed from the IHRC shop on around 12 May 2023.
UKLFI director Caroline Turner commented: “We are pleased that Brent Council, having been reminded of its public sector equality duty, as well as the planning breaches, appears to have persuaded IHRC to remove the contentious flags. Now that the flags have been removed, this reduces the feeling of intimidation that Jewish people felt, as they passed that shop.”