Palestinian Ambassador to Slovenia Condemns Israeli Flag Raising

By , 17 May 2021, 11:09 AM Politics
Ambassador Salahem Abdel-Shafi, who covers both Slovenia and Austria Ambassador Salahem Abdel-Shafi, who covers both Slovenia and Austria Photo: Mission of the State of Palestine in Austria

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Updated with the response of the Israeli Ambassador

STA, 17 May - Palestinian Ambassador Salahem Abdel-Shafi has expressed indignation over the Slovenian government's Friday decision to raise Israel's flag in Ljubljana to express solidarity with Israel amid the latest escalation of violence in the Middle East.

Following the suit of Austria and the Czech Republic, the government raised the Israeli flag along the Slovenian and EU flags on the government building, and said on Twitter: "We condemn the terrorist attacks, and we stand by Israel."

Related: Israeli Flag Flown on Slovenian Govt Building in Show of Solidarity, Against President's Wishes

"This is outrageous and very worrying. It's a show of a one-sided, I'd even say a racist policy. It was meant to express sympathy for the victims of only one side, while ignoring the victims on the other side," the Austria-based ambassador who is also in charge of Slovenia said in a statement the newspaper Dnevnik ran on Monday.

He also said that there were many more civilian victims, including women and children, on the Palestinian side. "Expressing solidarity and empathy with the Israeli victims or Israel is racism. This is a policy of white supremacy. We cannot accept that, we most strongly condemn it."

The diplomat said he was surprised with the Slovenian government's gesture because at their meeting in Ljubljana last week, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Stanislav Raščan assured him that Slovenia would stick to the EU's two-state solution policy. He thus believes the latest act undermines this stance.

He said the Palestinian authorities knew Prime Minister Janez Janša had friendly relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which they had absolutely nothing against.

"But when something like Friday's act happens, when sympathising with only some victims happens, we have to raise our voice. This is offensive to the victims. This is not just a political issue," he said, adding he would send a letter of protest to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry.

Defending the Israeli government's actions, Israeli Ambassador to Slovenia Eyal Sela meanwhile told news portal that contrary to Hamas, Israel had been launching air strikes on an infrastructure of terrorists that was attacking the country. Israel has the duty to protect its citizens as much as any other country, he noted.

"Unfortunately there have been civilian casualties, who are not our target. There is also a lot of victims of Hamas missiles in Gaza since as many as a quarter do not hit Israel's territory, instead they fall down on civilians in Gaza as well," he said.

Sela highlighted that Israel was acting in line with all international commitments and international law as the country did not target buildings of civilians but the infrastructure used by Hamas. The latter uses civilians as so-called human shields, he said. "We do not fire at schools or kindergartens as they [Hamas] do in Israel," he added.

One of the buildings that were destroyed in an Israeli air strike housed foreign media, but was also used by Hamas to run intelligence services to help launch attacks, Sela said. "Such an abuse of human shield is a crime against humanity," he said, pointing out that the foreign media companies had been notified of the strike beforehand and there had been no casualties.

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