Jewish groups angered at absence of Israeli flag at diversity festival

City organisation rethinking procedures after criticism of a recommendation it says was sparked by security concerns

October 26th, 2012 1:07 pm| by admin
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A city hall request that the Israeli flag not be displayed at a street festival intended to promote diversity has Jewish community leaders wondering what “diversity” really means to some city leaders.

During planning meetings for September’s Smag Verden – Mangfoldighedsfest, a celebration of the foods and cultures of different countries, Jewish participants were warned that some would interpret the flying of the Israeli flag as a provocation.

“We were told that is was better if we did not fly our flag,” Malgorzata H Hansen, who represented local Jews at the meetings, told Berlingske newspaper.

Organisers said they feared clashes between Jewish, Muslim and leftist groups if the Israeli flag was displayed.

Originally, representatives of TaskForce Inklusion, the group responsible for communicating with all of the groups participating in the festival, told the Jewish representatives that all participating associations were being asked not to bring flags.

Other flags were displayed prominently at the festival and the groups involved said they had never been asked not to display their country’s standards.

TaskForce Inklusion has since revised their story.

“It is not that there is a flag policy,” said Pernille Kjeldgaard, the head of TaskForce Inklusion, to Berlingske. “Specific associations were asked not to display their flags as a safety precaution.”

Max Meyer, head of the organisation Dansk Zionistforbund, said the rules ought to have been the same for everyone.

“It is a shame that one group is discriminated against, especially at a diversity celebration,” Meyer told Berlingske.

Kjeldgaard said her organisation is now re-evaluating its procedures.

“We are aware of the conflict, and are looking at whether we should make some changes,” she said.

Copenhagen's deputy mayor for employment and integration, Anna Mee Allerslev (Radikale), apologised to the Zionist group and invited them to a meeting to discuss the situation.

“No one should feel excluded from a diversity festival,” she said.

Allerslev said that she had been advised to completely exclude the Danish Zionist group from the festival, although he declined to say who exactly made that recommendation.

“We had some experts who were deeply concerned about the situation and were afraid that the security was not sufficient,” she said.

The city deployed 20 additional police officers in and around the festival’s location in the multi-ethinc Nørrebro district.

City councillor Lars Aslan Rasmussen (Socialdemokraterne) called the situation “completely discriminatory”, but Allerslev said other considerations had been in play.

“I would really love to have an explanation as to why Rasmussen does not believe that public safety should be a top priority,” she said. “Politicians should be careful not to politicise cases like this.”

Allerslev stressed that the Jewish group had only been recommended not to display the Israeli flag.

“This was advice, it was not a ban. It was done with the best of intentions,” she said.

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