FLAG FIASCO: Preston Council leader defends views after Palestine emails published

FLAGGED UP: The Palestine flag outside Preston town hall in July
FLAGGED UP: The Palestine flag outside Preston town hall in July
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The leader of Preston Council has defended his views after emails about the Palestinian flag fiasco were revealed.

The council attracted criticism for flying the flag at the Town Hall in July last year.

A series of correspondence between council chiefs and members of the public has now been made public, both in support of and against the decision.

Today leader Coun Peter Rankin defended comments made in the emails, saying he was entitled to his opinions.

In a response to one objector, he had said he agreed that anti-Semitism was increasing, adding: “It’s because of the actions of the IDF shelling schools and hospitals and killing and maiming thousands of men, women and children.”

He told the Lancashire Evening Post: “My view, and the view that many people have, is that an increase in anti-Semitism was caused by the dreadful carnage in Gaza.

“That comment was made at that time and I am perfectly entitled to have that opinion.”

Coun Rankin, whose wife is Jewish, said: “I’ve been involved with the Jewish community for over 40 years, and I’ve got two Jewish daughters.”
He said that he and Coun Robert Boswell, who took the decision to fly the flag, responded to every email received that “wasn’t abusive”.

He said: “There are very few Jewish people in Preston, but we want to involve all faiths in Preston community life. We have a faith forum that’s very important, the more Jewish involvement the better.”

He said he and Coun Boswell had visited two synagogues in Manchester following the correspondence and “parted friends”, and he was a “welcome member” in the synagogue his wife attended.

He said: “They all accept there isn’t a racist or anti-Semitic bone in my body.”

The published emails revealed that Coun Boswell, in a response to a question about how the “innocent dead in Israel” would feel about the decision, said: “I wouldn’t have thought dead people – innocent or otherwise – feel anything.

“However, if you are talking about the relatives of the dead then we have sympathy for the relatives of all victims of war.”

He said today he regretted any offence, adding: “It was a response to a badly-worded question.”