In response to dozens of letters of complaint, the manager of Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel says he feels he had no choice, but he's sorry for flying the flag of the Palestinian Liberation Organization-Palestinian Authority last month.
The flag was flown for two days at the end of May, when the hotel hosted the International Security Forum, chaired by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter of Kadima. Government representatives from various countries, as well as from the Palestinian Authority, took part, and flags of each participating country - or "political entity," in the case of the PA - waved proudly in the breeze of the hotel.
News of the enemy flag adorning the popular Jerusalem hotel spread quickly after Arutz-7 blogger Yisrael Medad published a letter by Yonatan Adler informing of the Inbal-PLO flag display. Various grassroots organizations quickly took up the gauntlet, and letters by citizens expressing extreme concern began arriving at the Inbal Hotel.
By last week, Inbal's General Manager Rodney Sanders had answered at least a few of them. His first letters expressed regret that the letter-writers were offended, but by the end of last week, at least one writer received a straight-out apology.
Sanders wrote, "I, too, felt uncomfortable when asked, even by the Israeli government, to fly the colors of the Palestinian Authority at the hotel... We were instructed by the Israel Ministry of Public Security and the organizing committee to fly the flags of all those participating in the conference, including that of the Palestinian Authority."
Sanders explained that Minister Dichter "chose the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel to be the venue for the International Security Forum, a conference on 'Challenges to Homeland Security,' of which MK Avi Dicter was the chairman. US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertkoff and a dozen other internal security ministers from Europe and beyond were invited and Minister Dicter also invited the Palestinian Minister of Interior."
"While not meaning to add to anybody's distress," Sanders continued, "I think it important for me to mention that other prominent hotels are often asked by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs to host Israel-Palestinian negotiating sessions. Sometimes this also involves flags."
"I would like to apologize for placing the flag on the building," Sanders then wrote, adding, "I have now since learnt how sensitive this issue is to the feelings of our nation and our people, but I believe I had no choice but to follow the request of the Ministry."
Susie Dym, spokesperson of the Cities of Israel grassroots organization, commented afterwards, "Our activists feel that the people of the Inbal Hotel must be proud Israelis with a strong backbone. If the manager of the hotel had acted so, Minister Dichter of Kadima would have learned how to straighten the national back, and the peace negotiations would have gained greatly from this. We will not respect a hotel that does not know how to respect itself and its country."
Some activists say the campaign should be pursued by faxing protests to Minister Dichter, at 02 (9722, from outside Israel) 542-8039.