Walter Kerins Allan, 62, produced a note he said was left outside his Genter Street house the previous evening. It accompanied a dozen red roses, he said.
“Just a little thank you,” the note read, “for standing for justice in recognition of Palestine and its people.”
Most messages intended for Allan, the La Jolla homeowner who flies not one but two Palestinian flags on his property, are less friendly. Some are yelled, some are just rocks thrown through his window.
“Guys have gotten out of the car and tried to hit me,” said Allan, who said he earns his living as an apartment landlord.
Three times, Allan said, his flags were cut down in the middle of the night, but that “each time they cut one down, I put another one up.” He said he intends to fly two more Palestinian flags in his backyard, in fact, “on all four corners” of the property he purchased in 1985.
Allan knows he is antagonzing La Jollans and visitors alike by taking such a visible stand on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, he said, but that “someone needs to speak for the little man.”
“America speaks about human rights and that’s what America’s about,” he said. “That’s what I was taught. And when I see the violations of human rights to the Palestinian people, and to the children, it upsets me … These people are starving. They have no electricity, no running water and, as an American, I think we should help them.”
Allan identifies as Irish, not Palestinian, but sees strong parallels in the fight of the Irish and Palestinian peoples to control their own homelands.
“My grandfather was killed, shot in the back, by the Black and Tans,” he said, referring to the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve, which fought against the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence from 1919 to 1921.
Amir Sahimi, a neighbor who lives two blocks away, said he thinks Allan’s flags are an unacceptable outrage. “As someone who has lost a loved one to Hamas terrorists, this greatly offends me,” he said, explaining that his first cousin was among the 22 people killed in Israel’s Dizengoff Street bus bombing, attributed to Hamas, on Oct. 19, 1994.
Sahimi, who described himself as a Jewish person of Iranian descent, claimed that most of his neighbors are also outraged over the flags, but afraid to speak out. (The Light attempted to contact several. The ones who did speak said they disapproved of the flags being flown, but did not want to be identified or comment for this story. “It’s a small town,” one said.)
Sahimi said some of their concerns relate to the effect of the flags on property values.
Sahimi said that Allan’s flags — at least one of which he can recall flying for more than five years — are especially hurtful on American holidays and days of mourning. “On the Fourth of July, Labor Day, 9/11 — every time people in La Jolla fly American flags, he flies Palestinian flags?” Sahimi asked. “Why is he honoring those who have the blood of Americans on their hands?”
Allan replied that he flies the flag of Palestine, not Hamas.
“To fly a Palestinian flag means you’re supporting Hamas?” he asked. “That’s quite the jump. I don’t support anybody with a gun — on either side.”
More to the point, Allan argued, he is legally entitled to fly any flag he wants to on his own property in America — at least in those neighborhoods of America, like his, with no Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions.
“I used to fly (San Diego) Charger flags,” he said, “until they moved. I fly Irish flags on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not hurting anybody. I just love everybody and I want everybody to know that there are people who are suffering.”
Allan does not try to deny that he is vehemently anti-Israel, calling it “an apartheid state that shouldn’t be.” Also in his front yard is a model of a boat he has labeled “USS Liberty.” It commemorates the U.S. Navy technical research ship accidentally bombed by Israeli Air Force fighters and Israeli Navy torpedo boats during the Six-Day War in 1967, killing 34. (Israel apologized at the time, claiming it mistook the vessel for Egyptian. Then it paid more than $6 million to compensate for the U.S. dead and injured. Although investigations by the U.S. Navy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA and the U.S. House and Senate concluded no deliberate intent on Israel’s part, conspiracy theorists, some survivors of the attack and even former Secretary of State Dean Rusk have disagreed.)
However, Allan said, being anti-Israel is not the same thing as being anti-Semitic.
“I love the Jewish people,” he said. “I’ve worked for good Jewish men. There’s a lot of good people on both sides, beautiful people. I’ve had doctors who are Jews who saved my life. We’re being taught that (Palestinians) are terrorists and bad people, and they’re not. And Jews aren’t, either.
“I just think that it’s a nice issue that we all should discuss, and I’m trying to bring awareness to the people of La Jolla,” Allan added. “La Jollans are nice people, generous people. That’s what we’re noted for. We’re kind and open, and we all have cottages and art and we’re into nice, gentle things. And I think La Jollans, when they know the story, most of them are on my side.”
In response to an e-mail to the Anti-Defamation League, a spokesperson told the Light it had “no comment or reaction to this story at this time.”