Opinion

The Sadism of Flying the Israeli Flag

Education Minister Rafi Peretz at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem.
Ohad Zwigenberg

In Stanley Kubrick’s film “A Clockwork Orange,” the main character Alex jumps out of a window while listening to Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9,” which he once loved. It turns out that a symphony related to a traumatic event (in the film it’s aversion therapy) — not just a flag — revives the trauma. This is especially the case in our present situation. The trauma continues via occupation and home demolitions, continuous incitement and the threat of another Nakba.

As soon as he crossed the ministry’s threshold, Education Minister Rafi Peretz started reviving the trauma by forcing Arab schools to fly the Israeli flag. Everyone is equal, they say with pathos, everyone has to be happy, both those who delivered the blow and those who were beaten. It’s interesting that the principle of equality doesn’t affect the yearning souls of these leaders when it comes to land discrimination or the allocation of resources.

That’s why I’d like to address Minister Peretz with a heartfelt cry: Forget about the flag. The State of Israel won’t benefit from it, and the Jews won’t benefit from it. And for the Arabs, the wounds that have yet to heal will only be opened again. To what end?

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After all, the national flag, even if it’s a masterpiece as in “A Clockwork Orange,” is related to the Arabs’ tragedies from 1948 to the present. It provokes considerable sadness, bitterness and even revulsion. It was under this flag that most of the Arab villages were captured in 1948, and later their residents were expelled under this flag, and in the shadow of this flag all those villages were destroyed.

So why wake the trauma from its slumber? After all, the Arabs see this act as sadism. Is that Peretz’s objective? How often does he want to etch into the Arabs’ awareness that they’ve been defeated and he’s the master? Isn’t it enough for us, the Arab residents of the valley, that the name of the army chief who dubbed them “drugged cockroaches in a bottle,” Rafael Eitan, graces the tunnel at the entrance to Nazareth, the country’s largest Arab city?

Isn’t the person who suggested the name of the tunnel a sadist? Can Minister Peretz imagine a situation in which Tel Aviv’s main square were named Richard Wagner Square rather than Dizengoff Square? But as is typical of Israel, instead of listening to the victims, they are libeled. Anyone who says he isn’t in love with the Israeli flag because of the trauma is condemned as if he planned to bring down the Jewish state. He ceremoniously joins the list of the world’s biggest anti-Semites.

Let Peretz please write this down: The Arabs don’t object to the flag because of what it symbolizes for the Jews — a state and independence — but because of what it symbolizes for the Arabs: expulsion and destruction.

As I write these words, I recall the past, my first-grade class more than 55 years ago, when I was forced to sing, referring to Israel: “On my country’s Independence Day the birds chirped, happiness prevailed in the towns — and in the valley and the wadi too.” I’d like to point out that the little ones sang this patriotic song a few years after the expulsion of their parents and the demolition of their homes in the nearby villages. Isn’t that sadism at its finest?

The memories continue to assail me. At the University of Haifa, far-rightists sang “the Jewish people live” and attacked the Arab students and the Jewish democrats with iron bars and chains — under the sponsorship of the national flags that were proudly displayed.

Therefore, I don’t want Minister Peretz to use the flag to etch the awareness of the new generation too, so that these youngsters will realize who’s the boss and who’s the subject in this country. It won’t help because the window overlooking the outside world via the internet and the new technology is wider.

But if Peretz wants to be part of the atmosphere of the new era, of genuine partnership, he’ll change the flag so that it will speak to everyone, not only to the winners.