Opinion |

Why I Won't Fly the Israeli Flag on Independence Day

Since it began flying in the territories, it has become the flag of apartheid. This is the flag you want me to fly? How can I?

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Visitors on a tour of Hebron with the right-wing Im Tirtzu group hoist an Israeli flag on a balcony overlooking the West Bank city.
Visitors on a tour of Hebron with the right-wing Im Tirtzu group hoist an Israeli flag on a balcony overlooking the West Bank city. Credit: Shaked Orbach

No, Alon Idan, this time I can’t follow your advice and “hold my nose and fly the flag” (Haaretz Hebrew, April 28). I simply can’t. It’s not only that this flag has been contaminated beyond recognition over the past 50 years of occupation. It’s just not my flag anymore. Not that I have another flag. I don’t. But I am no longer capable of identifying with the flag my father would take out of storage every year and excitedly hang from the balcony of our house, as I proudly looked on from the street.

Since then, the pride has turned to shame and the identification to guilt. The list in your article, Alon, was beautiful and moving – and I always pay heed to your advice as an editor. But this time I have to reject your words when you write: “Yes, fly the flag, on your car, on the window of your house, anywhere you can.” I no longer can.

It is not possible to fly the flag because it symbolizes bad things that are not moral to display. It is the flag that is flown in the middle of the square at the junction near the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. Why is it there? After all, that’s not inside the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. It’s just to irk the thousands of Palestinians who pass the site, and to satisfy the settlers’ intoxication with power and lust for land. And why does it fly at Israeli army checkpoints, too?

How does a country dare fly its flag in a foreign land without permission? This is the flag the settlers wrap themselves in when they set out to run rampant against their Palestinian neighbors.

This is the flag on the concrete blocks at the Beit Inun junction in the West Bank, which Palestinians call “Death Square” because of the large numbers that have been killed there.

This flag has witnessed a lot of blood that was spilled for nothing. And the blood was spilled in the name of this flag.

This is the flag on the jeeps of the Israeli army and the Border Police en route to another “arrest operation” in the middle of the night – which is actually nothing but the violent and arbitrary abduction of thousands of citizens from their beds, without any legal basis.

This is the flag that flies over every checkpoint, settlement outpost, detention center and interrogation center in the territories. This is the flag that flies over the natural springs that the settlers have stolen for themselves.

In many places, it is the flag of compulsion, of occupation. This is the flag that flies in the ghost neighborhood of Hebron that was formerly home to Palestinians. This is the flag of the military court that has nothing to do with justice.

It is this flag you identify with, this flag that you want me to fly? Why? It is no longer ours, Alon. And we can’t get it back.

The theft is taking place under this flag. Israel and the settlers are flying it in the territories, and think in the process that they are establishing ownership and sovereignty over the land. They have been right for the past 50 years. The flag is there and Israel is there to stay.

But this is not the flag of the Palestinians, who are the vast majority of residents of the land there. Nor is it the flag of most Israeli Arabs. So it can’t be my flag.

It can’t be my flag because it is the flag of a “Jewish and democratic” state that may be Jewish – if someone could explain to me what that means – but it is certainly not democratic.

Since it began flying in the territories, this flag has become the flag of apartheid. This is the flag you want me to fly? How can I?

No, I don’t think it is just some piece of fabric made in China. It is because of its deep significance that I am incapable of flying it. It still sometimes sparks that same excitement from my childhood when I see it abroad. It may be a reflex or feeling of longing, but it’s not my flag anymore. The 1967 border has been erased. There is now one land – the land of both the Jews and the Palestinians – so the flag for the Jewish state can no longer be its flag.

This land is binational and the flag needs to be for both peoples. When that happens, Alon, I will proudly fly it. I won’t even have to hold my nose.

Epilogue: As I was writing this column, my dear neighbor Rafi, who lives upstairs, covered my garden with Israeli flags and the flags of Israeli army units, as he does every year.

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