Opinion |

The Palestinian Flag Is Not Mine

The Palestinian flag is in practice the flag of Yasser Arafat. No one asked the opinion of the Palestinian citizens of Israel when it was made the flag of the Palestinian people

Abed L. Azab
Abed L. Azab
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A flag combining elements of the Palestinian and Israeli flags on display at a rally in Tel Aviv, August 2018.
A flag combining elements of the Palestinian and Israeli flags on display at a rally in Tel Aviv, August 2018.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Abed L. Azab
Abed L. Azab

The Palestinian flag is not mine. The Israeli flag is not mine either, but there is a difference. And before I explain the difference, let me first say that in my opinion the love of flags, not to mention raising them to a level of holiness, is idol worship, just like bowing down to a statue, circling around any “holy” rock, throwing stones at a wall that represents the devil, kissing metal attached to the doorpost or prostrating yourself on the grave of a “saint,” real or imaginary.

Almost every country has laws to protect the flag from “desecration.” This leads to the very simple conclusion: Their holy importance is artificial and forced.

In my eyes, a flag is a piece of cloth that has some sort of symbol drawn on it. In order to demonstrate this to the shocked reader, Israeli or Palestinian, who I imagine is now cursing me with a wide variety of swear words, following is a list of possible uses for what I could do with this cloth.

Let us assume that an Israeli/Palestinian friend gives me an Israeli/Palestinian flag as a gift. The first use I would make of it is to put in on my seat in the car as upholstery. And if I wake up one morning and see that the windshield of the car is covered with dew from the night and a bit of dust, I would not hesitate to use it to wipe the window and throw it away immediately afterward.

The Palestinian flag is in practice the flag of Yasser Arafat. No one asked the opinion of the Palestinian citizens of Israel when it was made the flag of the Palestinian people. There is a lot of truth in the saying heard from a large number of Jews in Israel that it is the PLO flag.

In comparison, the Israeli flag was chosen by the fathers of the Zionist movement as a clearly Jewish symbol, like the symbol of the Hanukkah menorah and Israel’s national anthem. The three of them do not represent me in any way. Those who are up in arms because the nation-state law turns Israel into a clearly Jewish state should invest a bit of thought in these symbols but, much more importantly, in all of Israel’s actions since it was founded, and they will discover that the law basically expresses the existing situation in a formal manner.

So let us return to our question. The response of many Jews in Israel to the waving of “Palestinian” flags at the demonstration held last Saturday night in Tel Aviv is characterized by two patterns. The first are those who are angry because of an honest personal feeling that this is an internal Israeli civil struggle against the racist nation-state law, and the flag of a “foreign country” should not be carried. Despite the naivete in such a claim, it is still fundamentally absurd. Large numbers of flags are flown at many events, which are not necessarily related to the event itself. For example, Israeli flags are waved at the games of the Dutch soccer club PSV Eindhoven. Similarly, some Arabs (and Jews) who participated in the demonstration view it as the flag of the Palestinian people, so there is no reason at all not to wave it, especially because the nation-state law was first and foremost intended to discriminate against the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The second type of reaction characterizes the right, from Avi Gabbay all the way to Kahane Chai. The right is very happy that a handful of protesters carried this flag, and every faction on the right used it for its own purposes. Gabbay found an excuse not to participate in the demonstration that was meant to protest against the racism of the nation-state law, in comparison to the Druze protest. But we must say it explicitly and openly: For us, the Arab citizens of Israel, Gabbay is more dangerous than anyone on the right, including Bentzi Gopstein of Lehava.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the master of division, incitement and attack, found a great treasure in the waving of the “Palestine” flags, and he and his spokespeople (Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev: “Rabin is turning over in his grave”) exploited this to incite their already incensed audience to deepen their hatred toward the Arab citizens of Israel and the Jewish left.

The responses of other misérables from the right, for example Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are ridiculous to the point of disgust. If the country, according to the nation-state law, is the state of the Jewish people, and there is no citizenship without loyalty, then are you sure, Lieberman, that you are a Jew in the eyes of all the Haredi factions? Neturei Karta, for example, not only wave the Palestinian flag proudly, they tend to burn the Israeli flag at official events. Have you thought about casting doubt on their citizenship? Have you thought, Regev, of punishing them for desecrating the flag?

Waving the flag of “Palestine” in Tel Aviv has no practical importance, but it is also completely unnecessary in light of the instructions of the organizers not to bear flags at all. This testifies more to the disorder and lack of discipline than to the burning and fake patriotism in the style of Balad. And this is really the central issue revealed here.

The fathers of Zionism, in other words Ashkenazi Jews who came to Palestine, established Israel on a foundation of order, discipline, science and modernity. Netanyahu and the Israeli right, in other words the Mizrahi Jews, are returning Israel to the idol worship and fanaticism of the Middle East, something that will necessarily bring about the destruction of the country. We, the Arabs, have been stuck in darkness for hundreds of years. We don’t see any light in Umm al-Fahm.

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