Opinion |

The Problem With Raising the Palestinian Flag

Anat Kamm
Anat Kamm
Protest at Ben-Gurion University, on Monday.
Protest at Ben-Gurion University, on Monday.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Anat Kamm
Anat Kamm

This week demonstrators at Ben Gurion University of the Negev were filmed carrying Palestinian flags at an event to mark Nakba Day.

Perhaps it was the sheer quantity of flags, or perhaps it was Be’er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich’s response that the demonstration “crossed a red line” in an institution that is supposed to be faithful to the spirit of Israeliness, or perhaps it was because the police had to be mobilized to separate the protesters and the counter-demonstrators – but emotions were running especially high.

In the ensuing discussions on social media, various issues regarding the connection between Arabs who are citizens of Israel and West Bank Palestinians. What’s the difference between them? Is the struggle of the former against discrimination equal to the struggle of the latter against the occupation? Does supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state recognize the possibility that it could be a poor, weak, religious and conservative state? Is that even our business?

Yes, because we live here. But that’s not the only reason. In some of the discussions, there was a prominent belief that Jewish Israelis, even good leftists, have no right to express themselves regarding the image of the future Palestine or its relation to Israeli Arabs. Since we are part of the hegemonic and privileged majority, what connection do we have to Palestinians and their decisions?

Moreover, we have to hold our noses and turn the other cheek when we see a flag of a national entity that we are in conflict with raised proudly by Israeli citizens inside Israel, even if it bothers us.

But it does bother us, and we have to talk about it. We must be allowed to talk about it. Because the Zionist left is the Palestinians’ only partner on either side of the Green Line – whether they are striving for an independent state or striving to eliminate discrimination within the state.

The Zionist left, the group that established the state, is the one that can repair the injustices caused during the course of its establishment, and by its very establishment. These flags don’t make our stomachs churn because we support the occupation or oppose the establishment of a Palestinians state; rather they make our stomachs churn because, at least this week, it felt like the opposition was toward the very existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The desire for a Palestinian state instead of Israel, not alongside it.

    One of the expressions of identity politics is the expectation that others, certainly those who belong to the “hegemony,” cannot discuss subjects that they don’t have personal experience with due to their identities. They cannot tell Ethiopian Israelis how to conduct their demonstrations against police brutality (“But why do they block roads?!”), nor tell the ultra-Orthodox how to manage their higher education (“Gender separation is unacceptable!”), or tell the Bedouins how to circumcise their daughters, because, well, female circumcision is barbarism that must be eliminated.

    The demand for absolute tolerance for the practices of minorities and the prohibition against expressing opposing opinions are blowing up in our faces, and worse – it is blowing up in the faces of those minorities. Not because we “know better” about what’s right for them, but because other people – those who don’t accept the dictates of liberal politeness – will retaliate with even greater harshness and extremism.

    Nature abhors a vacuum: On the right, with its cohorts of settlers and ultra-Orthodox Jews, the Zionist left is going extinct because it cannot compete. But we can be more present in the public discourse without apologizing for our views. Because anyone who can’t talk to a left-wing Zionist about the problematic nature of dozens of Palestinian flags being flown by Israeli citizens, will be facing threats of a second Nakba from Likud MK Yisrael Katz.

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