Editorial |

The Palestinian Flag Obsession

Haaretz Editorial
Students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev wave Palestinian flags at a Nakba Day event on campus, in Be'er Sheva, this month.
Students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev wave Palestinian flags at a Nakba Day event on campus, in Be'er Sheva, this month.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Haaretz Editorial

Israel's ministerial legislative committee on Sunday approved letting coalition members vote according to their conscience on a bill by opposition MK Eli Cohen (Likud) that would ban “the waving of the flag of an enemy country or of the Palestinian Authority, at institutions supported by the state,” including universities.

The bill is expected to be brought for preliminary vote on Wednesday. The only two ministers who opposed it were Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Nachman Shai (Labor).

This is an insane proposal. The Palestinian flag is the flag of the Palestinian people, and it is to be hoped that one day it will be the flag of a Palestinian state established alongside Israel. In addition, formally speaking, the Palestinian flag is the flag of the Palestinian Authority, an authority established by diplomatic treaty with Israel. It is the legitimate emblem of an authority recognized by the entire world including Israel, which maintains regular ties with it on a myriad of daily life issues, not least among them tight security coordination for nearly 30 years. The Palestinian Authority is not an enemy country.

The only way to explain this obsession is that the Palestinian flag apparently reminds Israelis of the sin of occupation, which they deny. And concurrently, it constitutes a reaction to the refusal to recognize a Palestinian national identity within Israel, as manifested by the nation-state law. In waving the flag, the Palestinian citizens of Israel express identification with the Palestinian national movement, this in addition to their identification as citizens of Israel. There is no contradiction between the two.

The hostile attitude toward the Palestinian flag indicates a process of radicalization that Israeli society is undergoing. A society that shows zero tolerance toward any waving of this flag, with no regard to the context in which it happens – whether at the funeral of a journalist killed while covering another of the occupation’s injustices, possibly by IDF soldiers, or at a memorial rally for Nakba Day at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva.

It now remains to be seen what the left-wing parties and the United Arab List will do. Mossi Raz of Meretz has already announced: “The coalition can forget about us supporting this. It won’t happen.”

No matter how much Israel persists in its attempts to deny the existence of the Palestinian people, its symbols, flag, its history and aspirations for independence – it will be to no avail. Sooner or later, Israel will be forced to walk back the entire path of denial it is now treading. So rather than declare war upon the Palestinian flag, it would be best to shelve this bad bill and return to the path of diplomatic negotiations.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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