Is flying a nationalist flag ever a progressive act?

Activism
on 30 Comments

I always have a problem if I go to a protest in the U.S. against war, injustice or workplace abuses and see some demonstrators waving the American flag. There is no doubt what that flag stands for – the American political system, with its false promises of democracy and equality and its proclivity for war. Those who hold it up even while protesting are declaring that their country is fundamentally sound and just needs a little correction, a tweak to fix whatever is the temporary problem. There is no doubt that the flag does not represent the American common people, as opposed to their government. The bearers are not disloyal.

And the Israeli flag? Forget it. Whether fluttering down 5th Ave at the Israel Day parade or plastered on Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem “legally” seized by Jewish settlers, we know it represents the Zionist state apparatus. Not one thread stands for the rights of Arab citizens of Israel or an end to military occupation.

But always, at protests against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the uncountable injustices that result, the Palestinian flag is carried high by both Palestinians and their Jewish and other allies, be it in Palestine, Israel or elsewhere.

So is there a difference when the members of a colonized or oppressed people wave their flag? The implication is that all members of the nation stand together and have the same interest in opposing the oppressor power. Sometimes it’s called the “nationalism of the oppressed”, which is supposed to be justified, as opposed to the nationalism of the oppressor. The strategy that flows from this analysis is that first there will be a struggle for national liberation and internal problems will be dealt with later.

I will never forget the initial moment of my first visit to the West Bank in 2005. Previously, I had only seen media images of death and rubble wrought by Israeli soldiers and bulldozers. But there I was in Ramallah, confronted by fancy commercial billboards, restaurants patronized by well-dressed customers, and elegant government buildings. Palestine, too, was a class society, albeit it one under a military occupation. Traveling from city center to outskirts to villages, it was clear that a similar chasm between rich and poor existed as in my own New York City, albeit with many particular differences.

Not only is Palestine a capitalist society with an especially great divide between rich and poor, but the rich are intimately tied to Israeli and international capital. As Ali Abunimah documents in The Battle for Justice in Palestine, “a small Palestinian elite has continued to enrich itself by deepening its political, economic and military ties with Israel, the U.S., often explicitly undermining efforts by Palestinian civil society to resist” (p78). PADICO, the Palestinian Development and investment Company, founded by rich Palestinians such as the Masri family and dominated by Gulf state capital, owns 78% of the Palestinian Stock Exchange. Bashar Masri, with Qatari and US support, has funded construction of the new city of Rawabi, priced for the well-to-do. Much of the construction material was bought from Israel, and nearly 500 acres of village land were involuntarily seized. Other Masri family members also have many deals with Israeli tycoons. Industrial zones run by Turkey, Japan and France, in which workers will have few rights, are in the works. In the last 30 years, credit (mostly to buy Israeli goods) has been so massively increased that half of all Palestinians are in significant debt, while unemployment is over 20%, wages are low, and one third suffer food insecurity.[1]

Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, the West Bank has been policed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), always in close cooperation with Israel except for a few years following the second intifada. In 2007 American Lt Gen Keith Dayton was put in charge of upgrading this force, and the PA security sector today employs almost half of the 145,000 people on the PA payroll and consumes $1 billion of the PA’s $3.9 billion budget — roughly the same amount as health and education combined. [2] The Israelis were so confident of its ability to keep the population in line, that they warned Arafat before Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and withdrew their own forces to join in the attack. [3]

Israel, too, is a capitalist and highly unequal society. Eighteen ruling families have incomes equal to 77% of the national budget in 2006 and take in 32% of the profits from the 500 largest companies.[4] The three largest banks preside over 80% of the market and take 70% of the profits. The income gaps between the 90th and the 50th percentiles, and between the 50th and the 10th are the highest in the world. [5] Since most job growth is in the high tech sector, inequality in education and lack of social mobility, especially for the Arab minority, insure the growth of these differences.[6] Since 2001, tax cuts have benefited the wealthy, industry has privatized and unions have lost their clout. So dire is the situation that 80% of the population supported the massive 2011 protests against unemployment and unaffordable housing.[7]

Thus I have my problem with flying the flag of any nation in the world today, even the Palestinian one. Is it supporting developers and profiteers, who collude with their Israeli counterparts? Is it supporting the PA and their police? Is it saying, don’t worry, we’ll deal with them later? Most importantly, is it implying that ordinary Palestinian workers, students, farmers and professionals have more in common with these exploiters and enforcers than they do with other workers in the rest of the world?

An examination of liberation movements of the last century reveals that this nationalist thinking has dominated struggle in many countries and has yet to lead to significant betterment of the lives of ordinary citizens. Instead, it has merely led to changing the ethnicity of the local exploiters, whose strings often continue to be pulled by former colonial powers. We can examine the stories of Sierra Leone, Algeria, El Salvador, Haiti, South Africa and many others to see that despite long and bloody liberation struggles, the maintenance of a capitalist system and ties to international monetary institutions has not led to significant economic betterment of the vast majority of the population. Overt apartheid-like regulations may have disappeared, but class distinctions have not. In fact, the movement for equality and better living conditions is usually dissipated, at least temporarily, by nationalist victory.

We must also consider that the workers, students and professionals of the oppressor nations are likewise suffering. In the U.S., as in the nations of Europe, in Russia and in China, millions live with poverty, racism, food insecurity, and poor health care, although the particularities may vary widely. The American capitalist system could not survive without the $600 billion it saves by paying lower wages to black workers. Europeans berate but depend on the cheap labor of their immigrant populations. China steals land from its farmers, condemns thousands to slave in internationally owned economic zones, and kills workers with pollution and shoddy construction. In Israel, inequality is the 4th highest in the world and growing.

Despite their calls for national unity, the members of various ruling classes are always able to unite when workers’ movements threaten them. As far back as the Paris Commune, when workers seized the city for ten weeks in 1871, the French army united with its former Prussian enemy to crush them. Terrified by the Bolshevik victory in the former Soviet Union, ten governments, from the US to Italy to Japan, launched an invasion in 1918, which failed to defeat the revolution (which was destroyed by its own weaknesses 70 years later). Today, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund unite and protect the world’s monied interests around the globe.

What is the alternative to waving the nationalist flag, the banner of the ruling class of whatever nation? Let us raise flags and banners of worker and student solidarity across borders, for the demands for which we fight. Let us not falsely depend on or unite with our so-called state leaders who, universally in the world today, have more in common with each other than they do with us. Let us not be bamboozled by patriotic or nationalist rhetoric; let Arab and Jewish and American workers fight together for what we need. The One State Movement for historic Palestine could be a huge step in this direction, but it must do more to consider the political and economic nature of the society it seeks to create. Let us be part of an international movement for an anti-racist, non-capitalist world.

References
1. Ali Abuminah, The Battle for Justice in Palestine, Haymarket Books, Chicago, Il,,2014, pp. 76-115
2. Ehab Zahriiiyah, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/12/will-the-palestinianauthorityendsecuritycoordinationwithisrael.html (accessed 2/15/15)
3. Max Blumenthal, Goliath, Nation Books, New York, NY, 2013, p. 5
4. Assaf Adiv, www.challenge-mag.com/en/article__187/post zionist israel the rules have changed (accessed 2//13/15)
5. Meirav Ariosoroff, Israel’s Middle Class Really Is Disappearing, www.haaretz.com/business/business-opinion/.premium-1.559431. (accessed 2/13/15)
6. Moti Bassok, www.haaretz.com/business/study-income-inequality-growing-faster-in-israel-than-in-other-developed-nations-1.421277, (accessed 2/13/15)
7. Bernie Bellan, www.cfhu.org/news/jewish-post-news-article-income-inequality-among-israelis-growing-problem, (accessed 2/13/15)

About Ellen Isaacs

The author has made 6 trips to the Israel and West Bank as physician and as human rights activist. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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30 Responses

  1. joemowrey
    February 21, 2015, 10:10 am

    Brilliant article. Nationalism and capitalism are the root of the problem, not the seed of a solution. Religious fundamentalism is an important part of the equation too. Human evolution, or devolution as the case may be, is a perpetual class struggle involving the oppressor versus the oppressed. That overriding paradigm crosses all national, ethnic and religious boundaries.

  2. ritzl
    February 21, 2015, 10:46 am

    Interesting question.

    A flag is just a flag. You see what isn’t in the US flag. I see in it what could be. Others see it as both for different rrssons entirely and use it as a tool of exclusion.

    Short answer: Yes.

  3. pabelmont
    February 21, 2015, 10:59 am

    Maybe the right view is: a flag for the dispossessed is a signal of hope or determination for better. Once the dispossessed have achieved a nation-state, the flag will mean whatever the nation-state means. In neo-liberal times, it usually means domination of the vast majority by the top-dogs. Every once in a while, the people have a dream and get something like a government free of oligarchic control. Greece today? Maybe. Chile under Allende? Maybe. But these governments tend to be short-lived since neo-liberalism in the powerful states (USA) don’t hesitate to restore disorder in such countries.

  4. Krauss
    February 21, 2015, 11:03 am

    One of the most pervasive myths is that nationalism disappeared after WWII in the West. That’s not entirely accurate. White nationalism, at least open white nationalism, was denounced and essentially suppressed.

    But non-white nationalism has continued apace, and I use the term nationalism broadly here, including cultural nationalism.

    I think the standard white left-wing view of nationalism is that it is better put to rest, but I think this kind of thinking is also what led to non-white women who are/were feminists to start to denigrate what they call “white feminism” in which race isn’t supposed to matter as much as gender, because no matter what our class/racial background, gender is the common thread.

    Well, it turns out a lot of non-white women are not ready to give up their racial/ethnic identity and there are good reasons why they shouldn’t. Plus, it’s easy to be for a system where race/nationalism doesn’t matter when you’re in a position of power by default; that’s a luxury you can afford.

    People are tribal by nature, and is this necessarily always bad? If we didn’t have any distinctions, life would be a lot more boring and less colorful.
    There’s enough homogenisation taking place already. I don’t want to live in a world where everyone wears the same thing, listens to the same thing, thinks the same thing, reads the same thing etc and where the only difference is our skin color but everything apart from that is the same.

    That might sound like paradise to some but it sounds like hell to me.

    As for the Palestinian cause specifically, nationalism is the de facto best way to gather people. Yes, it can be divisive. But secular nationalism is still far more preferred than religious zealotry.

    And in any event, if Zionism tanks 2-3 decades from now, people will judge the Palestinians far more harshly than they do now and there’s nothing in Palestinian culture that would make them immune to racial oppression of other people; indeed if we are to learn anything from Zionism is that history’s victims can turn into contemporary oppressors with stunning speed.

  5. American
    February 21, 2015, 12:37 pm

    Not to disparage the author but this flag thing is sort of silly.

    I understand the call against oppressive capitalism but nationalism isnt the ’cause ‘of it….its just used to cover for it many times. And nationalism has many meanings, some good some bad and some groups/people have agendas that a lack of nationalism suits just fine–makes it easier for them to oppress people.

    She should be advocating for the right kind of nationalism…the kind where people will unite for the common good of everyone within their nations.

    How do the anti capitalist, peace loving universalist think they are going to defeat oppressive capitalism without starting in their own nations first?

    Very naive imo.

  6. ckg
    February 21, 2015, 5:09 pm

    On this topic I have to agree with Asad AbuKhalil of the Angry Arab blog. (He’s a leftist and a consistent critic of the PA “collaborators” in Ramallah of the “racist colonialist” “Zionist entity”. He has also commended Mondoweiss.) He once posted photo of protesters in Bilin raising a Palestinian flag on the fence that settlers had erected. His comment is perfect: “Oh, and I don’t like flags, and I don’t like nationalisms, but…for Palestine and the Palestinians anything and everything.”

    • just
      February 21, 2015, 5:15 pm

      ““Oh, and I don’t like flags, and I don’t like nationalisms, but…for Palestine and the Palestinians anything and everything.””

      Ditto, and amen.

      • Stephen Shenfield
        February 21, 2015, 8:51 pm

        “For Palestine and the Palestinians anything and everything.” What does that mean? That any means chosen by Palestinians are justified in such a noble cause? That could lead to some rather paradoxical conclusions. For example, Palestinian conservatives might insist that upholding traditional values, even by such means as “honor” killings, is essential to the Palestinian cause, while Palestinian feminists might be equally insistent that changing those values is essential to the same cause. So in that controversy one would have to support both sides.

        However much we may sympathize with the plight of any group, such carte-blanche indulgence is potentially dangerous and does them no real service. Many well-meaning people used to extend the same sort of indulgence to oppressed Jews and Zionism got enormous benefits from that uncritical solidarity.

      • W.Jones
        February 21, 2015, 9:24 pm

        “for Palestine and the Palestinians anything and everything.”

        I didn’t take that literally, Stephen, because that would be absurd.

        I think he means that they should have any and every of their full rights as a nation and as a nationalist activist: flag, equality, language, protests, etc.

      • ckg
        February 21, 2015, 10:08 pm

        “for Palestine and the Palestinians anything and everything”. The phrase is sentimental hyperbole.

  7. OyVey00
    February 21, 2015, 7:31 pm

    If you’re for nationalism, there should be no problem in flying a national flag.

    If you’re against it, you shouldn’t fly one.

    But the more important question is: If you’re against nationalism and the existence of nation states, what is it you want to replace them with?

    The same can be asked about your opposition to capitalism. I know that claiming to be against capitalism and wearing Che Guevara T-shirts counts as edgy these days, but you rarely hear anything about exactly what these self-professed anti-capitalists want to do once they seize power. At least nothing that goes beyond vague statements like “social justice”, “egalitarianism”, “anti-racism”, etc.

    • RoHa
      February 21, 2015, 9:35 pm

      “I know that claiming to be against capitalism and wearing Che Guevara T-shirts counts as edgy these days”

      It used to be “edgy” when I was young, but that was a long time ago, and we didn’t use the word “edgy” to mean “at the forefront of a trend” (OED) in those days.

      Has it come back into fashion?

      • OyVey00
        February 21, 2015, 10:17 pm

        I was born in 1988, so I don’t know how it was during the Cold War.

        But, after a decline following the breakup of the Soviet Union, it seems like the Che nostalgia is on the rise again.

      • Joe Catron
        February 22, 2015, 3:36 am

        Do most people who wear Che shirts in the US know who he was? That would be quite a change.

  8. W.Jones
    February 21, 2015, 7:38 pm

    I always have a problem if I go to a protest in the U.S. against war, injustice or workplace abuses and see some demonstrators waving the American flag. There is no doubt what that flag stands for – the American political system, with its false promises of democracy and equality and its proclivity for war.

    I think it depends on the context. If Mexican Americans march for their rights and fly a US flag, reminding people that they are Americans and should have full rights, perhaps it is a good thing.

    If one of the arguments of the flag wavers is that US wars abroad are unconstitutional, perhaps the flag waving is not even reactionary.

    But yes, I understand how at an antiwar rally it seems contradictory to have a US flag in prominence if the US is the aggressor.

  9. W.Jones
    February 21, 2015, 8:15 pm

    Ellen,

    Your question is:
    Is flying a nationalist flag ever a progressive act?
    Certainly it can be. Self-determination of peoples, along with anti-colonialism, is a major principle in progressive politics. An Irish flag at a protest in the 19th century, or an Indian flag in the early 20th, would have a progressive meaning for the freedom of those nations from British rule. In fact, if Jews and Palestinians were clearly two different nations, and were Palestine’s Jews being ghettoized and abused by an explicitly non-Jewish Palestinian government and army, then an Israeli flag at such a march would be progressive.

    In the case at hand, Palestinians make up a native nation that includes Jews living on the land before the Israeli State’s creation. Currently, Christians and Muslims do not have a really sovereign state there that represents them. They are considered second class. To promote instead the idea of a Palestinian state dedicated to their nation regardless of religion is progressive. Of course, it can also be admitted that this does not mean that a “Palestinian state” is the only “progressive” outcome- one could have a progressive one state or two state outcome.

    Having a Palestinian flag does not mean one supports the “destruction” of the Israeli state or supports a strict theocracy like Hamas or even all the tactics of the PLO or policies of the PA. It simply means that one supports the progressive goal of sovereignty for the occupied Palestinian nation.

    Again, I don’t believe that one has to agree with a Palestinian state to be progressive (there are other options), but nonetheless, it is so obvious that Palestinian sovereignty is progressive at this stage that I seriously question why other “progressives” would propose otherwise.

  10. W.Jones
    February 21, 2015, 8:37 pm

    Ellen,

    You also asked: “So is there a difference when the members of a colonized or oppressed people wave their flag?”
    Of course, since their flag or society is not oppressing another one.

    You write: “The implication is that all members of the nation stand together and have the same interest in opposing the oppressor power.”
    Just because someone has a Palestinian flag doesn’t mean they “stand with” Hamas in its tactics, even if they both want a Palestinian state.

    This is incorrect: “The strategy that flows from this analysis is that first there will be a struggle for national liberation and internal problems will be dealt with later.”
    Just because two groups have a goal doesn’t mean they only deal with internal problems later. Why would you think that?

    You ask:

    hus I have my problem with flying the flag of any nation in the world today, even the Palestinian one. Is it supporting developers and profiteers, who collude with their Israeli counterparts? Is it supporting the PA and their police? Is it saying, don’t worry, we’ll deal with them later? Most importantly, is it implying that ordinary Palestinian workers, students, farmers and professionals have more in common with these exploiters and enforcers than they do with other workers in the rest of the world?

    I don’t see how supporting Palestinian sovereignty or flying a Palestinian flag must mean any of those things.

    You contradicted yourself here:

    An examination of liberation movements of the last century reveals that this nationalist thinking has dominated struggle in many countries and has yet to lead to significant betterment of the lives of ordinary citizens… Overt apartheid-like regulations may have disappeared, but class distinctions have not.

    If people are not living under Apartheid law, isn’t that a “significant betterment”.
    Maybe blacks were just as badly off before and after desegregation in the US, but would you claim that the end of Segregation was not a significant improvement? Aren’t political rights and freedom from racist, theocratically discriminatory rule important?

    Also, you are mistaken here:
    “What is the alternative to waving the nationalist flag, the banner of the ruling class of whatever nation?”
    A nationalist flag is not necessarily the banner of its ruling class in particular. It is simply the nation’s flag, representing the nation as a whole, even if it were not ruled by capitalism. When Cuba for example had a Socialist revolution, it did not get rid of its flag from its capitalist era. Different nations, whether capitalist or not, have different national flags, and to fly them doesn’t mean one supports a certain economic system.

  11. eljay
    February 21, 2015, 8:59 pm

    || Stephen Shenfield: “For Palestine and the Palestinians anything and everything.” What does that mean? … However much we may sympathize with the plight of any group, such carte-blanche indulgence is potentially dangerous and does them no real service. ||

    I agree.

    Flying a flag in defense of justice, accountability and equality: No problem.

    Flying a flag in defense of injustice and immorality (including theft, occupation, colonization, oppression, torture, murder and supremacism) : Big problem.

  12. RoHa
    February 21, 2015, 9:28 pm

    You don’t define “progressive act”. From your context I’m guessing you mean something on the lines of “an act that promotes some sort of socialism”.
    And I think that, in some contexts, flying a nationalist flag could help to promote socialism. Consider the following.

    People in the US have had it drilled into them that socialists are the ultimate evil. Socialists will eat their children, kick their cats, and bring an end to apple pie, motherhood, baseball, and everything that is pure, beautiful, and good. Worse, they will hand over the U.S. to Cuba or Britain. Americans will be governed by foreigners, and forced to learn geography and grammar.

    Now suppose (and now we are, I admit, moving into the realms of wild fantasy) that the U.S. had real socialist party. For such a party to expand and gain support, it will need to convince Americans that not all of the terrible things listed above will happen. Since Americans believe that the American flag is the flag of the American people (and not just the elite), surely it would help to promote socialism for the party to use the American flag.

    But there is another aspect to the use of a nationalistic flag. As pablemont points out, it can also be the symbol of an oppressed group. If we take “progressive” in a broader sense to mean “promoting social justice”, then flying that flag in defiance of the oppressors would also count as progressive. There is more to social justice than just economic justice.

    • just
      February 22, 2015, 7:29 am

      “But there is another aspect to the use of a nationalistic flag. As pablemont points out, it can also be the symbol of an oppressed group. If we take “progressive” in a broader sense to mean “promoting social justice”, then flying that flag in defiance of the oppressors would also count as progressive. There is more to social justice than just economic justice.”

      Well said, RoHa. I’d like to associate myself with your remark.

  13. W.Jones
    February 21, 2015, 10:21 pm

    There is a trend among certain, typically non-Palestinian, left activists and socialists that the Palestinian cause of equality and freedom is not per se is important, rather it is economic freedom that is the real issue. This is represented by groups like the Trotskyist “Workers’ Liberty” IIRC and the J 14 protests a few years ago in Tel Aviv.

    The author here is right about class conflicts among Palestinians, collaboration by the PA, and other problems. If Palestine gets independence and solves its political problems of Hamas and the Israelis, it would look like a state such as Turkey, Armenia, Egypt, Cyprus, etc. And the author would be right to complain that it would be ccapitalist and have class problems like those countries.

    Nonetheless, the problem with those leftists who marginalize Palestinians’ national and civic rights by instead speaking in favor of economic rights and equality as the focus is that they do a disservice to the latter political rights. To suggest as some do that political rights for equality are so secondary leaves the issues unresolved until the time, which at this moment appears far off, when such economic rights will first be respected.

    Let’s give an example. At the J 14 protests, calls for Palestinian rights, and the whole Palestinian issue, were basically put aside by the organizers, because it could be “divisive”. The “Workers Liberty” group proposes first having a socialist revolution with united Jewish and Palestinian workers before fixing Palestinians’ national rights. However the idea that a socialist government would necessarily resolve the national conflict is belied by the fact that Israel did have a Labor government in the 1950’s with accompanying socialist elements like the kibbutzes and mass trade union economy and nationalization of land. Yet it was exactly at in that era that the Nakba occurred (2 years earlier, in 1948).

    The fact is that Israeli-Palestinian society suffers from bot just a class conflict, but one of nationalist oppression too, and merely dedicating the main society in power to socialism doesn’t fix things, because Palestinians can simply be left out in the cold. Were the Histradrut and its working class membership interested in helping Palestinians? The fact is that both struggles, the national struggle and the one for economic rights must be recognized. In parting, I find it noteworthy that it is non-Palestinians who more frequently look at the conflict and say that the national one for Palestinian rights is not particularly important and should be delayed until economic rights are achieved.

  14. Walid
    February 22, 2015, 7:00 am

    “The implication is that all members of the nation stand together and have the same interest in opposing the oppressor power. ”

    Not necessarily. From personal exerience, they may stand together and carry a common flag against an oppressor but each one may have his or her own special reason for being there.

  15. Walid
    February 22, 2015, 7:09 am

    ” that they warned Arafat before Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and withdrew their own forces to join in the attack -” (Max B>)

    That would have been Abbas, not Arafat that was killed in 2004.

    • Walid
      February 22, 2015, 7:28 am

      “2007 American Lt Gen Keith Dayton was put in charge of upgrading this force, and the PA security sector today employs almost half of the 145,000 people on the PA payroll and consumes $1 billion of the PA’s $3.9 billion budget ”

      Dayton’s training and arming of the security forces was paid for by Saudi Arabia in a $400 million grant. All this for the protection of Israel’s blue eyes.

      As to the illustrious Masri family that doesn’t let any daylight get in between it and Israel, it’s worth remembering that the American grandson of the the patriarch of this family was shot and crippled at Maroun al-Ras, Lebanon by Israeli snipers in 2011 but the story was quickly swept under the rug by the Masris and the Americans. The Masris also employ the “put-the-Palestinians-in-formaldehyde” asshole Dov Weisglass as their PR liaison with the Israeli government for their settlements-copycat red-tile roofed Rawabi project, a feature accorded only to Jewish settlements to help identify for the Israeli air force which buildings to NOT bomb.

      • just
        February 22, 2015, 7:38 am

        Thanks, Walid, for your important corrections/clarifications.

        ;((

  16. SQ Debris
    February 22, 2015, 1:26 pm

    Ellen’s political line on flags begs the question of existence of nation states themselves, which is an interesting question but not particularly germane in these environs.

    On the question of the Palestinian flag, recall that it is a symbol of the continued existence of a human community, and was utterly forbidden for decades. Up until Oslo you could get shot in the West Bank or Gaza for holding one in your hands. Dig this, in 1989 a brand of Italian pasta was removed from grocery store shelves in Israel because the package carried “terrorist colors” (those of the Palestinian flag). Clothing that contained all four colors was removed from shops. Anat Hoffman of Women in Black called them “The banned watermelon colors.” That organization pushed the ban by holding black signs with white lettering and holding a rose in the same hand. They were called traitors for displaying the four colors together and had many run-ins with the law on that account. My point is that it is not just a question of the “flag of the oppressed.” The Palestinian flag has symbolic freight that transcends territorial nationalism. It is a symbol of people whose existence is under murderous threat. Israel’s long suppression of its display elevated the value of those four colors, in that particular pattern, above what we normally think of when we use the word “flag.”

  17. maggiesager
    February 24, 2015, 1:45 pm

    I understand your point, and share your political tendencies re: nations and nationalism, but I disagree here. The Palestinian flag scares the shit out of Israel, and that in and of itself is important.

    I remember seeing Anarchists against the Wall speak, and someone asked one of the presenters how he felt about being an anarchist participating in a nationalist struggle. He said that the struggle was fundamentally anti-colonial, and that his position as an Israeli meant he had no place dictating the terms of that struggle, though of course he had his personal opinions. I think we need to understand we are internationals. When Palestinians are fighting for recognition of their very existence as a people, a flag that embodies that existence (and a shared Arab experience), is important.

  18. jon s
    February 25, 2015, 3:28 pm

    A little over a hundred years ago many Marxists believed that a major war between the countries of Europe would not break out because the masses of workers and peasants would refuse to fight against their fellow workers and peasants. German workers and French workers would refuse to enlist in a war in which they would be required to kill each other. They would prefer their class interests over their national identities. The red flag would trump the national flags.
    Then came the summer of 1914 , and it turned out that those Marxists had underestimated the power of nationalism. And today we’re still living in an age of nation-states.
    For most people loving your country – patriotism- comes quite naturally and is not necessarily wrong or reactionary, as long as you don’t cross the line into xenophobia and chauvinism. Carrying your country’s flag is ok if you don’t trample your neighbor’s flag.
    For Palestinians their national flag is a symbol of their national aspirations and there’s nothing wrong with carrying it proudly, just as I , as an Israeli, regard our blue-and –white flag.

  19. KRN
    March 5, 2015, 7:39 pm

    “The Jew who today says ‘I am a nationalist’ is not saying precisely and especially ‘I am a man who wants a Jewish state in Palestine and who dreams of conquering Jerusalem.’ He is saying ‘I want to be a man who is completely free, who has his place in the sun; I have the right to be treated as a human being with dignity. I want to escape oppression, escape outrage, escape the disdain that is heaped upon me.’ At certain times in history, for certain groups, nationalism represents freedom.” -Bernard Lazare, Le Nationalisme juif, 1897

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