[This story is a thought experiment, from an alternative reality]
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin announced today that he was removing the Israeli flag from his presidential residence in Jerusalem as an acknowledgment of the more than 500 children killed by Israel in Gaza a year ago.
“When Palestinians see that flag they see the symbol painted on tanks and fighter planes that caused such incredible suffering to their families and community,” Rivlin said. “On matters of oppression, Israel has had a tough history; we all know that. Many of us have seen it in our lives, in the lives of our parents and grandparents. We don’t need reminders. It is time for the flag to come down and go into a museum.”
The president then went to the flag pole at his residence and lowered the flag.
“For those who wish to respect the flag on private property, no one will stand in your way. But government buildings are different. The events this past year call on us to look at this in a different way,” Rivlin said.
Rivlin added that the decision was a difficult one for him. “I grew up cherishing this flag. It is part of who we are. And many of us love it. But we cannot call ourselves a community so long as it flies over government offices. It is obnoxious to others, a painful reminder to Palestinians that they are second-class citizens and less under the power of the Jewish state.”
The Israeli flag bears a Star of David in the center, a symbol that became precious to Jews in the last two centuries. Palestinians say that the flag demonstrates that non-Jewish communities do not count in Israel, and that there is no separation of church and state in Israel, a standard measure of democracy.
Rivlin’s decision was largely symbolic. But he called on other Israeli officials to follow suit and for designers and artists to come up with a more inclusive flag for Israel. He said his own concept was a large blue equal sign between the two blue stripes that are already on the flag. “Equality is a universal value. Everyone recognizes the equal sign everywhere in the world. Such a flag would say that all are equal between the river and the sea.”
The president’s decision was met with derision and anger inside Israel but was hailed by leaders around the world. It took US presidential candidates by surprise though. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush said it was none of their business what flag Israel flies. The decision was criticized, then cheered, by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
“We are not going to allow this symbol to divide us along longer,” Rivlin concluded. “The fact that it causes so [much] pain is enough to move it from government grounds. It is, after all, a government that [should] belong to all of us.”