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Palestinian flags wave in Tel Aviv

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Yesterday, tens of thousands protested Israel’s ‘Nation-State’ law in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, and the rare sight was the many Palestinian flags being waved.

The flag-waving in in clear opposition to the Israeli Nation-State of the Jewish People (NSJP) law, which states:

“The flag of the state is white, two blue stripes near the edges, and a blue Star of David in the center”.

The description of the flag of Israel is not a mere pedantic notation. It is part of the exclusion of any Palestinian identity within ‘Eretz Israel’ (‘Land of Israel’, referring to the biblical ‘promised land’). The law literally opens with this notion, in its Hebrew version, which I have translated:

“Eretz Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people…”

In the official English translation, it just starts with ‘Israel’, not even the ‘Land of Israel’ – so it’s not as obvious for the non-Hebrew speakers. For the Hebrew speakers, it’s understood as alluding to ‘Greater Israel’, that is the whole of historical Palestine.

So the law is an attempt to erase Palestinian identity altogether, and to pave a way for the overtaking and Judaization of the whole of historical Palestine, through “Jewish settlement”, which the state views “as a national value” so that it “will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development”.

The organizers of yesterday’s demonstration were mostly from what is generally regarded as the ‘Arab sector’ in Israel, although there was participation of some from the Zionist left parties and organizations such as Meretz and Peace Now. The organizers had asked the participants to avoid, in advance, waving Palestinian flags, but they were waved anyway. A main organizer, Former lawmaker Mohammad Barakeh (a longtime leader of the left-wing Hadash party who currently heads the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee) said that he “asked the public not to bring [Palestinian] flags, but I can’t control what people do.”

Barakeh told the crowd during a speech that the demonstrators were all at the square to “erase this abomination and remove the stain made by Netanyahu and his government called the nation-state law.” He called the Palestinian flag the “flag of the oppressed Palestinian people, the flag they are trying to eradicate from history via the nation-state law.” Some Israeli-Palestinians were dismayed by the call not to bring flags. Ynet cited Maher Masarwa, a Wadi Ara resident, claimed that prohibiting the flag is unlawful. “I would have liked to join the protest but after hearing that Palestinian flags will not be allowed, I decided against it. There is no law in this country that bans the waving of our flags. No one should have the authority to make a decision such as this one,” he said. It is notable, that in last week’s demonstration headed by Druze citizens of Israel, at the same spot, many Druze flags were waved alongside Israeli flags. Apparently, the Druze sense of identity has not conflicted so strongly with the Israeli sense of nationality.  

All this, flag or no flag, was going way too far for Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay, head of the Zionist Union, who said that while he backed efforts to amend the nation-state law, he would not attend the protest since he said it would include Palestinian nationalist elements. “I can’t go to a protest where they are calling for the right of return,” he said. “I can go to a protest that calls for equal rights,” he added.

Gabbay’s comment shows exactly where the mainstream Zionist left draws the line. Equality is fine, as long as you preserve the results of ethnic cleansing and exclude ethnically cleansed Palestinians from these rights. All are equal, but some are more equal than others.

The waving of Palestinian flags was great for Netanyahu. He tweeted a video of protesters waving the Palestinian flag, and commented: “There is no better testament to the need for the nation-state law. We will continue waving the Israeli flag and singing Hatikva with great pride” (referring to the Israeli national anthem, which refers exclusively to the ‘Jewish nation’, which is also cemented in the NSJP law).

What we are seeing is a backfiring of this NJSP exclusivity, and a surge in identification of Israeli Palestinian citizens with the national definition of ‘Palestinian’. Israel, of course, wishes to preserve them as mere ‘Arabs’, but about two-thirds of them today identify as ‘Palestinian’ in some way, as can be seen in a poll conducted by Prof. Sami Smooha of Haifa University (cited in Haaretz 2014): 22% of “Israeli Arabs” call themselves Arab-Palestinians with no Israeli association at all. Another 45% call themselves Palestinian-Israelis. Only 32% define themselves as what the Jewish majority likes to call them – Israeli Arabs. In other words, two out of three Palestinians who are Israeli citizens consider themselves Palestinians.

The more mainstream Palestinian-Israeli politicians still use the term “Arabs”, but expressed great outrage at the law:

Chairman of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, said, “Tens of thousands of Arabs and Jews are moving in large quantities on buses to Tel Aviv, because today we insist on delivering a clear message – a democratic state must be for all citizens.”

Member of Knesset Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said, “This damned law succeeded in uniting the Arab public and restore the spirit of the public struggle of Arab citizens together with Jewish democratic forces.” 

Israeli journalist Orly Noy has shared her thoughts on the flag issue in advance of the demonstration (on Facebook , thanks to Sol Salbe for translating):

“[T]he purpose of the demonstration is to present the other entity, which is defending itself, which is fighting for its very existence against attempts at erasure and exclusion, and one of the ways in which that is done is through symbols. And therefore, the Palestinian flag is not only legitimate, but is requisite and necessary in this demonstration […] Those for whom a Palestinian flag makes them uncomfortable, should ask themselves why they demand that the Palestinians hide it.”

So, the increasingly blatant and outspoken Israeli-Jewish-exclusivity is pushing Palestinians everywhere to demand a place, a voice, a representation – and not least an identity, one which is being crushed and silenced. Because Netanyahu can sing Hatikva and wave the Israeli flag all he wants, but Palestinians are not disappearing.

A central reading in the Jewish Passover is from Exodus 1:12, about the oppressed Israelites in Egypt: “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.”

History repeats itself. But as Hegel said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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13 Responses

  1. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    August 12, 2018, 4:56 pm

    Naturally, no mention is made that it was a legal and peaceful protest covered by all israeli news outlets with numerous opposing op eds of various positions. there is already debate in k about modifying or abolishing law although it’s as unlikely as it would be for Iran to strike down is Islamic nation law or the dozens of other nations where Islam is the state religion and Arabic is the state language.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      August 13, 2018, 10:44 am

      @DaBakr

      The Nation State Law, based on the canard that “the Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people,” was passed by the Knesset because Jewish MKs are the majority. They are the majority because Jews currently comprise 75-80% of the population of the entity known as “Israel.” This is because along with a massive influx of foreign Zionist Jews during and after the British Mandate, Jewish militias and the IDF illegally and brutally (i.e., by means of armed might, several massacres, mass rape and intimidation) dispossessed and expelled about one million, two hundred and fifty thousand indigenous Palestinian Arabs between late 1947 and 1967. Also, in accordance with racist Zionism, the only immigrants that the entity known as “Israel” accepts are Jews. (BTW, it should never be forgotten that including their ancestors, Palestinians have lived continuously between the River and the Sea for about 15,000 years.)

    • bcg
      bcg
      August 13, 2018, 11:05 am

      @DeBakr: Also, no mention was made of the fact that the sun rose in the east on that day.

      Why mention the obvious? The protests were covered in a number of news outlets, no one reports that they were illegal or violent. What exactly is your point?

  2. zaid
    zaid
    August 12, 2018, 5:59 pm

    The official language in Iran is Persian dumb ass.

    I agree that Israel will most likely not drop the apartheid law voluntarily , it will be forced to drop it like South Africa did.

  3. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    August 12, 2018, 8:14 pm

    RE: History repeats itself. But as Hegel said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” ~ Ofir

    History Does Not Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes ~ https://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/01/12/history-rhymes/

  4. echinococcus
    echinococcus
    August 12, 2018, 8:58 pm

    “The organizers had asked the participants to avoid, in advance, waving Palestinian flags, but they were waved anyway. A main organizer, Former lawmaker Mohammad Barakeh… said that he “asked the public not to bring [Palestinian] flags, but I can’t control what people do.”
    Barakeh…called the Palestinian flag the “flag of the oppressed Palestinian people, the flag they are trying to eradicate from history via the nation-state law.”

    Yeah, looks like even Hadash people still have to decide if to eat the straw or the thistle. Why does it still go under that Invented-Hebrew name, anyway?

  5. Boris
    Boris
    August 13, 2018, 10:36 am

    A central reading in the Jewish Passover is from Exodus 1:12, about the oppressed Israelites in Egypt: “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.”

    An interesting analogy. And we know how it ended – Jews left Egypt.

    History repeats itself. But as Hegel said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”

    Yes, a very good reminder. Also, it is good to remember all the history, not just part of it.

    • eljay
      eljay
      August 13, 2018, 12:43 pm

      || Boris: … it is good to remember all the history, not just part of it. ||

      You are so right! The victims do periodically lash out at the rapist but we must remember – and never forget! – that it is the rapist who:
      – kidnapped them;
      – chained them in his basement;
      – routinely brutalizes them;
      – refuses to set them free; and
      – refuses to accept responsibility or accountability for his past and on-going crimes.

      I don’t know why you Zionists occasionally make sense, but I’m glad that you do.  :-)

      • Boris
        Boris
        August 13, 2018, 2:17 pm

        @eljay

        Hmmm… A very interesting comment.

        Let me try to stay with the subject of the article:

        Did they wave Palestinian flags in the basement?

      • eljay
        eljay
        August 13, 2018, 4:38 pm

        || Boris: @eljay

        Hmmm… A very interesting comment. … ||

        Thanks. I agree.  :-)

        || … Let me try to stay with the subject of the article … ||

        You do that.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        August 14, 2018, 4:16 am

        Boris: “Did they wave Palestinian flags in the basement?”

        Did the Druze wave their flags in the basement? Do the Jews in East Jerusalem and in the Westbank wave their flags in the basement?

  6. August 13, 2018, 11:00 am

    Of course it is important to show the Palestinian flag.

    As important as it was for the 13 American colonies to create and fly a flag that proclaimed their existence as an independent entity with an identity. An entity that wasn’t going away but was fighting for its life.

    A flag has tremendous symbolic value. People rally under a banner. That is elementary. that is why the flag was prohibited from the demo. But how can protesters be identified in a crowd unless the do carry their own flag?

    The Union Jack symbolized the union of Scotland and England by combining the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew.

    Advocates of the one-state solution might consider a flag that incorporates Palestinian, Jewish, and Druze symbols.

  7. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    August 13, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Next dish in the menu which the moron Yahoo is by default serving to the freaky far right in Zioland has got to be a Zio take over of the Al Aqsa. Being a a political leech and desperate to stay in office at any cost he has allied himself to the Zio freak show and has served up US approval of Jerusalem as Zioland`s capital and now the openly Apartheid “Nation State Law”. The right wing Zio jackals have now got a real wind in their sails and will sooner rather than later be baying for dessert = the”return” of control of the Temple Mount and the rebuilding of the whatever number Temple. They will do this by force if necessary and the” most moral ” will not challenge or resist but will more likely assist. The Yahoo is a moron but even he is shrewd enough and probably realises that it will be a disaster but having thrown his lot in with the freaks will be powerless to do anything about it.

    And IMHO when not if that happens the farcical foreign cult colony will be facing the wrath of not only the Muslim populations which surround them but the wrath of the 1.8 billion Muslims world wide and all those F16`s, tanks,moral snipers,nuclear weapons etc etc will not save them from being spat out like a nasty taste in the mouth.

    Advice to those moral non – Zionist Jews remaining in Zioland – get out while you can. You don`t deserve what has been dumped on you by your crazed co-religionists and you will not deserve the hell that they are bringing upon you.

    Tick tick.

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