If the Palestinian flag is legal, why do Israeli police view it as such a threat?
In East Jerusalem, the city Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state, waving the Palestinian national flag is becoming verboten. Over the past year, activists have noticed an increase in police attempts to confiscate the flags during demonstrations across the city.
The latest example came earlier this month, during a protest against the eviction of the Sabag and Hamad families from their homes in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. A video published by Israeli activist Guy Butavia shows group of Israeli police officers walking into a crowd of Palestinian and left-wing Israeli activists (including +972 writer Orly Noy), many of whom are holding small Palestinian stick flags. The officers proceed to confiscate the flags, one by one.
At first, it almost seems like some kind of game; the protesters appear bemused, as if they know they are actors in some kind of bizarre political theater. Once it becomes clear, however, that the officers are intent on taking every single Palestinian flag in sight — one officer even climbs a tree to get the job done — the demonstrators grow angry. “Why are you so bothered by seeing a Palestinian flag in Palestine?” asks activist Sahar Vardi through a megaphone. By the end of the video, it appears the police have all the flags in their possession.
Prior to the Oslo Accords, Israel considered flying the Palestinian flag — still referred to in Israel as the flag of the Palestine Liberation Organization — a criminal offense. The scene at Sheikh Jarrah was reminiscent of the days of the First Intifada, when videos showed Israeli soldiers removing Palestinian flags from public buildings across the West Bank and Gaza in the years of the mass uprising.Read More