Recent headlines seem to indicate a growth of Palestinian nationalism among Israeli Arabs. Suddenly, Bedouins in the south are waving Palestinian flags and self-identifying as such. Arab students in Israeli universities are waving Palestinian flags at various protests including those against the death of Shareen Abu Aqla. These however are not actually new phenomena, and equally old is the Israeli response.
If you open Palestinian or left-wing Israeli social media and press one is bombarded with videos and pictures of the Israeli removal of Palestinian flags. This is especially true in East Jerusalem. Notable examples would be the Israeli request of Shareen Abu Aqla’s family to remove a Palestinian flag from their Jerusalem home or repeated Israeli civilian, and army attempts to remove Palestinian flags from the entrance of the Palestinian town of Yatta near Hebron. also, most visibly, the removal of a giant banner in central Ramat Gan calling for peace between Israel and Palestinians featuring both flags.
It is critical to point out that the flying of the Palestinian flag is legal. Despite this, the “Police Ordinance Law of 1971” provides the vague authority to remove a flag if it leads to “disruption of public order or breach of peace".
As an ardent Zionist, who believes strongly in the Jewish State and its democracy, I am utterly befuddled by our obsession with the Palestinian flag. There are many within Israel’s 20% Arab population who identify as Palestinian, and yet still live productive peaceful lives within our free state. Some work as doctors, and pharmacists, serve in critical national and civil service roles, as well as Members of Knesset. Furthermore, when we united Jerusalem in 1967 and expanded its municipal boundaries we adopted a large Palestinian population that never received Israeli citizenship and thus were never provided even an option for an alternative identity.
The bottom line is when looking at it practically, Israel will need to live with the existence of Palestinian identity, and thus aggressive measures to remove the flying of its corresponding flag are counterproductive and in no tangible way, other than removing a visible symbol, mitigate any potential Palestinian threat towards Israel.
I believe that the constant removal of the Palestinian flag and attempts to outlaw it are rather expressions of our own insecurities as a functional democratic and Jewish State. I for one, am so confident in the Jewish right to exist in our historic ancestral homeland that I do not feel threatened by an expression of competing identity that will inevitably play a role here regardless. Not every Arab waving a Palestinian flag seeks the downfall of the State of Israel, in fact, most within Israel don't. within the PA of course the situation is very different however a blanket ban on a flag adopted by many within our own borders is counterproductive. I fail to see how the removal of a flag increases our security posture but I do see how it further alienates a population we will be living with either way. Our energies are best spent dismantling terror networks and combating tangible radicalization. I wonder if those seeking to erase the flag from sight are only doing so out of their own self-doubt and perhaps only to keep that doubt out of mind.
Eitan Charnoff is a geopolitical consultant with extensive experience in the MENA region. Eitan is also a volunteer, medic, firefighter and IDF USAR officer in reserves.