Palestinian flags regularly torn down despite not being banned

2. NYT Story Palestine
Abdullah Al-Hajj at his home in Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on June 11, 2022. (Photo: NYTimes)
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Amid a sea of Israeli flags at the entrance to the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, Abdullah Al-Hajj walked toward a group of far-right Jewish marchers, some of them yelling racist chants, and raised the Palestinian flag above his head.اضافة اعلان

He knew he only had a few seconds.

With cheers from supporters and jeers from the Jewish marchers erupting around him, Hajj, 61, was quickly seized by three Israeli paramilitary police officers who wrestled the flag from his hands and carried him away.

“After I raised the flag I didn’t care what happened to me, if I got killed, had my bones broken or if I was arrested,” Hajj said at his home in Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, recounting how he confronted the far-right rally in late May. “It was important to me to show that this land belongs to Palestinians.”

The Palestinian flag is not banned in Israel, but its public display has come under increasing attack by Israeli authorities seeking to crack down on expressions of Palestinian nationalism. That is especially the case in East Jerusalem.

In the Knesset, a bill that would ban the flag at university campuses passed preliminary approval last month. And in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, emboldened Jewish settlers are removing Palestinian flags displayed inside Palestinian towns, sometimes with the protection of the Israeli occupation forces.

“What’s happening today is there is a movement within the Knesset and beyond to focus on the flag as an expression of terrorism or support for terrorism,” said Fady Khoury, a civil rights lawyer at Adalah, a Palestinian legal rights group. “It is part of an ongoing attempt to criminalize certain aspects of the collective Palestinian identity.”

The Palestinian flag has never been banned explicitly, but under Israeli law it is illegal to raise the flag of any group the state considers a terrorist organization. Before the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, that included the PLO, and by extension the Palestinian flag was banned.

That changed in 1993 when Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and the flag began appearing across East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

But when the second Palestinian intifada broke out in 2000, Israel’s suppression of the uprising included a crackdown on expressions of Palestinian identity, among them the flag.

Since then, in the absence of a law banning the flag, Israeli police have used other ordinances, including public disorder laws, to arrest and charge Palestinians who raise the banner, lawyers and rights groups said.

“The way it has been justified, especially the arrests, has been by associating the waving of the flag with disorderly conduct — which is a separate offense,” Khoury said. “There is no explicit clause in any legal document that criminalizes the waving of the flag, but it’s been deemed a crime by individual police officers on the grounds it’s disorderly conduct.”

Battles over the flag are also being fought in Palestinian areas like the West Bank.

In the Palestinian town of Huwarra that fight has become a near-daily occurrence, said the mayor, Nasir Huwari. An Israeli settler driving through the town was recently videotaped climbing an electrical pole and ripping down a small Palestinian flag.

Now settlers come regularly to remove flags in Huwarra, often under the protection of Israeli forces, Huwari said.

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