Green, Red, and White: What is means to be Palestinian under an occupation

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began. Aiming to create separate Arab and Jewish states inside the British Mandate of Palestine, Resolution 181, also known as the Partition Plan, was adopted by the UN in 1947. The first Arab-Israeli War began on May 14, 1948, with the establishment of the State of Israel. Israel won the war in 1949, but 750,000 Palestinians were left displaced and the region was split into three parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (west of the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip.

Since then, the Palestinian people have faced many human rights violations. An Israeli court ordered that numerous Palestinian families residing in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah be evicted by May 2021 and that their land be given to Israeli households. But beyond just this, there is constant aggression from the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). In October of 2022, the IDF shot and killed a 12-year-old Palestinian boy named Mahmoud Samoudi during a raid. 

But Samoudi’s story is just one of many. Israeli forces have targeted Palestinians simply for their Palestinian identity and some might even say it’s become illegal to be Palestinian in Palestine. Most recently, Israel’s security minister has banned the flying of the Palestinian flag in public. 

Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has ordered all police to enforce strict laws in order to decrease the number of Palestinian flags being flown. 

On Twitter Ben- Gvir said, Today I directed the Israel police to enforce the prohibition of flying any PLO flag that shows identification with a terrorist organization from the public sphere and to stop any incitement against the State of Israel.” 

PLO is the Palestinian liberation organization that is notorious for clashing with Israeli forces in efforts to gain Palestinian freedom. 

This was not the first time that the Israeli government had a negative encounter with Palestinian flags. Last May there was a funeral held for Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh after being shot by IDF soldiers. At the funeral, there were many protesters that were beaten and fired at with grenades for showing their solidarity for Shireen. Israeli forces present at the funeral made it a point to rip away all of the Palestinian flags out of people’s hands.

“I feel like the Israeli government banning Palestinian flags in public places is just another way of silencing Palestinian voices. Even though the holding and placing flags isn’t a verbal action, their freedom of expression is shut down by the symbols that represent their ethnicity and the tribulations they’ve endured,” said senior Jenna Saykhamphone. 

A police spokesperson within Israel told CNN that a majority of the reason behind this new policy is due to the “nature behind the flag” as it carries a negative connotation throughout Israel. 

The orders of Ben- Gvir followed a protest in Tel Aviv where Palestinian flags were being waved. Many protesters called the current prime minister,  Benjamin Netanyahu, a fascist and they were reportedly fighting for equality and the coexistence between Palestine and Israel.   

About a fifth of the Israeli population is of Palestinian descent as many Palestinians stayed in the current state of Israel after the 1948 nakba, which was a catastrophic event that aided the creation of the Israeli state. Many Palestinians have voiced their concerns within Israel as this continues to further their erasure of culture and identity throughout the country. 

“I believe that this policy is extremely hypocritical as Israel wants to see their flag raised by many around the world yet they rip the flag of Palestine from the hands of the Palestinians every day. Declaring the flag as a non-acceptable symbol in their territory is extremely dehumanizing and unethical,” said senior Abdullah Seliaman. 

Much of the anger that stemmed from Ben-Gvir came from the release of Palestinian security prisoner Karim Younis, after spending 40 years in an Israeli jail for kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier in the 1980s. Amidst the protest and celebration of Younis’s release, there were many Palestinian flags present which angered Israeli forces in seeing the flag as a symbol of Palestinian liberation, something Israeli forces heavily fear. 

“I believe what Israel is doing has much more to do than just flags. It is clear that they are trying to erase Palestine as a whole and this is simply another step in their plan to do so,” said freshman Amira Younis

In 2021 the former Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, called for the removal of Palestinian flags however these efforts were not successful until this past week after Itamar Ben-Gvir enforced this policy. 

A large part of why this is happening is in efforts to erase Palestinian identity as a whole. From 1948 until the present day, the state of Israel has annexed about 70% of Palestinian land in an effort to grow the Israeli nation. Due to this, there has been a large amount of Palestinian resistance in the fight against colonization and this has led to an erasure of Palestinian culture and identity as a whole.