Israel plans to reintroduce ban on Palestinian flag

2 Dec

General strike following the killing of Khir Hamdan, Um al Fahm, Displaying Palestinian flags at demonstrations would be forbidden if a new Israeli bill enters into force. (Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)

By Patrick Strickland, Electronic Intifada, 1 December 2014

A new Israeli bill aims to criminalize the Palestinian flag.

The eight-point plan — labeled by its supporters as an “anti-terror” bill — was introduced by stridently anti-Palestinian politician Yariv Levin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and a lawmaker in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

In order to become law, the bill still needs to be passed by the Knesset. Among other harsh provisions, it will “make it a crime to display the Palestinian flag and other ‘enemy’ emblems at demonstrations,” The Daily Telegraph reports in a 26 November article.

Israeli academic Ilan Pappé, author of more than a dozen books on Palestinian and Israeli history, explained that an ongoing wave of discriminatory bills is part of a racist trend of anti-Palestinian legislation in Israel’s Knesset that has intensified in recent years.

Until recent years, Israel “was uncomfortable with the contradiction between racism and democracy” and insisted that it was possible to be an exclusively Jewish state and democratic at the same time, Pappé told The Electronic Intifada by email.

Israel “hesitated to legislate in [an outright] racist manner since it was possible, in its leaders’ eyes, to practice a de facto apartheid state with laws that were democratic in discourse but discriminatory in nature when implemented,” Pappé added.

Yet, as anti-Palestinian incitement has soared, Israeli politicians have become more forward in explicitly targeting Palestinians with discriminatory legislation, according to Pappé.

Repeating history

Palestinians who throw stones, Molotov cocktails or firecrackers at protests against Israeli occupation forces “will be arrested and held in custody until the completion of legal proceedings,” The Telegraph reports.

“The same will apply to those waving ‘enemy flags’ — including the Palestinian flag — at demonstrations,” it explains. “Those convicted will lose social welfare benefits and drivers’ licenses for ten years.”

The Palestinian flag was adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization — then led by Yasser Arafat — in 1964.

Following Israel’s occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip in 1967, Israel outlawed the Palestinian flag. Yet the ban was lifted in 1993, following the signing of the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO.

Though it was no longer illegal, Palestinians were often targeted and punished by Israel for carrying the flag.

In April 2013, Israeli occupation authorities “detained and interrogated five Palestinians for raising Palestinian flags on their cars in Jerusalem,” the Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency reported at the time. “Eight others were pulled over by traffic police and fined 250 shekels [$65] for having Palestinian flags on their cars.”

In November that year, Palestinian citizens of Israel protested across the country against the Prawer Plan, an Israeli plan to forcibly relocate tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins who carry Israeli citizenship in the Naqab (Negev) region. (That plan was subsequently frozen, but home demolitions and evictions have continued without pause.)

At the time, Haifa University banned student protesters from raising the Palestinian flag on campus, The Jerusalem Post reported at the time.

It is unlikely Israel will apply the same rules to rightwing Jewish Israeli groups that hold flags of groups recognized as terrorist organizations. For years, hardline Israeli rightists have raised the Kach flag — which represents the extremist political group founded by the late Meir Kahane — at soccer games and during protests.

There are no known instances of such protesters having their citizenship threatened by Israeli authorities.

Forced deportation

The new bill will also empower Israel to revoke the citizenship of Palestinian citizens of Israel if “they are convicted of committing or aiding ‘terrorism’,” the Telegraph article adds.

Israel will also be able to deport and revoke residency of those carrying citizenship papers issued by the Palestinian Authority.

Relatives of Palestinians who attack Israeli occupation forces or civilians will also lose their citizenship or residency and be “deported to the Gaza Strip” if they express support for such actions on the Internet or elsewhere, according to The Telegraph.

Israel has forcibly deported at least 1,522 Palestinians from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip since 1967, according to statistics compiled by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

“International law prohibits the expulsion of people in occupied territories, be it deportation to another country or forced relocation within the occupied territory,” B’Tselem has noted.

Last week, the Israeli interior ministry announced that it will deport and revoke the residency of Nadia Abu Jamal after her husband participated in a deadly attack on Israelis in a synagogue in Jerusalem.

Israel also announced that it will undertake a “punitive demolition” of her family home in the Jabal Mukaber area of occupied East Jerusalem.

Yariv Levin’s bill will mandate that Israel demolish homes of alleged attackers “within 24 hours of an attack,” The Telegraph notes.

“The policy, which Israeli officials claim is a deterrent, deliberately and unlawfully punishes people not accused of any wrongdoing,” Human Rights Watch has stated in a press release. “When carried out in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, it amounts to collective punishment, a war crime.”

Funerals banned

For Palestinians accused of attacks and killed by Israeli forces, their bodies will not be returned to their families, according to the new bill.

Families will also be banned from holding funeral processions for supposed Palestinian attackers and their bodies “will be buried in secret locations which relatives will not be permitted to visit,” The Telegraph adds.

The final point of the new bill permits Israel to close down businesses that print posters or materials “supporting attacks.” And Israeli employers will be enabled to fire employees, presumably Palestinian, who are “found to have committed previous offenses” without having to pay them severance.

The new bill comes shortly after Netanyahu’s cabinet passed a version of another new bill, which officially defines Israel as a “nation state for the Jewish people.” Still waiting the approval of Israel’s Knesset, that bill institutionalizes the communal rights of all Jews (regardless of ancestral origin) in present-day Israel.

Although nominally allotting Palestinian citizens of Israel “individual rights,” the bill will deny them communal rights, despite how they belong to the indigenous people of historic Palestine.

%d bloggers like this: