Historical Meaning of The Palestinian Flag

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Correction Appended

Political Zionism-the quest to establish and hold a Jewish-majority state within historic Palestine-has largely been predicated on the belief that Palestinians should not have the right to live on their ancestral lands. In 1948, Israel's founders carried this philosophy to its logical conclusion and used military force to drive more than 700,000 Palestinians out of their homes in a carefully planned campaign of ethnic cleansing. In 1967, Israel conquered and occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and then proceeded to build hundreds of colonies in violation of international law while abusing the human rights of the indigenous Palestinian population.

In December 1987, Palestinians organized a grassroots uprising in an effort to liberate themselves from Israel's occupation. Palestinians refused to pay taxes, they boycotted all Israeli goods and they planted backyard gardens. And they displayed the Palestinian national flag, which was illegal under the terms of the occupation.

Then-Israeli defense minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered his soldiers to break the bones of Palestinians who participated in this uprising or who displayed their flag. Israeli soldiers injured, jailed and killed thousands of Palestinians for their crimes of struggling for human rights and self-determination.

On Nov. 13, three Palestinian students displayed their national flag from Eshelman Hall balcony. However, unlike in the occupied Palestinian territories, free speech is at least theoretically legal in the United States and on this campus. But that didn't appear to matter to the members of Tikvah and Zionist Freedom Alliance who apparently assaulted the Palestinians while yelling racist epithets. One wonders what would have happened had this assault taken place in the occupied territories, where so many bones have been broken, lives taken and land stolen.

The assault was a microcosm of Israel's oppression of the Palestinians. It was yet another example of right-wing Zionism attempting to crush any symbol of the Palestinian people's existence.

During the 1987 uprising, Palestinians sought an alternative way to affirm their existence. The Palestinian flag is green, red, and black, so instead of holding up flags, Palestinians held up watermelons. Perhaps to be safe on the UC Berkeley campus, Palestinian students should also hold up watermelons instead of their flag.

At a recent ASUC meeting, Senator John Moghtader refused to answer the question, "What do Tikvah members mean when they chant 'From the river to the sea, Israel will be free?'" Moghtader's response was, "It means the liberation of the Jewish people." Moghtader didn't want his fellow senators to know the truth: that this hateful slogan stands for the complete triumph of the Zionist project, resulting in a permanent Israeli Apartheid state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea in which all Palestinians are either subjugated or expelled. An independent Palestinian state would never emerge, and the Palestinian flag would effectively cease to have any meaning. Tikvah's vision is becoming more real every day, as the international community has done nothing to end Israel's Apartheid rule over the Palestinians. U.S. taxpayers fund Israel's military hardware, and this university is deeply invested in corporations that profit from Israel's Apartheid.

I hope someday the U.S. and the university end their shameful role in supporting the right-wing Israeli/Tikvah agenda of permanent Apartheid in Palestine. In the meantime, students on this campus have an opportunity to stand up for justice. Five conscientious Boalt Hall law students initiated a petition to recall Senator Moghtader as a result of his role in the Nov 13 incident as well as other behavior that "silences" others and "undermines the physical safety of students." Support the recall of Senator Moghtader.

Correction: Tuesday, December 9, 2008
A previous version of this article stated that Matthew Taylor is a UC Berkeley student. In fact he is not a student at UC Berkeley.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Matthew Taylor is a community activist. Reply to [email protected]



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