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A Flag Of Unity For The Holy Land

Last night I went through some old CDs and found backups of some files I thought I’d lost. Lots of treasure on these discs I’ll be sharing gradually, but these I felt were particularly prescient.

They were designed originally as non-state flags for the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in 2010. A fleet of six multinational civilian ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza was raided by the Israeli military before it reached shore. Nine activists were killed in the raid, which earned international condemnation and resulted in a deterioration of Israeli foreign relations. Israel ultimately loosed the Gaza blockade, and all surviving activists were eventfully freed. Unfortunately committees couldn’t agree on a design, and we couldn’t get them produced in time, so they never flew.

Non-the-less, the concept is still relevant, obviously. Recently, ethnically targeted evictions in a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and police action taken against peaceful Muslim worshipers outside al Aqsa mosque last Ramadan sparked a new violent clash. Israeli air strikes killed 42 Palestinians, including 10 children. Hamas fired seven rockets in retaliation. Some homes were damaged, but no casualties were reported. An Israeli air strike also destroyed a 12-storey building that housed the offices of multiple international press organizations, including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. The office of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund was also destroyed. 17 hospitals in Gaza were also damaged, including Gaza’s only COVID center.

I’m considering producing a unity flag anyway. As Malcom X said:

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

I think it’s important to understand that although the State of Israel is an oppressive regime, civilians on both sides of the wall are being oppressed to varying degrees. And this is a civilian flag. Not a state flag.

I want to be upfront about my interest here, because there’s an air of cultural appropriation about it. I’m muslim, but not Palestinian. I’m from a partially Jewish family, but not Israeli. My greatest interest is humanitarian. I believe no state has a right to exist, but all people do. I believe every peaceful person in the region has a right to live there peacefully and unmolested, as with any other region. My personal interest is I suppose spiritual. It is not only Jewish people who have a spiritual tie to the region. Any follower of any Abrahamic religion has a legitimate interest. Indeed any individual who has felt a call to pilgrimage to any of the region’s many significant sites, regardless of faith, should have a right to perform those rites, or even to visit them for secular purposes. And to whatever extent anyone is prevented is yet another, although lesser, injustice. My Jewish brother was able to travel there easily, while, from what I’ve read, I might face barriers and bureaucracies that are prohibitive for my temperaments. I want to see a world where everyone has free and equal access to the country regardless of what government (if any) is officiating it. So this is ultimately a call to unity and siblinghood, which I regard as appropriate for all cultures.

That being said, I welcome feedback from individuals of either of these cultures with special regard.

Option A

The lock and key became a motif in most of these designs because many displaced Palestinians keep the keys to the homes they lost and hand them down over generations. In both a literal and metaphorical sense, Palestinians hold the keys, and Israel holds the lock. But this is my least favorite design because it is the closest to the national flag, and being bifurcated it seems visually segregated.

Option B

Here the lock and key are abstracted to make the distinction of sides less severe. The Arabic reads “Salam” and the Hebrew is “Shalom” which both mean “Peace” and have identical linguistic roots.

Option C

An outlier from a design perspective. This option features a dove and olive branch, which have become an international symbol of peace. But, what’s less known is that the image originates in the Old Testament story of Noah, which both traditions share. The text reads “Salam” and “Shalom” again, but also “Tzedek” in Hebrew, and “Adl” in Arabic which both mean “Justice”.

Option D

This was the concept a group of high school kids came up with. I can’t say I understand what the flames and drips mean. I imagine it’s something along the lines of the flames being the rage of disunity that is cooled when the barriers are unlocked.

Option E

I really like this one, because it doesn’t reference either flag. These are patterns from Arab and Jewish traditional shawls. In other words, it represents both peoples, not the state.

Option F

Even though I prefer the symbolism of the shawls over the flags, this is currently my front runner because I think this design will be more readily understood by a larger audience. Like these two peoples, a lock and a key are irrevocably linked to one another. In deed, one could argue they are useless without one another. So, to call for anything other than unity between them, is to call for genocide of one of them. And the simplicity of the design will translate better to smaller items, like pins or keychains.

So, you got a favorite? Or a suggestion?

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