Israel: Bill to ban Palestinian flags at state-funded institutions gets initial Knesset approval

The bill must pass three additional Knesset votes to become law (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  June 2, 2022

Move follows public debate over Palestinian flags being flown on Israeli university campuses during Nakba Day.

A controversial bill outlawing “the flying of the flags of an enemy state or the Palestinian Authority” at state-funded institutions has passed a preliminary reading in Israel’s Knesset.

The parliament approved the bill with 63 votes for, including from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and 16 against.

Among the members of Bennett’s coalition, the Ra’am party voted against the bill, while some members of Yesh Atid, Kahol Lavan and Labor were absent.

The bill must pass three additional Knesset votes to become law and follows a highly charged public debate over Palestinian flags being flown on Israeli university campuses, following several events marking last month’s Nakba Day.

During a fierce debate preceding the vote, Eli Cohen, a member of the opposition Likud party who sponsored the bill, shouted at Sami Abu Shehadeh, a member of the Joint List, which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel, that he should “go to Gaza or Jordan”.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Cohen’s remarks were met with jeers from a number of Knesset members, with Meretz’s Mossi Raz shouting that he should be ashamed.

‘You’re afraid of the flag’

Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, told the parliament: “About seven years ago the Knesset banned commemoration of the Nakba Day, and since then more and more people are doing that. 

“You’re acting just like any colonialist, any thief. You’re afraid of the flag, you deny the Nakba.”

Al-Nakba (The Catastrophe), is the name Palestinians give to the massacres and forced expulsion they endured at the hand of Zionist militias in 1948.

Entire Palestinian villages were massacred, with Zionist gangs indiscriminately killing unarmed civilians and burying some in mass graves.

The campaign left an estimated 15,000 Palestinians dead and some 750,000 forced to flee their homes and live as refugees.

The move towards a ban follows criticism of Ben-Gurion University after Palestinian flags were displayed last month during a Nakba Day rally at the institution in Beersheba.

Following the rally, Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for a cut to funding to the university. 

Last month, police were also ordered to prevent the waving of Palestinian flags and to confiscate any such flags during the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al-Jazeera reporter who was killed by Israeli forces last month.

Wednesday’s vote comes just days after Israelis marched through Muslim areas of East Jerusalem’s Old City and attacked Palestinians during the annual “flag march”, which marks Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war.