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The Israeli Flag as a Symbol of Protest

The text "Aktuella frågor ”I Israel har flaggan omvandlats till en protestsymbol.”

CMES researcher Lisa Strömbom has co-authored an article on the Israeli flag as a symbol of protest together with Anne Lene Stein (Department of Political Science, Lund University) in Sydsvenskan.

The article "I Israel har flaggan omvandlats till en protestsymbol" (English translation: "In Israel, the Flag Has Been Transformed Into a Symbol of Protest") was published on 21 August, 2023 in Sydsvenskan. Below are some excerpts from the article translated into English.

Read the article in Swedish

In recent months, Israel has experienced mass mobilization both for and against the current right-wing government's attempts at judicial "reform". The country's flag has been used in a striking way. In the past, it has been mainly associated with Israel's right-wing movements, as in the annual controversial flag march through Palestinian territories in Jerusalem. Now, center and left-wing demonstrators are trying to reclaim the flag from the right by using it as a symbol of protest against the country's most far-right government ever.

This tactic has a dual purpose: it undermines one of the right's most value-laden political symbols; and it prevents opponents from labeling the protest movement disloyal to the state.

The increasing use of the Israeli flag raises questions, for example, about who is covered by the democratic ideals advocated by the protesters. The vigorous use of the flag tends to obscure the problems that exist regarding the rights of Palestinians who have lived under Israeli occupation for over 55 years, as well as of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Nevertheless, the mass protests have elicited sympathy from significant sections of Israel's Palestinian minority, which today make up 20 percent of the country's population.

The prevalence of the Israeli flag in the protests, combined with virtually no one raising their voice against the occupation, gives the impression that Israel's main challenge is whether the country can function as a democracy for its Jewish population, and not the problems when it concerns democracy inherent in the occupation or for the Palestinian minority.

This paradox underscores a widespread perspective among Israel's majority population. Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and Israel's internal democratic challenges are seen as separate things.

The marginal part of the protest movement that has tried to raise the occupation issue and the rights of Palestinians has experienced resistance from the organizers, who fear that the impact of the protest movement would be weakened.

Lisa Strömbom's research profile