Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Flag Day in the UAE, next in Palestine?

Flag Day in the UAE on November 3
Two flag-related news items in the past couple of weeks got me thinking about our flags -- a symbol we maybe overlook sometimes.

The first is that November 3 has been designated “Flag Day” in the Emirates. The second is a UN General Assembly resolution that approved the flying of the Palestinian flag at UN Headquarters in New York.

Both flags, coincidentally, have the same colors and are very similar in design.

It is difficult to overlook the flag in the UAE. It is proudly displayed not only on government buildings but also on businesses and homes, especially in the run-up to National Day on December 2.

HH Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Prime Minster of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, or Sheikh Mo as he is affectionately known, on September 15 called on Emiratis to hoist the UAE flag atop all departments, institutions and homes around the country, in an expression of solidarity with the Emirati martyrs who were killed in the line of duty while taking part in the Arab Coalition's Operation Restoring Hope, led by Saudi Arabia.

HH Sheikh Mohammed's posting on Twitter
Sheikh Mo’s call came via his official Twitter account. He posted: “We call on all Emiratis to express their solidarity through hoisting the UAE flag atop their homes, departments and institutions around the country.”

On the same day, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a Palestinian resolution to allow its flag to fly in front of the UN headquarters in New York, infuriating Israel of course and giving hope to Palestinians seeking to gain full UN membership.

Flying the Palestinian flag atop the Wall
The vote was passed with 119 votes out of 193 in favor. Among the European countries that voted “yes” were France, Russia, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Malta and Poland.  The majority of EU member states were among the 45 countries that abstained. A total of eight countries voted against, including the U.S. and Israel. 

The General Assembly resolution
Currently, the UN has only one other non-member observer state -- the Vatican. The Holy See was not supportive when the idea was first brought up last month, however, and rejected the Palestinians’ original proposal to introduce the resolution as a joint effort, asking the Vatican to co-sponsor the document. The Vatican still remains unsure whether it will be flying its flag next to Palestine’s.

It is may be a small symbolic victory. But seeing that Israel flies its flag all over Palestine, why not?

The Israeli flag flying in the streets...
of the Old City of Jerusalem
I was shocked and dismayed by these Israeli flags flying all over, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem. Maybe a “Flag Day” in Palestine will go some way in redressing the balance.


The Palestinian flag is a tricolor of three equal horizontal stripes -- black, white, and green from top to bottom -- overlaid by a red triangle issuing from the hoist. These are the Pan-Arab colors inspired by the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule (1916–1918). Prior to being the flag of the Palestinian people, it was the flag of the short-lived Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan.

The flag used by the Arab Palestinian nationalists in the first half of the 20th century is the flag of the 1916 Arab Revolt. The origins of the flag are the subject of dispute and mythology. In one version, the colors were chosen by the Arab nationalist “Literary Club” in Constantinople in 1909, based on the words of the 13th-century Arab poet Safiaddin al-Hili:

Ask the high rising spears, of our aspirations
Bring witness the swords, did we lose hope
We are a band, honor halts our souls
Of beginning with harm, those who won’t harm us
White are our deeds, black are our battles,
Green are our fields, red are our swords.

Another version credits the Young Arab Society, formed in Paris in 1911. Yet another version is that the flag was designed by Sir Mark Sykes (of Sykes-Picot repute).

On October 18, 1948, the flag of the Arab Revolt was adopted by the All-Palestine Government, and was recognized subsequently by the Arab League as the flag of Palestine. A modified version (changing the order of stripes) has been used in Palestine at least since the late 1930s and was officially adopted as the flag of the Palestinian people by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964. On November 15, 1988 the PLO adopted the flag as the flag of the State of Palestine.

Flying the Palestinian flag
On the ground the flag became widely used since the Oslo Agreements, with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1993.

In 1967, immediately following the Six-Day War, Israel banned the Palestinian flag in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. A 1980 law forbidding artwork of "political significance" banned artwork composed of its four colors, and Palestinians were arrested for displaying such artwork. Since the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, the ban has been abolished.

Let's proudly fly our flag...