Israel bans Palestinian flags, and an artist protests with his brush

Israel bans Palestinian flags, and an artist protests with his brush
Israel bans Palestinian flags, and an artist protests with his brush
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A report prepared by Abeer Salman, within the Middle East newsletter from CNN, to subscribe to the newsletter (press here)

(CNN) — Just over a decade ago, the Palestinian flag was hung alongside the Israeli and American flags at the residence of the Israeli prime minister, when Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas exchanged a historic handshake.

Today, Netanyahu is back in power and Abbas never left, but many other things have changed, including Israel’s position on the Palestinian flag.

This month, Israel’s new Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir ordered the police to lower Palestinian flags in any public place in Israel, claiming that they were a rallying symbol for terrorists.

At least one artist felt compelled to respond to Ben Gvir’s decree.

Once he heard of the minister’s order, Tel Aviv-based visual artist Michael Rosnoff painted himself in the colors of the Palestinian flag and made the artwork his Facebook profile picture.

“That’s silly,” said Rosenoff, better known as Mish. “You want to take down flags? What if I were a flag, what would you do? Would you take me down because I wear certain colors?” “So I drew this illustration, which took me 10 minutes.”

He wasn’t expecting it to attract much attention, but dozens of Israelis joined Mesh, asking him to paint their own portraits with the Palestinian flag in hopes of making some impact.

“Then I thought, yeah, it would be nice to introduce other people to join. Because I love drawing and I’d love to start something online,” Miche told CNN.

Of course, he also painted Ben Gvir dressed in the colors of the Palestinian flag, even the kippah, the skullcap worn by religious Jews.

Maish is not the only Israeli dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s new government. The prime minister’s right-wing coalition won a narrow majority of the popular vote in the November election, but critics and opponents object to a wide range of his moves, including a public ban on the Palestinian flag, growing acquiescence to hardliners and plans to overhaul the judicial system.

More than 100,000 people turned out in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, the latest and largest in a series of weekly protests against legal reforms planned by Netanyahu allies.

But not all Israelis welcomed Mish’s drawings.

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One Facebook commenter accused Miche of “spreading the flag of hate”, adding: “How annoying”.

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Another said: What does he want to say this? Is it cool now to belong to a nation that has surrendered to its terrorist leaders? Hamas does not want peace with us, what needs clarification?

Miche made sure to respond to every comment to explain and even try to convince his critics.

But he believes Ben Gvir’s attempt to publicly ban the Palestinian flag — and flying it is technically legal in Israel — is a continuation of the direction in which Israel has been headed since its founding in 1948.

“It’s definitely a step up in terms of madness, but nothing surprising,” said Miche. “I think what we are seeing now is shattering this illusion that most Israelis are trying to maintain, which is that they can live in a liberal democracy that respects all human rights, while at the same time stealing the same basic rights from five million other people,” he added, referring to the Palestinian population.

As an artist who uses various media – film, animation, illustration and comics – to address social and political issues, as well as sexuality and sexuality, Mish came to Israel at the age of 16 from Russia in 1994 and served in its military for three years.

But one day, while doing his reserve duty at an Israeli checkpoint in the Jordan Valley, he said he had an insight into the Palestinian experience.

“The only reason there is a checkpoint is to make life more difficult for the people in the village,” said Mish. “We checked the same people twice every day. They were mostly mothers taking their children to the kindergarten on the other side of the village,” he added.

“There was a day when I was standing with my gun and another soldier was checking my ID cards, and suddenly I realized I was an adult pointing a gun at a 3-year-old. And I said to myself, ‘I’m not really pointing it at him. I’m just standing like this’, yeah, But he doesn’t know it. What he sees is this creepy creature pointing his gun at me.”

“Suddenly it hit me, from the perspective of the other side, which is this kid who sees this monster twice a day and he points a gun at him. What are the chances that this kid will grow up ready to see me as a human being for what I am? How can I expect him to see me as a human being? Then I decided that I Outside of this. I don’t want to do this anymore,” Mich said.

Mish sees a direct link between the Israeli military checkpoints and Ben Gvir’s essentially attempt to ban the Palestinian flag, which will likely be tested in court.

“Every repressive regime is weak because it cannot tolerate any friction,” Miche argued, and “needs the imposition of an enormous amount of violence to avoid friction.”

This is what Ben Gvir is trying to achieve, Mish noted: “It is the idea that in order to achieve our national identity, we need to take it from others.”

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