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Symbol that unites Arab world to demand for Palestine state

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The Palestine flag is a tricolour flag used to represent the Palestinian people. The State of Palestine is located in the Southern Levant region of West Asia. It was founded on November 15, 1988, and is officially governed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The state also claims the disputed West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip as its territory, which Israel already occupied since the 1967 six-day war.

However, about  165 Palestinian enclaves occupy the West Bank under partial Palestinian rule while about 200 Israeli settlements are under full Israeli control. Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip was once an Egyptian colony until 1967 when Israel took control. Israel later withdrew in 2005 and the Hamas took over. However, the Gaza Strip has since been blockaded by Israel, especially since the October 7, 2023 attacks, and Egypt.

The agitation for the creation of the State of Palestine can be traced to post-World War II when the United Nations (UN) adopted a Partition Plan for Mandatory Palestine, which recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states and an internationalised Jerusalem. The plan was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs. Shortly after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Arab League established the All-Palestine Government on September 22, 1948. Despite opposition by Israel, Palestine is currently recognised by 138 of the 193 United Nations (UN) member states.

In addition, the state recognises Jerusalem as its capital. However, Jerusalem is controlled by Israel. Hence, both Palestinian and Israeli claims to the city are mostly unrecognised by the international community. Meanwhile, the State of Palestine is a member of the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the G77, the International Olympic Committee, UNESCO, UNCTAD and the International Criminal Court. Despite failed efforts to become an official member of the United Nations in 2011, Palestine became a non-state member of the UN after being voted in by the organisation in 2012.

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What is the Palestine flag?

The Palestine flag is a tricolour flag of three equal horizontal stripes (black, white and green from top to bottom) overlaid by a red triangle issuing from the hoist. It is derived from the Pan-Arab colours and used to represent the State of Palestine and the Palestinian people.

The Palestine flag is similar to that of Syria’s Ba’ath Party, except for the fact that the former has a ratio of 1:2 shapes and colours while the latter has a 2.3 ratio. It is also very similar to the Flag of Jordan and the Flag of Western Sahara, as they all got inspiration from the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule (1916–1918).

Palestine flag history

The first flag adopted by the Palestinian people was the flag of the 1916 Arab Revolt. However, the true origins of this flag are still under dispute by historians. Some believe that the colours were chosen by the Arab Nationalist ‘Literary Club’ in Istanbul in 1909, based on the words of the 13th-century Arab poet, Safi al-Din al-Hili.

Others believe the Young Arab Society, which was formed in Paris in 1911, should get the credit for the flag. Some other schools of thought posited that the flag was designed by Sir Mark Sykes of the British Foreign Office. Whatever the origins, the truth is that the flag was used by Sharif Hussein by 1917 and it was quickly adopted by the Arab national movement in the Mashriq.

Arab Revolt (1938)

Arab Revolt (1938)
Palestine flag used during the 1936–1939 Arab Revolt

The Palestinian people adopted the Arab Revolt flag in the late 1930s. On October 18, 1948, it was officially recognised by the All-Palestine Government, and subsequently by the Arab League as the Palestine flag. In 1964, the flag was adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

PLO modified flag (1988 -present)

PLO modified flag (1988 -present)

On December 1 of the same year, the PLO executive committee established a special system to specify the standards and dimensions of the flag. Hence, the black and green colours replaced each other. On November 15, 1988, the PLO officially adopted the modified flag as the flag of the State of Palestine. Today, the flag is being flown widely by Palestinians and their supporters.

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Palestine flag meaning

Palestine flag meaning

The Palestine flag design is a tribute to the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1916. However, there is more to the meaning of the flag. According to Arabic author, Ibrahim G Zalloum, the Arabic Revolt flag mirrors a poem written after Arabs defeated the Mongols in Iraq at the battle of Zawra’. The poem was written by a veteran of the war, Safi ad-din al-Hali.

Specifically, the lines written in Arabic, are:

إِنّا لَقَومٌ أَبَت أَخلاقُنا شَرَفاً *** أَن نَبتَدي بِالأَذى مَن لَيسَ يُؤذينا

بيضٌ صَنائِعُنا سودٌ وَقائِعُنا *** خُضرٌ مَرابِعُنا حُمرٌ مَواضينا

The English translation says:

Truly, we are a people, our manners forbid us out of honor***To initiate harm to those who do not harm us

White are our deeds, black are our battles/blows, green are our fields, and red are our blades

After World War I, the Arabs translated black to represent Prophet Mohammed and the Abbasid Dynasty (750-1258), which ruled from Baghdad. According to the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), the Abbasids took black as a symbol of mourning for the assassination of relatives of the Prophet and in remembrance of the Battle of Karbala.

The white colour represented the Umayyad Dynasty (661-750) which ruled for 90 years in Damascus. The Umayyads took white as a symbolic colour to remember the Prophet’s first battle at Badr, and to distinguish themselves from the Abbasids, during mourning periods.

The green colour represented the Fatimid Dynasty of Morocco who used green to symbolise their allegiance to Ali, the Prophet’s cousin, who was once wrapped in a green coverlet in place of the Prophet to thwart an assassination attempt.

Finally, the red colour was the symbol of the Islamic rulers of Andalusia (756-1355) and Khawarij, the first Islamic group to emerge after the assassination of Caliph Uthman III in the early days of Islam. In modern times, red symbolises the Ashrafs of the Hijaz and the Hashemites, descendants of the Prophet.

In other words, the Arab Revolt flag was saying that the Arabs were fit to rule themselves more than the Turks because they were the descendants of the Prophet.

Palestine flag colours

The Palestine flag colours are black, white, green and red. They all symbolise the independence, freedom, unity, and liberation of the Arab world.

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