Occupied East Jerusalem – When Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot useless on Might 11 whereas masking an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp, north of the occupied West Financial institution, mourners rapidly gathered on the household residence in occupied East Jerusalem.
As crowds streamed via the door to pay their respects, Abu Akleh’s household adorned the doorway with Palestinian flags and images of the veteran Al Jazeera journalist.
Mates cranked up nationalist Palestinian songs.
Inside hours, Israeli police had turned up on the Abu Akleh residence in Beit Hanina demanding that the flags be taken down, the music turned off, and the nationalist chants silenced.
Two days later, comparable calls for had been enforced far more fiercely by Israeli forces.
When hundreds of mourners gathered exterior St Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem to bid their beloved journalist farewell, dozens of Israeli police attacked the funeral procession with batons and rubber bullets. The police focused the pallbearers who struggled to maintain the coffin, which was draped with a Palestinian flag, from falling to the bottom.
“They kicked us, hit us with picket batons, and launched rubber bullets inside shut vary,” mentioned Fadi Mtour, one of many pallbearers who carried Shireen’s coffin that day.
“Regardless of how laborious they beat us, we needed to maintain that coffin from falling. It turned a logo of our dignity and lives. If Shireen’s casket fell, we might, too,” mentioned Mtour, a 41-year-old Jerusalemite who usually attends demonstrations.
“There was a lot hatred and violence … like nothing I’ve ever skilled,” he mentioned.
The explanation for the Israeli aggression on the funeral was the Palestinian flag, and what Abu Akleh represented when it comes to Palestinian identification, Mtour defined.
“They [Israeli authorities] are afraid of the Palestinian flag as a result of it represents our identification, the identical method that Shireen, her funeral and life did,” mentioned Mtour, whose 18-year-old son was additionally overwhelmed on the top through the funeral, sustaining an damage that required a number of stitches.
“They had been able to commit a bloodbath to convey down the Palestinian flag,” Mtour mentioned, including that even girls and kids had been overwhelmed for waving the flag.
Israeli media reported that Jerusalem’s police chief had ordered his officers to forestall the waving of the Palestinian flag and to confiscate flags displayed on the funeral.
Persevering with suppression
Related scenes of horror unfolded simply days later on the funeral of Walid al-Sharif, a younger Palestinian man who lastly succumbed to wounds sustained on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound final month.
Once more, Israeli police waded via the crowds of mourners, confiscating Palestinian flags and beating individuals. Greater than 70 Palestinians had been injured, based on Palestinian media experiences.
Israeli forces’ confiscation of Palestinian flags has continued regardless of the Jerusalem Justice of the Peace Court docket ruling final yr that flying the Palestinian flag will not be a felony offence in Israel.
The ruling got here after a protester was injured and 4 others had been arrested for elevating the Palestinian flag throughout an indication within the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah – a flashpoint on the centre of a decades-long battle between Palestinian households and Israel authorities who’ve tried to evict Palestinian residents from their houses.
Palestinian activists have usually reported being focused when waving Palestinian flags in Jerusalem. They’ve additionally witnessed a rise in Israeli efforts to confiscate Palestinian flags and to punish those that try to lift them.
“We aren’t allowed to lift the Palestinian flag on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound,” mentioned Ruqaya, a 52-year-old Palestinian girl from the Previous Metropolis in Jerusalem.
“Those that attempt, at all times wrap a keffiyeh round their face to maintain their identification hidden,” she mentioned, referring to the black and white checked scarf that’s thought-about one other image of Palestinian identification.
“Due to the intense Israeli response to waving a flag, Palestinian youth – my sons included – have taken it upon themselves to proceed to lift it at each alternative,” she added.
Ahmad Safadi, a Jerusalemite activist and member of the town’s nationwide and civil motion committee, has usually been focused for elevating the Palestinian flag.
“I’ve been detained, overwhelmed and my [charity and media] organisation has been shut down a number of occasions as a result of I maintain waving the flag,” Safadi mentioned.
He additionally insisted on carrying the flag through the funerals of Abu Akleh and al-Sharif, as a result of it’s “a logo of our Palestinian identification and sovereignty”.
“They’ll by no means cease me,” Safadi mentioned.
“I’ll proceed to lift the flag excessive.”
The Israeli assault on Palestinian identification and establishments stretches again 20 years, based on Palestinian lawyer and analyst Diana Buttu.
She referenced the funeral of well-known Palestinian politician Faisal Husseini in 2001, when “a whole lot of hundreds of individuals gathered carrying the Palestinian flag and there have been no assaults through the funeral”.
However, shortly after his funeral, issues modified.
Israeli authorities shut down the Orient Home – the political headquarters of the Palestinian individuals in East Jerusalem, that was established by Husseini and had change into a logo of Palestinian tradition and identification.
Suppression of Palestinian identification has been on the rise since, Buttu mentioned, including that it reached a peak in 2017 with then-US President Donald Trump’s administration saying that it could recognise Jerusalem because the capital of Israel.
“That successfully emboldened Israel and we noticed the massive clampdown on Palestinian identification, flags, and colors,” Buttu mentioned.
Since then, “there’s been an try and push Palestinians out and to crush their identification. And Shireen was very a lot a logo of Palestinian identification,” she mentioned.
“However all of their makes an attempt merely present how afraid of the flag [and what it represents] they’re.”