Occupied East Jerusalem – When Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh shot dead On May 11, while reporting on an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp, in the occupied northern West Bank, mourners quickly gathered at the family home in occupied East Jerusalem. .
As crowds poured through the doors to pay their respects, Abu Akleh’s family decorated the entrance with Palestinian flags and photographs of veteran Al Jazeera journalist.
Friends sang nationalist Palestinian songs.
Within hours, Israeli police stormed Abu Akleh’s home in Beit Hanina demanding that the flag be lowered, the music turned off and the nationalist chants silenced.
Two days later, similar requests were enforced much more aggressively by Israeli forces.
As thousands of mourners gathered outside St Joseph’s Hospital in Jerusalem to bid farewell to their beloved journalist, dozens of Israeli policemen funeral attack procession with batons and slingshots. Police targeted chubby people trying to keep a coffin with the Palestinian flag on it from falling to the ground.
“They kicked us, beat us with wooden batons, and fired rubber bullets at close range,” said Fadi Mtour, one of Shireen’s coffin-bearers that day.
“No matter how much they beat us, we had to keep that coffin from falling over. It has become a symbol of our dignity and our lives. If Shireen’s coffin falls, so do we,” said Mtour, a 41-year-old Jerusalem resident who regularly attends rallies.
“There was a lot of hatred and violence… like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” he said.
Reason for the Israelis aggression at funerals is the flag of the Palestinian people, and what Abu Akleh represents for the Palestinian identity, Mtour explained.
“Surname [Israeli authorities] afraid of the Palestinian flag because it represents our identity, in the same way that Shireen, her funeral and her life did,” said Mtour, whose 18-year-old son was also hit in the head in the crowd. mourning, said. few stitches.
“They were ready to carry out a massacre to bring down the Palestinian flag,” Mtour said, adding that even women and children were beaten for waving the flag.
Israeli media reported that the Jerusalem police chief ordered his officers to stop the waving of Palestinian flags and confiscate the flags displayed at the funeral.
Continue to suppress
Similar scenes of horror played out just days later at the funeral of Walid al-Sharif, a young Palestinian who finally succumbed to the wounds of Al-Aqsa . Mosque compound last month.
Once again, Israeli police made their way through crowds of mourners, confiscating Palestinian flags and beating people. More than 70 Palestinians were injured, according to Palestinian media reports.
The seizure of the Palestinian flag by Israeli forces continues despite the Jerusalem Court’s ruling last year that flying the Palestinian flag is not an offense in Israel.
The ruling came after one protester was injured and four others arrested for hoisting the Palestinian flag during a protest in the occupied East Jerusalem area. Sheikh Jarrah – at the center of a decades-long war between Palestinian families and the Israeli authorities, who have been trying to evict Palestinian residents from their homes.
Palestinian activists regularly say they have been targeted while waving Palestinian flags in Jerusalem. They have also seen an increase in Israeli efforts to confiscate Palestinian flags and punish those who try to raise them.
“We are not allowed to raise the Palestinian flag at the Al-Aqsa Mosque grounds,” said Ruqaya, a 52-year-old Palestinian woman from the Old City in Jerusalem.
“People who try, always wear a tight scarf around their face to hide their identity,” she said, referring to the black and white scarf seen as another symbol of Palestinian identity.
She added: “Due to the extreme reaction of Israelis to waving the flag, young Palestinians – including my sons – have accepted to continue to raise it at every opportunity.
Ahmad Safadi, a Jerusalem activist and member of the city’s national and civil action committee, is frequently targeted for raising the Palestinian flag.
“I was detained, beaten and [charity and media] the institution was closed several times because I kept waving the flag,” said Safadi.
He also claimed to carry the flag at the funerals of Abu Akleh and al-Sharif, as it is “a symbol of our Palestinian identity and sovereignty”.
“They would never stop me,” Safadi said.
“I will continue to hold the flag high.”
According to lawyer and analyst Diana Buttu, Israel’s assault on Palestinian identity and institutions spans two decades.
She mentioned the funeral of the famous Palestinian politician Faisal Husseini in 2001, when “hundreds of thousands of people gathered carrying the Palestinian flag and there was no attack during the funeral”.
But, not long after his funeral, everything changed.
Israeli authorities closed the House of the East – the Palestinian political headquarters in East Jerusalem, founded by Husseini and which has become a symbol of Palestinian identity and culture.
The suppression of Palestinian identity Buttu said it has increased since then, adding that it peaked in 2017 when the administration of then US President Donald Trump announced that it would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. .
“That has effectively encouraged Israel, and we have seen a massive suppression of Palestinian identity, flags and colors,” Buttu said.
Since then, “there has been an attempt to push the Palestinians out and destroy their identity. And the Shireen is very symbolic of Palestinian identity,” she said.
“But all their efforts simply show the fear of the flag [and what it represents] they are.”