More Than a Flag

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Palestine Views: 1333
1333

When two Israeli soldiers stood at the ruins of what was once called the Presidential Compound in Ramallah, and as they raised the flag of the "victor", they hardly knew that the flag of Palestine was also raised.

No, the flag of Palestine is not blue and white with the "Star of David." It is still that beautiful four-colored symbol of a nation's honorable struggle.

The issue however, dates much earlier than the siege and destruction of Al-Mukata, or President Yasser Arafat's headquarters. It goes back as early as I remember, to when I was a student in the first grade.

"Freshmen" in my elementary school, "The Nusseirat Refugee Camp Elementary School for Boys" had to learn the craft of being a student. One of the early things I learned is how to draw a flag.

A Palestinian flag is one of the easiest to draw, as long as you have the needed colors- Green, White, Red and Black. But the challenge of a first grader was much more than simply keeping one's hand focused not to mix the colors or to remember which color goes where. It was the fact that many elementary school comrades were "caught" with their crayon-drawn flag on a piece of paper on their way back to school, or during frequent Israeli army raids on Palestinian schools.

One cannot claim that the Israeli army was ambiguous about the consequences of carrying a flag, or anything that held these four colors in a way that resembled a flag: High school students were beaten, fined and detained, middle and elementary school students were beaten, dragged to Israeli military camps, (across the street from our school) and only released once their families paid a heavy fine.

Despite the clarity of the unspoken laws, we did it any way. I was never caught with my flag. Others were, leaving behind stories of courage to be told and poor parents going to debt to pay the fine.

The Palestinian flag always managed to stir strong emotions in me and in my peers. It was not the quality of the presentation of the flag that contributed to the storm of tears, but the courage of lifting it and the cruelty it provoked, as Israeli soldiers always went out of their way to bring it down.

My family still lives in the same old house, right beside the graveyard in Nusseirat. Across from our house stands a water tank, constructed by the United Nations many years ago, and a very tall ladder that leads to the top of the tank.

Some courageous souls used to come at night and plant a flag on the top of the water tank, many feet high in the air. The mission was suicidal, not just because climbing a rusty, unstable ladder on a pitch black nights could be deadly, but because some youth were shot on that ladder trying to reach the top.

Children and young men throwing rocks always had their own flag, and maintained to keep up even in the toughest of "clashes" with the Israeli army. The flag holder is someone who would never let go of that precious piece of fabric, and would hand it to another if he was wounded.

Among my peers, the official narration of the symbolism behind the colors of the flag went something like this: "Green is for the land of Palestine, White for the peace in which we lived before we were made refugees, Red is for our blood spilled trying to liberate our land, and Black is for our life under occupation."

But somehow the poetic perception I held of the flag eroded, after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Many of the rights for which we fought, for which we dared to climb high towers, were still missing.

The flag was stripped of its identity. Nothing was left but four pale colors, fading. It was only then that the Israeli army allowed us to raise our flag, to print it in any form or shape we wished, to display it on our cars or homes, to hold it, to wear it, to dance with it. 

But I never did. Because it was not the colors that we adored, it was what the colors stood for, and Oslo had erased it all.

Late last April, I was denied entry into my homeland by the Israeli army, which had taken complete control over the West Bank border with Jordan. I was broken, distressed, with my pain growing deeper not knowing whether I would ever be allowed entry to Palestine.

As I waited for the beat up Jordanian bus to take me back to the Jordanian side of the border, I spotted the remains of a Palestinian flag that once wavered on this building. It was torn to pieces, yet somehow remained attached to the pole. In its place, an Israel flag, brand new, and very large, wavered.  The remains of the Palestinian flag however would once in awhile try to break loose and wave in the breeze of Jericho, to be soon suppressed by the other, that despite its advantages, looked alien.

I left the border that day with the memory of a child, of millions of children who were denied the right to carry their own flag, without being shot, detained or beaten. But for some strange reason, the feelings I once held toward my flag were slowly restored, and the colors came back to life.

As I watched television a few days ago, thousands of miles away from my homeland, I watched Israeli forces attacking the Presidential headquarters in Ramallah, declaring victory by raising the flag of Israel where the flag of Palestine once wavered.

Instead of feeling anger, my heart swelled with pride. I rushed to my office closet, checked every box and opened every drawer until I located a carefully folded flag. I took it out, and pinned it to my wall. Despite the wrinkles, it was breathtaking.

My three-year-old daughter, Zarefah, stormed the office, as she always does.

- Daddy what's this?

- It's the flag of Palestine.

- Wow daddy, its so beautiful. Can I draw it daddy?

It was only then that I realized that the flag of Palestine was more than a flag. It was destiny.


  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Palestine
Views: 1333

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Older Comments:
SAIFUL ISLAM FROM ENGLAND said:
Assalamualaikum,
Bro Ehab Hassan, I admire you for being one of the few who actually can see past their emotions to the true Islam and the true situation of the muslims. The land of the muslims is One, their War is One, their Leader is One !
Anyone with a brain would quickly come to the conclusion and ask why is it that the muslim 'leaderssss' block any attempts of muslims to help our brothers and sister of Palestine. Why is it that they adhere to the UN laws, by hiding behind their borders rather than the laws of Allah, and rushing to the help of innocent muslims being persecuted. The blood of the muslim from Islam is more sacred to Allah than the Ka'abah and all it's surrounds. So what of the hundreds of muslims who have died, men, women and children at the hands of the murdering monkeys and swines (the Jews). And why is it that the media in the world has succeeded in making the issue of Palestine just a Palestinian problem and not a problem for all the muslims in the world. I believe it is in fact this very same Nationalism as represented by the many proud flag bearers in the muslim world that creates the divide in our hearts and minds. Inshallah when we start to address and break down the real misconceptions and get to the root of the problem things will start to happen. Does anyone know the circumstances of the revelation An-Naswr? The help and the victory of Allah came to the muslims and people came in abundance to embrace Islam when RusoolAllah (SAW) had founded the Islamic State in Medina subsequent to the Hijra. An event so important to the muslim that they mark their Calendar from that moment. So I urge all readers sincerely, look to the loss of the 'Mother of All Fariid' (the Khilafah) and work to reinstate the Baya'ah, which will relieve the sin from our 'necks' and take us out of jahiliyah and humiliation once and for all time inshAllah !
Wassalams
2002-09-28

SAID ALI FROM PALESTINE said:
Very beautiful and very touchy, i thank you for it, and i hope oneday you, I, and others can go back and live in the holyland. Salam.
2002-09-27

RIDA FROM U.S.A. said:
great i love articles like these
2002-09-27

S A N FROM USA said:
thanks for your good article. americans ought to see and hear more of human and personal sufferings of palestinians under israeli occupation.
in re: to the posting # 6565; sounds so hypocritical.
gives the wrong perception of pious muslims: preaching about 'aakhira' but living in temporal/material usa, preaching their own cultural versions of 'true' faith, which is only possible in a free society.
recreating the past of saladin without understanding how islam became enlightened and tolerant, the great medieval islamic figures present day muslims talk about didn't belong to orthodoxy.
2002-09-27

EHAB HASAN FROM USA said:
This story is heart warming and moving. But unfortunately, it is also nationalistic. Remember nationalism? It's what got us to this predicament in the first place. Our cause for Palestine must be for the sake of Allah. The flag of Palestine MUST be the flag of La illaha ila Allah. Al Aqsa is not only for Palestinians but also for all Muslims, from those in Indonesia to the newest converts. Just ask the original inhabitants of Palestine who refused to sell their Holy Land to the British-Jews disguised as developers. "Get me 800 million signatures on your contract and I will sell", was their answer to the usurpers. "This land is not mine but is Waqf for the entire Muslim Ummah, I am but a caretaker" was the reply of many a farmer. I was so distressed to see Palestinians marching in the streets of Ramallah shouting, "with our souls and our blood we will fight [sic] for Arafat". Shame on you! Who is Arafat?! Palestine will continue to be trampled upon so long as we remain in the dark. I am a Palestinian (my mother from Hebron and my dad from Ramallah), and I tell you that my soul and my blood is for the pleasure of Allah and that my flag represents the shahada, and I long to return and farm the land and guard Al Aqsa for the Muslim Ummah. May Allah guide us onto the straight path.
2002-09-27

YATMA DIEYE FROM SENEGAL said:
A very heartbreaking story.But not only Israel is to be blamed.The first evil-doer of all is the U.S.who goes on favouring such ignominious acts.And unfortunately Arab States are standing by,doing nothing.I wonder why they don't break away from these two countries that are the real axis of evil! But,rejoice,the prophecy of the Prophet of Islam will come true!!!
2002-09-26

WISH TO BE UNKNOWN FROM AMERICA said:
that was actually very sesitive, but in my opinion it was very onesided. i always think about another side before i right. not trying to critsize to much, but always think about how people are being treated on te other hand in another country. from perspectives of other peoples opinion before you begin to right. Anyway it is stil very carring and well thought out.
2002-09-26

SHAHIDA AHMED FROM U.S.A said:
Assalamalaikum.
Read the article with tears. Today yahoo news shows/says that the Israeli flag fly higher than the Palestinians. I think, the only way the Palestinian Jehad will WIN when the public(in millions) dare the curfew and block the way for for the Israeli tanks or so on. How many they will kill? Not millions. Each and every person should get to the street. Then only there is victory ro jehad. What are we waiting for? Israelis are dominating the place and we are watching silently letting them win their tactics?
2002-09-26

DR. NAIYER HABIB FROM C said:
The deed of Isreal. What a slap on Muslim world!
2002-09-26

BENJAMIN R. GREENE FROM USA said:
Brilliant and very moving article. I will make dua' for the Palestinians.
2002-09-26

JOE NASH FROM USA said:
In the United States there is a taboo against saying anything critical of Isreal. Speaking against Isreal can result in an accusation of being an antisemite and the loss of one's job (inspite of a constitutional protection for freedom of speech.) All one hears from the media are pro-Isreal stories about the Middle East. The on-going resistance of the Palestinian people to the aggressor power is eroding this code of silence. When these issues can be discussed without propaganda I think most Americans will realize the degree to which the Palestinians have been wronged and become allies in their struggle for nationhood.
2002-09-26

SHAHID KHAN FROM USA said:
I think the writer is attaching too much importance to the flag and worldly things. Allah controls everything.
even though palestinians might have lost land and freedom but the freedom should be inside our hearts. this world is temporary we should always try to please allah and make sure that we are not violating his commands even is worse circumstances, then only victory for muslims is possible. if we get attached to the worldly life and things, it will be hard for us to gain victory.
I understand the writers pain from being denied basic human rights and living in horror of israeli occupation.
I feel that only way to victory for muslims is patience and sacrifice to please allah.
If we forget allah and think of a flag as destiny then that is really worrisome.
a muslims destiny is aakhira, this world is temporary.
forgive me if i misunderstood something but we muslims need to set our goals for aakhira not for a land even though it is holy land.
remember when crusaders occupied jerusalem, salahuddin ayubi with his army defeated crusaders by coming from outside.
lot of patience and work is required. there are no shortcuts. may allah grant us stronger imaan and victory, remember it might/will be hard and long time. this is a test of allah.
why casino in palestine, why boys and girls hangout together in palestine. remember we have to follow each and every islamic principle first to make our society islamic.
2002-09-26

MOHANNAD ZIKRA FROM CANADA. said:
Salam Aleikom Ramzy.

I am palestinian. I live in Montreal, Canada. I read your article and it really made me shiver. It's a beautiful story. I will defenitly share it with others. People here in Montreal need it too, because we are being oppressed here as well. A couple of weeks ago, my university accepted to bring Netanyahu to our school for a speach. We were all outraged. The media asked Netanyahu if he was worried about making a speach in Montreal , with possible protestors. He replied, " they can protest, but they will never stop me."

In the end, Netanyahu could'nt even make it to our university.

We must all stay strong!

May Allah help us.

Salam Aleikom.
Mohannad Zikra,
You Palestinian brother.
2002-09-26

SAIFUL ISLAM FROM ENGLAND said:
However romantic this story may sound it is undeniable that the struggle for Palestine is an incomplete solution. Furthermore it is forbidden from Shariah, for someone to call for something which is compromising Islam.
The prophet Muhammad (SAW) said 'the one who calls for nationalism (asabiyah) is like the worm that burrows through dung'.
InshAllah there will be a new flag one day for the entire region representing Islam. Israel if anyone remembers was cruely carved out from the dismantled Uthmani State with the assistance of the British and her helpers. Under the Islamic State the different religious faiths were able to have security of beliefs, blood and belongings. So what have we seen in the last 80 years of compromise to the capitalist powers ! I will leave some facts to ponder over:
1. When the Palestine Problem was created by Britain in 1917, more than 90% of the population of Palestine were Arabs, and that there were at that time no more than 56,000 Jews in Palestine?
2. The Arabs of Palestine at that time owned 97.5% of the land, while Jews (native Palestinians and recent immigrants together) owned only 2.5% of the land.
3. The original 1947 recommendation to create a "Jewish State" in Palestine was approved, at the first vote, only by European, American and Australian States. Every Asian State, and every African State (with the exception of the Union of South Africa, ruled by an 'alien' minority) voted against it!
4. Israel allots 85% of the water resources in the occupied territories for Jews and the remaining 15% is divided among all Palestinians in the territories? For example in Hebron, 85% of the water is given to about 500 settlers, while 15% must be divided among Hebron's 120,000 Palestinians?
5. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons, and is the only country in the Middle East that refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and bars international inspections from its sites.
2002-09-26

JACK OAKIE FROM USA said:
A flag is but a piece of cloth layered with all the stuff a nation, country, convention piles upon it. In school, did you see maps of Israel or were they shown as all Palestine?
2002-09-26