When Israel-Palestine tensions came to a head in May, observers worldwide took to the streets to protest the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip. Many of these protesters wielded the Palestinian flag. The Palestinian flag has unique origins and represents many important parts of the Islamic and Palestinian movements. Over the years, the flag has come to represent a global sense of struggle for liberation that other communities identify with and support.
Sharif Hussein initially designed the modern-day Palestinian flag as a symbol of the Arab Revolt in June 1916. During 1917, the Palestinian people adopted the flag to represent the Arab national movement, which aimed to establish a united Arab state encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine. In 1947, the pan-Arab Ba’ath Party, founded in Syria, used the flag to symbolize its desire to achieve Arab liberation and unity. In 1948, the Palestinian people readopted the flag during the Palestinian conference in Gaza. Shortly after, the Arab League recognized the flag as the official flag of Palestine. During the 1964 Palestinian conference in Jerusalem, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) also recognized the flag as the official Palestinian flag. During the latter portion of the 20th century, Palestine struggled to obtain recognition as a state in the international arena. However, in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly approved the inclusion of the Palestinian flag at the UN headquarters in New York City.
The Palestinian flag consists of a black, white, and green stripe and one red triangle. Each of the colors in the flag represents different Arab dynasties and pivotal moments in Islamic history. The black represents the Prophet Mohammad, the founder of Islam, who lived between 570 and 632 AD. It also represents the Abbasid Dynasty, which was based in Baghdad. It used the color black to commemorate a period of mourning for the Battle of Kabala and the assassination of the Prophet’s relatives. The white in the Palestinian flag represents the Umayyad Dynasty, which ruled for almost 90 years from Syria. The dynasty used white as their color of mourning and to commemorate the Prophet’s first battle at Badr. The green in the flag symbolizes the Fatimid Dynasty, which was founded in Morocco by Abdullah Al-Mahdi. The dynasty expanded its reach throughout North Africa, and they used green to represent their loyalty to the Prophet’s cousin, Ali. Finally, the red in the flag represents the Khawarij, who formed the first republican party in Islamic history and used red as their symbolic color. Red also represents descendants of the Prophet, such as the Ashrafs of the Hijaz and the Hashemites.
Over the past several years, the Palestinian flag has also become associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. As both the Black Lives Matter and Palestinian liberation movements have grown and captured media attention, the parallels in state violence, human rights abuses and protests between the African-American community and the Palestinian community have become more apparent. Indeed, many young Black activists have supported Palestinian liberation and vice versa. For example, in 2015, over 1,000 Black organizers signed a solidarity statement that condemned Israeli violence in Gaza and the West Bank. While the latest string of Black Lives Matter protests were occurring in the U.S. in 2020, Palestinians shared images of themselves hoisting flags that said “Palestinian Lives Matter.” A Palestinian artist also created a mural on the separation wall near Bethlehem of George Floyd, who was murdered in May 2020.
The uniquely designed Palestinian flag represents numerous aspects of Islamic history and reflects the Palestinian struggle. As other similar movements have emerged around the globe, including the Black Lives Matter movement, the Palestinian flag has also come to be seen as a symbol of protest and struggle for freedom.