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Israeli lawmaker proposed bill to ban Palestinian flag at protests

Protesters wave the Palestinian national flag in central Tel Aviv at a rally against a controversial law declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people, August 11, 2018
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A new bill, introduced on Wednesday by Israeli lawmaker Anat Berko of the right-wing Likud party, would disallow the raising of the Palestinian flag at demonstrations in Israel.

The legislation was a response to Palestinian flags flown during a march led by Israel’s Arab community last week in Tel Aviv to protest the newly enacted Jewish nation-state law.

If enacted, anyone caught breaking the flag ban whilst protesting could be subject to up to a year in prison. Protesting, in this case, is defined as at least three people.

Flags of countries where the Israeli flag is prohibited and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) flag - which is widely used by Palestinians as a national symbol - are in violation of the law.

The bill will be read in the Knesset (parliament) after the summer recess.

“The flag of enemies should not be tolerated in the public sphere,” Berko told the Jerusalem Post. “This cannot be allowed and it must be enforced.”

She reportedly expects the government will pass the bill quickly once Knesset is in session.

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“A law that prohibits the raising of the Palestinian flag is cowardly and is a poor attempt to eliminate Palestinian identity,” MK Jamal Zahalka of the Joint List said in response to the proposed legislation.

“Those who think Arab citizens must prove their loyalty to Israel by denying their national identity are very wrong,” said Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman adding that the Palestinian flag is a symbol of the Palestinian struggle to “end the occupation.”

Berko reportedly said that it is a problem that the offices of Arab MKs do not have Israeli flags displayed and want the Palestinian flag, or other enemy flags, there instead.

“No other country would permit its legislators to shame their flag and their national symbols,” Berko told Jpost.

Speaking at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting the day following the mass demonstration, Netanyahu said the 30,000-strong protest organized by The High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel was a "cogent testimony of the opposition to the existence of the State of Israel and the urgency of the Nation-State Law."

"Yesterday we saw PLO flags in the heart of Tel Aviv. We heard the calls: 'With blood and fire we will redeem Palestine.' Many of the demonstrators want to abrogate the Law of Return, cancel the national anthem, fold up our flag and cancel Israel as the national state of the Jewish people and turn it – as their spokespersons said – into an Israeli-Palestinian state, and others say: A state of all its citizens," Netanyahu said.

JIM HOLLANDER (POOL/AFP)

For Palestinians, the right for millions of descendants of families who fled or were forced from their homelands in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation to be permitted to return is a prerequisite for any peace agreement with Israel, but it is a demand the Jewish State has rejected out of hand.

"It is for precisely this that we passed the Nation-State Law. We are proud of our state, our flag and our national anthem. Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. The individual rights of its citizens are anchored very well in the basic laws and other laws," Netanyahu continued.

Netanyahu, whom analysts say pushed for the law to shore up his political base and fend off rivals from the far-right as elections loom, concluded that the nation-state law "is necessary in order to ensure the future of the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people" and vowed to uphold it.

The Israeli leader has not commented on MK Berko’s proposed bill.

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