A large Palestinian flag hung by a left-wing group near the Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan on Wednesday morning was taken down after sparking social media criticism and public calls by lawmakers for its removal.
“The Palestinian flag is being lowered at this very minute,” Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen wrote on his Facebook account.
Along with lowering the flag, Shama-Hacohen said the city would hang a flag with symbols of the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet, Israel Police and Ramat Gan Municipality.
Police had warned Ramat Gan of a “concern of disturbances of the peace by demonstrators” in protest of the flag, according to the Haaretz daily.
The flag had been hung some 30 stories above the Tel Aviv suburb’s Diamond Exchange alongside an Israeli flag, with a banner reading “We were meant to live together” in Hebrew and Arabic. They were hung by Mehazkim, a left-wing group focused on getting progressive messages into the public sphere, in protest of a proposed bill in the Knesset banning the public hoisting of Palestinian flags.
The organization also put up posters and flags with the same message in the cities of Tira and Nazareth.
“The sign may have been removed but our message is alive and kicking,” the organization wrote on its Twitter account. “We are meant to live together. There are two peoples here ,Jews and Arabs, who will continue to fight together for a better joint future. This sign is just the beginning.”
בשל חשש של הנהלת הבניין מתגובת-נגד עוינת, השלט של @mehazkim יורד מבניין בית אבגד.
עיריית ר"ג רוצה קרדיט על זה, כנראה שגם "הצל" והליכוד – אבל הסיבה המרכזית לכך היא המשטרה, שהגיעה הבוקר להנהלת הבניין והתריעה על אפשרות להפרת סדר. במשטרה אומרים כעת שהם היו נערכים בהתאם לכל תרחיש pic.twitter.com/evAZZogVss
— רן שמעוני Ran Shimoni (@ran_shimoni) June 1, 2022
The group’s head noted the vote scheduled in the Knesset for later Wednesday on a bill that would ban the waving of Palestinian flags.
“We think it is an expression of weakness, of insecurity,” he told Radio 103 FM. “I think this law is a provocation, whose intention is to escalate the relationship between Arabs and Jews, to create more violence, more tension.”
— Ayman Odeh (@AyOdeh) June 1, 2022
Earlier, MK Miri Regev of the opposition Likud party urged Israelis to take to the streets with Israeli flags to “paint the city blue and white.”
“We will not be silent or lower our heads in the face of any campaign or propaganda,” she said. “The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. Its capital is a united Jerusalem.”
The campaign follows recent controversy regarding the Palestinian flag, including after students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in the southern city of Beersheba held a pro-Palestinian rally last week on the campus, waving Palestinian flags and singing nationalist songs after being prevented from holding a protest on Nakba Day, which laments the establishment of the State of Israel.
Lawmakers lambasted the rally, saying the Council for Higher Education, which oversees Israel’s universities and colleges, would examine the rally as potential incitement.