As Israel turns 75, its flag unfurls into deep divisions

Apr 24, 2023, 11:41 PM

Israeli demonstrators are seen through Israel's national flag during a protest against plans by Pri...

Israeli demonstrators are seen through Israel's national flag during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, in Cesarea, Israel, Friday, March 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (AP) — It’s become an unmistakable hallmark of the anti-government protests roiling Israel for the last few months: the country’s blue and white national flag adorned with the Star of David.

To an outside observer, that may not be surprising, as the demonstrators say their struggle is over the very soul of the nation.

For most Jewish Israelis, the flag has been a potent symbol of their foundational narrative — of a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust to build a modern-day miracle, with a strong military and at the forefront of technology.

However, those protesting now say that the flag has increasingly been co-opted by nationalists claiming to have greater legitimacy to decide the country’s character and its future.

As Israel marks 75 years since its creation, the protesters say they are turning that argument on its head by reclaiming the flag.

As flags are strewn across the country to mark Independence Day on Wednesday — along avenues and down skyscrapers, on military bases and in West Bank settlement outposts — the fight over the flag on the milestone anniversary has laid bare the country’s divisions everywhere you look.

With the protests awash in them, the flags have been a dominant image in the Israeli consciousness for months.

The protests erupted after the country’s most right-wing government in history announced its planned judicial overhaul, which critics say would imperil Israel’s democratic fundamentals. The government claims it is meant to rein in what it portrays as an interventionist legal system. The plan has plunged Israel into one of its worst domestic crises, exposing deeply rooted divisions and sending tens of thousands of people into the streets each week, even after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paused the overhaul because of the intense pressure.

There are other disagreements over the flag. Many of the country’s Palestinian citizens, who make up one-fifth of Israel’s 9.7 million people, do not feel represented by the flag — one of the reasons they have not joined the anti-government protests. For Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the flag is an emblem of a 56-year-old occupation that includes military control and increased settlement building, further dimming their hopes for an independent state. ___

Follow AP visual journalism:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/apnews

AP Images on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP_Images

AP Images blog: http://apimagesblog.com


Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: A look at false claims around the assassination attempt on former President Trump

The assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection, is fueling a range of false claims and conspiracy theories as authorities seek information about the 20-year-old shooter’s background and motive, how he obtained the AR-style rifle he fired at Trump and security at the venue that failed to stop the shooting. […]

5 minutes ago

FILE - Christina Osborn and her children, Alexander Osborn and Bella Araiza, visit a makeshift memo...

Associated Press

Judge clears way for demolition of Texas church where 26 people were killed in 2017 shooting

FLORESVILLE, Texas (AP) — A judge on Monday cleared the way for the demolition of the small Texas church in Sutherland Springs where a gunman killed more than two dozen worshippers in 2017 in what remains the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history. Following the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the church […]

12 minutes ago

RNC Chair Michael Whatley speaks during the Republican National Convention Monday, July 15, 2024, i...

Associated Press

Outside RNC, conservative group defends its Project 2025 guidebook as Democrats ramp up attacks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — At the edge of the cordoned-off perimeter around the Republican National Convention on Monday, hundreds of conservatives filed into the ornate home of the Milwaukee Symphony to hear a parade of luminaries talk policy and Project 2025. Project 2025 is the term for the Heritage Foundation’s nearly 1,000-page handbook for the next […]

33 minutes ago

Associated Press

‘Hillbilly Elegy’: JD Vance’s rise to vice presidential candidate began with a bestselling memoir

NEW YORK (AP) — At the heart of J.D. Vance’s journey from venture capitalist to vice presidential candidate is a memoir he first thought of in graduate school, “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance’s bestseller about his roots in rural Kentucky and blue-collar Ohio made him a national celebrity soon after its publication in the summer of 2016, […]

1 hour ago

FILE - A sticker saying "Keep Sapelo Geechee" is worn on the shirt of George Grovner, a resident of...

Associated Press

Georgia county says slave descendants can’t use referendum to challenge rezoning of island community

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Zoning changes by a Georgia county that some residents say threaten one of the South’s last Gullah-Geechee communities of Black slave descendants can’t be challenged with a referendum, an attorney said Monday in a letter to the judge considering a petition by local voters. Though Georgia’s state constitution allows citizens to […]

1 hour ago

Linemen repair power lines on Jamaica Beach Road the west beach of Galveston Island on Saturday, Ju...

Associated Press

Texas governor criticizes Houston energy as utility says power will be restored by Wednesday

AUSTIN, Texs (AP) — The majority of Houston outages that followed Hurricane Beryl should be fixed within the next two days, the city’s main utility company said Monday as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to punish CenterPoint Energy even after the lights come back. The Texas Public Utility Commission, the state’s regulatory agency, announced Monday […]

1 hour ago

As Israel turns 75, its flag unfurls into deep divisions