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:


AP Images on Twitter:

AP Images blog:


FILE - Clouds hover over the Oregon Capitol, Jan. 11, 2018, in Salem, Ore. Oregon Senate Democrats ...

Associated Press

Oregon Democrats vote to fine absent senators amid GOP walkout

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Senate Democrats plan to start fining their absent colleagues amid a month-long Republican walkout, a move they hope will pressure boycotting lawmakers to return to the chamber as hundreds of bills languish amid the partisan stalemate. In a procedural move Thursday, Democrats voted to fine senators $325 every time their […]

18 hours ago

Sen. Fred Mills asks a question to members of The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Servi...

Associated Press

Bill to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youths in Louisiana resurrected

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Amid mounting pressure from Republicans, a bill banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths in Louisiana that was narrowly killed by a legislative committee last week has been resurrected. In a rare occurrence, the Senate voted to recommit the controversial bill to a different committee, giving it a second chance […]

18 hours ago

FILE - Adrian Jawort, of Billings, Mont., speaks at the Rainbow Rally on the steps of the Montana S...

Associated Press

Library cancels trans speaker after Montana bans drag readings

Montana’s new law banning drag reading events at public libraries has led to the cancellation of a Native American transgender speaker in a southwestern Montana city on Friday. The Butte-Silver Bow Public Library canceled its “First Friday” speaker, Adria Jawort, at the recommendation of county attorneys, library director Stef Johnson said in a statement on […]

18 hours ago

FILE - Kelsey Juliana, of Eugene, Ore., a lead plaintiff who is part of a lawsuit by a group of you...

Associated Press

Oregon youths’ climate lawsuit against US government can proceed to trial, judge rules

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge ruled on Thursday that a lawsuit brought by young Oregon-based climate activists can proceed to trial years after they first filed the lawsuit in an attempt to hold the nation’s leadership accountable for its role in climate change. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the plaintiffs […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

Louisiana ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill for public school classrooms advances in the legislature

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A bill that would broadly ban K-12 public school employees in Louisiana from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom is nearing final passage after securing the endorsement of a key Senate committee Thursday. Louisiana’s legislation, which already passed the House and advanced from the Senate Committee on […]

18 hours ago

FILE - Cyclists pass by armored vehicles parked in front of Tiananmen Gate near the square where st...

Associated Press

As China cracks down on dissent, New York City gives refuge to exhibit remembering Tiananmen Square

NEW YORK (AP) — Fangsuo Zhou, now in his 50s, remembers all too well that dispiriting spring day in 1989 when tanks rolled into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Communist troops swarmed in to end a pro-democracy protest. University students and others were beaten and bloodied. Hundreds and possibly thousands died. For years, Zhou, who left China […]

18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

As Israel turns 75, its flag unfurls into deep divisions