Dozens of Israeli police officers stormed the funeral procession, beating, kicking and trying to stop mourners from marching with the remains of Abu Akl, who was shot and killed by Israel on Wednesday, from a hospital in occupied East Jerusalem. The church in front of her worships the funeral.
Television footage showed police beating mourners with batons as they struggled to lift Abu Akleh’s coffin, which was flying a Palestinian flag, causing the bearers to nearly throw it to the ground. The violence reportedly forced mourners to place Abu Ackley’s coffin in a hearse.
The main objective of the Israeli police is to display the Palestinian flag.
“There’s no Palestinian identity shown…I think that’s what it’s really about,” Al Jazeera’s Stephanie Decker said Friday during her funeral coverage.
Dekker recounted how on the day Abu Akleh was killed, police entered her home to remove a Palestinian flag and told mourners to turn off patriotic music,
On Thursday night, Israeli authorities summoned Abu Akl’s brother and told him to instruct mourners not to carry Palestinian flags or recite Palestinian chants.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reported that Israeli forces arrested at least four mourners, two of whom were arrested for raising the Palestinian flag, and also smashed a window to remove the Palestinian flag from the hearse.
“Two men were arrested for actually raising the Palestinian flag. This is actually illegal under Israeli law,” he said. “When Shireen’s car with the coffin actually came in, a Palestinian flag was displayed at the back of the car. The Israeli police actually smashed that window and took the flag.”
Palestinian flags where relatives of Abu Ackley received their condolences outside the church were also removed.
Many took to social media to express their outrage at the scene, with some Twitter users saying: “Even in mourning, Palestinians cannot escape Israel’s violence.”
The killing of Abu Akleh, who became a household name in the region, sent shockwaves around the world and brought new attention to why Israel is so afraid of the flag.
‘Even a flag is seen as a threat’
Marwa Fatafta, a policy member at the think tank Al Shabaka, said the presence of the Palestinian flag threatened Israel’s identity.
“When a regime is determined to obliterate, even a flag is seen as a threat,” Fatavta told Al Jazeera.
The Israeli occupation “unswervingly racially wipes the Palestinians from Jerusalem”.
“They stole and demolished houses, attacked believers, suppressed public places and drove Jerusalemites out of their city,” she said.
“Despite this brutal violence, Palestinians raised their flag in Jerusalem to remind them of what they fear most: we are still here,” she said.
Leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, have concluded that Israel’s policy toward Palestinians amounts to a form of apartheid.
Over the years, Palestinian militants have reportedly been deliberately targeted when they waved Palestinian flags in Jerusalem, noting an increase in Israeli efforts to confiscate the Palestinian flag during demonstrations.
Sometimes Israeli police even take down balloons in the colors of the Palestinian flag — red, green, black and white.
However, in September 2021, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that flying the Palestinian flag was not a criminal offence. According to Haaretz, the court ruling came after the arrest of four people who flew the flag.
However, police routinely confiscate Palestinian flags on the grounds that they could lead to “serious disturbances to the peace,” according to the news agency.
This is not always the case.
After the 1967 war, Israel took control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and later annexed East Jerusalem — a move that was never recognized by most of the international community.
It was then that Israel banned the waving of the Palestinian flag in the occupied territories and, a few years later, even banned the depiction of the Palestinian flag in any artwork.
To circumvent the recent suppression of their flag and national colors, Palestinians have creatively adopted sliced watermelons in protest, making the watermelon a symbol of resistance to the occupation.
The watermelon emoji, whose natural colors reflect the Palestinian flag, is used by many Palestinians to post on social media platforms, while increasing censorship of Palestine and Palestine-related posts.