Alex Sinclair
Author of the new novel Perfect Enemy:

The Two Most Important Flags for Liberal Jews Today

Image created from Wikimedia Commons licenses CC0 1.0 and CC BY-SA 3.0

Take a look at this picture. Israel’s government and Hamas don’t agree on much, but they do agree on one thing: this picture is an abomination.

Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir and their supporters believe that only one of these flags is legitimate. They claim that the other flag represents a “made-up people” who have no historical connection to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and their sworn public goal is to prevent that flag from ever flying over a sovereign state in that land. They strive to achieve that goal through the continuous building of Jewish settlements throughout the entire land.

Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and their supporters also believe that only one of these flags is legitimate. They claim that the other flag represents a “made-up people” who have no historical connection to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and their sworn public goal is to remove that flag which currently flies over a sovereign state in that land. They strive to achieve that goal through a campaign of never-ending terrorism against Israelis throughout the entire land.

I am certainly not suggesting that there is any moral equivalence between the methods of these two groups. Nevertheless, there are overwhelming similarities in the way each seeks to create a political and educational narrative that delegitimizes the flag, and therefore the history and national identity, of the other side.

Unfortunately, this mutual flag-delegitimization is not limited to the extremes of Palestinian or Israel society. The narrative of the extremist-messianic Israeli right has taken hold of mainstream Israeli society, to the extent that Ben-Gvir’s police now confiscate Palestinian flags at demonstrations, and they are de facto banned from public spaces. Prime Minister Netanyahu has supported this ban, despite the fact that in the past he had no problem jovially shaking hands with Palestinian President Abbas right in front of the Palestinian flag.

We must not accept the wrongs done in our name by these religious extremist elements in Israeli society. Smotrich may not believe that the Palestinians are a people, but I do. As Yuval Noah Harari put it, at a recent peace demonstration, “We can argue when exactly the Jewish people and the Palestinian people emerged. But the important thing is that right now both are here.” The Palestinians have a right to national self-determination, just as we Jews do, and the Palestinian flag is as much part of their national self-determination as the Israeli flag is for us.

In Israel, liberal Jews are entrenched in nothing less than a struggle for the soul of the Jewish people. This struggle includes matters of religion and state, the rights of non-Orthodox Jewish streams, the role of Charedi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews in Israeli society and Jewish identity, the types of Jewish education that take place in the school system, and many other issues. The Palestinian flag is one of these issues. I appreciate that for some, it is an uncomfortable symbol; indeed, it is the symbol brandished by Hamas, by those who wish us dead and wish our country eliminated. But it is also the symbol of other Palestinians – many of whom have historically been willing to accept our national aspirations as long as their national aspirations are satisfied too. By portraying the Israeli flag and the Palestinian flag together, we show Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists that we will not give up our country and our national identity, but we show potential Palestinian partners that we accept their national identity and wish to live in security, mutual dignity, and peace with them. While that possibility seems far-off today, the first step, as with all strategic planning, is to delineate the desired end goal, and that is what we must do.

In the Diaspora, we should also display the Israeli and Palestinian flags together, for slightly different reasons. The so-called progressive left has delegitimized Zionism entirely. The vision of the future that they seek to embed in the hearts and minds of young Americans, Canadians and Brits is an either-or, zero-sum understanding of Israel and Palestine: their solution is removal of Israel and its replacement with Palestine. They may not use the same terrorist methods as Hamas, but their bottom line – a Middle East without Israel – is the same.

As Jews, we cannot accept the delegitimization, condemnation and exclusion of Zionism and the Israeli flag from campuses, marches, and other public spaces. But we can’t fight the progressive left by arguing that Israel has a right to exist, but Palestine doesn’t. Nor should we: it’s a morally untenable, historically absurd claim.

The only way to fight the progressive left is to brandish the flag of Israel and the flag of Palestine together. That has to be our message. It is the only way to claim the moral high ground and the only way to win over the sensible mainstream. Hillels, Jewish summer camps, synagogues, and other Jewish organizations throughout the world should publicly display both flags at appropriate moments. We should proudly state that Israel has a right to exist (that’s simply what Zionism means), and that we are also in favor of Palestinian nationalism, and we seek a future in which both of those national aspirations can co-exist in security, mutual dignity, and peace.

Of course, this will not satisfy some on the progressive left. They will continue to deface the Israeli flag and delegitimize Zionism, just like Hamas. They will continue to spout nonsense about settler-colonialism. But most mainstream Americans, Canadians, and Brits will understand and support our position. If we present Zionism and Palestinian nationalism as a both-and proposition, rather than either-or, the vast majority will ally with us – in America, Canada, Britain, and also in the Middle East.

Displaying the Israeli and Palestinian flags together is the strategically smart thing to do. It’s also the right thing to do. It will be a game-changer. Let’s make it happen.

About the Author
Alex Sinclair is an educational consultant, and an adjunct lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has written and spoken widely on Jewish education, Israel-Diaspora relations, and Israeli politics, in both academic and popular contexts. He has taught, worked and consulted at many of the finest Jewish educational and communal institutions in North America, Europe and Israel. His first book, published in 2013, Loving the Real Israel: An Educational Agenda for Liberal Zionism, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and his debut novel, Perfect Enemy, was published in November 2023. He holds an M.A. (Oxon) and M.St. from Balliol College, Oxford, and a Ph.D. from Hebrew University. He and his wife run a hotel for their three children in Modi'in, Israel. His novel, Perfect Enemy, can be found at
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