Global divisions over the conflict between Israel and Hamas have led to a regulation of symbols associated with Israel and Palestine, including scarves, flags, and religious emblems.
Some governments and authorities have outright banned any visual signals related to the conflict, while certain tokens have become criminalized when used in specific contexts.
The Palestinian keffiyeh, a headscarf with stitching often described as a fishnet pattern, was historically worn by rural Palestinian men, and has been a symbol of the Palestinian cause for decades, Middle East Eye wrote in 2021. It was adopted by students and anti-war activists around the world in the 60s and 70s, and has been used as a general resistance symbol beyond the Middle East. Since the latest conflict broke out, keffiyehs have been worn at pro-Palestine rallies around the world. Berlin officials gave schools the authority to ban the scarves, as well as imagery of the map of Israel in the colors of Palestine, saying they could threaten school peace. But some German politicians were concerned over the guidance, saying it equates support for Hamas with solidarity for the Palestinian people.
Elsewhere in Europe, uses of the Star of David — a central symbol of Jewish identity that’s also shown on the Israeli flag — has sparked contention. The Israeli fan group for Chelsea had to remove the Star of David from their banner that hangs at the soccer stadium because of guidance saying that Israeli and Palestinian flags aren’t allowed at games. In France, police are investigating after dozens of stars of David were spray-painted on homes in Paris and some other cities. Prosecutors said they haven’t confirmed that the act was antisemitic in nature, but a local official noted that the branding ”recalls the tactics of the 1930s and World War II that led to the extermination of millions of Jews,” Politico EU reported.
In the spirit of “peace and harmony,” Singapore this week outlawed the public display of any foreign emblems related to the Gaza war, including flags, without a permit. Those convicted can be jailed for six months and fined, and travelers wearing war-related apparel can be denied entry into Singapore, The Straits Times reported. Singapore’s government has staunchly condemned Hamas’s attack, and said Israel has a right to defend itself. But “the city-state has balked at allowing the hotly contested politics of the Israel-Palestine conflict” to play out at home, The Diplomat wrote. The outlet quoted Singapore’s foreign minister: “We must never allow conflicts elsewhere to divide us domestically.”
Palestinian flags have become the subject of government attention. In the U.K., Home Secretary Suella Braverman told police authorities that the waving of a Palestinian flag may be illegal “when intended to glorify acts of terrorism.” (London police officials later said waving a particular flag is not in itself a crime unless it belongs to a proscribed terrorist group, which wouldn’t include the Palestinian flag.) Within Israel, the right-wing national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered police to ban Palestinian flags from public places early this year, but activists replaced it with imagery of a watermelon to evade scrutiny — a symbol that has been used since the 60s to show solidarity with Palestine.