Source: Gush Shalom
NEW ZEALAND HAS decided to change its flag. This was only briefly mentioned in the media here. But it is a significant example for us.
The old flag is based on the British one, the Union Jack, which signifies the union of England, Scotland and Ireland. The three different crosses are integrated in an intricate design.
But what does this flag mean for today's New Zealanders? Very little. Sure, they are close to the United Kingdom and to the Anglo-Saxon civilization, but they are a new nation, a separate nation, with a separate history, geopolitical orientation and national character.
A national flag should unite all the citizens of a country, evoke their loyalty and strengthen their patriotism. It certainly should not leave out significant portions of the population.
Therefore the government of the southern island-state has decided to discard the flag that has a meaning only for a part of the population and adopt a new one, which will be meaningful to all. A competition for a new design is under way.
This belatedly follows the example of Canada, another former British "dominion," which discarded a similar flag and adopted a new one, in a wise effort to create a symbol which would appeal both to the English-speaking and the French-speaking Canadians, as well as to the Innuit and other indigenous peoples.
THE PROBLEM with our flag is very much the same. Adopted by one of the first Zionist congresses, it is based on the Jewish prayer shawl and the ancient Shield of David. It was designed for a world-wide political movement whose aim was to create a secure homeland for the Jewish people. With the establishment of the State of Israel it became its national flag.
It serves today as the flag of the state, the flag of the international Zionist movement, and, in the eyes of some, the flag of all Jews.
It is not, however, the flag of all of Israel's citizens. For the Arab citizens it means nothing except discrimination and exclusion. It reminds them, everywhere and at all times, that they are at best second-class citizens, present but no quite belonging.
From the first day of the state, I have advocated the adoption of a new, inclusive flag. Like today's New Zealanders I felt that with all due respect to our origin, history and cultural background, we Israelis live in a different reality. A large number of our co-citizens are not Jewish, and the symbols of our state should reflect this.
Frankly, I also think that it is not a very good flag. Flags should be seen from a distance. Originally, flags were used to mark the place of the king in a battle, so that every soldier knew where his commander was. It should stand out.
The colors of our flag -- white and light blue -- are aesthetic, but ineffective. Against the background of the blue sky and the white clouds, it almost disappears. Raise together a dozen white-and-blue and a single red flag, and your eyes will be drawn to the red one.
BUT THE main argument against the flag is less aesthetic than political.
Long before Binyamin Netanyahu came up with the ploy of demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the "Nation-State of the Jewish people," our flag already reflected this pretense.
It is much more than the flag of an ordinary state. It embodies the claim of the state to represent all the Jews around the world.
Have the Jews been asked whether they want to be represented by the government of Israel?