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For individuals following the Israel-Gaza conflict, the watermelon isn’t only a fruit.

In current weeks, protesters have been carrying watermelons via the streets, handing out chunks of the fruit to demonstrators, or portray photos of watermelons on their faces. On social media, watermelon emojis are showing in usernames and underneath posts in regards to the battle in Gaza.

However what does the watermelon imply on this context, and why has it grow to be such a distinguished image for pro-Palestinian demonstrators?

The fruit has, in truth, served in Palestinian iconography for many years, usually getting used as a stand-in for the Palestinian flag, as a result of, when lower open, the fruit shows the flag’s colours of crimson, white, black and inexperienced. It additionally is a well-liked fruit grown domestically by Palestinians.

There’s a second, sensible purpose that the watermelon is used: Shows of the Palestinian flag often are been banned or restricted.

“In a way, the watermelon has been claimed by the Palestinians as being Palestinian. It’s a reiteration, a method of claiming they do have fruits within the land,” Dina Matar, a professor of political communication and Arab media, stated in an interview.

The watermelon “is seen as a logo of resistance and persistence,” Matar, who teaches at SOAS College of London stated, including that throughout protests in opposition to the Israeli occupation, Palestinians within the West Financial institution had carried the fruit “as a logo of what it means to be Palestinian.”

Khaled Hourani, a Palestinian artist based mostly in Ramallah within the West Financial institution, advised The Washington Submit in 2021 that artwork “can generally be extra political than politics itself.” A few of Hourani’s work is impressed by the watermelon and has been shared broadly in recent times, showing at protests and on social media amid renewed battle between Israel and Gaza.

The crimson, inexperienced, white and black flag has confronted controversy for many years — making innocuous symbols, such because the watermelon, notably interesting to activists.

Israel has banned the flag in sure conditions prior to now, and there are efforts by some Israeli politicians to formally achieve this once more. In follow at the moment, the flag is successfully prohibited, as a result of it may be confiscated, and the flying of it may be penalized underneath Israeli public security ordinances.

In January, Israel’s nationwide safety minister advised police to take away the flag from public areas.

A couple of months later, a marketing campaign group started sticking posters of watermelons onto taxis in protest of the arresting of people that wave Palestinian flags in public. “This isn’t a Palestinian flag,” the posters displaying watermelons learn.

The watermelon emoji additionally serves a specific function for social media customers as supporters of the Palestinian trigger flip to code phrases, symbols and particular spellings, arguing that these are essential to keep away from their posts being suppressed by tech firms. In 2021, thousands and thousands of largely pro-Palestinian social media posts had been incorrectly taken down by Fb and Twitter, now X. The businesses blamed the errors on glitches in synthetic intelligence software program.

Within the aftermath of Hamas’s assault in Israel on Oct. 7, human rights teams say there was a clampdown on freedom of expression in Israel, notably focusing on the 20 % of the Israeli inhabitants that’s of Palestinian heritage. Yarmok Zoabi, the proprietor of a hummus restaurant in Nazareth, spent an evening in jail in October over a WhatsApp standing image that confirmed a fist with a Palestinian flag however was launched with out cost.

Professional-Palestinian creators use secret spellings, code phrases to evade social media algorithms

In Europe, the Palestinian flag additionally has been ensnared in fierce debate. In Berlin, faculties have been given permission to ban maps of Israel within the colours of the Palestinian flag, whereas in the UK final month, the house secretary on the time recommended that displaying the flag at demonstrations could also be a felony offense, though London’s Metropolitan Police clarified that “flying the Palestinian flag, doesn’t, alone, represent a felony offense.”

Matar, the SOAS professor, argued that the flag in the end is a logo of Palestinian id: “Elevating the flag for any nation is symbolic. It means members of this nation really feel they belong to a specific nation. That is why the Palestinian flag is so vital, as a result of Palestinians do not need a state, however they do have a nation. … The flag is a crucial image to say that Palestinians exist.”

Kate Brady, Loveday Morris, Anthony Faiola, Emily Rauhala, Karla Adam and Beatriz Ríos contributed to this report

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