Israeli security minister bans Palestinian flags in public | Israel

Israel’s national security minister has ordered police to ban Palestinian flags from public places in the latest action by the country’s new hardline government.

Itamar Ben-Gwir’s order follows a series of other punitive steps against Palestinians since he took office late last month.

“Today I directed the Israeli police to enforce a ban on the display of any PLO flag that shows identification with the terrorist organization from the public sphere and to stop any incitement against the State of Israel,” Ben-Gvir tweeted.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government moved swiftly against the Palestinians in retaliation for Palestinian pressure for the UN’s top judicial body to give its opinion on Israel’s 55-year military occupation of the West Bank.

She withheld almost $40m (£32.9m) of Palestinian tax revenue and said she would pass the money on to victims of attacks by Palestinian militants, stripped Palestinian officials of VIP privileges and even disrupted a meeting of Palestinian parents discussing their children’s education, claiming illegal it was financed by the Palestinian Authority.

Ben-Gvir, a far-right thug known for his anti-Arab rhetoric, drew widespread international condemnation when he visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site last week.

The repeated moves have the potential to heighten tensions after the deadliest year of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in nearly two decades, according to a report by Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

Ben-Gvir’s latest order is not the first battle over flying the Palestinian flag.

The red, green and white Palestinian flag carries great symbolism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Last May, Israeli riot police beat up defamers at the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot while reporting on an army raid in the Jenin refugee camp. Police ripped Palestinian flags from people’s hands and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

Israel once considered the Palestinian flag to be the flag of a militant group akin to the Palestinian Hamas or the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah. But after Israel and the Palestinians signed a series of interim peace agreements known as the Oslo accords, the flag was recognized as that of the Palestinian Authority, which was created to govern Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank. Israel opposes any official PA business in East Jerusalem, and police in the past have cracked down on events they claim are PA-related.

Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that the measures against the Palestinians were aimed at what he called an “extreme anti-Israel” step at the UN.

Palestinian citizens of Israel make up 20% of the population and have had a turbulent relationship with the state since its creation in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced to flee in the events surrounding the establishment of the state of Israel.

Those who remained became citizens, but have long been viewed with suspicion by some Israelis because of their ties to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Palestinians claim all three areas for a future independent state. Netanyahu’s new government is dominated by hardliners who oppose Palestinian statehood.

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