Flag day: Palestinian pennants

Nearly two dozen red flags were recently raised at the East Bay federation — red, white, black and green flags, to be exact.

On June 5 — the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of the Six-Day War — employees of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay noticed the unwelcome lawn ornaments in front of their Oakland office. One side of the postcard-sized pennants was emblazoned with the distinctive Palestinian flag, while the other came with a message.

That message called for an “end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and a dismantling of the illegal wall,” advocated the Palestinian right of return and called for divestment and boycott campaigns to be launched against Israel.

At the end of the text was a call to “join the 40/60 Campaign for freedom and return.” Those curious for more information were requested to write to [email protected]. A j. email to that address garnered the unsigned reply: “We are concerned American citizens disturbed by Israel’s relentless campaign to cleanse Palestinians from their land and create a Jewish only state, and America’s blind support for this ongoing genocide and Apartheid.”

The 40/60 Campaign is a West Bank-based pro-Palestinian organization that has held several sparsely attended rallies here in the Bay Area. The 40 refers to the years of occupation of the West Bank, and the 60 deals with the number of years Israel has existed.

Jonathan Bernstein, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the only law that may have been broken by the flag-planters could be trespassing, and there isn’t even a strong case for that.

“But, to the Jewish community, it still feels threatening and unsettling,” he said, noting that the police have been informed of the incident. “This is an in-your-face kind of statement.”

Added Riva Gambert, director of the federation’s Israel Center, “We didn’t perceive it as a physical threat but rather as an act of harassment. It wasn’t the flag itself that was as troubling as the wording on the reverse side.”

Bernstein was unaware of other flag infestation at Jewish organizations or anywhere else. To report one, contact the ADL at (415) 981-3500.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.