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Symbols of Palestinian Resistance

The struggle for Palestinian self-determination and the resistance against occupation have given rise to a tapestry of symbols that embody the resilience, identity, and aspirations of the Palestinian people and cause. These symbols, ranging from cultural to political emblems, carry profound importance in representing the spirit of the Palestinian people despite having faced displacement, conflict, and an ongoing quest for liberation since 1947. 


Keffiyeh: A Symbol of Identity and Solidarity 

The keffiyeh, a traditional MENA region headdress, has become an iconic symbol of Palestinian identity and resistance. Worn in primarily black and white patterns, the keffiyeh not only serves as a practical piece of clothing in the harsh climate but also signifies solidarity among Palestinians. Its distinctive checkered pattern has become synonymous with the Palestinian struggle, worn by activists and supporters alike as a visible manifestation of their shared commitment to the cause. 


Handala: The Silent Witness to Palestinian Struggles 

Handala, the creation of Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Ali, is a poignant symbol of the Palestinian refugee experience. This was one of the first and most identifiable symbols of the Palestinian struggle. Depicted as a young boy with his back turned to the viewer, Handala symbolizes the defiance and resilience of a people facing displacement. His perpetual state of longing for a homeland serves as a silent witness to the struggles of Palestinians, resonating with those who yearn to return to their homes.


Olive Trees: Rooted in Heritage and Resilience 

The olive tree, deeply entrenched in Palestinian culture, symbolizes heritage and connection to the land. Despite being uprooted and destroyed by the IOF during conflicts, Palestinians continue to replant olive trees as an act of defiance and hope. The olive tree stands as a testament to the unwavering connection Palestinians maintain with their indigenous land and their determination to preserve their cultural roots. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, the oldest olive tree is estimated to be around 5000 years old, often nicknamed “the fortress,” “the old woman,” “the mother of olives,” and “Palestine’s bride.” It extends over 250 sq m, stretches to around 13 metres in height, and its roots extend 25 meters into the earth and is protected by locals. 

Olive trees are at constant risk of threat to their existence, with the Israeli army systematically cutting down and burning trees and Jewish settlers regularly carrying out acts of violence and vandalism, against Palestinian towns and fields. 


The Key: Unlocking the Right of Return 

The symbolic key has become a powerful representation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Displaced during the creation of the state of Israel, many Palestinians hold on to the hope of returning to their homes. During the Nakba, also known as the “catastrophe” Zionists ethnically cleansed and forcibly expelled 750,000 Palestinian natives from their homes, killing thousands and destroying historic villages and homes in their path. The key serves as a tangible reminder of their displacement, an enduring symbol of the quest for justice and the right to return and reclaim a land that had once belonged to their families for generations. 


Mural Art: Expressing Resistance through Creativity

Palestinian Mural art and graffiti have become vibrant forms of expression in Palestinian cities and refugee camps. 708 kms annexing Palestinians from their farmland, communities, and places of work. About 80% of Palestinians separated from their land by the wall have not received permits from Israeli authorities to cultivate their fields. These artworks often depict scenes of resistance, portraits of Palestinian leaders, and expressions of national identity – during the BLM protests 2020, Palestinians also lined their walls with murals of solidarity with the BLM movement against their own oppressors. Murals serve as both a form of protest and a means of preserving the collective memory of the Palestinian struggle. 


The Watermelon: Defiance Against Censorship 

People have taken to social media to show allyship and support for the Palestinian cause using the watermelon emoji. It has now become one of the most distinguishable symbols of solidarity, but its use is not new. It first emerged in 1967 after the Six-Day War when the Israeli government banned and criminalized the Palestinian flag from being flown. This ban was lifted in 1993 after the Oslo Peace Accords. Israeli officials believed that a flag symbolized a nation for a collective people and did not want to support a sense of Palestinian national identity. To circumvent the ban, Palestinians sliced watermelons and carried them to resemble the colours of the flag - red, black, white and green. 

Now the seeds housed within the watermelon have also gained their own symbolic meaning, representing the future for Palestine and her children at home and in diaspora. 



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