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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Interpreting Palestinian “Sign Language”

Filed under: Hamas, Israel, Jerusalem, Palestinians, Terrorism

Young demonstrator with the Palestinian national flag waving behind him

The attempted terror attack at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate on February 14, 2015 signifies that the effort to turn the “popular intifada” into armed terror does not only stem from Hamas, which opposed the popular struggle approach from the beginning, but also from the Fatah movement in the West Bank. It now appears that apart from the desire to strike at Israel, there are those in Fatah who also seek to thwart the policy of the organization’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas. Especially worrisome is the fact that Palestinian Authority security personnel have taken part in Fatah’s attempt to turn the popular struggle into an armed conflict.

The graphics of Fatah sites devoted to the intifada (or the “habba” or buzz) provide clues to the direction the winds are blowing.

First, the graphic (above) from the al-Aqsa – Jerusalem – Intifada site shows a young demonstrator with the Palestinian national flag waving behind him, indicating a Fatah, rather than Hamas, affiliation. The dominant color is black, suggesting identification with the radical ISIS or al-Nusra. The kuffiya is replaced by a cap in the form of the Dome of the Rock, colored in the black of radical Islam and the yellow of Fatah. A black crescent ornaments the top of the dome or cap. The image of the slingshot still connotes a connection with the popular intifada rather than the armed one.

The message of this graphic is that Fatah still follows the rules of the popular intifada as represented by a slingshot, but in the future this could change in the direction of black-colored Islamic terror. The site too – Intifada rather than Habba – indicates unwillingness to being confined to the “minimal” form of struggle. The struggle is also known as the Al-Quds [Jerusalem] Intifada, apparently coming from the same Fatah elements. At this stage, these appear to be rogue elements who are mounting a challenge to official Fatah leadership, while seeking to turn Jerusalem into the location where the intifada will move from the “popular, spontaneous” stage to real terror. 

The insistence that the “official Fatah” or “governmental” flag, emphasizing the Palestinian flag, not the symbols of the organizations, emerges clearly on this site, One Flag – One Homeland.

One Flag – One Homeland
One Flag – One Homeland

In this regard, though, the Palestinian Authority has suffered a searing failure in that the flags and symbols of the different organizations predominate. The Hamas movement, for example, when burying its fallen fighters does not wrap them in the Palestinian flag but in the green flag of the Muslim Brotherhood – as in the funeral of Kilzar Oweiwi who was killed on February 13, 2015.

Kilzar Oweiwi’s funeral
Kilzar Oweiwi’s funeral

Each organization wraps its fallen fighters in its own flag. The Palestinian flag is to a large extent the Fatah flag, along with the organization’s own yellow flag.

Hamas flag and color
Hamas flag and color
Fatah flag and color
Fatah flag and color

Apart from the burial ceremonies, however, there is a widespread “game” between the different symbols and graphics, reflecting a desire that the organizations unite for the common struggle. It is evident on Fatah and Hamas sites however, that each organization wants the “unity” to be under its own hegemony.

An example is a Hamas poster commemorating the three youths from Kabatya who tried to carry out a terror attack in Jerusalem with “hot” weapons, and thus to attempt to push the popular intifada toward armed terror.

Hamas poster

The youths come from three clans known to be affiliated with the Fatah branch that opposes the leadership in Ramallah: The Abu Rub, Kmeil and Zakarna clans. Hamas, however, adopted these youths as its own, though with a wink at Fatah motifs. Note the two flags, Palestinian and Muslim Brotherhood, beside each other on the left (with the Hamas flag above the national one). Higher, next to the Hamas symbol, there is no Fatah symbol but instead the symbol of the “Jerusalem (Al-Quds) Intifada,” analyzed above. The dominant color in the Hamas poster is green; over it is the blue of the sky, hinting at the heaven that awaits the martyrs (shahids). Only the collar of one of the shahids is colored in Fatah’s yellow, which may be a hint that he is from a Fatah family.

The poster glorifying Kilzar Oweiwi was designed in a similar format, but note the difference: the bottom part is colored in the yellow of Fatah.

Poster glorifying Kilzar Oweiwi

Also significant is the color of the Dome of the Rock – again the yellow of Fatah, despite the fact that the dome is the symbol on the Hamas logo.

Hamas apparently took umbrage at this graphic and issued a poster of its own:

Poster glorifying Kilzar Oweiwi

Hamas’ main concern was to color the Dome of the Rock (and al-Aqsa mosque on the right) verdant green instead of yellow.

Fatah’s response to Hamas’ poster is of special interest:

“Heroes of Kabatya”

The three “heroes of Kabatya” stand close together creating the Palestinian flag across them – the green of the Muslim Brotherhood along with the black of the radical Islam of ISIS and al-Nusra. The “V” sign displayed in the picture is Fatah’s victory symbol; Hamas’ traditional symbol is one finger, symbolizing faith in the one Allah.

Does the combination of colors express the desires of the rebels in Fatah to hook up with ISIS versus Hamas?