How the Watermelon Became a Symbol of Palestinian Resistance – The Post


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Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas on October 7, a watermelon slice emoticon has been used on social media to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, and drawings of the same fruit have been used on signs during many anti-Israel demonstrations. . In fact, the watermelon is a fruit that grows in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and its colors (red, green, white, and black) are also the colors of the Palestinian flag.

In recent months, the representation has become more widely used and understood around the world, but the watermelon has been a secret symbol of Palestinian resistance for decades, though it’s hard to say exactly how long.

Sascha Crasnow, a researcher of Palestinian and Islamic art at the University of Michigan, said. New York Times that the origin of the watermelon symbol is not very clear. Its history most likely begins with the suppression of the Palestinian flag by Israel in 1967 (when, after the Six Day War, Israel occupied many territories including East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and 1993 (when the Oslo Accords were ratified, with which Israel and Palestine first mutually recognized as legitimate partners).

The Palestinian flag was not explicitly banned by Israel, but was in fact forcibly removed from the occupied territories: it was during these years that images of watermelons began to be used instead of flags, according to Crasnow. Until recently, and before October, it was not unusual for the Israeli army to confiscate Palestinian flags in the occupied territories.

According to another reconstruction, it all started with the reaction of some Palestinian artists who were banned by the Israeli army from using the colors of the flag in their works in the 1980s. One of the artists, Sliman Mansour, said in an interview that he was told his works would be confiscated if he used these colors, even drawing a watermelon. One of the Palestinian artists who has seen a lot of revival since 2021 is Khaled Hourani, who lives in the West Bank and who very often uses the image of a watermelon in his works.

However, the watermelon emoji was introduced to messaging apps in 2015 and became more commonly used in 2021, when tensions built up over the years between Israel and Hamas resulted in a new war. In recent months, the use of the watermelon emoticon online has been a way for people who want to show solidarity with the Palestinian people to not do it too explicitly, so as not to be penalized by the algorithm or the moderation actions of Meta (the group that owns Instagram and Facebook), which in recent months blocked or slowed down the circulation of content about the Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip.

In an interview with The Washington Post Dina Matar, professor of communication and media in the Arab world at SOAS University of London, explained that flying the Palestinian flag is so important because it allows a group of people who claim their own state to express a sense of common national belonging. : «Palestinians do not have a state, but they have a nation. The flag is an important symbol that confirms that Palestine exists,” Matar said.

With the recent widespread use of this symbol, Crasnow noted, the meaning of its depiction has changed a lot. It used to be a subversive practice by those who knew the meaning of the symbol, based mainly on the intention not to attract attention (as a flag would); today the watermelon has become “a symbol for everyone” and “wider”, within the reach of everyone who is part of this “resistance”, as defined by Crasnow.


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