Is the Hamas flag the same as the Palestine flag?

Is the Hamas flag the same as the Palestine flag?
The ongoing debate over the Palestinian flag's symbolism intensifies amid global protests with pro-Israel voices conflating it with the Hamas flag.
3 min read
02 May, 2024
The ongoing debate over the Palestinian flag's symbolism intensifies amid global protests with pro-Israel voices conflating it with the Hamas flag [TNA/Getty]

The raising of the Palestinian flag at Gaza protests worldwide continues to attract criticism from pro-Israel supporters, accusing it of being a show of support for Hamas. 

Despite the wave of support for Palestinians under attack by Israel’s offensive since 7 October worldwide, opponents have conflated displays of Palestinian national pride with the Palestinian Islamist movement which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007. 

This includes the Palestinian flag with attacks on the emblem preceding Hamas's 7 October attacks, but having intensified with a wave of pro-Gaza student demonstrations erupting in the US and worldwide

On 28 April, videos circulated showing pro-Palestine student protesters at Harvard University replacing an American flag hanging over the university’s statue of John Harvard with the Palestinian banner. 

Supporters of Israel slammed the flying of the Palestinian flag as "pro-Hamas", despite it having no direct link to the Islamist movement.

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Hamas flag vs. Palestine flag 

The Palestine flag dates back a century ago as a symbol of pan-Arabism amid the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire from 1916 to 1918. 

During World War I, Arabs in the region came together in opposition to the Ottoman Turks who had ruled large parts of the Middle East for centuries in the hope that a united and independent Arab state would be established. 

Arabs flocked around a flag designed by Hussein bin Ali, the ruler of Mecca and leader of the revolt, according to the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs.  

The triangle and each of the three stripes were intended to represent different Arab dynasties. 

However, the order of the stripes was later changed in 1948, after the establishment of the short-lived "All-Palestine government" to represent the latest political entity. 

This saw three stripes of black, white, and green used, as well as a red triangle and has since been known as the Palestinian flag and adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization as its own in 1964.

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Meanwhile, referencing its Islamic Sunni identity, the Hamas flag contains a green background and white calligraphy of the Shahada, which can be translated as "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God."

Hamas is designated as a "terrorist group" by Israel, the European Union, the US and the UK, while in the occupied Palestinian territories it is one of two major political parties.

The group governs more than two million Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip while the Palestine Authority administers the occupied West Bank.

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Criticisms on Hamas vs. Palestine flag conflation 

According to the Institute of Race Relations, within the first month of the Gaza war, the organisation detailed a rise in "anti-Palestinianism", where a crackdown on the Palestinian flag and pro-Palestinian chants had spiked in the West. 

For example, in the UK, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman called for the criminalisation of the waving of the Palestine flag, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned that Hamas supporters would be "held to account".   

The slogan 'From the River to the Sea' has also been a target of pro-Israel supporters.

Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have since reiterated their calls for freedom of expression to be respected, as well as respecting legalised symbols such as the Palestine flag or keffiyehs, as well as chants in solidarity with Palestinians during protests. 

"This appalling attempt to erase the identity of the Palestinian people is the latest in a series of measures that... authorities have introduced to legitimise racism and discrimination against Palestinians," Heba Morayef, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International said in a statement last year.

The statement highlighted that countries that were party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have committed to "the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for everyone".