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Fact check: Palestinian official flag in 1939 did not show Star of David

Fact check: Palestinian official flag in 1939 did not show Star of David

Palestine was under British administration as a League of Nation mandate during 1920-48

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(Reuters) – An image of a Zionist movement flag from the 1930s does not show the “official” Palestinian flag in 1939, according to historians, despite online posts sharing a photograph of the flag with the Jewish Star of David symbol that purportedly appeared in a French dictionary of the era.

The image of the flag, which is half white and half blue with the Star of David in its centre, is spreading on Facebook (archived) with claims that it shows the official 1939 Palestinian flag.

“The 1939 flag of Palestine shows that it was recognized as a Jewish entity even then,” one Facebook account wrote (archived).

However, the same photographs seen in some posts online (archived), purportedly showing a flag gallery in a 1939 edition of a Larousse French dictionary, were uploaded in 2015 to Wikipedia by the account of an Israel-based website that also published them in an article dated Nov 16, 2014. The 2014 article, in turn, credits its unverified claims to a website that no longer exists.

According to academics who spoke to Reuters, the flag seen in circulating images is not an official flag of historical Palestine.

Shay Hazkani, an associate professor at the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Program and Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, said: “This flag appears to be an unofficial flag that sometimes appeared on Jewish-owned ships during the mandatory period when the official English name of the country was still Palestine.

“It was most certainly not the official flag of mandate Palestine.”

Between 1920 and 1948, the Palestinian territory was under British administration as a League of Nations mandate.

“During the British mandate the Union Jack was used with the word Palestine inserted in it,” said Salim Tamari, associate researcher at the Institute of Palestine Studies and emeritus professor of sociology at Birzeit University.

An example of a mandate-era official flag from 1946 can be seen on the British Imperial War Museums website.

Tamari said the flag posted on social media with the star of David is one of several examples from Zionist movements in the territory.

The Palestinian national movement also had its own flag at the time, like the current flag of Sharif Hussein but with a star, he added.

Derek Penslar, William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University, also said the official flag of mandate Palestine in 1939 was the Union Jack.

“A modified version of the Union Jack was used for some governmental purposes,” he said.

But, Penlsar added, Jewish institutions within mandate Palestine routinely used variations of the Zionist movement’s flag with the star of David against a blue and white background.

Tamir Sorek, liberal arts professor of Middle East history at Penn State University, who has written on the history of the Palestinian flag, said there were many attempts to establish a flag for the Zionist movement, which often included the blue and white sections with star of David.

The present Palestinian flag was designed by Sharif Hussein for the Arab Revolt, an armed uprising against the Ottoman Empire in June 1916, and was re-adopted in 1948, according to the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs.

Publisher editions Larousse did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the authenticity of the circulating dictionary images.


False. The official flag of mandate Palestine in 1939, during which Palestine was administered by Britain as a League of Nations Mandate, was a Union Jack.