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How the watermelon wound up on Jennifer Garner’s daughter’s sweatshirt as a symbol of Palestinian nationalism

(JTA) — When the social media watchdog group StopAntisemitism this week posted a photo of Jennifer Garner’s daughter, it called attention to her sweater, which showed a watermelon cut into the shape of a map.

The group took offense at the map — meant to display the shape of Palestine — saying that it “erases the entire country of Israel,” envisioning a Palestinian state in the territory that now encompasses Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

StopAntisemitism was mocked by many users for raising alarm over a picture of fruit. But the sweater featured one of many graphics that have established watermelons as a symbol of Palestinian nationalism that dates back decades and has seen a resurgence during Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza.

Watermelons are linked with Palestinian activism because their colors — red, black, white and green — match the colors of the Palestinian flag. That symbol became widespread during the decades when Israel banned the waving of the Palestinian flag in Gaza and the West Bank. In lieu of the banner, Palestinians would use pictures of watermelons “as a metaphor for the Palestinian flag and to circumvent the ban,” prominent Palestinian artist Khaled Hourani, who was in his 20s when the first intifada began in 1987, told the Washington Post in 2021.

“The watermelon, which was a common crop in the region, became a symbol of political opposition,” reads a recent blog post from Beeri Printing Press, a prestigious Israeli imprint located on Kibbutz Beeri, the site of a massacre by Hamas on Oct. 7.  “And so, in place of Palestinian flags, in Gaza and the [West] Bank they drew graffiti and made the watermelon an artistic expression. Where there were no flags, there would be watermelons.”

In the 1980s, Sliman Mansour, a Palestinian artist, reportedly had an exhibition shut down by the Israeli military because the works featured the colors of the Palestinian flag. Mansour has recalled in subsequent years that the officer told him even a picture of a watermelon would be illegal. According to the New York Times, Mansour included a painting of a watermelon in a 1987 book of Palestinian folk tales.

Israel allowed the display of the Palestinian flag after the Oslo peace accords in 1993, and contentions over their display receded. But the symbol experienced a revival earlier last year, before the war broke out, when Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far right minister of national security, attempted to ban public displays of the Palestinian flag as the country was being convulsed with protests against far-reaching judicial reforms proposed by the government.

In June, the Israeli activist group Zazim purchased advertisements on shared taxis in Tel Aviv that displayed a watermelon alongside the text “This is not a Palestinian flag.”

כשהממשלה סותמת פיות באלימות – חייבים להתנגד! האלימות כלפי מי שמניף את דגל פלסטין הולכת וגדלה בחסות הממשלה, אבל לא ניתן להם לרמוס את הדמוקרטיה ואת חופש הביטוי. מצאנו דרך יצירתית להעביר את המסר שלנו על מוניות שירות בגוש דן – שתפו עכשיו כדי שהמסר יופץ כמה שיותר:

— זזים – קהילה פועלת | ززيم | Zazim (@zazim_org_il) June 21, 2023

Watermelon depictions have proliferated since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, and the watermelon emoji has become a signifier of pro-Palestinian sympathies on social media over the last three months. The symbol has in turn sparked controversy for its offensive meaning in another context.

The New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America used it on a poster to call out the pro-Israel position of U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the New York Democrat who is the minority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Hakeem Jeffries’ constituents demand ceasefire now!” said the poster, with a depiction of a huge watermelon slice, calling for a Nov. 17 rally.

That backfired: The fruit is seen as a bigoted reference to Black Americans, something Jeffries’ spokesman seized upon.

“The watermelon has long been deployed as a dehumanizing racist trope by white supremacists in America,” Andy Eicher told the New York Post. “In connection with the planned rally targeting our district office, the use of racially inflammatory imagery should come as no surprise given the role NYC-DSA and other gentrifiers have played in aggressively attacking Black elected officials.”

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NPR Whitewashes Palestinian Terrorists in Coverage of Israel-Hamas War

A Palestinian boy wearing the headband of Hamas’ armed wing The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza City on May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

If National Public Radio (NPR) were the sole source of news on the Israel-Hamas war, listeners would unlikely be able to accurately describe the Jewish state’s enemy in Gaza or the West Bank. Instead, they would be under the impression that Israeli troops are fighting against innocent Palestinian civilians, not barbaric terrorists.

NPR has managed to create such a skewed picture of reality by using three tactics: omission, distortion, and equivalence.

The omission was blatant, for example, in NPR’s recent coverage of an Israeli army raid that killed three terrorists in a West Bank hospital.

Despite the fact that all three had been claimed as members of terrorist organizations (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), NPR’s headline simply referred to them as “Palestinians:”

Hey, @NPR, you missed a vital word from your headline.

The three Palestinians were terrorists planning an attack while hiding in the hospital.

We’ve fixed it for you.

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) January 30, 2024

The story was later updated, but the headline remained the same.

And the distortion is clear from the first paragraph, which still reads as if the terrorists’ affiliation was merely an Israeli accusation (emphasis added):

Israeli military and security forces disguised as civilians and hospital staff raided a hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin early Tuesday morning, killing three Palestinians who they say were militants.

NPR also embedded a video from the outlet’s Instagram account showing CCTV footage of the raid. Sadly, it carries a caption that’s as bad as the headline:

The piece also omits what the IDF Chief of Staff had to say about not letting terrorists hide inside hospitals. His comments were quoted by the wire services, but NPR preferred giving a platform only to Palestinian hospital officials.

Another example of omitting terrorism from the narrative is NPR’s weekly collection of “Photos of life in war.”

True to its headline — “Palestinians flee south in Gaza, Israel mourns dead soldiers” — the gallery only displays pictures of Israeli soldiers and displaced Palestinians.

The soldiers’ photos show troops in combat or at funerals. The Palestinians’ photos display them in damaged houses, refugee tents, or body bags.

Where are the Hamas terrorists? Like a tragic version of “Where’s Waldo?”, they are nowhere to be found. And that’s exactly the lie that Hamas wants media to spread — that Israeli soldiers are waging a war against unarmed Gazan civilians.

At the very least, media outlets should add a disclaimer to such pieces, saying that Hamas terrorists wear civilian clothes and attack Israeli troops from within civilian neighborhoods — as is apparent from a glance at the videos posted on the terror group’s Telegram channel.

NPR has also used the tactic of equivalence to whitewash Israel’s foes, by creating symmetry and erasing differences between the two sides.

A recent piece titled “Israeli and Palestinian radio stations broadcast messages for locked up loved ones,” put Palestinians held on suspicion of terrorism on the same moral level as innocent Israeli civilians:

One of the biggest sources of anguish for Israeli and Palestinian families in nearly four months of the Gaza war is the large number of hostages and prisoners taken by each side.

According to @NPR, “One of the biggest sources of anguish for Israeli & Palestinian families… is the large number of hostages & prisoners taken by each side.”

No, NPR, there is no moral equivalence between Israelis kidnapped by Hamas & Palestinians detained by Israel on…

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) January 30, 2024

In the same piece, NPR also subtly compared the Jewish state to Hamas:

For Palestinian and Israeli families, the concern is not knowing about their loved ones in extreme and difficult conditions. Some Israeli hostages and Palestinian detainees have died while being held. There are growing allegations of physical abuse against Palestinians in Israeli jails and even sexual abuse against Israelis in Hamas captivity.

When Israeli hostages in Gaza are equated to prisoners charged by a democratic country, it downplays the unparalleled atrocities that have been inflicted on them by Hamas since their abduction on October 7, when the group’s terrorists butchered 1,200 people in southern Israel.

And when the Jewish state is compared to a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction, the boundaries between good and evil are shattered. Why does NPR try so hard to do that? Why does it find such elaborate ways to erase the taint of Palestinian terrorism?

Is it so unimaginable that Israelis have a right to defend themselves against such evil?

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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Sustaining a Jewish Revival Rests on Visiting Israel

Debra Messing speaking at the “March for Israel” rally in Washington, DC on Nov. 14, 2023. Photo: Screenshot

In the months following the October 7 terrorist massacre in Israel, the polarizing void once felt across ideological Jewish lines has slowly dissolved, as Americans hailing from various religious and political streams unite in support of Israel.

Last year, as the Jewish State was consumed with a societal schism revolving around protests against the government’s proposed judicial reforms, the American media tried to showcase the divisions in US Jewish attitudes towards Israel. For instance, a 2021 poll of Jewish voters conducted by The Jewish Electoral Institute found that 38 percent of younger respondents under 40 agreed with the falsehood that Israel is an apartheid state. Sadly, the study confirmed the trend of an emergent generation of Jews harboring disturbing positions on Israel.

While the tragic events unfolding last fall may do little to sway this cadre of anti-Zionist Jews, the October 7 massacre did ignite an untapped appreciation felt for Israel by Jewish Americans, many of whom seemed to have little interest in it before. Those whose Jewish identity was reawakened on that horrific October day can harness that spirit and emphasize this moment by visiting Israel. Indeed, engaging with the land of Israel and its citizens will preserve a fresh reverence for peoplehood, while also helping strengthen the morale and economies of Israel and its citizens.

In November, approximately 300,000 people converged in Washington, D.C., in what was described as “both the largest ever pro-Israel gathering and the largest Jewish gathering in US history.” Apart from setting an attendance record, the March for Israel broke down religious barriers, with multiple encounters depicting observant Jews putting tefillin on young secular attendees, and with different groups coalescing around an inspiring moment and shared mission.

A Chabad survey  of rabbis in America taken in the aftermath of the October 7 attacks reveals a significant increase in Jewish pride across communities, with 88.2 percent of respondents reporting that community members are feeling “a stronger connection to Israel and her people.” As Israelis grapple with security threats and the war’s looming impact on the country’s economy, Jewish Americans must seize on this devotional revival, whose sustenance relies on prioritizing travel to Israel.

According to The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), foreign tourism in Israel peaked in 2019, with direct tourism employment accounting for roughly 149,000 jobs, representing almost four percent of total employment in Israel. Prior to the outbreak of the Hamas war, Israel welcomed nearly three million tourists in 2023, with tourism revenue pouring a hefty $4.85 billion into the country’s economy. Interestingly, while tourism from the US was on track to surpass 2019 numbers, only a quarter of foreigners visiting Israel were Jewish, mirroring numbers recorded in previous years. Last year, Christian travelers comprised around half of all tourists and represented the largest denomination visiting the Jewish country.

While Israel’s reliance on its tech sector has shielded its financial industry from the catastrophic consequences that plague other economies during wartime, obligations surrounding reserve duty have contributed to a labor shortage, with some businesses forced to shut down temporarily when faced with an absence of workers. Israel’s Finance Ministry has stated that its budget deficit will likely reach six percent of its GDP, and that the war effort will cost at least another 50 billion NIS ($13.5 billion) in 2024.

Aside from the economic ramifications, October’s terror exposed a vulnerability that was exacerbated by the realities underscoring Israel’s enemies’ indiscriminate targeting of Jewish civilians. Among those murdered, tortured, raped, and taken hostage that day were activists committed to coexistence, with some survivors recounting stories of betrayal by Palestinians whom they once considered partners for peace. This depth of hatred demands a Jewish approach that upholds backing Israel regardless of which government holds power. Since October, several celebrities, including actors Jerry Seinfeld, Debra Messing, and Michael Rapaport, have displayed their solidarity by traveling to Israel, and visiting the sites impacted by the war.

But many of these celebrities also engaged in ordinary pursuits, highlighting Israel’s resilience. Soon after arriving in Israel, Jerry Seinfeld was pictured in Tel Aviv eating falafel, while Jewish influencer Montana Tucker led a flash mob on a picturesque beach boardwalk. The famous Israeli comedy show Eretz Nehederet also featured Rapaport, who participated in a parody about campus antisemitism. Their presence illustrates the value of sharing in food, dance, and laughter, even amidst the grief and trauma.

Over time, the enormity of the October 7 terrorist slaughter will dissipate, with some US Jews reverting to past tendencies and disassociating from the Jewish particularism that was rekindled this past fall. The statistics showing that only a quarter of all tourists in Israel are Jewish is a troubling indication that a lack of exposure to the land of Israel may be one justification behind a decade of Jewish disinterest in advocating on its behalf. Visiting Israel and engaging with its citizens is integral to nurturing the affection and enhancing relations between the two cultures.

While tourists inevitably assist in Israel’s economic recovery, absorbing the principles and learning the history tied to Jewish peoplehood is a far more valuable metric to measure one’s travel plans, with its benefits outlasting the short-term pleasures garnered by other foreign experiences.

Irit Tratt is an independent writer residing in New York. Follow her on X @Irit_Tratt

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Grandson of Israeli Athlete Murdered at Munich Olympics is Badly Beaten in Berlin Assault

Pro-Hamas demonstrators gather in Berlin, Nov. 4, 2023. Photo: Reuters/Michael Kuenne

The grandson of a member of the Israeli Olympic squad who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics has been badly beaten up in an antisemitic assault outside a Berlin bar on Friday night.

Lahav Shapira, 30, was attacked by his assailant as he left a bar where he had been drinking with his girlfriend He was rushed to hospital where he underwent surgery for non-life threatening injuries. Images of Shapira posted on social media after the attack by his brother, Shahak — a popular comedian based in Germany — showed him with his face and lips badly swollen.

Shapira — whose grandfather Amitzur, the head coach of the 1972 Israeli Olympic track and field team, was among the 11 squad members murdered after being taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists inside the Olympic village — is a student at the Free University in Berlin, where he has emerged as a vocal advocate for Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas pogrom in which over 1,200 were killed and more than 200 seized as hostages.

The official account of the assault published by the Berlin police differed dramatically from Shapira’s own recollections of what occurred, which were broadcast through an interview with the Israeli channel Mako as well as his brother’s social media feeds.

According to the police, Shapira became embroiled in an argument with a 23-year-old with a “pro-Palestinian attitude … In the course of the dispute, the younger man is said to have suddenly slapped the older man in the face several times, causing him to fall,” the statement claimed. It said that Shapira was taken to hospital suffering from facial fractures while the assailant was later found at his home in the Schöneberg district of the capital, where police searched his home and confiscated his cellphone. The statement made no mention of whether the accused assailant had been taken into custody.

In a social media post, however, Shahak Shapira disputed this version of events, insisting that there had been no verbal conflict before the attack.

“He was recognized by the attacker in the bar, who followed him and his companion, spoke to them aggressively and then punched him in the face unannounced,” Shahak posted on X/Twitter. In his interview with Mako, Lahav said that an Arab student had been observing him and his girlfriend in the bar and followed them outside when they left. He punched Shapira in the face and kicked him as he lay on the ground, fleeing the scene as his victim struggled to his feet.

A statement from the Free University issued on Sunday night declared: “We are deeply horrified by the brutal, allegedly antisemitic motivated attack on a Jewish student at our university and strongly condemn the crime.”

However, Shapira’s relatives accused the university of ignoring antisemitic agitation on campus. The university authorities had “supported these pro-Palestinians by simply closing their eyes,” Tzipi Lev, Shapira’s mother, told Israeli news outlets.

That point was echoed in a letter sent by Germany’s Jewish student union, the JSUD, to Free University President Günter Ziegler. The letter warned that “antisemites are spreading hatred on your campus” and urged Ziegler to “stop putting things ‘into perspective’ or denying them.”

Berlin’s Mayor, Kai Wegner, separately condemned what he described as a “vile attack.”

“Jewish people have to feel safe everywhere in Berlin – also at our universities!” Wegner posted on X/Twitter.


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