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Historical Flags (Israel)

Last modified: 2005-10-29 by santiago dotor
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Use of Zionist Flags in the Palestine Mandate

Zionist flags were a problem for the British authorities. If they were allowed, the Palestinian Arabs protested, and if they were not allowed, the Jews protested.

In 1932 a Greek company registered in London, operating a ship registered in Haifa, asked if it could fly a Zionist flag. The Board of Trade wrote that it could not be flown as an ensign, but wondered if it might be allowed at the masthead, as a House Flag. The Admiralty queried whether the flag of a Political Party could be a House Flag. It was decided that a House Flag was a private flag, a Political Party could not be private, and therefore its flag could not be a House Flag.

In 1935 the High Commissioner of Palestine wrote to the Colonial Office asking for powers to control the flying of flags likely to incite disturbances. This referred mainly to Zionist flags on immigrant ships, and he wanted to be able to control flags flown in the territorial waters of Palestine. The Foreign Office view was that a state was entitled to prohibit the flying of flags to which it took objection, providing that the flags in question were not ones that a ship would fly under ordinary custom. It thought that this right existed only in national waters, such as harbours, and did not extend to territorial waters (3 mile limit). The result was Amendment No 2 Ordinance to Ports Ordinance 1926, which prohibited flags other than; own national flag, signal flags, or any official naval or diplomatic flag.

Source: Public Record Office, CO 323/1182/11 and CO 323/1333/5.

David Prothero, 17 August 2000

Maybe this initiated the Zim house flag to be as it is, two blue stripes with seven six-pointed gold stars. Since there are numerous photos of ships hoisting the Zionist flag, I guess it was just another British ordinance that was not followed by the natives.

Dov Gutterman, 17 August 2000

An alternative history of the Israeli flag

My grandfather Morris Harris designed the Jewish flag adopted as the flag of Israel. Few people know this truth. Please visit this site I created to honor him.

Rebecca Rabinowitz, 13 May 1998

Many thanks for this fascinating account. As you probably know, the received wisdom is that David Wolfsohn and/or Theodor Herzl designed the flag that became Israel's flag.

David Cohen, 14 May 1998

The web site made in honour of Morris Harris says the First Zionist Congress, after which Morris Harris made his flag, met in 1887. The Encyclopaedia Britannica claims the congress first met ten years later, in August 1897. Presumably, then, 1897 is the correct year for the flag Harris made.

According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica (published in Jerusalem, 1971), "The Zionist flag in its present form —two blue stripes on white background with a shield of David in the center— was first displayed in Rishon le-Zion in 1885". The raising of the flag in Rishon le-Zion thus predates Morris Harris' flag by more than a decade. Rishon le-Zion was the first Zionist settlement in what is now Israel. It was established in 1882.

The Encyclopaedia Judaica also says that Wolfsohn was unaware of the earlier flags used in Rishon le-Zion and (presumably) by the "Love of Zion" groups when proposing a design identical to the flags used by these.

Jan Oskar Engene, 14 May 1998