The orange and the ‘Cross in the Crescent’: imagining Palestine in 1929



Abstract. This article analyses a public discussion held in Palestine during the last months of 1929 over proposals for a particular Palestinian flag. Based on readers' reactions published in the daily newspaper Filastin and on letters sent to the Arab Executive, the article examines the character of Palestinian identity as it was imagined by a certain segment of the Palestinian elite. The three main leitmotifs of the flag proposals – the four colors of the Arab flag, the color orange and the ‘Cross in the Crescent’ emblem – serve as a starting point for discussing the tensions between Palestinian particularism and pan-Arabism, as well as the status of Muslim-Christian partnership in a period of increasing Islamisation of Palestinian identity. The second part of the article incorporates a comparative discussion that aims to explain the failure of the color orange and the ‘Cross in the Crescent’ to be accepted as emblems in the national flag. By comparing the unsuccessful proposals with the Arab flag (that eventually became the official Palestinian flag) and with the Lebanese flag, the article suggests their failure was due to three main reasons: (a) they reflected the interests of relatively marginal social groups; (b) they were not raised at a time of sweeping change in the socio-political order; and (c) they lacked a profound basis in local tradition and the potential to be attached to an ancient past.