Images of protesters in Lebanon burning Israeli flags in solidarity with Palestine have been splashed across media in recent weeks, despite a ban on producing or possessing the Jewish state’s flag in Lebanon.
However, that is precisely what has taken place in the days and weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his now internationally opposed decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. With near-daily protests in the wake of the announcement, Beirut’s southern suburbs – where support for Hezbollah and hatred of Israel go hand in hand – became a scene for production of the blue and white flag.
“We got an order about two weeks ago, from Hezbollah, for like 100 Israeli flags,” the owner of a print house in Burj al-Barajneh told The Daily Star Wednesday.
“We make them to be burned, and when you see them burning, you are proud of what you are doing. It’s a form of expression.”
The man, who insisted on being referred to by “any two letters” so was dubbed A.B. for the purposes of the interview, said it had been the first time his workshop had produced the flags in his large underground workshop at the end of a maze of winding alleyways in Burj al-Barajneh.
“You’re doing your duty as a patriot,” A.B said, as he walked through the cluttered workshop he said he had come to own three years ago.
Around 10 people – young and old – dutifully went about an order of some 3,000 Hezbollah flags that A.B. said would take them around four days to complete.
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The process looked simple: a bright yellow cloth was placed on a table; a silk screen with the infamous Hezbollah logo stitched into it was placed over the cloth, green paint is dragged across the screen and the finished piece, now a polarizing symbol, is hung up to dry next to dozens of others.
Once finished, the Hezbollah flags land on a large table in the center of the workshop where old men sit puffing cigarettes, surrounded by a cloud of smoke.
Each man neatly folds the flags and places them inside plastic bags. A.B. said it had been exactly the same when the order of Israeli flags came in.
“We just continued doing our jobs, making a living,” he said.
The workshop doesn’t just produce political paraphernalia. Rows of knock-off Adidas sweatshirts hung right beside the Hezbollah flags and piles of branded T-shirts sat stacked on shelves.
How did he end up printing Israeli flags? A.B. laughed at the question.
When it comes to Hezbollah, “we make whatever they want, we don’t ask what this or that is; they’re responsible for all documents, and we’re not responsible for anything.”
Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war, making printing of Israeli flags in Lebanon a difficult, illegal business to be in.
A.B. said that a document is required from either State Security agencies or Hezbollah in order to make the banned flags, and that all the equipment and documents were taken away when the order was done.
“If they want more [flags] later they’ll bring them back, but documents of a sensitive nature don’t stay with us,” A.B. said.
Without the documents, the print shop can’t obtain the silkscreen crucial to the entire process, which A.B. said comes from a Hezbollah-affiliated “library,” in the area.
“We are not [Israeli collaborators] or something – the flags are specifically for a protest against Israel, for Palestine, for Jerusalem,” he said.
“You make the exact amount they tell you to – not one more.”
A.B. insisted he hated politics, and that the print shop did not choose sides between the various Lebanese factions.
The shop often printed various flags for state agencies, including State Security, he said.
“They were making films on Daesh [ISIS], and we made a Daesh flag once, that guy came and asked for it, from State Security. They sort it out among themselves, I don’t know the politics behind it, but it’s all politics, you know how it is,” he said.
State Security Media Adviser Rima Sayrafi contradicted the claims, telling The Daily Star Thursday that such requests would have to pass through General Security, which she said had a department specialized in video productions.
Sayrafi also said that the agency does not provide licenses to print Israeli flags “because it is illegal and they are an enemy of the state,” but that when it came to Hezbollah “that’s a whole different thing that I can’t comment on.”
A Hezbollah media operative did not respond to requests for comment before this report went to print.
When A.B. was asked what he thought about U.S. President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem decision, he sighed and said he “[hated] talking about it.”
“God knows what’s happening in his mind, I don’t know, I don’t like politics, but of course the decision is wrong, as an Arab, it’s not right at all, Jerusalem is not for one person, it’s for all: Muslims, Christians and of course Jews, but not for Zionists who occupy people[’s land].”
No one, as of yet, had asked for an American flag – which he said might be for the better.
“American flags take a lot of work, they need a specific machine and you can’t just print it, Israeli flags are easy, they’re just a white piece of cloth with some blue paint.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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