Nov 14, 2023 - World

Why a watermelon symbolizes Palestinian solidarity

People wave Palestinian flags and hold a picture of a watermelon as they gather for a protest to demand freedom for Palestine on Oct. 28 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The watermelon — a long-time symbol of Palestinian solidarity and resistance — has reemerged online, at protests and as part of artwork worldwide to support Palestinians as the war in Gaza intensifies.

Why it matters: The red, green, black and white fruit — which matches the colors on the Palestinian flag — has symbolized unity for over half a century. It's now accompanying calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and for greater Palestinian rights.

  • More than 11,200 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's bombardment and ground operation in Gaza since the war began following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, per the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza.

Catch up quick: The symbol garnered further attention on TikTok, where people have recently posted using a watermelon video filter to support Palestinian causes.

  • A TikTok creator had made that now-viral tracing filter depicting a watermelon through the app's Effect Creator Rewards, which allows creators to monetize the effects they make.
  • The creator pledged to donate the proceeds from the filter's monetization to charities providing aid in Gaza.

Background: The history of the watermelon as a symbol of Palestinian solidarity dates back to the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured Gaza and the West Bank, according to TIME.

  • At the time, the Israeli government banned any displays of the Palestinian flag in the occupied territory.
  • Palestinians used the watermelon — revealing the same colors as the flag when sliced open — to get around the ban.

Israel lifted the ban on the flag in 1993 via the Oslo Accords.

  • But the watermelon has remained a prominent symbol of Palestinian solidarity.
  • The symbol resurfaced on social media during the 2021 war in Gaza.
  • The fruit itself is also part of Palestinian cuisine and culture, and the watermelon has grown for centuries in the Middle East.

Zoom out: The use of the watermelon emoji on social media also represents a form of "algospeak," defined as "online, coded euphemisms" used to get around content filters, per TechCrunch.

  • Pro-Palestinian users have opted for the watermelon emoji to circumvent what they believe are forms of content restriction.
  • Meta faced controversy last month over accusations that the company shadow-banned Palestinian content on Instagram, according to Mashable.
  • Following users' reports of shadow banning, Andy Stone, Meta's communications director, said concerns about visibility were the result of a "bug," per an October post on X.

Go deeper: Palestinians in Gaza: "Survival feels uncertain"

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