Why the watermelon emoji is a symbol of Palestinian resistance

BUTENKOV ALEKSEI/ShutterStock Inna Kharlamova/ShutterStock (Licensed)

Why TikTokers use the watermelon emoji to talk about Palestinian resistance

The connection goes deeper than colors.

 

Tricia Crimmins

IRL

On TikTok, Instagram, and across the internet, the watermelon emoji is used as a symbol of support for Palestine in the Israeli-Hamas war.

The Israeli-Hamas war escalated last month after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s continued bombing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. A quick online search of “🍉” or the watermelon emoji brings up posts in support of Palestinian resistance.

To the uninformed, it’s evident that the watermelon could denote Palestine because the fruit is comprised of the same colors as the Palestinian flag: red, green, white, and black. But the connection is deeper than that.

Symbolism of watermelon in Palestine

In the U.S., protesters marching in support of Palestine can freely wave the state’s flag and draw it on signs. But in Israel, which controls the state of Palestine, the Palestinian flag is currently banned and has been banned in the past. Thus, Palestinians use the watermelon symbol as a means of safely protesting without flying the state’s flag.

The watermelon has been criminalized, as well: In the 1980s, Palestinian artists were arrested by the Israeli military for incorporating the colors of the Palestinian flag in their artwork. According to Sliman Mansour, one of the artists who was arrested, an Israeli officer made the connection between the watermelon and the state’s flag.

“The officer raised his voice and said, ‘Even if you do a watermelon, it will be confiscated,’” Mansour told AJ+ in a 2021 interview. “The idea of the watermelon came actually from the officer, not from us.”

Additionally, replacing the Palestinian flag with a watermelon symbol or emoji has helped Palestinians avoid censorship online.

“If you want to stop us, we’ll find another way to express ourselves,” Amal Saad, a Palestinian organizer for Zazim, a grassroots organization for Arab-Israeli peace, told Al Jazeera in August.

Rising popularity of the watermelon symbol

The watermelon symbol has been used by Palestinians since the Six-Day War in 1967 when Israel first banned the Palestinian flag. In recent years, the symbol has been used by Palestinians and their supporters, too.

Last week, Jourdan Louise (@xojourdanlouise) created a TikTok filter that uses the watermelon as a game to fundraise for Palestinian forces. As previously reported by the Daily Dot, “users navigate a watermelon slice along a winding path to the end, staying within the lines,” collecting watermelon seeds.

Jourdan’s initial statement on the filter was that if it was used in more than 200,000 videos, she would donate the revenue it created to support Palestinian resistance. As of publication, the filter has been used over 4.5 million times.

On Sunday, Jourdan said the filter had generated over $4,500 when it had been used over just a million times.

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