views updated May 29 2018


The official banner of a state or nation, often decorated with emblems or images that symbolize that state or nation.

On the U.S. flag, 13 horizontal stripes (in red and white) represent the original 13 colonies. The union is represented by 50 white stars, for the 50 states, arrayed on a field of blue. The U.S. flag is sometimes called the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, or the Red, White, and Blue.

Titles 4 and 36 of the U.S. Code govern when, where, and how a flag may be displayed; how a flag may be used; and the proper means of disposing of a worn or soiled flag.

The Stars and Stripes became a popular and revered symbol of the United States during and after the Civil War. The Union's victory over the Confederacy and the return to a united country engendered patriotic fervor that was embodied in this symbol. When large numbers of immigrants entered the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the flag was appropriated as a symbol of nationalism and patriotism by groups that felt that the cultures and customs of the new citizens threatened national unity and security. During the same period, as the advertising industry grew along with rapid industrialization, the flag was commonly used for commercial purposes. Flags or images of flags were used to promote everything from toilet paper to chewing gum. The flag was also appropriated for political gain. In 1896, the campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate william mckinley distributed millions of flags for use at McKinley's rallies. The McKinley campaign also distributed buttons bearing the likeness of a flag, as symbols of support for the candidate.

What is the Appropriate Use of the Confederate Flag?

After months of open and contentious debate, the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina agreed in May 2000 that the Confederate Flag would be taken from the State House dome and placed at the Confederate Soldiers' Monument. State Governor Jim Hodges signed the bill, which was supported by the South Carolina Chamber as part of the Business Agenda and the Courage to Compromise coalition, on May 30. "Today, we bring this debate to an honorable end. Today, the descendants of slaves and the descendants of Confederate soldiers join together in the spirit of mutual respect," Hodges stated in a speech just prior to the signing. The actual relocation of the flag on July 1, 2000, complete with pomp and circumstance, was attended by 3,000 people. The official ceremony lasted eight minutes. The fallout lasted for eight months.

In 1994, Jim Folsom, Jr., the governor of Alabama, decided to move a Confederate flag from the state capitol's room to a nearby war memorial. His decision was partially a response to pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp). Afterward, South Carolina was the only former member of the Confederate States of America to fly the Confederate flag on its capitol building, though some Southern states still used it as part of their flag design. The issue waxed and waned in South Carolina's legislature for the next several years without resolution. In late 1999, the NAACP again mobilized, calling for a boycott of all state tourism, athletic contests, cultural events, and film-making in South Carolina until the flag was removed.

Benedict College, an historically black institution, canceled its September 2, 2000, football game with South Carolina State University after the latter refused to move the game from its campus in Orangeburg, South Carolina, to Charlotte, North Carolina. This event was followed by Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and Swarthmore College all canceling spring-break trips to South Carolina's coast. Furthermore, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I Board of Directors threatened to move games in the men's basketball tournament out of South Carolina if the flag was not removed from the state dome.

The issue returned to the state legislature's general assembly, where, following several weeks of emotional and grueling battle, a compromise agreement was reached in May 2000 by a House vote of 66-43 and a Senate vote of 35-8. The flag came down and took up its new home at the Solders' Memorial. Senator Arthur Ravenel claimed, "The only people that seem to be unhappy are the extremists."

The NAACP, however, took umbrage with the new location, complaining that the flag had become more visible than ever. It sent out mailings, urging the continuation of its state boycott and arguing that the flag also should be removed from all state grounds, including the Soldiers' Memorial. State Senator Robert Ford, a black supporter of the compromise, defended its new location, stating that, contrary to the NAACP's contentions, the flag was not "in anybody's face" in its new location. House majority leader Rick Quinn remarked that the NAACP had "essentially become professional agitators and I think someone needs to stand up to them." Several hundred flag supporters gathered at the ceremony and vowed that the flag would again rise above the state capitol.

After the flag's removal in South Carolina, Georgia followed. In January 2001, Georgia governor Ray Barnes persuaded lawmakers to shrink the Confederate battle emblem prominently displayed on the state flag to a small box in the corner of the flag. The Confederate battle emblem had been added in 1956 while Georgia schools were segregated. Sonny Perdue defeated Barnes in an upset victory in 2002, due in no small part to the flag controversy. In April 2003, Perdue endorsed a new flag that employs the so-called "stars and bars," another historic Confederate banner. However, civil rights groups, including the NAACP and Rainbow/PUSH, heavily criticized Perdue's stance, demanding that the flag have no Confederate symbols. On April 25, 2003, Georgia's legislature approved a flag that looks similar to the Confederate battle emblem but does not have the Dixie cross or other Confederate symbols.

Other states have had mixed reactions to the flag controversy. Florida quietly removed its Confederate flag from the state capitol in 2001. Mississippi, however, the last bastion of the old South, has held its ground. In April 2001, by a two-thirds division along mostly racial lines, voters overwhelmingly rejected a bill to replace the state's "Southern Cross" on its flag, which dates back to 1894. Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union, showed little concern for any threatened boycotts.

The flag controversy revolves around the intended meaning of the flag. Clearly, if a state's flag represents "symbolic speech," there must be an intent to convey a particular message that is understood by those who view it, in order to invoke first amendment consideration. Under these conditions, the time, place, and manner of display may be controlled if it can be proven that its display would cause violence or mayhem. According to the NAACP, the Confederate battle flag and emblem "have been embraced as the primary symbols for the numerous modern-day groups advocating white supremacy." The NAACP has referred to the flag as a "banner of secession and slavery." Some Southern whites see it as a banner of honor, however, for the Confederate soldiers who lost their lives during the u.s. civil war. Furthermore, they interpret the war to have been more about state and federal power and states' rights to secede from a union that they had joined voluntarily and less as a war to end the institution of slavery. Still further, others see the flag as a banner of "treason against the United States government."

The flag's significance on the state building seems to send two messages. Some have charged that it was more than coincidence that the South Carolina Confederate flag first flew over the state capitol in the early 1960s: it was raised in a centennial celebration of the Civil War. Others believe it was also meant to send a message to the grassroots civil rights movement, which was just beginning to mobilize. In a country where historians continued to debate the reasons for the Civil War, the flag's message has been interpreted according to passing ideological or economic battles.

Issues regarding Southern heritage and the Confederate flag also were fought over in schools. In October 2000, the supreme court of the united states declined review of the Eleventh Circuit's decision in Denno v. School Board of Volusia County, Fla., 218 F. 3d 1267 (11th Cir. (Fla.), Jul 20, 2000) which upheld a school's right to discipline a student for displaying a small Confederate flag at school. The school had argued that the flag was such a controversial symbol that its display invited disruption. The Eleventh Circuit panel first issued an opinion allowing the student to proceed with his case against the school board then later withdrew its opinion and issued a dismissal.

Students in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia also have been disciplined in the early 2000s for wearing Confederate symbols or flags on their clothing. Notwithstanding, in March 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit remanded to the trial court a suit by two Kentucky students who were suspended for wearing Hank Williams Jr. shirts with the Confederate flag. (Castorina v. Madison County School Board, 246F. 3d 536 [6th Cir. (Ky.), Mar 08, 2001]). The appellate court stated that the school needed to explain its reason for the ban, such as whether any racial violence had occurred at the school.

further readings

Bonner, Robert E. 2002. "Flag Culture and the Consolidation of Confederate Nationalism." Journal of Southern History 68 (May).

Magnuson, Carolyn. 2003. "South Carolina Man Had No Constitutional Right to Display Confederate Flag Decals at Work." Baltimore Daily Record (June 3).

Main, Carloa T. 2003. "The Civil War: The Confederate Flag Still Stirs Debate." The National Law Journal 25 (June 23).


States' Rights.

The turn of the century saw the beginnings of a movement to protect and honor the flag. In the early part of the twentieth century, schools commonly required students to salute the flag each morning. Some students refused to participate in the salute, mainly on religious grounds. By 1940, at least 200 public school students had been expelled in 16 states for refusing to salute the flag. Many of them were Jehovah's Witnesses, who maintained that any salute to the national flag constituted an act of idolatry and thus violated their religious beliefs. The expulsion of two Jehovah's Witnesses was challenged in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 60 S. Ct. 1010, 84 L. Ed. 1375 (1940). In Gobitis, a father sued to enjoin the school district from prohibiting his children's attendance at school after they refused to salute the flag. The U.S. district court granted the injunction allowing the children to return to school, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the district court. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the lower courts, holding that the school district's requirement that students salute the flag did not unconstitutionally infringe their religious freedoms. Writing for the 8–1 majority, Justice felix frankfurter said the salute requirement was constitutional as long as the students' "right to believe as they please, to win others to their way of belief, and their right to assemble in their chosen places of worship for the devotional ceremonies of their faith, are fully respected."

A few years later, the Court reversed its position, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 63 S. Ct. 1178, 87 L. Ed. 1628 (1943), another challenge to mandatory flag salutes brought by members of Jehovah's Witnesses. In Barnette, the Court held that the school board could not require public school teachers and students to salute the flag. The Court said freedom of the press, of assembly, and of worship may be restricted "only to prevent grave and immediate danger to interests which the state may lawfully protect." In a companion case, Taylor v. Mississippi, 319 U.S. 583, 63 S. Ct. 1200, 87L. Ed. 1600 (1943), the Court overturned the convictions of two people found guilty under a state statute that forbade the dissemination of information advocating refusal to salute, honor, or respect the flag. The Court held that the statute infringed freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The Barnette and Taylor decisions signaled the Court's emerging support of the notion that freedom of speech extends to symbolic as well as oral and written speech.

Also during the early 1900s, numerous state laws were passed prohibiting the desecration of the flag or the use of the flag in advertising. Some of these laws were struck down by state courts, but in 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their validity when it affirmed a lower court that had refused to strike down a Nebraska statute prohibiting the use of the flag in advertising (Halter v. Nebraska, 205 U.S. 34, 27 S. Ct. 419, 51 L. Ed. 696 [1907]). The Court said the flag, as an emblem of national authority and an object of patriotic fervor, should not be associated with personal or commercial interests. It held that the Nebraska statute did not infringe personal property rights or individual freedom.

For 80 years, Halter was cited as precedent in cases upholding flag desecration statutes, and these laws stood solidly intact through most of the twentieth century. The laws were invoked frequently to prosecute demonstrators who burned flags to protest U.S. involvement in the vietnam war. Between 1965 and the end of the war in 1973, as many as one thousand arrests were made under various state laws prohibiting the desecration of the flag.

The Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of flag desecration laws again in texasv. johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 109 S. Ct. 2533, 105 L. Ed. 2d 342 (1989). During the 1984 Republican National Convention, in Dallas, the defendant, Gregory Lee Johnson and one hundred others staged a protest outside the convention hall. During the demonstration, Johnson burned a U.S. flag. He was later arrested for violating the Texas Venerated Objects Law (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 42.09(a)(3) [Vernon 1974]), which outlawed intentionally or knowingly desecrating a flag in a way that some observer might find seriously offensive. Johnson was convicted, but his conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (Johnson, 755 S.W.2d 92 [Tex. Crim. App. 1988]). The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5–4 decision, the Court affirmed the court of criminal appeals, holding that Johnson's conduct was expressive communication, a form of speech that requires first amendment protection. Addressing Texas's claim that it had a legitimate interest in preventing a breach of the peace, the Court observed that no disturbance of the peace occurred or was threatened by Johnson's burning of the flag. The Court also held that the venerated objects statute was subject to the strictest constitutional scrutiny because it restricted Johnson's freedom of expression based on the content of the message he sought to convey. The Court concluded, "We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents."

Many people were outraged by the Johnson decision. President george h. w. bush denounced flag burning and proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn Johnson. The Senate and the House of Representatives passed numerous resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment outlawing flag burning. When it became clear that a constitutional amendment was probably not feasible, Congress instead passed the Flag Protection Act of 1989 (Pub. L. No. 101-131, 103 Stat. 777 [amending 18 U.S.C.A. § 700]), which made it a criminal offense to mutilate, deface, or burn a flag; place a flag on the floor or ground; or walk on a flag. The act did not mention the motive of the actor or the effect on observers of the act. With these omissions, the statute was designed to be content neutral and to pass the most stringent constitutional scrutiny.

The Flag Protection Act was tested in United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310, 110 S. Ct. 2404, 110 L. Ed. 2d 287 (1990). In Eichman, the defendants were arrested for burning a flag in a protest. They moved to dismiss the charges on the ground that the Flag Protection Act violated the First Amendment. The district court dismissed the charges, and the government appealed directly to the Supreme Court. Affirming the district court's findings, the Court reasserted its position that flag burning is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. The Court conceded that the federal act differed from the Texas statute in Johnson because it did not appear to regulate the content of the message conveyed by the prohibited acts. Nonetheless, the Court held that the government's interest in preserving the flag as a national symbol was implicated under the act only when a person's treatment of the flag communicated a message that opposed the government's ideals. In effect, the act did regulate the content of protected speech. The Court concluded that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea, no matter how disagreeable or offensive that idea may be.

The Eichman decision prompted President Bush to renew his efforts to gain passage of a constitutional amendment banning flag desecration. The measure came to a vote in June 1990. By then, public and political interest in the issue had dissipated, and many members of Congress who had voted for the Flag Preservation Act were unwilling to support a change to the Constitution. The proposed amendment failed by a vote of 254–177 in the House of Representatives and 58–42 in the Senate.

During the mid-1990s and early 2000s, the House of Representatives continued to consider constitutional amendments that would allow Congress to enact legislation prohibiting the desecration of the flag. In 2003, the House passed a proposed amendment that reads, "The Congress shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." H.R.J. Res. 4 (108th Cong., 1st Sess.). According to one of the amendment's supporters, Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH), "If we allow [the flag's] defacement, we allow our country's gradual decline." The House approved the resolution by a vote of 300 to 125.

Although the amendment was still officially under consideration by the Senate in October 2003, similar measures in 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2001 failed to pass in the Senate. In order to be passed, the proposed amendment must receive a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, plus approval from three-fourths of the states. In 1995 and 2001, similar measures received 63 votes, four shy of the required two thirds majority. Democrats opposed to the amendment have called the bi-annual legislation a "rite of spring" for House Republicans who support the measure.

further readings

Associated Press. 2003. "House Approves Ban on Burning U.S. Flag." FOXNews.com. Available online at <www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,88509,00.html> (accessed October 4, 2003).

Curtis, Michael Kent, ed. 1993. The Constitution and the Flag, Volume I: The Flag Salute Cases; and Volume II: The Flag Burning Cases. New York: Garland.

Dorsen, Norman. 2000. "Flag Desecration in Courts, Congress, and Country." Thomas M. Cooley Law Review 17 (September): 417–42.

Dyroff, David. 1991. "Legislative Attempts to Ban Flag Burning." Washington University Law Quarterly 69 (fall).

Goldstein, Robert Justin. 2000. Flag Burning and Free Speech: The Case of Texas v. Johnson. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.

——. 1995. Saving "Old Glory." Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Padover, Saul. 1995. The Living U.S. Constitution. New York: Meridian.

Ward, Kenneth D. 1998. "Free Speech and the Development of Liberal Virtues: An Examination of the Controversies Involving Flag-Burning and Hate Speech." University of Miami Law Review 52 (April): 733–92.


Censorship; Religion.


views updated May 29 2018


There are indications that banners or emblems were in use among the Israelites even in biblical times (see *Banner). The expression אֹתֹת לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם – "the banner (or ensign) or their patriarchal house" (Num. 2:2) – appears to denote the physical emblem of a tribe, a patriarchal house, or a family, and it was thus understood in the Midrash (Num. R, 2:7), which gives the following description of the flags of the 12 tribes, with proof verses where the reason is not immediately obvious:

There were distinguishing signs for each prince; each had a flag (mappah) and a different color for every flag, corresponding to the precious stones on the breastplate (lit. "heart") of Aaron. It was from these that governments learned to provide themselves with flags of various colors. Each tribe had its own prince and its flag whose color corresponded to the color of its stone. Reuben's stone was ruby, the color of his flag was red, and embroidered thereon were mandrakes. Simeon's was topaz and his flag was green, with the town of Shechem embroidered thereon. Levi's was smaragd (= emerald) and the color of his flag was a third white, a third black, and a third red; embroidered thereon were the Urim and Thummim. Judah's was a carbuncle and the color of his flag resembled that of the heavens; embroidered on it was a lion. lssachar's was a sapphire and the color of his flag was black like stibium; embroidered thereon were the sun and moon. Zebulun's was an emerald and the color of his flag was white, with a ship embroidered thereon. Dan's was jacinth and the color of his flag was similar to sapphire; embroidered on it was a serpent. Gad's was an agate and the color of his flag was neither white not black but a blend of black and white; on it was embroidered a camp. Naphtali's was an amethyst and the color of his flag was like clarified wine of a not very deep red; on it was embroidered a hind. Asher's was a beryl and the color of his flag was like the precious stone with which women adorn themselves; embroidered thereon was an olive tree. Joseph's was an onyx and the color of his flag was jet black; the embroidered design thereon for both princes, Ephraim and Manasseh, was Egypt because they were born there. A bullock was embroidered on the flag of Ephraim. A wild ox was embroidered on the flag of the tribe of Manasseh. Benjamin's stone was a jasper and the color of his flag was a combination of all the twelve colors; embroidered thereon was a wolf.

The word nes, mentioned in the Prophets (Isa. 5:26; 62:10; Jer. 4:6; Ps. 60:6), is also close to the modern "flag," standing as it does for a signal which may flutter in the breeze raised on a high place. It is also used to denote a sail (Isa. 33:23, also in the Mishna, bb 5a). Murals depicting Jewish ships, as found in Bet She'arim tombs and "Jason's tomb" in the Rehaviah quarter of Jerusalem, reveal that the ships bore emblems. From Targum Jonathan to Numbers 2:3 it becomes apparent (see Num. R. 2:7; Midrash Aggadah (Buber ed. 79) Arugat ha-Bosem (Urbach ed.) A, 287/8) that during the time of the Targum colored flags, made of silk, were already known.

The term degel used in the Bible, especially in the description of the order in which the people of Israel pitched their tents and their battle array (Num. 2:1–3, 10–18, 25), was thought to have its present-day meaning – "flag." In fact, the term as employed there denotes a division of the people's army. This is the sense of Akkadian diglu (from dagālu; "to see," "behold,"), Aramaic degel of the fifth century b.c.e.*Elephantine papyri, and this is also the sense in which the term is mentioned in the Midrash (e.g., Num. R. 2:7; Song R. 6, 10); the Arabic word dajjala also means a very large group of men. Rashi (to Num. 2:2) explains degel in accordance with the examples he saw among the military formations of his time – a colored symbol identifying a military unit.

In the Dead Sea Scrolls – e.g., the "War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness" – the term degel is used in its biblical sense: an organizational unit, a battalion (ibid., ed. Yadin 1955, p. 274; for other attestations dch ii, 415). The same scroll, however, devotes two chapters (ibid., pp. 274–282, 284), to a description of the otot סֶרֶךְ אוֹתוֹת כּוֹל הָעֵדָה ("the customary symbols of the entire community"), which appear to have been actual flags. These symbols were of considerable sizes, depending on the size of the unit which they served, and contained various inscriptions: עַם אֵל ("the People of God"); שֵׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאַהֲרֹן וּשְׁמוֹת שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּתוֹלְדוֹתָם ("the name of Israel and Aaron and the names of the twelve tribes of Israel in the order of their birth"); נֵס אֵל (the pennant of God); שֵׁם נְשִׂיא הַשֵּׁבֶט (the name of the prince of the tribe); etc. To those who went into battle an order was issued "to inscribe on their symbols, as they went forth to war" further inscriptions, and, "when they returned from war" as victors, to add appropriate inscriptions (see dch ii, 166). If the scroll is not a literary fiction but reflects reality, there is here a description of the important role, very similar to that of the modern flag, ascribed to physical symbols in the organization of the community.

In the Diaspora, where there was no Jewish army or panoply of state, there was no room for flags in Jewish public life. In the late Middle Ages instances are known of the award of flags to individual Jews of communities by the secular rulers. In 1254 the emperor Charles iv granted a flag to the Jews of Prague; it was red in color and displayed the six-pronged star, which later became known as Shield of David. In 1592 R. Mordechai Meisel, also of Prague, was given permission to display in his synagogue "the flag of King David, similar to the flag in the Great Synagogue." In 1648 the Jews of Prague were again awarded a flag – still to be found in the Prague synagogue, the Altneuschul – in recognition of their part in the defense of the city against the Swedes; the flag is red and in the middle there is a yellow Shield of David with a Swedish star in its center. When the Jews of Ofen (= Buda) in Hungary welcomed King Matthias Corvinus in 1460, they carried a red flag containing two Shields of David and two other stars.

Jewish flags as an expression of national awakening appeared in the campaign of David *Reubeni among the Jews and the Christian rulers. His deportment was that of a prince and he used flags extensively as an expression of Jewish sovereignty. His flags were white, with the Ten Commandments or verses and names (according to one version, the letters of the word "Maccabee") embroidered on them in gold. Reubeni carried a flag of this kind when he appeared with Solomon *Molcho before Charles v in Regensburg in 1532. Molcho also signed his letters and writings by drawing a flag above his name (see illustrations under *Autographs).

The Shield of David acquired its status as a recognized Jewish symbol only as late as the middle of the 17th century. Official use of it was first made by the heads of the Jewish

communities of Prague and Vienna, spreading from these places all over the world. The aristocratic Jewish families of Rothschild and Montefiore incorporated it in their family arms. The early *Ḥibbat Zion societies used it as a national emblem (e.g., in their official seals), generally inscribing the word Ẓiyyon in it.

Theodor Herzl, who was not aware of the emblems used by the Ḥibbat Zion movement, made the following entry in his diary (June 12, 1895): "The flag that I am thinking of – perhaps a white flag with seven gold stars. The white background stands for our new and pure life; the seven stars are the seven working hours: we shall enter the Promised Land in the sign of work." This was also the flag that he proposed in The Jewish State (1896). Under the influence of the Zionist societies he accepted the shield of David as the emblem of the movement, but he insisted that the six stars should be placed on the six angles of the shield of David, and the seventh above it. In this form, with the inscription "Aryeh Yehudah" (the Lion of Judah) in the middle, the Shield of David became the first emblem of the Zionist Organization.

The combination blue and white as the colors of the Jewish flag is first mentioned in the latter part of the 19th century. In his poem "Ẓivei Ereẓ Yehudah," written about 1860, the poet L.A. *Frankl declaims:

All that is sacred will appear in these colors:
White – as the radiance of great faith
Blue – like the appearance of the firmament.

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. This, however, was not known to the delegates of the First Zionist Congress, and it was David Wolfsohn who created the flag of Zion on the model of the *tallit, which, as he pointed out, was the traditional flag of the Jewish people, adding the Shield of David. In 1933, the 18th Zionist Congress decided that "by long tradition, the blue-and-white flag is the flag of the Zionist Organization and the Jewish people," This was also the flag which, by a special order issued by Winston Churchill, became the official flag of the Jewish Brigade Group in World War ii.

Flags of the State of Israel

As soon as the State of Israel was established, the question of its flags and emblems arose. Public opinion was unanimous in favor of proclaiming the flag of the Zionist movement as the state flag, but there was some apprehension lest this might cause problems to foreign members of the movement. The Provisional Council of State therefore decided only on flags of the navy and the merchant marine, and it was not until six months after the state had been proclaimed that the form of the national flag was officially determined; it was to be the flag of the Zionist movement, consisting of a white rectangle, with two blue stripes along its entire length and a Shield of David in the center made up of six stripes forming two equilateral triangles. In the original resolution, the color of the stripes and the Shield of David was described as "dark sky-blue," but this was later changed to "blue" for better visibility at sea.

The flag of the Israel navy is a dark blue rectangle, with a white isosceles triangle, with the vertex in the center of the rectangle and the base coinciding with its inner side, and a blue Shield of David inside the triangle. The flag of the Merchant Marine is a blue rectangle with a white oval with a blue Shield of David in its center.

The official emblem of the State, which was decided on in 1949, is the menorah, or candelabrum, the ancient symbol of the Jewish people, in the form seen in relief on the arch of Titus in Rome. The menorah is surrounded by olive branches, linked at the bottom by the inscription "Israel." The president's pennant is a square blue flag, with the state emblem in silver inside a silver frame. In the course of time more flags and pennants have been adopted: the flag of the Customs and Excise, a blue rectangle, with the national flag in its upper quarter and the inscription מכֶס וּבְלוֹ (Customs & Excise) inside a circle in the lower outer quarter.; the flag of the Israel Defense Forces, a blue rectangle with a thin gold stripe along three of its sides and in the lower outer quarter the badge of the idf, consisting of a Shield of David in outline with a sword entwined with olive leaves inside it, and a strip bearing the inscription "צבא הגנה לישראל" (Israel Defense Army) at the bottom; the prime minister's pennant, a blue rectangle with the national flag in its upper inside quarter and the state emblem, superimposed on the idf badge, in gold, in the lower outer quarter; the defense minister's pennant, similar to the prime minister's, but smaller by a quarter, and with the emblem in silver; the pennant of the chief of staff, the allufim (generals), the commander of the navy, the senior officer in a flotilla; the active service pennant, hoisted on naval vessels on active service; the flag of the air force; and the civil aviation pennant.


M. Nimẓa-Bi, Ha-Degel (1948); State of Israel, Iton Rishmi, nos. 2, 32, 50 (1948–49); idem, Sefer ha-Ḥukkim, no. 8 (1949); idem, Simlei Medinat Israel (1953). add. bibliography: B. Levine, Numbers 1–20 (1993), 146–48

[Michael Simon]


views updated Jun 08 2018

flag1 / flag/ • n. 1. a piece of cloth or similar material, typically oblong or square, attachable by one edge to a pole or rope and used as the symbol or emblem of a country or institution or as a decoration during public festivities: the American flag. ∎  used in reference to the country to which a person has allegiance: the private’s heroism served as an example for every soldier under the flag. ∎  a ship's country of registry. ∎  a small piece of cloth, typically attached at one edge to a pole, used as a marker or signal in various sports: jumped the starter's flag, did he? ∎  the ensign carried by a flagship as an emblem of an admiral's rank.2. a device, symbol, or drawing typically resembling a flag, used as a marker: golf courses are indicated by a numbered flag on the map. ∎  Comput. a variable used to indicate a particular property of the data in a record.3. a hook attached to the stem of a musical note, determining the rhythmic value of the note.• v. (flagged, flag·ging) [tr.] 1. (often be flagged) mark (an item) for attention or treatment in a specified way: “greatfully” would be flagged as a misspelling of “gratefully.” ∎  Football charge (a player) with a penalty by dropping a penalty flag: a play in which he was flagged for being offside. ∎ fig. draw attention to: problems often flag the need for organizational change.2. [tr.] direct (someone) to go in the specified direction by waving a flag or using hand signals: have him flagged off the course. ∎  (flag someone/something down) signal to a vehicle or driver to stop, esp. by waving one's arm: she flagged down a patrol car. ∎  [intr.] (of an official in football, soccer, and other sports) raise or throw a flag to indicate a breach of the rules: the rookie cornerback managed to get flagged for three penalties in one game.3. provide or decorate with a flag or flags. ∎  register (a vessel) in a specific country, under whose flag it then sails: the flagging out of much of the fleet to flags of convenience.PHRASES: fly the flag (of a ship) be registered in a particular country and sail under its flag. ∎  (also show or carry or wave the flag) represent or demonstrate support for one's country, political party, or organization, esp. when one is abroad: he will never consider buying an import, because he likes to fly the flag.show the flag (of a naval vessel) make an official visit to a foreign port, esp. as a show of strength.wrap oneself in the flag make an excessive show of one's patriotism, esp. for political ends.DERIVATIVES: flag·ger n.flag2 • n. a flat stone slab, typically rectangular or square, used for paving.DERIVATIVES: flagged adj. [often in comb.] stone-flagged steps. flag3 • n. a plant with sword-shaped leaves that grow from a rhizome, in particular: ∎  a plant of the iris family, esp. blue flag or yellow flag. ∎ sweet flag.flag4 • v. (flagged , flag·ging ) [intr.] (of a person) become tired, weaker, or less enthusiastic: if you begin to flag, there is an excellent café to revive you. ∎  [often as adj.] (flagging) (esp. of an activity or quality) become weaker or less dynamic: she should make another similar film to revive her flagging career.


views updated May 29 2018

flag a national flag is often taken as the essential symbol of the country concerned, as in the US Pledge of Allegiance.

In the US, 14 June, the anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes in 1777, is known as Flag Day.
flag of convenience a flag of a country under which a ship is registered in order to avoid financial charges or restrictive regulations in the owner's country.
fly the flag (of a ship) to be registered to a particular country and sail under its flag; in figurative use, to represent or demonstrate support for one's country, political party, or organization, especially when one is abroad.
put the flags out celebrate publicly. Evelyn Waugh's novel Put Out More Flags (1942) had an epigraph from the Chinese, part of which reads, ‘a drunk military man should order gallons and put out more flags in order to increase his military splendour.’
show the flag make a gesture of support for or solidarity with one's country, political party, or organization, especially when one is abroad or among outsiders. Used literally of a naval vessel making an official visit to a foreign port, especially as a show of strength.
wrap oneself in the flag make an excessive show of patriotism, especially for political ends (chiefly in North American usage).

see also trade follows the flag.

Flag Day

views updated May 21 2018


FLAG DAY, 14 June, marks the anniversary of the adoption by Congress in 1777 of the Stars and Stripes as emblem of the nation. Celebrations of the flag began in local communities throughout the country during the nineteenth century, largely for the purpose of educating children in history. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson, and later, in 1927, President Calvin Coolidge, suggested that 14 June be observed as Flag Day. It was not until 3 August 1949 that the National Flag Day Bill became law, giving official recognition to 14 June to celebrate the flag.


Furlong, William Rea, and Byron McCandless. So Proudly We Hail: The History of the United States Flag. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981.

Guenter, Scot M. The American Flag, 1777–1924: Cultural Shifts from Creation to Codification. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990.

Mastai, Boleslaw, and Marie-Louise D'Otrange Mastai. The Stars and the Stripes: The American Flag as Art and as Historyfrom the Birth of the Republic to the Present. New York: Knopf, 1973.

Leland P.Lovette/h. s.

See alsoHolidays and Festivals ; Nationalism .


views updated May 17 2018

flag A variable whose value indicates the attainment of some designated state or condition by an item of equipment or a program. The flag is subsequently used as a basis for conditional branching and similar decision processes. See also sentinel.

Flag Day

views updated May 21 2018

Flag Day • n. June 14, the anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official U.S. flag in 1777.


views updated May 29 2018

flag4 †hang down; become limp or feeble. XVI. rel. to †flag adj. hanging loose (XVI), of unkn. orig. Cf. FAG1, FAG2.


views updated Jun 27 2018

flag2 turf, sod XV; flat slab of stone XVII. prob. of Scand. orig.; cf. Icel. flag spot where a turf has been cut out, ON. flaga slab of stone (cf. FLAW1).


views updated Jun 27 2018

flag1 plant of the genus Iris; (formerly) reed, rush. XIV. of unkn. orig.; cf. Du. flag, Da. flæg yellow iris.