The flags of Jordan and Palestine have been a source of confusion for many flag aficionados, let alone the mere observer. But why do those flags look alike, what do they stand for and how can someone distinguish them?
Similarities and differences
One of the reasons why the two flags look so similar obviously comes down to both of them incorporating the four Pan-Arab colors (white, red, black and green), which have been historically linked to dynasties of the Arabic world. Those colors represented the notion of Pan-Arabism, which become prevalent during the 19th and 20th centuries, as a large number of Middle-East countries embarked on their independence campaigns. 1916 marked the first joint appearance of these colors, in the form of the flag of the Arab Revolt, which lasted until 1918 and was aimed at overthrowing the Ottoman rule.
Still, the striking similarities can only be partially attributed to the use of the Pan-Arab colors as the configuration is almost identical: both flags comprise of three equal horizontal stripes of black (top), white (middle) and green (bottom) with a red, wedge-shaped triangle joining them, beginning from the hoist side.
However, there are two vital points that can help one tell the flags apart. The more apparent of the two is the small seven-point white star that the flag of Jordan features in the middle of the red triangle. What’s more, a closer look reveals that that the wedge on the Jordan flag penetrates deeper into the fly side, forming a more acute angle when meeting the white stripe in the middle. Other than these subtle variations, one must admit it is really hard to tell the difference!
The white star in the flag of Jordan is believed to symbolize Fatiha, the first sura of the Koran (a prayer addressed to God for guidance, lordship and mercy), with each point standing for one of its seven verses; still, there have been different interpretations pertaining to the star’s points, which have linked them to former districts of Syria (Aleppo, Damascus, Beirut, Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan and Deir ez-Zor). As for the horizontal bands, they appear for each one of the historical dynasties of the Middle East. Hence, the black band denotes the Abassid caliphate, the white one the Umayyads and the green one the Fatimids. As for the red chevron, it alludes to the Hashemites, the royal family of Jordan.
Being extremely similar to the flag of Jordan, it comes as no surprise that the white and green bands on the Palestinian flag depict the Umayyad and the Fatimid caliphates respectively, while the black stripe symbolizes Muhammad and the Rashidun caliphate. As for the red triangle, it was initially used by the Khawarij movement, an Islamic group which established the first republican party back in Islam’s early days. Today, this particular color betokens the Ashrafs of the Hijaz and the Hashemites, descendants of the Prophet.
Which one came out first?
The flag of Jordan was officially adopted in April 1921.
The flag of Palestine was officially adopted in May 1964 by the PLO (see below) and in November 1988 by the State of Palestine.
- Both flags have a width-to-length ratio of 1 to 2.
- Both flags are inspired by the Arab Revolt flag of 1917, whose creators had envisioned a united state that was intended to include the present-day Palestinian territories and the country of Jordan (along with Syria and Lebanon).
- The white star in the flag of Jordan was added in 1928.
- Prior to 2006, the Palestine flag’s triangle would only extent up to one fourth of the total flag length. Following some changes that year, the layout was slightly altered so that it now goes as far as one third of the distance into the flag.
- The Palestine flag was formally endorsed by PLO (the Palestine Liberation Organization) in December 1964, sixteen years after the Jewish-dominated State of Israel was established. Following the 1967 Six-Day War, which led to Israel occupying the West Bank and the Gaza strip, the Palestinian flag was banned from flying in these territories. Nevertheless, that ban was subsequently lifted by virtue of the 1993 Oslo Peace Treaty.