In the face of heightened content moderation surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict on social media platforms, users have found an unexpected symbol of pro-Palestinian resistance: the watermelon emoji. Allegations of censorship against pro-Palestinian content, including the Palestinian flag emoji, led to the emergence of creative workarounds, with social media users substituting watermelons for flags or using them to convey solidarity with Palestine. This unconventional use of the watermelon emoji has gained traction across major platforms like Instagram and TikTok, sparking discussions about freedom of expression and the impact of content moderation.
Watermelon Emoji as Symbolic Resistance
Faced with reported censorship of the Palestinian flag emoji on platforms like Instagram, users across social media channels, including TikTok, have adopted watermelons as symbols of solidarity. This shift highlights the resilience of online communities in expressing support for Palestine while navigating evolving content moderation policies. The watermelon emoji, originally cultivated in response to alleged restrictions, has evolved into a powerful and creative means of protest against perceived limitations on pro-Palestinian content.
Palestinian artists, including Sliman Mansour in his late seventies, have embraced the watermelon as a motif in their creations. Mansour revealed that the inspiration to paint watermelons stemmed from an Israeli officer who cautioned him against using the Palestinian flag in his artwork, asserting that even a watermelon depiction would be confiscated. This anecdote inspired artist Khaled Hourani, who crafted a design for a “Watermelon Flag” featured in the Subjective Atlas of Palestine in 2007 after hearing Mansour’s story.
From Banned Flag to Symbolic Fruit
The watermelon’s association with Palestinian resistance can be traced back to the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel prohibited the public display of the Palestinian flag in the West Bank and Gaza. In response, Palestinians turned to watermelons, widely grown in the region, whose colors—red, green, and black—mirrored those of the banned flag. Historical accounts suggest that during periods of heightened tension, Palestinians would use watermelon slices as a subtle display of resistance, circumventing the flag ban.
As the watermelon regained prominence during the Second Intifada and found artistic expression, it has now reemerged as a digital emblem of protest on social media platforms. The watermelon emoji’s recent surge as a symbol of resistance in 2021 reflects a collective response to perceived restrictions on pro-Palestinian content, showcasing the resilience of online activism in the face of evolving challenges.