Blue vs. Orange in the Israeli war of the ribbons even on wedding bouquets

August 01, 2005

* This is an update to the dispatch Israeli leftists and centrists speak out against Gaza disengagement plan (June 20, 2005).

 

CONTENTS

1. “It’s blue vs. orange in Israel ribbon war” (Associated Press, June 28, 2005)
2. “Tel Aviv shoppers shun orange as color of Gaza settler protests” (Bloomberg, July 29, 2005)
3. “Ribbon blues leave cabbies seeing red” (Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2005)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

ORANGE VERSUS BLUE

The decision by the government of Ariel Sharon to remove all Jews from Gaza, as well as from four communities in the West Bank, has divided public opinion in Israel to a far greater degree than most of the mainstream western media have reported.

Western journalists many of whom have never quite fully comprehended Israel’s security concerns arising from a territorial withdrawal at this time and with this regime in place in the Palestinian Authority have failed to portray the strength of feeling against disengagement in Israel.

They have failed to report that almost half the attacks on Israeli civilians in recent months have come from Fatah (the constituent party of Palestinian Authority president Mohammed Abbas), not from Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

They have failed to report that according to opinion polls, the number of Israelis supporting disengagement has now dropped below 50 percent, or the fact that many of those opposing it are not “religious settlers” or “hardline militants,” but secular Israelis who supported (and now say they regret supporting) the Oslo accords.

These Israeli are not opposed to the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, but they are opposed to the timing and the nature of the handover without any realistic security guarantees from the Palestinian Authority to accompany it.

None of this is to say that Ariel Sharon’s policy is necessarily wrong, only that issues around it are not being reported on properly in North American and European media. Unilateral disengagement is scheduled to commence on or after August 15, 2005.

RIBBONS REPLACE REFERENDUM

Because Prime Minister Sharon refused to bring the issue to a referendum (fearing he would lose), the vast majority of Israelis have had no opportunity to express their views on disengagement. Hence hundreds of thousands of Israelis have used ribbons as a method to voice their opinion in a non-violent way.

The anti-disengagement supporters have adopted the color orange to demonstrate their feelings. In response, pro-disengagement supporters decided to use the color blue to show their support for Sharon (with, for example, the leftist Ha’aretz newspaper giving out blue ribbons free to their readers.)

IN THE STEPS OF LANCE ARMSTRONG

As a result Israelis are now in the midst of an unofficial color war, with many cars throughout the Jewish state sporting either orange or blue ribbons. Many Israelis are also wearing orange wrist bands similar to the yellow wrist bands made famous by the cyclist Lance Armstrong.

It is not uncommon to see a car with both orange and blue ribbons fluttering from the aerial, with many Israelis finding it impossible to decide on one of the most contentious issues in the history of the state, or because husbands and wives are split on the issue.

The ribbons have also been attached to backpacks and even to wedding bouquets. There have even been Jewish prayer shawls made in orange and white, as opposed to the traditional colors of black and white.

ARAB PARTY APPEALS TO COURT, SAYS ORANGE BELONGS TO THEM

The Arab Balad party took the Yesha council (the organization representing Jews living in Gaza and the West Bank, which they refer to as Judea and Samaria) to court for using the color orange as part of its struggle against disengagement. Balad had used the color since 1999, and claimed they could not use it in future on their party flyers or flags.

Party leader MK Azmi Bishara said, “The color orange is clearly a political symbol associated with Balad, and in spirit, it has become ours.” The Balad (National Democratic Assembly) political party was formed in 1996 and has established itself as a major party for Palestinian Arabs in Israel. This party is one of two wholly Arab political parties that are active in the Knesset. (Several Israeli Arabs are representatives of other parties in the Knesset.)

The Haifa court has struck out the claim by Balad. Haifa District Court Justice Yitzchak Amit said “Colors, by their very nature, must remain open for public use, and the Trademarks Registrar must prevent a situation in which a particular element will purchase exclusivity on a particular color.”

ORANGE AND BLUE DIAL UP CREATED

A 24-hour, six days a week hotline has also been created by a group called “Gesher” (bridge), an organization dedicated to bridge the gap between religious and secular Jews in Israel.

Callers can connect to other individuals or join discussion groups to discuss the imminent disengagement plan. The campaign has been publicized in Israel with the slogan, “We have to keep in touch. We have to talk to one another,” illustrated with an orange and a blue ribbon tied together.

ORANGE ICE CREAM AND INDIAN SCARVES

The “color war” has impacted on nearly every section of society. At the recent Jerusalem international film festival, the Cellphone company “Orange” gave out free orange-colored ice-creams but instructed staff to announce as they handed them out that the free ice-creams carried no political message whatsoever.

Security guards at Israel’s parliament confiscated the orange scarves of a visiting delegation of lawmakers from India.

One Jaffa textile factory has hired three extra workers and extended working hours from 10 to 24 hours a day so they can cut up to 100,000 orange and blue ribbons daily.

The first article below relates how “the color war” has led to arguments within many families. The second and third articles illustrate how it has also affected all kinds of businesses including shops that sell orange clothing and taxi firms.

I attach three articles with summaries first.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

IT’S BLUE VS. ORANGE IN ISRAEL RIBBON WAR

“It’s Blue Vs. Orange in Israel Ribbon War” (By Ramit Plushnick-Masti, The Associated Press, June 28, 2005)

The battle lines are drawn in a Gaza pullout color war that has engulfed Israel. The weapon of choice: ribbons. On the orange side are Jewish settlers and their supporters. On the blue side are peace activists.

In the rush to the finish line, each side is tying as many ribbons as possible on cars, backpacks and even wedding bouquets to express opposition or support for an upcoming withdrawal from the Gaza Strip...

In this flood of withdrawal activity, it’s not only the ribbons that are trendy, so are the colors. Anti-pullout activists wear orange shirts, hats and other paraphernalia making the color largely off-limits to those who favor the withdrawal...

Peace activists think twice today before slipping on an orange shirt, and security guards at Israel’s parliament confiscated the orange scarves of a visiting delegation of lawmakers from India...

 

TEL AVIV SHOPPERS SHUN ORANGE AS COLOR OF GAZA SETTLER PROTESTS

“Tel Aviv Shoppers Shun Orange as Color of Gaza Settler Protests” (Bloomberg, July 29, 2005)

Sybil Goldfiner, chief executive of Israel’s Comme Il Faut boutiques, said she was shocked to find more than half the orange pants, T-shirts and sleeveless blouses left on store shelves after her annual sale in early July.

While orange brightened runways in the spring and summer shows at Paris fashion houses such as Christian Dior and Hermes, Goldfiner discovered that the color is a turn-off for the couture set in Tel Aviv. That’s because orange ribbons tied to car antennas, light poles and handbags have become the symbol of support for Jewish settlers facing expulsion from the Gaza Strip.

“Most of our customers aren’t people who want to settle in Gaza, and this year they voted against orange,” said Goldfiner, 48, who has eight Comme Il Faut stores in the Tel Aviv area. “It was a big surprise because orange is the season’s color.”

Opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal plan took orange from the flag of the Gaza Beach Regional Council, which represents about 8,500 settlers due to be evacuated in mid- August. The ribbons, handed out by orange-clad volunteers, are the most influential marketing campaign in Israel this year because of their “simplicity and viral effectiveness,” according to Tel Aviv-based The Marker, Israel’s biggest monthly business magazine...

On the Web site for Gush Katif, a group of Jewish settlements in Gaza, one can order products ranging from orange T-shirts and solidarity bracelets to a plastic tote-bag for psalms...

 

RIBBON BLUES LEAVE CABBIES SEEING RED

“Ribbon blues leave cabbies seeing red” (By Talya Halkin, The Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2005)

At one Jerusalem taxi station, the heated battle over disengagement being waged on the roads by drivers sporting either blue or orange ribbons has ended with no winners. According to Rami Tamar, director of the Pisga cab station, the trouble started last week when one driver was interviewed on the radio about sporting a blue ribbon on his cab.

What came across in the interview, according to Tamar, was that the station as a whole supported disengagement and that its drivers would tie blue ribbons to their taxis.

“As a result, we received a wave of phone calls from [anti-disengagement] clients announcing they would stop using our services,” Tamar told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “We called the driver in for a clarification meeting to ask why he had spoken in the station’s name, and he said that he had made a mistake.”

Tamar said the driver was temporarily suspended and was asked to call back the same radio program and make clear he had expressed his personal opinion. The driver’s second appearance, however, only made matters worse. The public received the impression he had been suspended for sporting a blue ribbon on his cab...

 



FULL ARTICLES

IT’S BLUE VS. ORANGE IN ISRAEL RIBBON WAR

It’s Blue Vs. Orange in Israel Ribbon War
By Ramit Plushnick-Masti
The Associated Press
June 28, 2005

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/28/AR2005062800165.html

The battle lines are drawn in a Gaza pullout color war that has engulfed Israel. The weapon of choice: ribbons.

On the orange side are Jewish settlers and their supporters. On the blue side are peace activists.

In the rush to the finish line, each side is tying as many ribbons as possible on cars, backpacks and even wedding bouquets to express opposition or support for an upcoming withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Opposing activists stand on street corners and major intersections tying ribbons on cars before the light changes. Morning newspapers on Monday came with blue-and-white ribbons folded inside.

Pullout opponents say giving up Gaza rewards terrorism and goes against the will of God, who many believe promised all of Biblical Israel to the Jews. Supporters say keeping Gaza will perpetuate an unjust occupation and endanger Israel’s existence by undermining its Jewish majority.

Nayot Pachenik, a 23-year-old native of the Gush Katif bloc of settlements, tied an orange ribbon to her bouquet at her June 14 wedding, and she posed for one of her wedding pictures with the orange ribbon around her neck, tie-style.

“It was my way of expressing my commitment to the cause and allowed me to have some influence,” said Pachenik, who now wears an orange ribbon tied to her headscarf.

In this flood of withdrawal activity, it’s not only the ribbons that are trendy, so are the colors.

Anti-pullout activists wear orange shirts, hats and other paraphernalia making the color largely off-limits to those who favor the withdrawal. Pachenik wore orange shoes to her wedding.

Peace activists think twice today before slipping on an orange shirt, and security guards at Israel’s parliament confiscated the orange scarves of a visiting delegation of lawmakers from India.

An unofficial count of car ribbons shows orange has the upper hand for the moment, though pullout opponents have been handing out ribbons longer than supporters.

The blues are convinced they will ultimately be victorious once the actual withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements gets underway in August.

Opinion polls show that support for the pullout has dropped from a high of nearly 70 percent to just around 50 percent. Opposition has risen from 27 percent to 38 percent.

But parliament and Cabinet have approved the plan, and the army and police are training for it.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is determined to push ahead, even in the face of possible violent resistance by orange-clad settlers some of whom have pinned orange stars to their lapels, reminiscent of the yellow Star of David the Nazis forced the Jews to wear in World War II.

Rafi Sari, head of the orange ribbon brigade, said pullout opponents have already distributed two million ribbons. A nationwide campaign scheduled to begin next week has set the goal of handing out another million ribbons, he said.

At a few cents per ribbon, it is a cheap way of sending the anti-pullout message, Sari said, explaining how his camp came up with the idea.

“A ribbon can be tied on anything a car, a neck, a bag, anywhere. It’s practical,” he said.

Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, is now among the blue team’s top brass. Ayalon even took to the streets on Friday to hand out ribbons.

The pro-pullout activists chose blue-and-white because the colors of Israel’s flag best represent their views, Ayalon said. They copied the settlers’ ribbon idea because it seemed easy and cheap. “You don’t have to explain anything. Blue and white says it all,” he added.

For Roni Ratzon, the owner of the Jaffa textile factory cutting ribbons for both pros and cons, it’s all very profitable. He’s hired three extra workers and extended working hours from 10 to 24 hours a day so he can cut up to 100,000 orange and blue ribbons daily.

“I have no political opinion. I am not a political person. I just want to make money,” Ratzon said.

Lisa Cohen, a 38-year-old American-born psychologist, rushed to tie a blue ribbon on her car after her husband tied an orange ribbon on his, breaking their decades-old promise to stay away from politics.

Tensions built in their Jerusalem home as their divergent political views clashed in the garage.

Finally, Cohen’s husband, Elimelech, folded and the ribbon came off his car.

“Now we’re back to the status quo, which is don’t discuss politics,” Cohen said laughing.

 

TEL AVIV SHOPPERS SHUN ORANGE AS COLOR OF GAZA SETTLER PROTESTS

Tel Aviv Shoppers Shun Orange as Color of Gaza Settler Protests
Bloomberg
July 29, 2005

Sybil Goldfiner, chief executive of Israel’s Comme Il Faut boutiques, said she was shocked to find more than half the orange pants, T-shirts and sleeveless blouses left on store shelves after her annual sale in early July.

While orange brightened runways in the spring and summer shows at Paris fashion houses such as Christian Dior and Hermes, Goldfiner discovered that the color is a turn-off for the couture set in Tel Aviv. That’s because orange ribbons tied to car antennas, light poles and handbags have become the symbol of support for Jewish settlers facing expulsion from the Gaza Strip.

“Most of our customers aren’t people who want to settle in Gaza, and this year they voted against orange,” said Goldfiner, 48, who has eight Comme Il Faut stores in the Tel Aviv area. “It was a big surprise because orange is the season’s color.”

Opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal plan took orange from the flag of the Gaza Beach Regional Council, which represents about 8,500 settlers due to be evacuated in mid- August. The ribbons, handed out byorange-clad volunteers, are the most influential marketing campaign in Israel this year because of their “simplicity and viral effectiveness,” according to Tel Aviv-based The Marker, Israel’s biggest monthly business magazine.

The distaste for orange among boutique shoppers points to a divide in Israeli society, said Bradley Ruffle, who teaches behavioral economics at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba. Much of the support for the Gaza settlers is concentrated among religious Jews, while Tel Aviv’s secular population favors disengagement from Gaza.

“Political and religious movements often adopt symbols that express group identity,” Ruffle said in an interview. “People wear those symbols when they want to show others that they belong, while those who reject the group’s ideology avoid its symbols.”

Support for the withdrawal has dropped since the orange campaign intensified in June. A July 18 poll commissioned by Israeli public television found that 51 percent of the 600 people surveyed backed the pullout. Less than three weeks earlier, a poll of 500 people published by the Tel Aviv-based newspaper Yediot Aharonot showed 62 percent in favor. The television poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

Israel captured Gaza from Egypt in the 1967 war. Over the next 38 years settlers built housing tracts in fortified blocs that cover about 25 percent of the seaside territory that is home to 1.3 million Palestinians. To reduce Palestinian attacks on Israel, Sharon plans to close the settlements next month.

A demonstration by 40,000 opponents of the withdrawal last week at Netivot, 15 miles east of Gaza, brought out a sea of orange T-shirts reminiscent of last year’s protests in Ukraine that catapulted opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to power.

The Yesha Council, which represents settlers in Gaza and the West Bank, started its orange-ribbon campaign on the advice of a paid consultant, Spin Public Opinion Shapers Ltd., which said the color would bridge the political spectrum.

“It’s young, it’s dynamic and it’s become the strongest brand in Israel,” said Yuval Porat, a partner at Spin, based in Ramat Gan, which neighbors Tel Aviv. “It’s become so identified with Gaza that there’s no way to wear orange in Israel today without it being interpreted as a political statement.”

On the Web site for Gush Katif, a group of Jewish settlements in Gaza, one can order products ranging from orange T-shirts and solidarity bracelets to a plastic tote-bag for psalms.

When supporters of the Gaza pullout started handing out blue ribbons to counter the settlers, it only served to strengthen the orange campaign, said the 30-year-old Porat.

“They just didn’t have the energy that we have and the numbers tell the story,” he said. “When you drive on the highway, most of the antennas with ribbons are orange and that just reinforces the opposition to disengagement.”

Goldfiner agreed that orange has captured the moment and said her customers will need more time before they’re ready to wear it again.

“We’re looking at other colors for next season,” she said.

 

RIBBON BLUES LEAVE CABBIES SEEING RED

Ribbon blues leave cabbies seeing red
By Talya Halkin
The Jerusalem Post
July 4, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1120357179802

At one Jerusalem taxi station, the heated battle over disengagement being waged on the roads by drivers sporting either blue or orange ribbons has ended with no winners.

According to Rami Tamar, director of the Pisga cab station, the trouble started last week when one driver was interviewed on the radio about sporting a blue ribbon on his cab.

What came across in the interview, according to Tamar, was that the station as a whole supported disengagement and that its drivers would tie blue ribbons to their taxis.

“As a result, we received a wave of phone calls from [anti-disengagement] clients announcing they would stop using our services,” Tamar told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “We called the driver in for a clarification meeting to ask why he had spoken in the station’s name, and he said that he had made a mistake.”

Tamar said the driver was temporarily suspended and was asked to call back the same radio program and make clear he had expressed his personal opinion. The driver’s second appearance, however, only made matters worse. The public received the impression he had been suspended for sporting a blue ribbon on his cab.

“As a result,” Tamar said, “we then received another wave of calls, this time from clients who threatened to stop using our services because we had fired a driver for flying a blue ribbon.”

Tamar added that the gist of the matter was that while the station’s drivers held a variety of political opinions, they could not speak to the media about them while identifying themselves as drivers of the Pisga station.

“We are here to do nothing but work and earn a living,” Tamar said. “As far as I’m concerned, drivers can fly blue, white and orange ribbons all together it could become a symbol of unity.”

Pini Alfasi, the driver interviewed, has returned to work, but he declined to speak to the Post. “I made a mistake, I apologized and that’s that,” he said.

As the debate on disengagement becomes increasingly heated, other companies have taken steps to prevent public identification of their services with one side or the other.

According to Keren Pe’er, who represents the high-tech company Comverse, the company has recently redistributed a memo that is sent out before any election campaign or controversial political event. The memo, said Pe’er, requested Comverse employees “not to use company facilities and vehicles to express political opinions out of mutual respect for all employees, and so as not to have one or another political opinion associated with Comverse.”

More than a month ago, the appearance of orange ribbons on cars owned by anti-disengagement drivers led to a number of suggestions for counteraction on the part of pro-disengagement drivers. Initially, confusion reigned. While some pro-disengagement activists called upon drivers to fly green ribbons, others opted for blue.

Early last month, The People’s Voice (Hamifkad Haleumi), founded by Ami Ayalon and Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, began calling on its supporters to distribute and fly blue-and-white ribbons as a response to the anti-disengagement’s orange ones. The movement has launched a widespread campaign to distribute the ribbons at junctions throughout the country. “Let’s show everyone that the majority is silent but its vote rules,” their Web site announces.

According to Hamifkad Haleumi chairman Orni Petruschka, the choice of blue-and-white ribbons as the symbol of pro-disengagement Israelis has a symbolic meaning.

“Using the colors of the national flag, which symbolize the nation, has significance,” he said. “It underscores the State of Israel as a value that stands above the value of the Land of Israel. It means accepting what it means to be part of a state and to adhere to its democratic institutions and the decisions of its government and Knesset. It also makes the statement that we are no less Zionist than anti-disengagement activists.”

Petruschka said the blue-and-white ribbon campaign was launched several weeks ago, when public opinion surveys began to show a diminishing number of disengagement supporters.

“A month ago, surveys showed the number of supporters was down to 50 percent,” he said. “This indicated a kind of helplessness on the part of the silent majority. Last Friday, a survey conducted by Mina Tzemach spoke about an increase back to 60%. I don’t know if it is partly do to our activity, but I would like to think it is. I hope that people who previously saw only orange ribbons on the road now feel they too have something to identify with.”

The campaign, Petruschka said, was gaining more and more attention. Its extent, he explained, is largely dependent on the movement’s ability to produce and distribute ribbons. So far, he estimated that Hamifkad Haleumi volunteers have distributed approximately 300,000, and he said they planned to distribute hundreds-of-thousands more.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.