Sometimes a flag is not just a flag. In the current era of postmodern “whatever-ism,” symbolic gestures are largely understood as just that — a meaningless symbolic gesture. A low Presidential bow to a foreign sovereign is just a bow. The gift of an iPod to an allied sovereign is just a kitschy gift. And on January 18, 2011, a raised Palestinian flag in Washington, D.C. is just a flag — a little wink and nod to the Arab residents of the disputed territories.
But in the Middle East, a symbol is never just a symbol. Even the smallest of gestures is packed with diplomatic meaning, and the policy ramifications of that gesture are almost always far-reaching.