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Palestinian flag seen on downtown Bozeman Christmas spider draws mixed reactions

Palestine Flag .jpg
Posted at 5:46 PM, Dec 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-05 11:34:53-05

BOZEMAN — The presence of a Palestinian flag on one of downtown Bozeman's Christmas spiders during the annual Christmas Stroll Saturday night has stirred controversy and led to mixed reactions from pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli voices in the context of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“When I saw it hanging up, my natural reaction was a positive feeling. I'm half Palestinian myself, so it's always warming to see people supporting, you know, Palestinians' rights and what's happening over in Gaza right now in the West Bank,” says Omar Awad, an organizer with the group Montanans for Palestine.

While Awad felt a sense of support seeing a Palestinian flag hanging over Main Street, attached to a spider decoration during the annual Christmas Stroll, local Rabbi Chaim Bruk felt disappointment.

“Waving the flag didn't hurt me. Flags don't hurt people. You know, what do they say? Sticks and stones will break my bones—flags don't break my bones,” says Bruk.

However, both men were surprised to see images of the flag making the rounds on social media.

“It was a surprise. We've been organizing protests and whatnot in Bozeman and going to Jon Tester's office. We weren't aware this was happening. We're not sure exactly who did it,” says Awad.

“The idea that the city put it up or someone from an official government agency is not what came to mind,” says Bruk.

MTN News reached out to city leaders who say they are not investigating the incident.

Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham said in a statement, “The flag is certainly not a city-sanctioned decoration.”

The Downtown Bozeman Partnership called the fire department to remove the flag because of social media reaction and the location on the public right of way.

Bruk says following the events in the region, the upcoming holiday season will have more meaning.

“Therefore, you can wave all the flags you want. Jewish people are rocking and rolling and Hanukkah is going to be celebrated in ways that it was never celebrated before,” says Bruk.

Awad says he and his group encourage peace in the region.

“We're just all about peace and solidarity for everyone on both sides—Palestinians, Israelis, everybody,” says Awad.

We reached out to the owner of the building nearest to where the flag was seen. They also told us they were unaware of who placed it or how it got there.