Photo of Palestinian flag flying at UN headquarters was taken in 2015, not 2024

A photo of the Palestinian flag after it was raised at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the first time in September 2015 has resurfaced in social media posts that falsely claimed the flag was "finally flown" by the global body in May 2024. The old photo was shared against the background of the ongoing war in Gaza, which has revived a global push for Palestinians to be given a state of their own.

"Just today, the Palestinian flag was finally flown at UN Headquarters! History will always remember this as the momentous day when the flag of the State of Palestine was raised over UN Headquarters," read part of the simplified Chinese caption to a photo shared on Weibo on May 24, 2024.

The photo appears to show the Palestinian flag flying alongside the UN flag outside the headquarters of the international organisation in New York City.

Screenshot of the false Weibo post, captured on May 30, 2024

The same photo was shared alongside similar claims on here and here.

The claim circulated seven months into the war in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas' unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,439 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

The Gaza bloodshed has revived calls for Palestinians to be given their own state.

Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognised a Palestinian state on May 28 in a coordinated decision that infuriated Israel. The move brought the number of UN member states to have recognised a Palestinian state to 145 out of the 193.

However, the photo shared online is old -- it has circulated since September 2015.

2015 photo

Reverse image searches and subsequent keyword searches on Google found the picture was published by the German photo agency IMAGO on September 30, 2015 and credited to "IMAGO/Xinhua" (archived link).

Its caption read: "NEW YORK, Sept. 30, 2015 -- Palestinian flag (lower) flies together with the United Nations flag at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Sept. 30, 2015."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the falsely shared image (left) and the photo published on IMAGO's website (right):

Screenshot comparison of the falsely shared image (left) and the photo published on IMAGO''s website (right)

The Palestinians raised their flag at the United Nations for the first time on September 30, 2015, after the General Assembly voted earlier that month to allow the flags of Palestine and the Vatican -- who have observer status -- to be raised alongside those of member states.

The flag of the Holy See was raised for the first time five days earlier, on September 25, 2015 (archived link).

Google Street View imagery from May 2016June 2019 and August 2021 shows the Palestinian flag continued to fly outside the UN headquarters.

"As a Permanent Observer State, Palestine’s flag does fly outside the UN Secretariat building in New York, although it is slightly separated from the UN Member State flags and is not part of the alphabetic line-up," read an article posted on the UN's official website on April 18, 2024 (archived link).

AFP has fact-checked other misinformation around the Israel-Hamas war here

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