iPhone brings up Palestinian flag when you type ‘Jerusalem’

Palestine flag appears when 'Jerusalem' is entered
The Palestinian flag appears when 'Jerusalem' is entered

Apple has been accused of anti-Semitism after a system update showed a Palestinian flag emoji when users typed the word “Jerusalem”.

Typing Jerusalem into the emoji keyboard on an iPhone running the most recently updated software makes a Palestinian flag pop up for inclusion in text messages.

Searching the emoji keyboard by country will bring up a flag, although it is not clear which cities perform this function. Searches by The Telegraph on an iPhone running the latest version of Apple’s iOS software for “London”, “Paris”, “Bangkok” and “New York” did not bring up their respective country’s flags.

Rachel Riley, the Countdown presenter, highlighted the phenomenon on social media.

Rachel Riley highlighted the emoji
Rachel Riley highlighted the emoji - Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty

She wrote on Twitter: “Dear @‌Apple @applesupport @tim_cook I’ve just upgraded my software to version iOS 17.4.1, and now, when I type the capital of Israel, Jerusalem, I’m offered the Palestinian flag emoji.

“This didn’t occur on my phone immediately before this update.

“Below is a (non-exhaustive) list of capital cities that do not offer their nation’s flags, let alone the wrong one.

“Showing double standards with respect to Israel is a form of anti-Semitism, which is itself a form of racism against Jewish people.

“Please explain whether this is an intentional act by your company, or whether you have no control over rogue programmers.

“Sincerely, a Jewish woman concerned about the global rise in anti-Semitism.”

Although Israel has declared that Jerusalem is its capital city and this was recognised by Donald Trump’s US government, the city is also claimed by Palestinians as their capital. The eastern part of the city is viewed as Palestinian territory by the UN.

The row comes six months after hundreds of Israeli civilians were murdered and hostages taken by Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

An iPhone running the latest Apple iOS offers a Palestine flag when Jerusalem is entered
An iPhone running the latest Apple iOS offers a Palestine flag when Jerusalem is entered

The Telegraph has verified that the Palestinian flag emoji is automatically suggested whenever the word Jerusalem is typed into the emoji search box on an iPhone.

This behaviour was displayed on three handsets running iOS 17.4.1, the latest version of the phone’s software, released on March 21.

The Palestinian flag did not appear when ‘‘Jerusalem’’ was typed into an older iPhone running a version of iOS that was last updated five weeks ago.

Emojis are small digital icons used to express ideas and emotions. They are a modern form of emoticons, the faces made by early internet users stringing punctuation marks together to show happy or sad expressions.

Tom Divon, a social media expert at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the emoji had likely been programmed to appear next to the word Jerusalem thanks to “human intervention”.

“Apple’s linking of emojis to political causes poses a problem. The infrastructural connection of the word ‘Jerusalem’ to the Palestinian flag in iOS necessitates a deliberate in-house decision,” said the academic.

‘They shape your thinking’

He continued: “In contrast to social media platforms, where default recommendations are driven by users’ engagement, Apple’s emoji defaults require human intervention.

“When these representations constantly catch your eye as you express your thoughts, they eventually shape your thinking.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with associating Jerusalem with Palestinian belief, but Apple’s choice of default settings warrants justification, especially considering the potential discriminatory implications of this decision.”

An Apple spokesman said the Palestinian flag was the result of a “bug” within predictive emoji, describing it as unintended behaviour, and added that a fix would be made available soon.

Some Apple employees have demanded that bosses “redefine expectations” of how the world views Palestine.

An open letter purportedly signed by more than 300 former and current Apple staff in March complained about a “lack of care and understanding this company has given the Palestinian community, not only abroad suffering in Gaza, but also towards our own team members”.

Apple boss expressed sympathy

The letter said: “It is time for Apple to take centre stage and redefine expectations of how the world views the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, and stand firm in our belief of racial equity and justice.”

Tim Cook, the Apple chief executive, emailed the company’s 161,000 employees on Oct 9 to express sympathy for those who died in the Hamas attacks two days previously.

Israel’s response to the October 7 terror attack, a military invasion of the Gaza Strip, has so far resulted in around 32,000 deaths since October. The United Nations is warning of an imminent famine in the disputed territory while Joe Biden, the US president, has demanded that Israel takes “immediate action” to stop further civilian deaths.

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