Apple to issue iPhone update over unintentional Palestinian flag emoji Jerusalem reference

iOS 17 palestinian flag
(Image credit: Future / Apple)

Apple says it will fix an unintentional change to its iPhone software in a future update after it emerged that the emoji menu in iOS 17.4.1 now shows a Palestinian flag emoji when users search for the word "Jerusalem" in some countries. 

As reported by the BBC, Apple has faced criticism after it was uncovered that the Palestinian flag emoji was being automatically suggested to iPhone users who type "Jerusalem" into the emoji search field. The change was publicized by UK TV presenter Rachel Riley in a viral post on X. In the post, which has nearly 400,000 views, she stated "Dear Apple, Apple Support, 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." 

Riley, who is Jewish, went on to offer a "non-exhaustive" list of other capital cities that don't surface a flag in the emoji search field, "let alone the wrong one." She criticized the move stating "Showing double standards with respect to Israel is a form of antisemitism, which is itself a form of racism against Jewish people," and asked, "whether this is an intentional act by your company, or whether you have no control over rogue programmers." 

Apple responds

Apple told iMore that the company is aware of a predictive emoji bug in the iPhone's keyboard. The company says this is not intentional, and that the issue will be fixed. Apple didn't say when this would be, but it seems reasonable to assume that it could be done in fairly short order and as part of a minor software update to iOS 17. 

According to one commenter, the issue was only present on keyboards where the iPhone's keyboard was set to English UK, English Singapore, and English South Africa. Several other keyboards including English U.S., didn't show the Palestinian flag emoji in the same circumstances. Initial iMore testing also appears to reflect the issue is not present in the U.S. 

It's not the first time Apple's iOS software has caused issues in this way. The company attracted strong criticism internationally and from Ukraine in 2019 after it changed the designation of Crimea and Sevastopol in Apple Maps at the behest of the Russian government. Apple amended the change later for users outside of Russia. 

Also in 2019, the company was criticized for removing the Taiwan Flag emoji from the iOS emoji keyboard in Hong Kong and Macau. 

More from iMore

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9

  • Lestat1886
    When it is about Israel it is antisemitism so about Palestinians who are bombed starved and stateless what is it then? Would this anchor have said something if this double standard showed an Israeli flag or is it double standard just when they are on the wrong side of it ?