RAMALLAH — A stalemate looms over when trying to describe the current situation in Palestine. There’s a gap that seems only to be filled with rage and an aching attempt to be resilient and steadfast. The only solace afforded to the Palestinian people is the continuance of struggle despite five decades of occupation and 69 years of colonialism. Herein lies the result of Israeli subjugation and institutionalized supremacy.
Yet today, somehow in the midst of this inferno engulfing Jerusalem, a communal solidarity and support that cannot be fully captured in words or photographs is on the rise. The youth of different backgrounds, socio-economic class, and political affiliation are standing shoulder to shoulder in the streets, women confronting by any means available and the elderly holding their grounds in Jerusalem while youth protest in other Palestinian cities. This is all culminating through prayer. You hear it as it echoes in the alleyways, above the sound of tear gas canisters, sound bombs, and Israeli forces shouting. It is at once, moving and heartbreaking.
Palestinians witness their neighbors, friends, siblings, and other Palestinians being trampled, beaten, arrested and killed. As though that is not enough, Israeli forces have stormed al-Makassed hospital twice in the last week, in attempts to pursue wounded Palestinians. The heaviness of young lives taken too soon permeates the air. One day Yousef Shukur was mourning the killing of Mohammed Lafi and the next his mother was burying him in the ground.
It’s important to recognize that it takes a large amount of determination to confront Israeli forces who have the most modern weaponry available with prayer and chants– as witnessed in Jerusalem’s old city. And despite knowing a bullet is more destructive than a stone, some youth have hit the streets and let the stones ring because they are fighting for their sheer existence. It is a fight against a racist state that has ad infinitum declared war on Palestinian existence, and still, we are asked to be peaceful without any genuine address to the Palestinian plight and constant isolation from the rest of the world. Just this week, Israel banned five Americans, because they support Palestine, three of whom are Jewish (one being a Rabbi).
The ongoings in Jerusalem and all of Palestine do not exist in a vacuum. Israel built its state after a series of massacres in 1948, and again utilized the war of 1967 to take over Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza enforcing a 50-year occupation. There are five generations that have lived through apartheid policies and systematic oppression.
Language fails to explain how Palestinians must find consolation in the death of their children by calling them martyrs and glamorizing them as fighters for the cause. We are fools to think it means they wanted to lose their child. A parent losing the child they have spent their entire adult lives protecting is a difficult matter to grapple with; a loss where no justice will be served is even harder. We celebrate our martyrs because the alternative is to cradle our heads in our palms and weep while the homeland continues to be stripped from under our feet under the mythical notion of “Israeli security.” These policies have turned something as simple as grieving into a luxury. The body of Muhammad Sharaf, killed by an Israeli settler, had to be snuck out of the hospital for a quick burial due to Israel’s common strategy of withholding Palestinian martyrs’ bodies.
Since 1967, Israel has annexed more Palestinian lands, mass incarcerated the majority of the Palestinian population, built an apartheid wall, enforced discriminatory laws, fragmented Palestinians in an ID system that separated them from one another, killed thousands, injured hundreds of thousands, and banned the return of those displaced from their homes in contra of international law.
The excuse is that this is all for Israeli security. Thus, words were contorted. Civil disobedience has become a riot. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are called Arabs and stripped of even sharing the name “Palestinian” with their people. The occupation is a conflict, and peace is a series of fruitless negotiations that run around themselves.
We cannot unlink today’s events from 1948, and more pertinently from 1967 when Jerusalem was taken under Israeli control. The issue is not only Al-Aqsa. Jerusalem’s Palestinian community, like the rest of Palestine, has been marginalized and pushed to the edges of the city, where building permits are banned, youth are often subjugated to arrests and beatings for the comfort of Israeli settlers, and there is a calculated attack to force Palestinians to search for opportunity and life elsewhere.
The prospects of peace will never be possible in the region if the discourse remains the same. The question of peace must come after acknowledging and solving the grave injustices. This includes recognizing Palestinian rights to self-determination and a dignified life with security and basic life necessities met.
If we keep speaking of the context of Palestine symptomatically, only of solving isolated incidents without contextualizing them, then not only are we betraying Palestine but justice as a whole. Already Israel has exported its policies against freedom of speech to the UK and the US by lobbying for laws against BDS support. It has also enforced its racism toward Ethiopian and Sudanese Jews within the Jewish state. This all comes back to allowing Israel practice oppression against Palestinians with impunity.
The travesty of 1948 gave Israel a state, the war of 1967 gave Israel a foothold to reinforce its policies of subjugation in Palestine and abroad by painting the situation as a conflict. We now have an Orwellian attempt to monitor people’s every move and humiliate those that criticize Israel in Palestine and abroad. All the while, the international community is still demanding that Palestinians passively submit to these violations for alleged Israeli security.
While we lost in 1967, today Palestinians are ensuring that we are fighting back. It is a testament that we do not “leave” our homes willingly as Israel claims of the 1948 displacement, but they asphyxiate us until we must search for life elsewhere.
The past few days again reiterate that we are here, fighting with the energy we can muster after incessant oppression. Palestine is giving the world a choice; either to stand with equality and justice or to stamp this moment with complicity and silence for the archives of history.