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The Israeli occupation is a cancer that has diseased every limb and organ of Palestinian society. For Palestinians, occupation is their unwelcome birthright—a prenatal infection—which affects how and where they are allowed to move, eat, drink, breathe, and live. Despite its enduring grasp, however, the malignant occupation has failed to break the Palestinian spirit.

Through a wave of recent protests, particularly against the closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli forces, the Palestinian people have reminded the world what it means to resist and strive in the face of tyranny. After access to Al-Aqsa was eventually restored, Palestinians still protested, and refused to enter the compound until Israeli metal detectors and other “security measures” were removed entirely from the entrance.

After insisting they would not succumb to Palestinian pressure, Israeli officials gave orders to remove all metal detectors and other security structures on Thursday, and Palestinians returned to Al-Aqsa after nearly two weeks of praying on the streets. Though clashes continue, Palestinians have made it clear they will visit the holy site and pray on their own terms, not those of the Israeli occupation. As Palestinian writer Mariam Barghouti states in a piece for The Globe Post, “[while a] stalemate looms over when trying to describe the current situation in Palestine[,]” one thing is for certain: “[the] Palestinian quest for justice never fades”:

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.

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