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We are closer to a free Palestine than ever before

A Palestinian man evades teargas fired by Israeli security forces in front of the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on May 10, 2021. (Mahmoud Illean/AP Photo)

The past month generated deep heartbreak for Palestinians, and simultaneously provided most of us with a sliver of hope. 

Many traumatic events took place, including the bombings on Gaza that killed roughly 250 Palestinians — 66 of them children – and left thousands homeless and injured, or the forced eviction and displacement of Palestinians in Jerusalem, or the inhumane police brutalization against Palestinians simply praying in their mosque. 

Even with all of these devastating injustices, a hopeful realization occurred for many: we are closer to a free Palestine than ever before. 

The days of inhumane suffering which Palestinians faced in May were not unique. Rather, it was a repeating nightmare Palestinians have experienced for the past 75 years. Since Palestine first became occupied, the Palestinian people have undergone brutal ethnic cleansing which has been allowed to continue for decades by the help of Western countries, such as Canada and the U.S., who remained silent and complicit.

But this time around, it was different. Live videos and photos began surfacing from people living in occupied Palestine, namely Jerusalem and Gaza. On social media, we began to see atrocities of which mainstream news strategically neglected. And so for the first time in Palestinian history, the outside world truly began to see the reality — directly through their phone screens. 

Muna El-Kurd stands next to her house in Sheikh Jarrah which has "We will not leave" written on it in Arabic. She is an example of a strong Palestinian voice, as she reports daily from neighbourhood in Jerusalem which is currently being targeted by Israeli settlers and soldiers. (@muna.kurd15/Instagram).

Through the constant reposting of infographics and media about Palestine, more and more people finally became educated on the humanitarian crisis taking place. So much so that the Israeli government even requested apps like Instagram and TikTok to censor posts advocating for Palestine. The global pressure was working. Palestinians refusal to be illegally displaced any further sparked weeks of international outrage, which some may argue was part of the reason Israel called for a ceasefire.  

One noteworthy detail about these social media platforms is that they are dominated by youth, who were surprisingly the ones heavily involved in raising awareness for Palestine. The emergence of social media over the last decade coincides perfectly with the youth populace who are tech savvy and militant about their freedom. As we have witnessed in cases like George Floyd’s, the power of the viral video is undeniable. The social media weapon is firmly in youth hands. The youth have been repeatedly taught about injustices that have taken place in the world before they were in it, and are determined to bring upon change in the system which they are ushering forward. By fuelling social media activism, people all over the globe began showing their solidarity and mass protests took place daily. The narrative became free of control and the freedom of Palestine is now on the horizon. 

Photos from the Toronto protest for Palestine on May 15 where thousands of people showed their solidarity for Palestine. (@sarah_delangel/Instagram)

This historical movement also reached the Toronto community, where thousands of protestors attended multiple rallies in support of Palestine. Attending even just one of them provided an overwhelming sense of unity. It presented shared optimism towards the future of Palestinian liberation — a concept that had felt almost dream-like in the past years. 

However, even us Palestinians who currently live in Canada and the diaspora are not fully free yet either. The concept of mental occupation is something I found common between myself, my family, and Palestinian friends. Although Palestinian-Canadians are physically free of occupation, we are not free mentally. And although we are grateful to possess rights not granted to those living in occupied Palestine, we struggle with actually exercising some of them. 

The reality is, being Palestinian in the diaspora means being afraid to show support for your own people. Or carrying the fear of being rejected for a job you’re perfectly qualified for because you stand with Palestine. However, the greatest fear of all; being denied entry into our homeland when attempting to visit family there. The mental anguish and dilemma fought by Palestinians like myself is based on the fact that if we should speak up for our families suffering back home, we risk never being able to see them again. If we are in fear of being Palestinian even in Canada, then we are not free. 

This is why this issue involves Canada, and why Canadians must care. We as Canadians think highly of ourselves in regards to human rights, yet sit silently as our government pours millions into Israel’s military to further oppress Palestinians. In 2019 alone, Canada provided Israel with $13.7 million in military goods and technology. The funding of the Israeli military has been criticized for years, most recently by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh who petitioned for Justin Trudeau to halt arms sales to Israel, which unsurprisingly did not occur. If Canadians truly care about peace and liberty, then it must stand with Palestine, because, as Dr. King said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 

This sign at the Toronto rally for Palestine quotes Martin Luther King, and his quote years ago unfortunately remains relevant in our world today. (@sarah_delangel/Instagram)

The Palestinian struggle continues as inhumane military occupation and forced displacement advances, leaving more and more innocent Palestinians to suffer. We will never be silent. The world saw, and with the international gaze upon us, we got louder, our cause amplified by the movements happening in Toronto, across Ontario and beyond. There is power in people, and we are using it.

To directly support Palestinians in need, you can donate here:

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund

United Nations Relief and Works Agency

Human Concern International 

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