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Even in death, Palestinians have to fight for their freedom

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Perhaps through this scene, of Palestinians resorting to smuggling bodies out of a morgue to prevent indignity even after death, is it possible to show Israelis and the world what the occupation really means to Palestinians.

Palestinians in A-Tur, East Jerusalem retrieve the body of a slain Palestinian demonstrator from Makassed Hospital for burial, after he was shot and killed by Israeli forces during a demonstration against the Israeli closure of the Al-Aqsa compound, July 21, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Even atheist Palestinians like me are livid about Israel’s unilateral decision to install metal-detectors — and with them increased sovereignty — at the most explosive place in the world. Al-Aqsa Mosque is not only the religious symbol of Palestine, it is also a national symbol. And there is nothing which makes Israel seem more ridiculous than its media persuasion campaigns claiming that Palestinians are “incited” to protest and resist. Why ask Palestinians in Jerusalem why they are enraged when you can regurgitate nonsense in some hilltop studio, nonsense that helps Israelis sleep better at night.

What should really keep Israelis up at night, possibly more than anything else, is the question of why Palestinian youths had to smuggle out of an East Jerusalem hospital the corpse of their friend who was shot dead by Israeli police hours earlier.

Police raided Al-Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem last Friday to seize the corpses of youths who were shot during confrontations over Al-Aqsa. Over the past few years Israel has turned Palestinian corpses into morbid negotiation cards.

Since the raid was not really covered by the Israeli media, authorities didn’t even bother to invent some story about there being contraband or ISIS weapons of mass destruction in the hospital. Nobody even bothered to ask for an explanation.

The heroic officers besieged the hospital using stun grenades. Stun grenades. In a hospital. Take a moment to digest that. They wrested control from the fierce enemy, nurses and doctors, and even managed to obstruct their work, as attested to by MK Ayman Odeh, who was there. And all for one purpose: to abduct the corpses of two children.

The photos of friends and family of Muhammad Sharf (17) and Muhammad Abu Ghannam (20) passing the bleeding corpses of their loved ones over the hospital walls to bury them quickly, even if that meant preventing mothers from having one final farewell to their children, should tear into pieces the heart of anyone with a conscience. Seeing these pictures, of family and friends willing to do anything to prevent continued humiliation and indignity even after death, should touch everyone’s heart. This is what the occupation does to Palestinians, and perhaps through this scene, is it possible to show Israelis and the world what that means on the most human level.

There are very few things more sacrilegious than attacking a hospital, obstructing a medical staff buckling under the weight of hundreds of wounded patients, and all for the purpose of taking corpses for use as negotiation cards, tormenting the families of the slain in the process. When Palestinians, all Palestinians, see these pictures, they understand exactly what type of adversary they are up against.

We’ve seen this in Gaza and now again in Jerusalem: an adversary willing to attack schools, mosques and hospitals. One that attempts to limit freedom of worship and exert itself as the sole sovereign in the most important place for Palestinians. Everywhere in the world, an enemy that doesn’t allow you to bury your dead and which sends mothers through seven levels of hell, would be perceived as nothing short of wicked.

What should worry Israelis is what every Palestinian who sees these pictures comes to understand about the people against whom they are struggling. The path from there to individual acts of violence is short and predictable. But what should worry Israelis even more is that they themselves weren’t outraged by those photos of young men resorting to smuggling corpses out of a hospital.

More than any metal detector, more than any settler who murders a Palestinian, the smuggling of corpses is not only a visual manifestation of the ugliness and cruelty of occupation, but that of the nation which enables it. A nation that doesn’t even allow the people it subjugates to bury their dead.

Extricating the corpses of Muhammed and Muhammed from the morgue was simultaneously a heart-rending and inspiring act. True, it is impossible not to shed a tear for the mourning mothers who were denied a final farewell to their babies. But it is also impossible not to admire the Palestinian youths who did everything in their power to give their loved ones a small taste of freedom. Even if they were wrapped in bleeding cloths. Even if it was only on their final journey.

A longer version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here. Translated by Jonathan Ofir.

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