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Harvard College and Harvard Law School activists joined Boston-area students and organizers for a rally in Copley Square Sunday in response to police violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Israeli police forces first raided the mosque early Wednesday morning, resulting in at least 350 arrests of Palestinian worshipers and injuries to 37 Palestinians and two Israeli police officers per the Washington Post. Israeli police carried out a second raid on Wednesday night. In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote the government is trying to “calm the situation,” claiming that “extremists” had barricaded themselves in the mosque.
Since Wednesday, dozens of missiles have been fired from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip into Israel. The Israel Defense Forces have subsequently launched retaliatory strikes.
More than 100 people attended the Sunday protest, organized jointly by Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine, University of Massachusetts Boston Students for Justice in Palestine, Harvard Law School Justice for Palestine, the MIT Coalition Against Apartheid, the Palestinian Youth Movement, and the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee.
“We are here today because we believe in the righteousness of our struggle and we understand that Al-Aqsa is more than just a physical space,” said second-year HLS student Tala A. Alfoqaha during the event. “Al-Aqsa is a symbol, a bearer of our national identity.”
Activist Antuan Castro Del Rio described the event as “a direct response to the violation of them going into the mosque” but also a “representation of an 80-year-long fight.”
Lea H. Kayali — one of the event’s lead organizers — described Al-Aqsa as one of the last places in Jerusalem “that is accessible by Palestinians” in an interview before the event. Kayali, a second-year student at Harvard Law School, is a member of HLS Justice for Palestine and the Palestinian Youth Movement.
“There’s been a call internationally, throughout Palestine but also throughout the world, to respond, to defend Al-Aqsa, to show our solidarity for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance to this onslaught,” Kayali said in an interview before the event.
Organizers said that violence against Palestinians has become increasingly common during Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic faith.
“It’s been happening the last few years in a row during Ramadan specifically,” said Nasir Almasri, an MIT Ph.D. candidate and research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs who also helped organize the event.
Members of the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine and the Jewish Voice for Peace Boston also attended Sunday’s protest as supporters.
“Israel has been enacting a colonist project against Palestinians, the indigenous people of that land, for several decades now,” said Eli Gerzon, a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Boston.
“We hope that people in the United States, and especially the Jewish community, will live up to our values,” Gerzon added.
Activists called for solidarity between Palestinian liberation efforts and broader people’s liberation movements, adding that these groups are intertwined by a common cause.
“While Israel partners with American police to teach them how to better suffocate their subjects, Palestinians aligned with people globally struggling for liberation to teach each other how to breathe,” said Alfoqaha, an organizer with HLS Justice for Palestine.
Organizers said the event was primarily intended to create unity and awareness, urging protesters to join other solidarity efforts and donate to their campaigns.
“I’ll just close by asking for today not to be the last thing you do for Palestine this week,” Kayali said during the event.
“We have a responsibility to remain steadfast in solidarity with the Palestinian people and to confront Zionism,” she added.
After the event ended, speakers alike joined in a Levantine folk dance, called Dabke. Dabke is typically performed at celebrations.
“Every settler flag that’s been raised can be torn down,” Alfoqaha said.
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