Following the occupation of Palestine online does not give you the same visceral experience of grief that we found outside of the Israeli embassy in Pretoria on 15 May. We entered as passionate crowds sang “Free, free Palestine” and organisers handed out water bottles as well as Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) posters.
A crowd of 30 or so policemen stood nonchalantly against the wall of the embassy, looking on at the protest with seemingly mild interest.
Although largely peaceful, at its most heated moment, a group of protestors decided to burn the Israeli flag in an act of defiance. At its most heartfelt, two men tightly embraced as the Palestinian national anthem played and a young child prayed while holding a sign that read “JUSTICE FOR ALL IN PALESTINE”.
The composition of the crowd was strange and ranged from babies in prams to wilting old men. The emotion of the speakers varied from the fervent calls of the activists to the more sedate, seemingly obligatory speeches of political parties present. For every person singing, there was another recording them on a phone. This seemed fitting for a social movement that has operated so fundamentally online.
The feeling of the protest was perfectly captured in the image of a young child framed in front of the Palestinian flag and the electric fences of the embassy.
There is still so much hope left in the movement. It has already spanned decades and will continue to last, as long as the Palestinian people are not free, “from the river to the sea”.
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