At dawn on Tuesday, the occupation authorities stormed the campus of Birzeit University, and among what they did during the inspection of the university's facilities was to lower the Palestinian flag from its mast at the university's entrance.
The occupation forces have violated the sanctity of the university by invading, which is condemned according to international covenants that stress the preservation of the sanctity of educational institutions. However, lowering the flag is not only condemned, but also a despicable act. The occupation does not realise what the flag means to the Palestinians, not only to the students and the professors at the university, but to millions of Palestinians in every part of the Holy Land of Palestine. They do not know what the flag represents for the Palestinians in the Diaspora. The flag is a symbol of their Palestinian identity and their existence wherever they are. Every Palestinian is a flag and a pole, walking in the street and proudly declaring 'I am proud to be Palestinian'.
More than 50 years ago, when I was president of Birzeit University in its small campus in the centre of the town of Birzeit, the number of the students at that time was not more than 200. The university courtyard was stormed, and when the occupation soldiers were leaving, they found that a student drew a small Palestinian flag, no bigger than a postage stamp, on the college gate from the inside. The Israeli officer decided at the time that he would not allow students to leave the college campus until he knew who drew the flag. I tried my best to convince the officer that he would not get such information because every student would "confess" to drawing it, so he wouldn't find out the identity of the actual artist. After hours of arguing, the officer was "convinced", and his forces left the place, and the students were able to return to their homes.
READ: Gaza is on the verge of an explosion
Palestinians are very attached to their flag. We see second, third and fourth generation Palestinians in Diaspora wearing T-shirts bearing the Palestinian flag. University students abroad hang the Palestinian flag in their places of residence. The Palestinian flag is not just a colourful piece of cloth. The Palestinian flag is Palestine itself; it is the symbol of freedom, it is the symbol of the departure of the occupation, it is the symbol of struggle, it is the symbol of everything we aspire to in the future.
On Wednesday, Birzeit University raised the Palestinian flag once again, on a flagpole higher than before. Thus, Birzeit University will remain a safe place for students, professors and workers, regardless of their political or partisan affiliation. They meet and differ in their opinions and sometimes quarrel over it, but they all agree that no one will touch their Palestinian flag.
READ: Palestine is still torn between Israel's brutal occupation, a compliant PA and resistance
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Ayyam on 15 December 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.