Oct 1, 2023
Content Warning: State and colonial violence
We cannot speak or we will be criticized. Our words are twisted around to be unrecognizable. We cannot grieve before losing more to horrific oppression. We cannot avoid the articles with titles like: “‘The hospital yard is filled with corpses,’ says Gaza medical director.” We don’t get to walk around our hometown without a deep rooted paranoia following us. The question echoes in my mind, but it’s almost too much to consider: “What would they do if they knew who I was?”
This is one of the most frightening times to be Arab, let alone Palestinian, and it has never been harder to combat the Zionist propaganda that has overtaken my phone and the world around me. People everywhere are scared, and they are struggling to continue searching for a reality that doesn’t seem to exist: a world where Palestinians are free to exist in their homeland without the threat of violence, ethnic cleansing, ongoing apartheid practices, and over 75 years of genocide. This is a world that hasn’t been afforded the right to effectively grieve.
Even talking about Palestine is increasingly challenging in Western society. As a Palestinian, I must educate but not overwhelm anyone. I must know all the details but shield the public from the cruelty occurring in real time; and because of this I have to hinder sincere discussion of occupation, death, and brutal acts of racism. If we are to be allowed to talk about Palestine, we must be the expert. We are forced to detach emotionally from our connection to the subject and act as objective reporters, preferring Western “vetted” voices, rather than indigenous ones and avoiding any source that could be labeled biased or provocative. We are required to satisfy the never-ending demand for palatable rhetoric, while processing the most disturbing realities in solitude.
Palestine needs a network of outspoken support in order to properly reflect the reality of what is occurring in Gaza. But even if we acquired the right platform, evading boycott and censorship is nearly impossible. Palestine forever remains on the defensive. We plead with the media for objective engagement with our reality and with those who possess a multitude of outreach tactics. But when they finally report on the situation, it’s not produced for Palestine; it is produced to capture more attention to false accounts, short-term histories, or Israeli-centric perspectives. It is a common occurrence for the media to modify aspects of the story in order to produce a provocative narrative. By doing so, they gain more influence through exploiting the crisis to the public. These misleading sources lead to a never-ending battle to defend our reputation and the suppression of any opportunity to speak on any relevant histories or provide sufficient context.
We solely bear the destruction of the misguided words and framing of other biased news and social media bullies. It is evident that an endless supply of false information can be conjured up by powerful governments and their willing supplicants to spin a completely different narrative on the struggle of occupation and apartheid against one marginalized group of people.
Nevertheless, this is not the time to be bowing our heads and succumbing to the negativity. There is hope to be found in grassroots, local organizations such as the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Student voices have been and will remain a spark for positive change.
Let me be clear. Palestine’s quest for self-determination and freedom is not “too nuanced to understand.” It is easy for casual spectators far removed from the setting to dismiss the severity of the situation, saying “it’s too complicated,” or “an endless cycle of violence.” Settler-colonial occupation is quite simple in its aims of marginalization and even extermination of indigenous populations. Israel’s persistent and well-documented violations of the Geneva Conventions, UN resolutions, and other facets of international law is not subject to interpretation. The crime of apartheid, imposed on millions of Palestinians, has been transparently demonstrated, and indeed, continually refined, since Israel’s founding in 1948.
Palestine is an uncomfortable topic for the majority of people who put distance between themselves and the news that is produced. That kind of mindset is simply not possible for the situation at hand. That guilt that comes from a lack of knowledge manifests as insecurity, which pushes people further from wanting to engage, but the fact remains that it is a completely avoidable mindset.
Western society, in which we are prompted to educate, demands an impossibly high caliber of report on how we engage in this conflict, putting pressure on the research and depths we must dive into. Despite this, learning about Palestine doesn’t have to be a subject that people fear or avoid. Start here.
Listen to first person accounts of those living through occupation or finding news sources that are helpful and free of corporate backing to give our struggle a voice. If we navigate through the misinformation more diligently, we can pave the path to understanding. We must work hard to explore what can be done in relief of the blatant oppression at hand.
That barrier of communication that exists between the citizens of the U.S. and Palestine is detrimental to the cause. We do not have the ability to combat every piece of misinformation but a larger concern is that we have no audience. This paints a picture that the world does not care about us and does not want to hear from us. From the view of the media and our elected officials, it appears that Palestinian lives just do not matter. How can we spread our voice and our support to a population that tunes us out?
Palestine has been hurting for over 75 years, and there is no justice in sight. Rather, Israel continues its violent projects and decimates my homeland in their ongoing effort to either ethnically cleanse or squeeze the fight out of my people.
I will not sit by and watch as the citizens of Palestine are dying and Palestinians across the globe are being muzzled from expressing their outrage towards the Israeli government’s genocide against innocents. If you want to help or start to understand what can be done now, start by educating yourself with resources, such as reliefweb.int, visualizingpalestine.org, decolonizepalestine.com, mondoweiss.net, or 972mag.com.
Even if you don’t have all the right words, voice your opposition to Israeli occupation with your representatives and senators, attend rallies, speak to Palestinians, and show the people of Palestine–especially Gaza– that they are not going unheard. It is never too late to involve yourself if you feel confused, hopeless, or at a loss of what to do. There will always be someone out there who wants to listen and make an effort. So, I urge you, listen to Palestine and know that we are suffering, but remain vigilant, as we continue searching for a reality where liberation is within our reach.