How can I write an introduction that can summarize the past 50+ days?
I can attempt to describe the condition. I can use words like horror but it wouldn’t recount the horror people in Gaza have been experiencing, nor it would express our own while watching the events unfold live on social media.
The same goes for pain, sadness, grief, anger, anxiety, disbelief, and even despair.
No amount of empathy can empathize, maybe compassion delivered in action can begin to show how we feel.
Amid all of that, and within breaks from social media and news, came a reckoning that I didn’t see coming.
A trial of self, of a diaspora, of a generation, and a global status quo.
In this piece, I will first share snippets of my trial as a confession of sorts. I mean no judgment to anyone but myself. In the second part, I will share my pledge.
As always on this blog, writing helps me structure my thoughts and so does this piece.
Thank you for reading.
Now, I can’t pinpoint the minute or the event that propelled me to adore American/British music, TV, and film as a teenager brought up between Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan. Maybe my older cousins?
This spark made me different in school, on top of my name and curly hair. Was it my early rebellion against Arab traditions that didn’t make sense to me, against those rules that wanted to confine me?
That allure of the West came with values I craved at that young age, it promised freedom. But as I have recently learned from Wael Hallaq’s recent podcast. It was mostly Freedom TO do and be, under the disguise of being freedom FROM what always seemed just backwardness.
As I frequently recall the outcome of my tiny try to immigrate to Canada in the mid-2000s; I conceded that I will always have a half-life of sorts, a good life in my view then can only be experienced halfway in the West and halfway at home.
Despite that understanding, I kept as did the people I kept company, trying to self-clone a version of me as a global citizen, as an Arab without traditional & closed-minded Arab values.
Then came the Arab Awakening and we dared to dream, I was inspired and declared a pledge then too. Almost 12 years ago now, seems so distant as a parallel universe I have traveled back from. Yet what I think that experience brought with it and what stayed with me is belonging to something beautiful, a region with a shared history, and what we, those who come from the East Mediterranean have had in common are grandparents who roamed around those cities and towns as they pleased, be it Amman, Damascus, Cairo, Beirut, Baghdad, Jerusalem or Aleppo, Salt, Nablus or Alexandria and the dozens of towns and areas in-between.
Somewhere along the way, I started to not really care what Westerners thought of me, and my people, with their bloody colonial past really couldn’t care less.
But to watch and read Western officials' stands the past 40 days was nothing short of a slap on my face, the double standards the inhumane statements, and the treatment were very hard to watch or read. Not that I thought for a second that they did care, but the onslaught of statements was too audacious and hurtful to witness live, day in and day out…
Before Oct. 7th, being Palestinian to me was an identity so entrenched that even when I tried to run away from it, I couldn’t. What I could do and did was to give excuses for being complacent, to say the least.
My intellect found a way to contain the Palestinian in me to be an existential and access issue. To deny there was Palestine before 1948 was to deny me an ancestral history, my grandparents and their families, my uncles and aunts, and the hardships they endured when they had to flee in early 1948.
I even described the cause as part of a homage I can’t escape.
A year ago, I was having a drink with one of my dear cousins, who I knew was very active on social media during the Sheikh Jarrah Campaign two years ago. As we were catching up, she mentioned that she’s still active and putting effort into Palestine. These past weeks I remembered this conversation very well, especially what I had told her. My polite self of course, first congratulated her, then came the worry that was translated into me saying something like “Are you sure this is the cause you want to put all your efforts on? I mean it’s endless with little hope?” She of course confirmed that it is what she mostly cares about.
Like with everything else in my life, I compartmentalized Palestine, the cause, and the people into a corner that I can give attention to whenever there is an event, a massacre, a political detour, a cultural event, or a film to consume…
A few years ago as I was beginning to understand what being in my mid-forties meant, I started to feel some sort of guilt that wasn’t personal but generational.
I mean we generally spent a good part of our 20s and 30s criticizing our parents' generation and their Naksa blues, after of course we heard from our grandparents about their Nakba blues and all the in-betweens. For one, they had their dreams and political affiliations, some small wins here and there. But now as I am approaching my 50’s, what have we done for Palestine? What have we done to Jordan? To Lebanon, Syria? Have we really at least solved women's rights issues? Have we contributed economically to alleviating poverty? Have we made long-lasting changes in any of our communities? Something we can be proud of as a generation?
The Global South
I can’t begin to describe how images from demonstrations around the world have made me feel connected in my grief and my anguish. The videos of support from different people were both heartwarming and gave validation when -unfortunately was needed-.
Though solidarity from Western societies counted, it manifested how far nation-states in the West were from a big part of their communities. As the days passed, more and more distinct communities from everywhere made sure to call the genocide and atrocities what they were.
- Jewish people screamed “Not in our name” and “Never again is NOW”
- The indigenous people of what is now the US, Canada, and Australia who chanted, dressed, sang, and danced their solidarity in the streets.
- Black communities in the US chanting “Palestinian Lives Matter” and “All lives matter”.
The learning everyone is doing along the way is phenomenal. Especially the Diaspora itself in large numbers. Be it Palestinian History, Indigenous history, Global Capitalism, Boycott, Blackwater and it goes on.
Every day, I feel the collective love from strangers brought together by the humanity of the Palestinian cause and the steadfastness of the people of Gaza.
With this solidarity comes a lesson, that our struggle is not the only victim of a global system built on competition for hegemony above everything else.
Whether the truce holds permanently or not; the savage occupation entity in Palestine will continue its atrocities as it has done for a over century.
In my attempt to draw a clearer path for myself moving forward, I decided once again to commit myself to a pledge. This time, it’s going to have varying degrees of hardship. So for some reason, I decided to communicate it through three pyramids.
Each pyramid is centered around a type of support that I thought I needed to do to free myself FROM systems that limit my freedom and oppress me.
The diagram I made includes the three pyramids. In each, the level of hardship increases as you go to the top.
I share it with you as a form of commitment from myself to the cause.
This is very personal. What's hard for me could be easier for you and vice versa. A very personal journey and we can’t shame each other into it nor be told aggressively what needs to be done, and when that can be done.
As many now have realized and said: Gaza’s attempt at freedom, has caused all of us to want to be free too. And as with Gaza, freedom has a price and it's never given for free.
Let’s learn with and from each other. Each may draw their path to freedom.
I wish you a deliberate path to a more content-free living.