Updated: Oct 25
يَامَّا مِويل الهَوَى
ضَرْب الخَناجِر وَلَا
حُكْم النَذِل بيّا
Oh Mother, what is with the wind?
Oh Mother, what does it want from me?
I’d rather be struck with daggers
Than be ruled by evil
These lines, though short, carry in them enduring expressions of heartache, resistance, and the struggle for freedom. Far too familiar are all three to Palestinians who, from the very moment they are born, are forced to reckon with a world in which they are unique. Unique in their resilience for it is unmatched, unique in their suffering for it is neglected, and unique in their resistance for it is misunderstood.
The Palestinian experience is not one that can be defined by dates, numbers, or maps. It may be explained- to a certain degree, but it cannot be defined. That is not because of the supposed ‘complexity’ many will try to coat past and current events in an effort to vindicate themselves of being unable to recognize sheer injustice. Rather, it is because the Palestinian experience is not one that begins with suffering or oppression but with essence and entity that precedes much of what we know and see in the world today.
For many who fail to recognize this, there is a constant fracture in any logic or approach they employ to understand the Israeli occupation of Palestine. A fracture that compels them not to discuss and learn, but to interrogate and condemn. Still, it is Palestinians who are often told they must “do better” and “work harder” to educate those who continue to fail in recognizing their humanity and suffering. Yet, it often seems disregarded just how hard Palestinians do work- every moment, of every hour, of every day. The mere ability to continue to engage in these spaces is action itself, one many will conclude their lives never having to experience. Still, it is Palestinians who continue to speak, to educate, to persevere. With that in mind, it should not be a matter of how well they debate or articulate a good argument. It is testimony after testimony of truth and experience. Palestinians should not have to work harder to have others recognize their humanity and right to exist as every other human does and enjoys- but still, they do. For that, I say in a voice louder than all the calls to “do better” and “work harder”, thank you. Despite how the phrase fails to do your resilience and endurance justice, thank you.
Let it be clear that the call to action remains critical to ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Powerful are the voices, even when heard by only one person, that echo in streets through protests, inform on social media through posts, and educate people with conversation. Equally important, if not more, are efforts to boycott, divest, and sanction those who support the occupying force and are complicit in its terror and humanitarian crimes. However, there remain those who are skeptical- dismissive even of these efforts that seem to “change nothing”. Yet, history testifies otherwise. It is enough to turn to South Africa to learn how upholding a boycott on numerous levels such as economic, cultural, and academic can be vital to ending a regime of apartheid or at least, shattering the pillars on which it stands. These pillars include funding, public sentiment, and disinformation along with other components. As far as history is concerned, funding can be cut off, public sentiment can be shifted, and disinformation can be corrected. Collectively, this point serves to challenge an implied ‘impossibility’ and ‘futility’ the cynics attach to such efforts.
To claim these efforts alone will liberate Palestine from the occupation is not only delusional but also harmful. It is quite easy to call for diplomacy, negotiations, and ‘peace talks’ - a phrase often championed by those on high horses in grand assemblies as part of a larger empty rhetoric. As Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani articulated, “You do not mean peace talks, you mean capitulation, you mean surrendering… It is kind of a conversation between the sword [Israel] and the neck [Palestine].” Therefore, when calls to ink signatures and shake hands will continue to fail a people, what is there left for Palestinians to pursue freedom through if not resistance? More specifically, armed resistance- a combination of two words that many will quickly denounce with great naivety and their favorite- ‘condemnation’. When the question of legitimizing armed resistance comes up, it forces us to confront several others. The main one that comes to mind is, “What makes a freedom fighter, and what makes a terrorist”.
In the case of Palestine-, according to Israel and its partners in (war) crime- all Palestinians- even children- constitute the latter group by virtue of their presence in the occupied country. Let it be clear, however, that the countries that choose the term terrorism over freedom fighter, in this case, are the same countries that gave us Abu Ghraib Torture- within the Invasion of Iraq, the Sétif and Guelma massacre, and the genocide of indigenous people- all of which they have done so little to reckon with as of today. Perhaps then it should not come as a surprise that these states now cheerlead Israel- an occupational force that makes no effort to hide its intentional targeting of children, journalists, hospitals, and civilians.
So talented is Israel at targeting civilians that as of Oct 15, 2023, a staggering 47 families have been wiped off the Civil Registry in Gaza. How does one even begin to reckon with that? Entire families’ bloodlines were cut off- lineages and generations of thousands of men and women who came together through love to create life only for it to be concluded in the most horrific ways- and be called collateral damage as a part of Israel’s “right to defend itself”.
The hypocrisy is not only clear but it is screaming. It is screaming from under the rubble of the Baptist Al Ahli Hospital and it is screaming through the eyes of every shell-shocked Palestinian child. Yet, it seems that the voices that condemn Palestinian resistance find themselves now mute, the eyes that watched the events of Oct. 7 unfold in horror are now blind, and the ears that listened painfully to the cries of hostages are now deaf.
A father hugs his son after they were injured in an Israeli bombing of their house in Khan Yunis, Gaza
Image source: Belal Khaled, @belalkh via Instagram
Israel intentionally targets children not only because it believes in collective punishment but because it fears children. Israel knows that when it kills mothers and fathers, it is not only leaving behind orphans but the future of Palestinian resistance that will remember infinitely what was and continues to be taken from them. People talk a lot about the children who are killed, but what of those who survive? Those who have witnessed their friends and family torn to pieces? How do they go on with their lives? I maintain the privilege to say I cannot answer- but if you ask me about courage, I will tell you I have learned what it means from the children of Gaza, from the children of Palestine.
Let it be clear that every call for “a return to normal” is a cruel relegation of Palestinians to a state of impotent death and a reinforcement of their suffering. Every call for “a return to peace” is offensive in its ignorance of the fact that Palestinians have never had peace under Israeli occupation and nor will they ever. Nor will they give in to insulting calls to move to another land “temporarily” while the world calibrates its moral compass. In the words of Palestinian writer Mahmoud Darwish: “Let it be clear: There is no peace with occupation, nor security with occupation, nor life with occupation, nor peace processes parallel to a process of annihilation. The Palestinian right is as clear as the Palestinian truth. Our pains are enormous, yet our hopes are larger. Our tragedies are numerous, yet our bravery prevails.”
I write to remind the world- and more specifically, the Occupation- that there are things that cannot be stolen, bombed, or destroyed. I write to remind the children of Palestine that for all the limits placed by the Occupation’s walls and borders, the sky remains infinite for them. I write to remind them that the rain will still fall and that it is itself a reminder that the rain is their right, that the wind is their right, and that living to feel the rain and wind is their right.
I write in defense of the defenseless, not as a Lebanese hailing from lands that have also endured Israeli occupation and not as a dehumanized Arab grieving her brothers and sisters but as a person who was born free- free to speak, free to act, and free to fight so I speak for Palestine, I act for Palestine, and I fight for Palestine- as anyone born free can and should.