The past nine days have been an excruciating journey through time, immersing me in the anguish and fury of my ancestors who lived the Nakba [catastrophe]. They served as a potent reminder of my childhood, prompting a fundamental reevaluation of my beliefs regarding goodness, humanity, and morality.
Moreover, these nine days have unveiled the pervasive Wikipedia-esque reality we all inhabit. During my past two years at the University of Washington, we studied and discussed the usual definitions of systemic racism, colonization, and resource theft. Now these definitions seem to be merely entries on a page, subject to alterations and interpretations by the powerful and affluent who continue to frame the narrative.
Why aren’t declarations like “Land Acknowledgment,” “Decolonization,” and “Equity” applicable to Palestinians who continue to be forcibly colonized by Israeli settlers who have stolen our land? How can the Global North leaders offer impunity and millions of dollars in military aid to support Israeli’s “right to defend themselves?”
The discrepancy seems all too obvious— defending oneself is a right, but not OUR right. It is a systematic prejudice against Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims among other oppressed communities propagated by mainstream media, that has enabled (and fueled) the war on Gaza, a tiny piece of land and a home to 2 million Palestinian refugees whose grandparents were forced from their homes to these occupied territories in the 1948, 1967, and 1973.
We have seen that, in the span of nine days, Israel has already dropped the equivalent of a quarter of a nuclear bomb, claiming thousands of Palestinian lives, including hundreds of children. Israel has cut off water and electricity, forcibly evicted survivors from their homes, and bombed them even as they sought refuge in supposed safer areas. According to international law, these acts amount to collective punishment and genocide – war crimes. But there is remarkable endorsement from officials of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, portraying Israel as the victim and the vector.
Amid these war crimes, the Israeli Defense Minister shamelessly labeled Palestinians as “Human Animals,” in an attempt to once again dehumanize us as a strategy to justify their unconscionable onslaught. Israel has transformed Gaza into a harrowing scene, with ice cream trucks turned to mortuary refrigerators, streets to hospitals, and schools, mosques, and churches to shelters – that get bombed, over and over.
Social media and the mainstream press have peddled propaganda, misinformation, and allegations of antisemitism for those opposing the onslaught. In response, many Arabs, including myself, have had to become news reporters, utilizing platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to expose Israel’s long history of war crimes and share historical facts that provide context for our outrage as Palestinians and OUR right to defend ourselves, our land, and our identity. We also rely on allies outside our community. The reality is that we need to utilize the outrage of white people and Jewish people to make our narrative more plausible and more believable. We rush to check if our non-Arab friends and acquaintances see our posts, seeking their support and validation, knowing we live under a neocolonial order that demeans our power and our voices. We live in a world order that only hears us when we scream our lungs out and sees us when our bodies are cloaked in the red of our blood.
These past nine days have underscored the relentless nature of the real, brutal process of colonization. Our colonizers may someday build us a museum, name a day after our catastrophe, grant our grandchildren a scholarship, or bestow superficial acknowledgments of the land they take from us, but only if we remain silent and play the perfect victim.
Today, I firmly declare, “Never Again.” This resounding message is a rallying cry to the global community, urging them to unite with unwavering solidarity for Gaza. It is a call to action, imploring them to address their complicity in the grievous issues plaguing this beleaguered region. These issues encompass not just the horrors of genocide and forced population displacement but also the severe restrictions on access to essential resources like water and electricity, as well as the urgent need to lift the siege on Gaza once and for all.
“History repeats itself,’ is a sentence that, as a Jordanian-Palestinian, I heard repeatedly growing up but never witnessed until now. It’s time to rewrite that history, it’s time we break the cycle of ongoing oppression and injustice for all in the world. The time is NOW.
Rahmeh AbuShweimeh, a Palestinian now living in Jordan and the University of Washington Master of Public Health graduation speaker in 2022, posted this piece for the Global Health Justice website: depts.washington.edu/globalhealthjustice/.