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The Onion reports that it stands with Israel “because it seems like you get in less trouble for that.” Pro-Palestinian rallies are assailed around the world. In Europe, police were permitted to use violence against people rallying in support of Palestine. The UK home secretary sent a letter to the police to arrest supporters of Palestine. The German police harassed and arrested protesters at a pro-Palestinian rally. The French police simply banned Palestinian protests. In the U.S., many presidential candidates included their plans to restrict or vanquish expression of Palestinian solidarity once they are in power. This ranged from revoking the visas of pro-Palestinian international students like Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump vowed to do, to conditioning or cutting the already limited state funding to higher education as promised by Nikki Haley and Tim Scott. So what is so problematic about rallying for an oppressed nation; calling for a ceasefire and contextualizing the events of Oct. 7 within the 75 year long illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine?
For people like DeSantis it is a really easy fix. He perceived Palestinian rallies to be in favor of Hamas when in fact they are asking for Palestinian right to self determination and stopping the genocidal mass bombing of Gaza. For others, the pro-Palestinian rallies seem to form an existential threat to their founding. Activists argue that Europe’s hostility towards Palestinian solidarity is almost predictable. Other than the colonial history that Europe and Israel share, Europe coordinates violence against Black and Brown Refugees; the UK government currently has asylum seekers imprisoned in the middle of the sea and plans to send them on airplanes to Rwanda and the French government legalizes Islamophobia and brutalizes its Muslim residents. European settler colonies like the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand condemn Palestinian solidarity as it is a haunting reminder of their barbaric and violent founding. Western media loves to celebrate indigenous traditions and land acknowledgments as long as they do not form a threat to the exploitative white supremacist governments of theirs.
Edward Said, a Palestinian academic and literary critic, put the ‘humanizing’ I am doing into beautifully simple words. “I moved to the U.S. and everyone was talking about the Middle East, but it was not the Middle East I knew,” he says in an interview on Orientalism. This is still true for those of us who leave ‘the Middle East’ and come to the U.S. The Palestine I left in August had checkpoints, an apartheid wall and soldiers surveilling the world’s most sacred spaces. But it also had the Arabic Palestinian Orchestra, where students gathered in an old school for intensive 20 day training to play music that was brought to us by Palestinian composers. Many of those same students had to get permits to be able to perform in neighboring cities, some were not permitted into cities of their family’s origin. The ‘Middle East’ I left is a place full of strong faith, deep spirituality and emotive poetry. These are qualities that were never communicated in the West, rather were censored from the Western audience.
The censorship does not stop here. Palestinians and allies lack the space for grief. We are burdened with having to not only document the crimes held against us, but prove wrong the perpetrators’ propaganda. The dehumanizing language used by Israeli and Western officials is deeply rooted in centuries of justifying land theft, slavery and genocide. The Israeli Prime Minister posted “this is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle” on his X account. This is one of many quotes that employs colonial genocidal rhetoric of the “barbarians” vs “civilized.” Political analysts even argue that speeches like that of the Israeli defense minister that described Palestinians as “human animals” use dreadful Nazi propaganda that compared Jewish people to rats. You will see that most videos coming out of Gaza right now are in English. For those of you blinded by U.S. hegemony, this is not normal. What is normal, is speaking one’s mother tongue in times of horror, but it has become instinctive for Palestinians to talk about their struggle in English in the hope that it would reach a larger audience.
The situation is not better in the U.S. or even on campus. Palestinian students and allies are expected to attend classes that talk about the ethnic cleansing of indigenous nations; dehumanizing language and upholding a common law of nature as if an identical violation against their nations is not happening as they speak. This is other than dealing with U.S.-manufactured propaganda that employs Islamophobia and words of ‘terror’ that have only become associated with Muslims and Arabs to desensitize U.S. citizens to the cruelty committed against Palestinians. Our president’s statement which supposedly remained neutral, while simultaneously attending one out of two vigils held for mourning civilian lives lost in the ‘Holy Land’ leave Palestinians and allies feeling neglected, sub-human and without a real acknowledgement of their psychological struggles.