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  • Sahmi Chowdhury

To Be Palestinian by Ghalia Ghuneim

Written in response to the May 2021 Al-Aqsa Mosque attacks

اسمحوا لي ان اتكلم بلساني العربي قبل ان يحتلوا لغتي ايضاً

رفيف زيادة –

“Allow me to speak my Arab tongue before they occupy my language as well”

– Rafeef Ziadeh, ‘Shades of Anger’

I long for the walks in the old city of Jerusalem, hearing the Muslim prayer and Church bells harmoniously blessing and replenishing her soil. I long for her mountains, which grow wild za’atar plants in the cracks of her stones. I long to eat her sweet oranges from Jaffa and her ripe figs from Jenin. I long to see her children play along the Gaza beach shore. I long to sit under her olive trees on the streets of Bethlehem. I long for her mud of the Dead Sea, which would cleanse and nourish the bodies it encounters. I long for her mouthwatering Nabulsi Kanafeh and her garments that birthed the Tatreez embroidery. I long to watch the sun glisten on the Mediterranean Sea that hugs her from Haifa to Gaza. And most of all, I long to climb the mountain, Jabal Abu Ghuneim, she gave my ancestors, and to allow the air and greenery to consume me the same way it did to my late grandfather, Saleh Ghuneim. Palestine gave me everything. She is perfect and I love her. But she is not okay. She hasn’t been okay for over 70 years.

As the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end this year, more Palestinian martyrs will be resting in their graves while the Palestinian people continue to fight for their existence. I do not recall the last Ramadan where Palestine wasn’t under attack. I do not recall the last Eid where my people were not being massacred. IDF soldiers have been expelling Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, for Israeli settlers to take their homes. Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest Muslim site, has been raided by Zionist settlers. Gaza is being bombed again, murdering dozens of civilians, including children. All these instances are nothing new. This has been going on for over 70 years, and it’s because of apartheid Israel. The billions of dollars given to the Zionist regime from the US are from American tax dollars. This money is being used to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people. These countless human rights violations committed by Israel are not an issue of religion. This is a humanitarian issue that the occupying power is inflicting on the Palestinian people. This racist military system is committing mass genocide of the Palestinian ethnicity. Call Israel what it is: a settler-colonial apartheid state.

Palestine has taught her indigenous people that the Palestinian struggle is not only about obtaining freedom. It’s about preserving our culture, from our clothing to our food. It’s about reclaiming the land and historical sites that were once a peaceful haven for all three Abrahamic faiths. It’s about remembering the trauma and resistance that our grandparents faced and continue to face to this day, being the proof that they are older than the establishment of apartheid Israel. It’s about proudly saying, “I am Palestinian,” when certain people continue to deny your identity. It’s about returning to our homes that we were forced out of and killed for. It’s about standing in solidarity with marginalized groups around the world to dismantle systems of oppression. It’s about resisting normalization, and accepting that we will continue to fight until we are free, in our lifetime.

- Ghalia

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