"Gaza possesses the dignity of my entire nation"

For those of us with family in Gaza, the past couple of months have been a blur — of phone calls, news, tweets and waking to check for names we recognize on the health ministry’s list of deaths, one eye open, one eye closed. And for Palestinians everywhere, it has been agony to watch again, for the umpteenth time, a part of our community decimated, and more lives taken by Israeli bombardment and ground attack.

In the diaspora, we experience these moments with a painful distance that takes its toll, no matter how much we try to rally together to ease the dread. For some new to the diaspora, it is a heart wrenching experience to learn what it is to wait for phone calls with baited breath and re-evaluate the circumstances that surround you in the midst of Israeli assaults on your home.

It is more difficult still when those circumstances involve being surrounded by the forced facade of “eye-opening first experiences” through “dialogue” between young Palestinians and Israelis.

The conversation around “normalization” programs — attempts to build “harmony” between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, without addressing the underlying inequalities — is not lacking in commentary that deals with the emotional toll on Palestinians. Everything from opinion pieces to brilliant creative graphic novellas (that both admit participation, as well as pledge to refuse taking part) have been produced on these programs.

“Dignity of my entire nation”

It is common and often easier for many who find themselves in situations or programs they regret taking part in to complain, to rant, to apologize (and I would add here for the rest of us, to blame, and stop there). It is, I think, more difficult to stand up and tell the truth, and eloquently so, about your life and your struggle and to explain how these nonsense programs “work” to a group of people or place who you’ve come to realize were largely unworthy of your participation.

Earlier this month, Nisreen Zaqout, a Palestinian student from Gaza studying at Illinois College, did just that. Watch the video above, and you can see how she told the audience at the closing session of this year’s New Story Leadership normalization program that she “wanted to quit” while in Washington, DC for the summer.

Nisreen described being part of NSL at such a time as “absolute torture.” Unlike the Israeli participants, her “firsts” were not of meeting someone new or going sailing for the first time, but instead, the first time she heard fear in her mother’s voice, the first time she heard her brother cry over the death of a young friend, the first time her grandfather said “no” to evacuation, “not again.” The ethnic cleansing and dispossession Palestinians experienced in 1948 — the year of Israel’s establishment — was enough.

She takes normalization’s beloved rhetoric of hope and turns it on its head, reminding us that there is no hope to tout when we start talking about human lives in numbers, and when we are so willing to focus only on the hundreds of women and children — as if every Palestinian man in Gaza is a legitimate target.

Hope, Nisreen reminds us, comes when the will of Palestinians is respected and their rights affirmed and granted. Hope is derived from Gaza’s fight to live.

Comments

Very moving, very honest. A great speech by this young student.

As an African American Muslim I speak to Ms. Zaqout as one speaks with respect to a person of great courage. I am outraged, sickened and disgustedin the Obama Administration and the US State Dept.'s immoral complicity in the evils visited upon the Palestinian people, past and present. The political leaders of America both Republican and Democrat , generally , with a few exceptions , have their moral compass guided by AIPAC and the leaders and supporters of Zionism.

They will fail , as the evils of racism and discriminization continue to fall here in the US.

Ms. Zaqout, please continue to be resolute in the fight for freedom, justice and sovreigntity of your people and your rightful homeland.

Continue to stand strong ,as you have the whole world on your side.

I say i am a palestinian. Humbly i kiss her hand and stand before you saying "We are Palestine"

A long time ago I tried to understand Zionists. But with every war and every eviction of Palestinians to settle Zionists on our land, with every bombardment of Lebanon, with every attack on civilians under occupation I realised a long, long time ago that there is no possibility of coming together. Their Zionism denies my Palestinian identity. Nisreen has made a brave, heartfelt attempt to stand up for Gaza. I am Gaza too. I am Jenin, Jaffa, Haifa and Quds. I refuse to accept that some imperial powers, who had no right to give away our country, expect us all to quietly go away or help this colonial state bombard us into submission.

I am a US citizen, and am very distrustful of the "normalization" programs. I have read about and been told how they have failed Palestinians. Nisreen Zaquout did an excellent job in her talk concerning this matter, and I very much hope that the message got through. How can occupiers and occupied get together as 'friendly equals' when that is not the reality of their lives, and the systems of Zionist supremacist racism continue on. The horrible irony of Nisreen being away from home in such a program while Israel was carrying out an ethnic cleansing program in Gaza, her home, chillingly illustrates this point. I love her bravery. I hope she can get home safely, although it does not seem possible. The "firsts" for her regarding her family members show to me that she needs to be with them. Heartbreaking. I write this in admiration for Nisreen. Also, I specifically felt moved by the point about ignoring the deaths of the men of Gaza. It is something that must be a calculated omission by their killers, and for the reasons she stated.

To Sister Nisreen and Lilian, I too am Palestine. Again, as many others and all the people of Palestine, I refuse to be frightened into silence and exist in ignorance, as
many in my country,
America, choose to do.

The history of the people of Palestine is similar to that of indigenous tribal Nations here in
the US. And as the hypocrisy of US foreign policy exists toward
Palestine, so too, tribal Nations were exposed to the evil of US intentions.

America was built on the theft of land from Native Americans and the theft of Africans from their land. These evil acts are part of America's political and historical DNA.

Ad a result of these acts woven into the fabric of American leadership, the deeply entrenched practice of evil goes beyond the physical boundaries of America.

Israel's practice of Zionism, is it's lifeblood, as America's practice of hypocrisy is it's lifeblood.

If possible, I would stand in Palestine , fight with the people of Palestine and fight ALL enemies of Palestine.

America , rules by a strange mix of murderous liars, cannot hide it's hand as Israel's partner.

If you walj in Washington DC, you can see all these well designed monuments , standing as testaments to America's glory but while walking there, you are aware of the poverty, racism and economic disparity that runs through DC.

Looking at the US capitol dome, a statute of a Native American
woman crowns the top of that
structure, looking out over her
stolen land . That statute was
placed there by a black man
whose was a slave.

How can this nation hold itself out as a beacon of justice, fairness and decency, given it's deliberate ignorance of it's own atrocious history ? Do not trust Israel's partner, do not trust Israel's financial backer. Psy little heed to America's words not look at America's actions.

I am angry, yes I am angry and have a right to be angry at the injustices your people suffer, ad my people have suffered too.

To Sister Nisreen and Lilian, I too am Palestine. Again, as many others and all the people of Palestine, I refuse to be frightened into silence and exist in ignorance, as
many in my country,
America, choose to do.

The history of the people of Palestine is similar to that of indigenous tribal Nations here in
the US. And as the hypocrisy of US foreign policy exists toward
Palestine, so too, tribal Nations were exposed to the evil of US intentions.

America was built on the theft of land from Native Americans and the theft of Africans from their land. These evil acts are part of America's political and historical DNA.

Ad a result of these acts woven into the fabric of American leadership, the deeply entrenched practice of evil goes beyond the physical boundaries of America.

Israel's practice of Zionism, is it's lifeblood, as America's practice of hypocrisy is it's lifeblood.

If possible, I would stand in Palestine , fight with the people of Palestine and fight ALL enemies of Palestine.

America , rules by a strange mix of murderous liars, cannot hide it's hand as Israel's partner.

If you walj in Washington DC, you can see all these well designed monuments , standing as testaments to America's glory but while walking there, you are aware of the poverty, racism and economic disparity that runs through DC.

Looking at the US capitol dome, a statute of a Native American
woman crowns the top of that
structure, looking out over her
stolen land . That statute was
placed there by a black man
whose was a slave.

How can this nation hold itself out as a beacon of justice, fairness and decency, given it's deliberate ignorance of it's own atrocious history ? Do not trust Israel's partner, do not trust Israel's financial backer. Psy little heed to America's words not look at America's actions.

I am angry, yes I am angry and have a right to be angry at the injustices your people suffer, ad my people have suffered too.

Although I am not Palestinian, and I definitely don't have to be one to understand how wrong this entire "war" was. to understand the behaviour of Israel and it's continual disregard for international laws and policies. and it's ongoing development of illegal settlements.
I understand the dire need of Palestinians and their struggle. The western media and the world powers are an obstacle to overcome; they are against the freedom of Palestinians. I have done and will continue to do whatever I can to lend you my hand for support. Palestinians are not alone, and they never will be.

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