For most Americans, Palestine does not exist. Yet it is present enough to be seen as a faceless enemy. A dangerous and unwelcoming land, a breeding ground for fundamentalist Islam, teeming with angry anti-American Jihadists, Palestine is, in the American imagination, a ravaged landscape devoid of culture and joy. Growing up half-Palestinian in the United States, I have been fighting to disprove these assumptions my entire life. Whether trying to reassure my peers in childhood that my family is not composed of terrorists, or repeatedly having to explain the difference between Palestine and Pakistan, not a week has gone by in my life in which I have not had to clarify misconceptions about my heritage.
In many ways this project is a labor of love with regards to my personal struggle with my identity, as well as an homage to my family and community. These photographs stray from the traditional tract of imagery produced in present day photojournalism, mainly because they are lacking in overt political expression. I did not photograph the intifada or children throwing stones. On the contrary, I chose a more domestic and intimate approach towards Palestinians living under occupation so that the humanity of this population can be seen without the controversial politics obstructing the viewer’s opinion. I chose people over politics in the hope that the messages of social justice and equality will ring truer than those of ideology or bigotry.
Umayyah Cable is a Palestinian-American freelance photographer and writer. Although born and raised in Massachusetts, she now calls San Francisco, California home. She is a graduate of Smith College. More about Umayyah at www.umayyahcable.com. This article originally appeared in the Caterwaul Quarterly and is republished with the author’s permission.