Reflections from the diaspora


Dalya Al Masri
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With the attacks on Gaza in the news and the United States no longer considering Israeli settlements illegal, Palestinians world-wide have stood together to raise awareness and show solidarity with the amount of violence and injustice perpetrated in the span of the past few weeks. This piece aims to reflect on growing up in the Palestinian diaspora in Canada and keeping the resistance alive through youthful contribution.

Palestine is one of the oldest occupations in the world; it is hailed as the compass leading contemporary causes, colossal, and ancient of them all; it is the last occupation in the 21stcentury. Over 70 years of injustices moulded with the cries and howls are combined with the historical mistakes of the past, the injustice and brutality of today, and the uncertainty of the future. The dispossession and expulsion has been consistent alongside the deprivation of liberty and human rights, accompanied by the thievery of a homeland or a physical home.

For decades Palestine has systematically vanished, dissipating into the past, and replaced by the arbitrary process of creating new borders and Israeli settlements. These borders destroyed and separated families while altering and penetrating futures, and piercing the expelled, whose tears and screams haunt the ghost towns in Palestine, and can still be felt today. Over seven decades of pain filled with the unwillingness to accept these capricious borders, in which they hold on and grasp against a resisting past and fateful future, filled with the hope of an optimistic return, one without betrayal and diplomatic interests.

The Palestinian compass continues to create an outlasting generation with a people of perseverance, with the purpose of restoring the existence and endurance of a nation, one that can be lived in and returned to, with the hopes and possibility of replanting roots.

The injustice began when over 700,000 Palestinians living in their homes were expelled from their villages and land, lives uprooted psychologically, emotionally, and physically as a result of the 1948 war that created the state of Israel. Palestinians of all kinds, whether born in Balata refugee camp, East Jerusalem or Gaza, share similar stories whether it be grandparents uprooted, parents forced to flee, or the youth of today resisting daily occupation.

The suffering encompasses those in the diaspora, escapees whose family fled their home for a safer place, or those born abroad having never stepped foot in Palestine. The Cambridge dictionary defines diaspora as “a group of people who spread from one original country to other countries.” Diaspora groups are scattered all over the world, from Palestinians to Kashmiris.

The psychological trauma instilled in Palestinians till this day is grave, humiliating, and devastating. Our grandparents who fought for the cause are slipping away, but that doesn’t mean the cause disappears: resilience remains in our heart; it is the foundation of who we are as Palestinians. The feeling of tying your identity to a land, a land many Palestinians cannot access, causes a hole in your heart, an empty hollow feeling that cannot be filled, often resulting in an identity crisis.

Growing up in Canada and Arab states, I was exposed to a myriad of cultures, and moving around constantly in my childhood has significantly impacted my feeling of “home,” the sense of sharing this cultural emotion with a territorial land. Yet, this same sense of identity crisis, pushed me further towards my connection to Palestinian ancestory.

My Palestinian roots are felt deeply from my mother, father and paternal grandparents who were born and raised in pre-occupied Palestine and post-occupied Palestine. Hearing stories about my father’s childhood in Nablus, aside from the arrests and violent outbursts from occupation forces, made me fall in love, and ignited a passion for the Palestinian cause and the vibrancy of my ancestry.

I believe diaspora Palestinians possess the perseverance to raise awareness of the occupation, whether through solidarity campus groups or social media. Our contribution is one that seeks to aid those in Palestine that we cannot reach, one that does not leave us hopeless in our commitment to our people, encompassing freedom, dignity, and humanity.

Loss of a land is a physical and emotional wound on its own but needing permits to enter your own land is something no individual should face, and this is a cause that is connected with stateless groups globally; none of us are free until we all are.

As a diaspora Palestinian, learning stories of Nablus and Tabarriyah from my parents is the way I keep Palestine alive in my heart vis-à-vis culture and tradition. Preserving Palestinian culture and heritage allows us to continue our vibrant and rich heritage and fight the erasure of our history.

The Palestinian dialect, the Palestinian thobe (dress), the Knafeh (Nabulseyeh is the best), literary and political icons such as Mahmoud Darwish, Hanan Ashrawi, Hind Khoury, Edward Said, and Ghassan Kanafani are our heritage, the symbol of our pride; our Palestinian identity.

Before 1948, Palestinians lived a fruitful and beautiful life, one filled with their harvested olive trees and the peacefulness of a quiet morning, and one a without exile and brutal expulsions.

Living as a Palestinian-Canadian is an embodiment of why I continue to speak for the oppressed, it is continuation of the tenacity and strength my ancestors possessed before me, one that remains with this generation of Palestinians, as we hold the torch for liberation and freedom.

Ending with a quote by Edward Said, “You cannot continue to victimize someone else just because you yourself were a victim once – there has to be a limit.” Solidarity with the Palestinians is a moral cause for equality worldwide and transcends all basic premises of political natures, that human rights should not, now or ever, be politicized.

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Picture: Original photo of the house of late poet Fadwa Tuqan in Nablus, Palestine, 2019. (Diala Shaheen)