“So that if the nations of the world say that the Jewish people don't own the land of Israel, they would point to the fact that God created the world and gave it to them.”
– David Friedman, U.S. ambassador to Israel,May 14, 2018
Ever since I could formulate my own thoughts, I was acutely aware of what it means to be Palestinian.
Even though I was born in Qatar to refugees who fled the brutal Israeli occupation of their homeland in June of 1948, my Palestinian culture has always been a central part of my identity. Growing up among Palestinian family and friends who suffered the same fate – along with periodic, spotty at best, phone calls to my mother's parents in Rafah's refugee camp – reinforced and strengthened my sense of belonging to a country from which I was forbidden. I came to know Palestine via stories about the land my father played on while watching his father cultivate it, my grandparents' house in their hometown of Yebna, and the heroism of those who refused to yield to oppression.
But perhaps my fondest memory of a palpable sense of what it means to be Palestinian is a picture of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem with the Al-Aqsa mosque perched a couple of hundred yards behind it. Both are situated inside a 35-acre compound referred to as al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, by Muslims, and as the Temple Mount by Jews.
That picture hung in the main hallway of our house in Qatar, and I used to stare at it and ache to visit such a beautiful place.
The feeling was mixed with a sense of bafflement as to how the entire world could become apathetic to the plight of my people. How a site that is holy to all three Abrahamic faiths has been rendered unholy by injustice and bloodshed.
I used to feel sad and frustrated by the situation, yet supported by my network of dispossessed Palestinians and non-Palestinian sympathizers. That sense of support was rapidly replaced by a disorienting sense of being under attack after moving to the western world (Canada and then the U.S.) following my high school graduation.
I felt, and continue to feel, that my Palestinian identity is fought, discredited, delegitimized and dehumanized.
If I, as a victim, am to defend the rights of my people in light of the atrocities of a political regime that has killed, and continues to kill, scores upon scores of them, I am labeled an anti-Semite. If I am to discuss the flagrant violations of human rights and U.N. treaties by the Israeli government, I am met with an indifferent “it's complicated.” I am to sit and watch media, religious and educational institutions erase me and my people from existence.
I am to live with the fact that, as an American, my ambassador used God to justify the expulsions and ethnic cleansing of my people. That some of my tax money goes right into the hands of the Israeli military as part of an annual $3.8 billion in aid to a regime that has proved to be nothing but an apartheid, colonialist, expansionist regime.
I am to sit and watch my greedy American government, drunk on its power and deluded by its own grandiose sense of democratic superiority, act with callous disregard to more than 60 people killed, including six children, and 2,000 injured less than 60 miles from where the celebration of the American embassy's move to Jerusalem took place. A move that cements America's standing on the international stage as fully biased toward Israel and discredits any claim it may have toward being an honest broker in any peace negotiations.
Jerusalem may be the latest sound bite filling your traditional and social media feeds, but it is not the sole issue. The issue is modern history's longest-standing occupation and our country's unabashed support for it through military aid, financial aid and veto power.
Jerusalem is just the tip of a mountain of injustice that we choose to ignore.
Ahmed Abdelmageed is Manchester University's College of Pharmacy assistant dean of experiential education and community engagement and a board member with the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace.