Latest Entries

Angular Identities of the Palestinian Diaspora

Guest contribution by Norah Al Bireh

Is it paradoxical or perhaps self-defeating to define the Palestinian diaspora, to divide it according to region, to study its integration or isolation as the compass sways us away from home? After living on both sides of it, with Palestine in the middle, the Americas to the West, and the Arab refugee population to the East, I feel that I am, as Edward Said may have once felt, the social pariah who will merely dwell, becoming so reclusive in the self that relating to any side now is impossible. Unique, lost, alone, I hide in my corner.

Being the Palestinian-American whose family had some element of home hanging on the wall, be it a framed picture of Jerusalem or a photo of our grandfather, return was on our mind. Even rocks from back home were in a vase, pieces of broken clay we suspected were something antique in nature, spewed across the land of my grandfather. These elements of home were thrown against the backdrop of drywall suburbia, paved walkways and driveways, with at least one almond tree, one fig tree, and of course the olive tree planted somewhere in the backyard of our fears. There was an excitement I felt as a girl when, driving along the industrial roads of California’s warehouse capital, I saw olive trees weighed down by its gifts. Yet they were ornamental, I suppose, and even when we did try to pick them, security guards were not too happy.

It is difficult to articulate how out of place I will always be. And perhaps it is human nature to constantly strive to be different, to hold onto whatever makes us unique and proclaim it as I had done in the United States, with too many flags, authentic propaganda posters, and Handala with his back always to me. He too was in the same corner. Read More

Israel’s video mocks journalists but it also validates government’s racism against Palestinians

Israel’s Foreign Ministry released an animated YouTube video on Monday mocking foreign journalists for their critical coverage of the country’s most recent invasion of the Gaza Strip. Journalists around the world have decried the cartoon, including Tel Aviv’s own Foreign Press Association. Few, however, are talking about how this video is public validation of the government of Israel’s racist view of Palestinians.

The 49-second spot follows a naive American English-speaking reporter through various Gaza settings where his coverage is contradicted by the actions of masked fighters in the background. At the very end, the camerawoman hands him a pair of glasses whereupon he sees “reality” and faints.

Creative? Not so much. As Robert Mackey demonstrates in this piece for the New York Times, the Israeli government has frequently turned to these kinds of mocking efforts to challenge negative public perception of Israel in the past half decade. The Israeli military similarly updated its Instagram followers with illustrated images during its 2014 offensive in Gaza. One of the more notorious ones depicts a mosque with a tunnel storing rockets underneath it. The image was used to swell public favor in support of the Israeli military’s decision to strike houses of worship across Gaza. Read More

A new service for Palestinian-American students applying to college and graduate school

I am reminded of stories of families immigrating to New York in the early 1900s with empty pockets and big dreams. They would somehow have to learn the language, fend for themselves, and make enough of a living to support one another and their loved ones back home.

Work was arduous and far less rewarding than many of these new immigrants had ever imagined. But they pushed onward — out of necessity, mainly. Some opened businesses that would one day become popular chains. Some opened craft shops tailored to specific clientele. Some opened restaurants, infusing rich flavors from home into the melting pot that is New York City. But my favorite stories are about the ones who took a riskier route and invested in others — the schoolteachers, tutors, neighborhood educators. In a way, these new Americans had the clearest foresight. Despite the sheer elusiveness of the American Dream, they focused their energy on the next generation and sacrificed for themselves many of life’s simple pleasures all for the noble pursuit of building a community and molding an identity that would be in better hands tomorrow.

This story isn’t unique to New York City but the sacrifices many new Americans made in that city never fail to inspire me.

I am very privileged to have had access to an education system that invested in me and that took me seriously from the start. The Chicago Public Schools system worked for me. My undergraduate experience prepared me equally well. My time in graduate school equipped me with the tools I needed for medical school. And although medical school has so far been the most challenging thing I have ever embarked on, I am finally earning the chance to work one on one with ill, vulnerable, or otherwise disadvantaged patients. Is it worth it? Absolutely. My parents taught me to value education as the only currency that can never be taken from you. Aside from the blessing of seeing our parents proud, we get to represent our people, our country.

A resident pediatric surgeon once told me that we Palestinians inevitable carry larger ambitions than most. Simply succeeding is not good enough. Being at the top of one’s class might also not be enough. We must redefine the concept of innovation. We must continue to create, contribute, and share knowledge. We must tap into that deep reservoir of desire that keeps us fueled and motivated in the face of a decades-long occupation denying our ancestors the right to education. Yes, this is all common sense, the resident assured me, but the solution to our problems lies in the way we sacrifice for one another. Like the new Americans who chose to invest in the youth rather than in themselves, we too have a responsibility to look out for our own. There are people who want to follow your footsteps. What’s stopping you from lending a hand? Read More


Guest contribution by Ahmad Zahzah

My mother was fifteen years old when she brought me to this world.

She always told me, later on, that she often thought of herself as a child bringing up another child. She bought toys for both of us and she used to enjoy sharing them with genuine, childish interest.

While walking together, during my teenage years, my mother and I looked more like siblings than a mother and her son. This used to make her laugh a lot.

My father fell in love with her at first sight, when she was thirteen. He turned down his father’s wish to marry within the family and insisted on pursuing my mother driven by a strong passion. When my grandmother objected, saying that Nawal is still very young for marriage, my father took out his gun and placed it on the table and said: “The matter is settled. I want to marry her today and not tomorrow.” Read More

What do the NHL, Israel, and the Six-Day War have in common?

June 5, 1967 — a very important day for hockey fans.

And for people who know their history.

Today’s most popular post on the Hockey “subreddit” page on Reddit celebrates the 48th birthday of six expansion teams in the National Hockey League (NHL). On this day in 1967, the NHL was doubled in size as new teams were awarded to California, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.

Reddit is a popular online forum with thousands of special interest pages. It is currently ranked the 30th most popular website in the world, according to Alexa.

Instinctively, I searched for the word Israel and found this comment:

Read More

Footage: Israeli forces beat elderly man, family ahead of home demolition

The contents of the video footage above may be triggering. Viewer discretion is advised.

Israeli forces violently assaulted a family today as it prepared their home for demolition.

In this short video captured on a cellular phone, a team of highly-equipped Israeli police officers descend on a home in Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem and begin to forcefully beat its occupants. The family that owns the building, the Abu Khalid family, apparently refuses to vacate their property.

Unprovoked, the video shows one Israeli officer dragging and tossing an elderly Palestinian man to the floor, kicking him, and then punching him in the face with such force that you can hear the clap of skin-to-skin contact amidst all of the shouting. The man, who is unarmed and who clearly does not pose a threat to any of the officers, is then harassed by more of the Israeli forces later in the footage. Read More

Narcy, Shadia Mansour’s “Hamdulillah” featured in Furious 7

The seventh installment of the Fast & Furious franchise graces viewers’ ears with an eclectic and energizing soundtrack featuring the likes of Mos Def, David Guetta, Skylar Grey — and the combined efforts of The Narcicyst and Shadia Mansour.

A large part of the film takes place in Abu Dhabi, capital city of the United Arab Emirates where Yassin Alsalman, known by most as “Narcy”, has deep family roots. His family moved from Iraq to the UAE before eventually moving to Canada where he began recording and producing music.

The Narcicyst’s 2009 single “Hamdulillah” can be heard a little beyond the halfway point of the film, when featured artist Shadia Mansour’s melodious chorus commands the audience’s attention as actor Vin Diesel and his team of bad-boy/bad-girl street racers head into a supercar garage in the UAE. Read More

Summer reading list, 2015

If there’s one kind of person I envy, it’s the one who reads. Now that I’m on summer break (my last one ever), I have a growing list of books I’d like to get through and eventually share with you. Once I finish these five books, I’ll move on to the next five. As always, I am open to your suggestions.

1. Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture, by John Conroy
This book was a suggested reading for one of my human rights courses back in undergrad. The book chronicles three different arenas of torture, including one that readers of this website will undoubtedly be very familiar with: racially-driven torture orchestrated by Chicago police in undisclosed interrogation rooms, state-authorized British torture of IRA members in Northern Ireland, and a not-so-secret torture ring operated by Israeli officers designed not only to intimidate Palestinians but to permanently maim them as well. Buy the book on Amazon. Read More