This essay originally appeared in Hebh Jamal’s Substack newsletter, “The Diaspora Journal.”
The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.
Despite what you might think, no Palestinians are not celebrating death. We do not look at the news and rejoice over the number of Israelis killed. We do not salivate at the sight of blood-drenched bodies. Despite what you might think, we are not well. We do not look at death and feel happiness.
The “joy” you might be seeing is the idea that, for the first time in history, we might have a chance to reclaim our land. We might have a chance to end the occupation, we might have a chance to open Gaza’s borders, to visit our family without reprisal, and to escape from torturous prisons–this time without a spoon in our hand.
Yet, even then, what is it to label it as “joy.”
Yesterday, my cousin-in-law, my husband’s first cousin, and my mother in law’s nephew, was killed by the settler colonial state. Majed was beautiful and just graduated tawhiji last year. He was only 20. Now he is gone. We are in a deep phase of mourning, anger, and confusion as to how this happened to us so quickly and so soon. Our tears have simply dried on our faces as there weren’t enough tissues to hold them.
My family’s neighbors are annihilated. A whole family was wiped out yesterday, the Abu Daqqa family, with five beautiful children who were killed. We are now getting reports of 19 members of the same family killed in a single Israeli air strike last night in the besieged strip. Old and young: men, women, and children.. all.. just gone.
Then, this morning, we learned that Israel is allegedly using white phosphorus gas on Palestinians in Gaza–a dangerous chemical that continues to burn the skin even if met with water. My husband recalls they did the same in 2008 when he was a child, “the gas can only be covered, but once it was uncovered, it burned again for days and days,” he said.
In the West Bank, settlers are being instructed to kill Palestinians on sight, and we read our Facebook homepages like they are obituaries. Seeing dozens of people, we broke bread with disappear in a single moment.
When I read posts shocked at how I am not condemning Palestinian militants at this point in time, I feel once again inferior. My value as a human is not seen as the same. While we are in the most traumatic and gut-wrenching moments of our lives, there are some who believe now it is the time to say that we have to condemn. We have to say that love trumps all.
I wish. I truly Goddamn wish that love trumps all. That it is love that leads revolutions. I wanted for my whole life to believe that by protesting long enough, by supporting BDS long enough, and by writing long enough, I am actively making a difference.
Well, I wasn’t. Not in the way that might save my people’s existence.
In Gaza, despite bombs being dropped overhead, despite us losing tens and tens of our family members right this very second, they know that if it is not now, it will be later. They know this because their whole lives that is all they had to see. They had to see mutilated bodies, they had to see their children dismembered in front of them, and they had to see their futures destroyed.
2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2021, 2022, 2023…
Each war and assault on Gaza is the same. In each war, the number of dead was dismissed and treated as lesser than. Our humanity is not valued. For if it was, so would be our pursuit for liberation.
There has not been success in changing the perception of the Israeli public–to actually see us as humans and to accept we will not live in a cage. Whenever Israelis have an election, we brace ourselves because we know the only way you get polling numbers is by bombing, raiding, or arresting us senseless. Usually, when they bang the war drums, public support comes running. I am unsure how the colonized mind will decolonize itself to give us our freedom. It has not happened, and I don’t think it ever will.
We demand and yell on the streets everywhere in the world, “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry..we will never let you die.” We march in front of the Zionist embassies and write to politicians, and we demand them to stop sending aid. We make vigils and hand out posters for them to be ripped up in bins. While our family dies, we have to watch the apathy of Westerners who will never join our struggle for liberation, who will never see us as humans, who will never allow us to breathe.
I have anti-Zionist Jewish friends who are rightfully scared. Who are conflicted and hate that this has happened. I understand because for a majority of your life this fear was only an abstract concept. The damage that has transpired was only described theoretically in the past, and you worked tirelessly to try and change it. However, at the at the end of the day, you can maybe turn your minds off, go to a cafe, or enjoy a glass of wine, because it wasn’t your pain.
We couldn’t. We never could.
After we worked together, at the end of the day, us Palestinians went back to mourning. Our pain never ended after the protest or the vigil. We had to deconstruct our pain to therapists we couldn’t afford and try to move on from the death..from the tragedies..from the violence because we couldn’t do anything else. At some point, this became too too much.
I pray for the day to walk through Jerusalem or to feel Yafa’s waters or to sit at Acre’s ports with people of all faiths who see me as a human. I hope for open borders and the destruction of walls and for the ability to walk side by side with you all, for it is not us who has never seen your humanity.
I do not rejoice over death. I rejoice over the possibility to live.
We are simply tired, and hurt, and grieving, and I cannot condemn the militants if I believe even for a second that there might be a possibility of all of this finally coming to an end.