Thanks to za3tar, who organized the initiative, today is Blog About Palestine Day. I’m blogging the event for Global Voices, but I’d also like to express my own thoughts. The first few paragraphs are about me, so read on to get to the actual point!
I learned about the Nakba and the origins of Israel a bit later than most people. Okay, a lot later. Where I’m from (New Hampshire, a small state in the US that I’m fairly certain most of the world – scratch that, some people in my own country – has never heard of), the most we learned in school about Jews was from The Diary of Anne Frank. Prior to college, I knew two Jews (both were in choir with me), and forget Arabs, nevermind Palestinians – there just weren’t any.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not from hickville nor are the people I grew up around entirely ignorant. But I am from a place where most people over 50 still think it’s okay to make racist jokes (because they’ve never met a person of another race) and the school curriculum just doesn’t find it necessary to include things like the Middle East, Islam, Judaism, Asia, Africa, or most of the rest of the world. In what few geography classes I had, I remember learning about the state abbreviations and capitals, the Hopi Indians (Native Americans), and Brazil. And that’s about it.
And then came college. I’ve probably only admitted this to a few people, but Binghamton University, where I transferred after my freshman year, was huge culture shock to me. Not so much racially – I hung with a nomadic crowd in high school which included people of many races – but perhaps internationally. College was the first time I’d met anyone directly from another country (except perhaps the UK, or my mother’s co-worker from Russia) and I was fascinated. I remember wandering campus in those first days, seeing rallies for Haiti and Palestine and Israel and Russia and just thinking wow, this is amazing. This is where I want to be.
And then one week after I arrived, September 11th happened. And people began choosing sides. I clearly remember one of my roommates saying “towelheads.” My boyfriend at the time couldn’t stop talking about terrorists, and when I went home for vacation, it was “the A-rabs” and how racial profiling is okay, and again, I thought wow.
But rather than throw myself into fear like many people around me, I did the opposite. I picked up a concentration in Middle East and North African studies, took courses on gender and law and human rights in the region and the sociology of colonialism, and decided to major in sociology. I studied Judaism and Islam and the history of Israel and Palestine and dreamed of travel. I got a work-study job in the study abroad office and helped students go to Spain and Turkey and Morocco and Belize. And then, a year after I graduated, I moved to Morocco.
September 11th, 2001 has nothing to do with Palestine, in reality. But to me, there’s a correlation. If that had never happened, I may never have bothered to learn. I was a clean slate when I learned about the history (if you had said “Nakba” to me at 18, I would’ve said “What-ba?”) of Israel and Palestine, and September 11th is what woke me up into doing so. That date changed everything for everyone – and I realize that, for many of my fellow Americans, it was for the worse. But for many like myself, it was for the better.
So, at the end of this rambling tangent, I will say this. I support Palestine. Call it what you will – a two-state solution, peace and freedom for all, or a free Palestine – but I believe in the right, the utmost right and necessity of Palestine to exist as a free country.