Having to defend your very own existence; case for every Palestinian
Why is it that when it comes to the word Palestine or Palestinian the West seems to be ignorant?
“It’s a branding issue.”
This is what Mo, a Palestinian asylum seeker in the US, replied when people in the country confused Palestine for a town in Houston, Pakistan, or even “Israel” in the Netflix series Mo.
Instead of explaining the decades-long Palestinian struggle, Mo decided to summarize it with a few words instead of going on and on to justify his very own existence.
If we dig deeper into reality, away from the scripts and screens, we can see actual cases of Palestinians who are in a never-ending battle to defend their identity. Maha Abadi, a Palestinian refugee living in Seattle, shared with Al Mayadeen English her experience.
"The feeling is continuously irritating"
Abadi describes the feeling of strangers actually knowing where she comes from and the ability to locate Palestine on the map as 'soothing', she continues by saying, "Yet, whenever this happens, I displease the satisfaction that this person knows where I come from... as if this is anything beyond normality."
Abadi says that either people think that she is from Pakistan or say to her "We are neighbors", to push the "cold Zionist claim."
The Palestinian refugee says that the "We are neighbors" response is the "response of every Zionist who chooses to acknowledge Palestine as the West Bank and Gaza" only. Referring to the people who usually claim this narrative, Abadi says that they are not only "settlers who reside in occupied Palestine; they are mostly white people residing in Europe or the United States."
"The feeling is continuously irritating," says Abadi. "Growing into the Western community, we in the diaspora start to understand the layers of white supremacy... Zionism, being a branch of white supremacy, is rooted and supported in the West."
In order to confront such a narrative, Abadi says that "Our Palestinian struggle with Zionist colonialism spans from defending the stealing of our homes, defending our right to return, supporting our prisoners in Israeli detention and prisons, to simply saying 'I am Palestinian'", she continues to say that "This sentence, as simple and basic as it is, is an act of resistance."
Zionists' obsession with erasing Palestine
Ever since the late 19th century, when the Zionist movement was established, until the present day, Zionist figures have insisted that the Palestinians do not exist in order to justify their horrific crimes in occupying an already inhabited land.
Most of these ‘leaders’ argue that Palestine was an ‘empty’ place or land until they decided to ‘redeem’ it from the ‘desert’.
They also claim that the indigenous people of the land, the Palestinians, were ‘backward’, and ‘primitive’ and did not - and still do not - deserve the right of self-determination.
Smotrich is not alone
The narrative that denies the Palestinian existence recently resurfaced after Israeli far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich claimed that "there is no such thing as Palestinians because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people."
To no one’s surprise, Smotrich is not the first Israeli official to come up with such claims. Incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted once: “There’s no connection between the ancient Philistines & the modern Palestinians, whose ancestors came from the Arabian Peninsula to the Land of Israel thousands of years later."
Netanyahu claimed that when European Jews began their colonization project in Palestine, the country was "empty for all intents and purposes."
Such claims do not emerge from the Israeli far-right only. In 1969, Israeli Labor Party Prime Minister Golda Meir told London Sunday Time that "there were no such thing as Palestinians."
She continued by saying that "it was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
“Israel” has been using its propaganda machines, in all its forms, in order to demonstrate to the world that Palestine and the Palestinian people do not exist, whether it is in politics, media, and even culture.
Social media serving Israeli propaganda
The Israeli narrative always seems to be having the upper hand when it comes to social media platforms and mainstream media outlets.
A new report by 7amle, the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, which is a support group for Palestinian digital rights, showed that hateful anti-Palestinian rhetoric grew across different social media platforms in 2022. According to the organization, racist remarks grew by 10% in 2022 compared to the previous year.
“The 10 percent increase in violent speech against Arabs and Palestinians is alarming and should be taken on serious matter from the tech giants so that everyone enjoys their rights and freedoms in this digital space.”
- Mona Shtaya, the advocacy and communications director of 7amleh
The report continues to explain that while Facebook is the source of anti-Palestinian hate, “Twitter continues to be the main platform for violent discourse against Palestinians inside Israel.”
Incitement against Palestinians surged earlier this year when Israeli settlers wreaked havoc in the Palestinian town of Huwara as hundreds of them went on a rampage torching homes and cars. One Palestinian was killed and dozens were injured.
Top Israeli officials celebrated the crime, including Bezalel Smotrich who liked a tweet that called for “wip[ing] out the village of Huwara today.”
A Palestinian human rights activist told the Intercept those big tech companies ‘well tolerated’ the hate speech and violence incitement against Palestinians made by Israeli officials and settlers.
Just last year, Meta did admit to suppressing pro-Palestine content and narrative, further exposing the double standards in dealing with the Palestinian cause online.
A review commissioned by the tech giant concluded that the company’s policies during the May 2021 Israeli aggression on Gaza Strip had “an adverse human rights impact … on the rights of Palestinian users to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, political participation, and non-discrimination, and therefore on the ability of Palestinians to share information and insights about their experiences as they occurred.”
This further shows how social media corporations are deeply infiltrated by "Israel".
In 2016, it was reported that the Israeli government and Facebook agreed to work together to determine how to “tackle incitement” on the social media platform.
The agreement was done with a Facebook delegation to “Israel” as the government was pushing with legal steps to “force social networks to rein in content that Israel says incites violence.”
On the other hand, Facebook did nothing to “tackle incitement” against the Palestinians at all. On the contrary, Facebook was okay with the spreading of violence and hatred against the Palestinian people in Huwara.
Mainstream media is a partner in crime
Taking an Israeli crime that happened during this holy month of Ramadan, different Western media outlets did not report on it correctly despite Palestinian media saying the complete opposite of what Israeli media was saying.
Palestinian media said that a Palestinian youth, named Mohammad Al-Osaibi, 26, was murdered by “Israel” in cold blood at Al-Aqsa Mosque. It was further reported that the young Palestinian was trying to protect a young Palestinian woman who was attacked and prevented by the occupation police from entering the Mosque.
After this occurred, the Higher Follow-up Committee in the occupied Palestinian territories in 1948 announced a general strike to condemn the cold-blooded execution.
As for Israeli media, it reported that the Israeli occupation police alleged that an investigation had found no footage of the crime next to Bab Al-Silsila, claiming that the attack happened in "a dead zone" that is not covered by security cameras.
However, Haaretz cited a police source as saying that it "doesn't make sense" that there was no video of the crime, as "it's unheard of for there to be no cameras" at Bab Al-Silsila.
Guess who the Western media believed? The Israeli narrative.
Not to mention the recent Israeli horrific attack on Palestinian worshippers in Al-Aqsa, where most of the mainstream media referred to such attacks as 'clashes', undermining the actual event where Palestinians were brutally beaten, arrested, and assaulted.
Palestinians usually appear on mainstream media only when they are protesting and confronting Israeli aggression, thus, they are always portrayed as ‘terrorists’.
Palestinians are usually referred to as ‘Arabs’ instead of Palestinians in Western media as if they are actually adopting the Israeli narrative and simply ignoring the fact that Palestinians do, in fact, exist.
These very same media outlets, who side with the Israeli narrative, were affected after Israeli warplanes destroyed the Al-Jalaa tower during its aggression on the Gaza Strip in May 2021, which had offices of prominent news outlets.
When media is not enough, we steal a whole culture
Everything was set to occupy Palestine. Palestinians were presented by the British colonial project as backward, which gave Balfour at that time the confidence and reasons he needed in order to declare in 1917 a 'Jewish homeland' in the region while completely disregarding the rest of the population there.
This further gave a push for Zionists to be confident in the idea that they are "a people without land for a land without people" and that they are "making the desert bloom."
The Israeli and Zionist narratives piled up in order to erase any evidence or trace regarding the existence of Palestinians.
While Palestinians had their own culture back then, the Israeli occupation worked excessively and relentlessly to erase it by stealing historical books, food, musical recordings, paintings, and many other things. "Israel" admitted to its ethnic cleansing itself.
"Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either… There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.
- A 1969 lecture for Security Minister Moshe Dayan: Haaretz
Palestinian culture, including its food, music, and literature, remains a vital part of Palestine’s very own existence.
It is reported that at least 70,000 Palestinian books were looted from their owners - whole libraries.
Not only that, as in 2021, Miss Universe candidates posted several pictures of themselves while participating in the "Visit Israel" campaign where many pro-Palestine activists accused them of appropriating Palestinian culture.
The candidates were seen preparing Palestinian food while wearing Palestinian dresses. Miss Ukraine posted one of the photos captioning it "Today, on the way to Eilat, we stopped at a Bedouin settlement in Israel and plunged into their culture and traditions.”
This comes after in the same year, the United Nations cultural agency (UNESCO) added the art of Palestinian embroidery to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In 2021, worldwide calls were made to boycott Miss Universe as it was being hosted in "Israel", on stolen Palestinian land.
Bad news for "Israel": The young did not forget
While views differ on whether the saying "The old will die and the young will forget" is actually said by the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, authors and historians do agree that this is something he would say, since it does go with the Israeli narrative.
Palestinians are undergoing fierce battles in order to preserve their national identity. Despite the pressures and challenges, the Palestinian people continue to resist and assert their existence, striving for justice; they maintained their identity, traditions, and their commitment to their land. With the abandonment of the national community, Palestinians are doing the impossible to tell the whole world: indeed, we are Palestinians, and we do exist.