I was 16 when I first became aPro Palestine activist, when after growing up in an area with few other Arab Americans outside of my family, I went to an event commemorating Al Nakba, the mass expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948. I was struck with the tragedy—but I also was a sixteen year old who saw a bunch of other people with untamed black hair and seemed to share my family’s odd obsession with olive oil. I felt immediately personally involved—and didn’t see why anyone could possibly be against justice in Palestine.
I proceeded to move to New York City for college—surrounded by many more Jewish American friends than I had had in California. I was careful with my language, not wishing to offend, and often being silenced by this fear of engaging in what could potentially be an explosive dialogue.
Slowly, I began to read more books (Phyllis Bennis changed my life), find more organizations and find more like minds—but they didn’t happen at once, or come to me. I would always return home to my mother, whose righteousness reassured me that one could be Pro-Palestine that was in no way compromising to anyone, and that this was something to be proud of.
One day (at some point when I knew I had no other choice than to be Pro-Palestine, but was still shutting up in public because I needed to make friends in New York City), she took me to see “I Heart Hamas (and Other Things I’m Afraid To Tell You)”—a one woman show by Palestinian-American artist Jennifer Jajeh.
Jennifer’s show—a tongue in cheek show about being Palestinian-American, and going to Palestine while also contesting with Palestinian stereotypes in America, is hilarious, insightful and moving. It’s not only a brilliant and necessary conversation on Palestine—it also helps make sense of how our personal backgrounds are politicized, and how this affects us as people. It was one of many brilliant artistic pieces that made me more confident to have a productive dialogue in spaces that I was unsure of–and for the most part, I have been far more rewarded than I ever dreamed of being.
So, good news for all of the New Yorkers reading this blog—the show is stopping in NYC on its way to the Fringe Festival in Scotland! It is my pleasure to be promoting the show. Shamelessly, of course. If you are free this weekend for a matinee show either Saturday or Sunday, you should buy a ticket
and see it. If you want to know more information, http://ihearthamas.com