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Story | Community
1 July 2021

‘There’s a feeling things are changing’, Palestinian activist tells QF’s Education City Speaker Series

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Palestinian activist and musician Mariam Afifi speaking at the Education City Speaker Series.

Global dialogue platform focuses on how Palestinian voices can be amplified in the face of continuing oppression, occupation, and violence

Bravery, accountability, and presenting a globally unified front against oppression are the key to amplifying the voices of Palestinians as they stand against Israeli violence and occupation, Qatar Foundation’s Education City Speaker Series has been told.

The most liberating thing that Palestinians around the world can do is share in people’s struggles and understand this goes beyond the borders of Palestine

Dr. Randa Abdel-Fattah

Speakers from Palestine and beyond shared their views on the barriers to ensuring the struggle Palestinians continue to face resonates around the world - and how the narrative surrounding that struggle may now be starting to shift in the wake of the forced eviction of residents of occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the recent Israeli bombardment of Gaza – in the latest edition of the global platform for dialogue.

Among those joining the virtual discussion hosted by Qatar Foundation was Palestine and anti-racism advocate Dr. Randa Abdel-Fattah, who said: “The most liberating thing you can do is embrace and support the liberation of Palestinians through the idea that this is a global struggle, that our struggles are shared and connected, and that freedom for some people at the expense of the freedom of others is not worth championing.

Writer and researcher Mariam Barghouti.

“What we do has to embrace freedom for everyone, and the most liberating thing that Palestinians around the world can do is share in people’s struggles and understand this goes beyond the borders of Palestine – recognizing the power of uniting our voices against oppression and injustice everywhere.”

Dr. Abdel-Fattah also spoke of the difficulty that Palestinians faced – including her own experiences – in being “afforded the ability to speak on our own terms”, saying: “It crystallizes how far we have to go, but it’s not a narrative of despair, because despair is not an option.

“However, there is so much work to do in breaking down narratives simply for us to be seen as human.”

Keep talking about Palestine. Keep posting about Palestine. If talking about Palestine on social media wasn’t powerful, people wouldn’t try to censor us

Mariam Afifi

During protests against the Sheikh Jarrah forced evictions last month, Palestine Youth Orchestra member Mariam Afifi was pictured smiling in defiance as she was arrested by Israeli police, and she told the Education City Speaker Series: “There is a feeling that things are changing, that a difference is being made – media coverage of Sheikh Jarrah, and the use of social media, has opened the eyes of both Palestinians and people internationally.

“There is an international tendency to erase Palestine and Palestinians – open a map and you won’t see a mention of Palestine; on social media, content about Palestinians is censored and deleted. Music, art, literature, and writing play a role in at least ensuring our identity as Palestinians is not erased.”

It is about challenging yourself and holding yourself accountable, and then holding your community accountable. And it’s about being brave

Mariam Barghouti

And the activist and musician told the online event’s audience: “Keep talking about Palestine. Keep posting about Palestine. If talking about Palestine on social media wasn’t powerful, people wouldn’t try to censor us.”

The discussion – moderated by broadcast journalist Ghida Fakhry – heard Ramallah-based writer and researcher Mariam Barghouti say: “It’s not just about us finding the courage to speak out; it’s recognizing the urgency of the situation we are living under and that we have two choices – to be ethnically cleansed, or to fight back and afford ourselves the chance of living in Palestine as Palestinians.

It’s so important to be unwavering and unapologetic about the truth

Jamal El Shayyal

“What is important is to call out oppression, whatever its shape or form or uniform. It is about challenging yourself and holding yourself accountable, and then holding your community accountable. And it’s about being brave. Sometimes, you have to be that one voice, but it’s so important to do it anyway.”

And giving a perspective from the media world on how Palestinian voices can be amplified, award-winning Al Jazeera senior correspondent Jamal El Shayyal explained: “Rather than a change of narrative, there is a correction in narrative, and the floodgates [on coverage of the oppression of Palestinians] have somewhat been broken open now.

Award-winning Al Jazeera correspondent Jamal El Shayyal.

“I believe the default position of humans is to be truthful and to want good for other people. Looking at history, there are unfortunately been far too many dark chapters, but ultimately they end with liberation and a resurrection of societies.

“It’s so important to be unwavering and unapologetic about the truth. I believe there has been a shift [on the Palestine situation], and the way forward is the persistence and unapologetic nature of people in an eloquent way that shows the truth for what it is.”

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