A Voice That Doesn’t Belong: Perspectives of an American-Born Palestinian

Photograph Source: Hossam el-Hamalawy – CC BY 2.0

I am a 20-year-old Egyptian and Palestinian woman living in America, and by the time I write this, no words are extreme enough to describe the horrors in Palestine we are all watching in real time. Thousands of people have infinitely more knowledge and firsthand accounts of what is occurring in not only Gaza, but the West Bank and even Lebanon under Israel’s catastrophic reign of collective punishment. So, my voice is not equipped to speak of the facts and statistics of the current atrocities. I instead wish to share a perspective. One that I know is not nearly as important as those on the front lines, but a perspective, nonetheless.

As my ethnicity suggests, I have always been…aware of things. Some of my earliest memories involve my mother taking me and my brother to protest for the Egyptian revolution against Hosni Mubarak. And it wasn’t very long into my adolescence that I learned that there was a seemingly never-ending battle taking place over the country my father and his family were born in, and whether it has the right to exist at all. I took to the streets in 2021, pouring faith and outrage into the movement for Palestinian liberation that I thought would never fade. But as with everything in the media, the news stopped reporting. The protests died down; the social media posts once again sunk into the background. And then, on October 7th and the days following, my reaction, along with many others I’m sure, was simply of dread. We all knew that this attack was what Israel was waiting for. The final nail in their coffin of excuses of why their treatment of the Palestinians was justified, and why they ought to make their mission of eradication so much louder.

And all the louder they became. Over the constant sound of explosions and gunfire they told us that it was a right to self-defense. That Islam was a religion of violence, so the Muslim innocents were, not in fact, innocent. That they would never bomb a hospital. Then they were justified in bombing that hospital. That the “children of darkness” brought this upon themselves. And as per the words of David Azoulai of the Metula Council, “It (Gaza) should resemble the Auschwitz concentration camp.” And loudest of all was the hateful yet self-vindicated cry of ‘HAMAS.’  “The people elected and support Hamas, so they reap what they sow.” “Blame Hamas for all the dead civilians.” “But Hamas raped and killed 1300 people!” “Hamas beheaded 40 babies!” “Do you condemn Hamas? Do you support Hamas?”




The west became more obsessed with the existence and alleged actions of Hamas than the entire Palestinian American community had ever been. People like Piers Morgan screamed its name over our attempts to share our truth, demanding that we bow our heads in shame and denounce everything a band of orphaned resistance fighters stood for before being deemed worthy enough to speak. By proxy of originating from the same country that this group was fighting to liberate, our deaths, our family’s deaths, our people’s deaths, were to be considered collateral damage of Hamas’ sin, not at all resulting from the missiles fired into Gaza and Lebanon. And our attempts to refute this condemned us to join the growing circle of so-called terrorist supporters facing mass demonization. The word ‘Hamas’ threatened to deafen us all.

 And so, we responded with our own noise. We once again took to the streets. I stood outside my college, surrounded by barricades and police and old men cursing me and my peers out, calling us terrorists, alongside councilwoman Inna Vernikov who illegally flashed her gun before our very eyes as we called to the officers present about this threat to our safety, only to be ignored for over fifteen minutes. At Bay Ridge, the police halted our march and corralled us by the hundreds onto the sidewalks before laying siege on us with their fists and handcuffs. Despite it all, we continued to make noise.

But even so, it felt like there were barriers. Not the kind that currently surround Gaza, but metaphorical walls, each consisting of another fact about my identity that drives me further apart from the idea of what an Egyptian Palestinian woman is. Me and my brother were born in America, and raised to speak English. Both sides of my family are Christian by majority, not Muslim. My father was born in West Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in 1948, and he was lucky enough to exist simply as an Arab citizen rather than a Palestinian remnant in the eyes of others. And we have always lived in neighborhoods that were mostly white. And when the people weren’t white, they weren’t Middle Eastern. And when the people were Middle Eastern, they were somehow more of it than us. So, the noise that I have made has always felt quieter. Separate from those of my peers, teetering on the line of a voice that has no business joining this movement. I grieve for my country that I have never been to, for my people that I do not speak the same language as or even share any religious beliefs with, for the attack on my identity that seems to exist as an Americanized version of the sum of its parts. At times I feel as if I exist only as another face to support the sheer numbers of our outcry for liberation. The noise I make, and the voice I cry out with, may in some way push the volume of this outcry higher, but more than anything, I have come to find that it mostly bounces off of these walls and echoes back into myself, a reminder that I am not quite Palestinian enough to be integrated with my peers, but not distanced enough to be considered a supporting ally.

So then, where does this leave me? My voice supposedly does not belong with the others, yet I still attend a college under a student body president responsible for helping stoke the flames against anti-Zionist sentimentalities, in perhaps the most Zionist city in America, under a federal government pouring our tax dollars into the bombs that are blowing children to pieces right now. The genes in my blood that just so happen to come from my father’s side of the family may not make me fully Palestinian relative to more ‘Arab’ people, but it will always make me a terrorist sympathizer under the gaze of our opposition. My keffiyeh will always be judged as a symbol of extremist ideologies. And my voice, by default of joining the demands for an end to the senseless killing by the IDF, will always be perceived as one amplifying the goals of Hamas. So, to all of those who feel as if their voices do not belong, who are starting to feel crushed under the weight of their own echoes, do not despair, because the ones who wish to silence and exterminate us are knocking our walls down for us. And in uniting us under their attempts of mass demonization, they are giving us more power and opportunities to use our voices in our cries of defiance than they ever have before.

Julia Abusharr is a 20-year-old Egyptian and Palestinian woman living in America.