Illustration by Mouad Kouttroub.

It is Time to Listen to Palestinian Voices on Campus

Every Palestinian voice is unique, but what brings us together is the constant fight to be heard. NYU Abu Dhabi’s Palestinian students are eager to share and educate — here they explain how they developed their voices.

I like to think of my Palestinian voice as a patchwork quilt constantly in progress, with the very first patches being moments in my childhood — when my father gave me his copy of Ghassan Kanafani’s Return to Haifa to keep in my humble bedroom library or in family gatherings where my mother’s late uncle visiting from Nablus prepared his famous homemade Knafeh.
Moving away from Amman for university was a turning point for my Palestinian voice; suddenly, it became more difficult to be seen and understood. I felt a responsibility to educate those around me about the reality of our struggle, and consequently, to educate myself in order to accurately represent this struggle. This process, although necessary, can be extremely emotionally taxing.
For instance, with my family fragmented all over the world, it is difficult to form a coherent understanding of how this fragmentation came to be. What did my late great grandfather and his family experience on the day their village of Tantura was massacred? Paradoxically, I had to refer to online forums and scholarly works to understand the history of my own family.
Developing a Palestinian voice is a complex process but also a collective experience. For all of us, it has been made more difficult by our fragmented sense of identity and the various forms of silencing and censoring that we experience from necessary conversations about the Palestinian cause. To have productive conversations about the reality of the colonization and occupation of Palestine we must center Palestinian voices. Here at NYU Abu Dhabi, we have a vast community of Palestinian students eager to share and educate: get to know some of them by reading their insights on developing their own voice.
Dania Dekedek, Class of 2022:
The Palestinian voice is necessarily political because its very existence poses a threat to the forces of settler colonialism, oppression and injustice that have been granted full impunity on an international level — politically speaking of course. The Palestinian voice seeks to resist these forces and simultaneously preserve its identity, and this of course looks different from one Palestinian to another.
Personally, I define my Palestinian voice by both advocating for Palestinian rights and raising awareness about the forces that I describe above, and this inevitably means that I also define my Palestinian voice by advocating for other causes and standing in solidarity with other oppressed communities around the world — this includes causes such as Black Lives Matter, Transnational Feminism, the rights of Rohingya people. In me using my Palestinian voice to also embody Palestinian cultures, I am also contributing to this resistance. I use the continued attempts of silencing the Palestinian voice as my motivation and an opportunity to further educate myself and speak clearer and louder. If anything, I become more passionate towards our cause.
Aya Abu Ali, Class of 2023:
The way I've learned to acknowledge my Palestinian voice is through ceasing to think of myself as weak or defeated on account of me being Palestinian. There are a lot of systemic injustices targeted towards Palestinians all around the world, but if we define ourselves solely in terms of our struggle, we will be missing out on significant aspects of our identity. Palestinian voices are powerful despite and because of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
As a Palestinian in the diaspora, I always felt helpless — like nothing I was doing would ever make the lives of the Palestinian girls my age who are living in Palestine any better, not my education on the Palestinian struggle, not my writings on Palestine and not the strength to which I held on to my Palestinian identity.
At many times, I felt guilt — guilt for knowing I had a place I could call home, knowing that my loved ones are safe and that we had a roof over our head. At other times, I felt that it was by virtue of pure chance that I was born in the diaspora and not in the occupied territories where I would have less opportunities than I do now. And then I pause and think if this fate of mine was actually a virtue. How is not being able to live in my home of origin despite being able to point to its borders from a high balcony in Amman, or from across the Dead Sea, a virtue?
The peculiar thing about Palestinians in the diaspora like us is that we passionately long for a home and a place we've only seen photos of and heard stories about. But I don't think of our scattered existence as a weakness or defeat anymore. The diaspora just makes us live a complex reality whereby, on relative scales of course, our voices are not only silenced, but often criminalized when we speak about Palestine. And I don't even mean politics. Even our celebration of culture is political. The personal is political. And so, I hold on to the fact that I am Palestinian because that in itself is an amplification of Palestinian voices. I draw strength from the Palestinian diaspora. I hold on to my hyphenated identity despite the confusion on some people's faces, the tension or sometimes even the blank look, followed by the infamous question, Sorry, did you say Pakistan?
Mohammad Muqbel, Class of 2023:
My Palestinian voice is an unfettered dream that I never fully realized until less than a year ago. Since then, I learned that every Palestinian has their own voice, and not a single Palestinian voice is invalid.
Something that really draws my attention as well is how, despite the uniqueness of every Palestinian perspective, whether one grew up inside Palestine, at a close distance from Palestine, or miles and miles away from Palestine, there tends to be a common thread that ties us all together: that of unspoken understanding, empathy and solidarity. A shared history binds us all: one that shapes some mysterious part of our identity that I often fail to put into words.
Those who strongly articulate this feeling I am describing are Palestinian artists and poets, including Mahmoud Darwish, Naji Al Ali, Mourid and Tamim Al Barghouti. These voices are an expression of the Palestinian identity, which is, in itself, extremely heterogeneous. This, in my opinion, strengthens the collective Palestinian identity and expands its circle of inclusion.
One type of silencing that Palestinian voices undergo is the internalized, unprovoked silence that has almost become in the blood of some Palestinians. I am mainly referring to a silenced resistance that has lost sight of history, culture and decolonized knowledge because of the constant silencing imposed by external forces.
Laila Al-Eisawi, Class of 2023:
A Palestinian voice that inspires me is my dad's aunt. Prior to her passing, Aunt Amina was a teacher and activist in Palestine, who held several positions in her life. Among those, she devoted her life to helping others, especially women in the community. One such example was working with Inash Al Usra Association, where they targeted women’s development and were dedicated to supporting small local businesses, especially those run by women. She inspires me to one day do the same and do my part in helping my Palestinian community, whichever way I can.
Every Palestinian voice is unique, but what brings us together is the constant fight to be heard. We have a lot to share — reach out to us, ask us questions and most importantly, don’t talk over us.
This piece is written by a member of the E-Board of Students for Justice in Palestine. Email them at
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