The Arab Dream

Ontario, Canada- My story, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a story, is an empty one. I was born in the United Arab Emirates and raised in Canada. Neither I nor my parents have ever been to Palestine. As a child, the only way I identified and recognized my country, Palestine, was from what I saw on the television screen. Children dying, mothers in mourning, demolished buildings, bombs – this was Palestine. I remember crying every time horrific sights of massacred Palestinians were broadcast on news channels. I remember frequently asking my mother why God allowed this all to happen to our people if we loved Him. Her answer, which never seemed to satisfy my curiosity, was always that this is just a test from God to see who will maintain their faith in him and who will betray him.

I remember the song al hilm al ‘arabi, the Arab Dream, with a video clip that showed a few scenes of Palestinians leaving their villages and some in the face of Israeli occupiers. It was a song that spoke of the dream for unity, peace and a hopeful future for the following generations. I barely understood the meaning of the lyrics but the scenes of Palestinian refugees and Israeli occupiers were enough to implement feelings of indignation and resentment in me. With all this said, however, Palestine, to me, was nothing more than that. Palestine was nothing more than scenes of dead bodies, people crying and destruction in all respects – all seen through a square box.

After moving to Canada in 1998, my consciousness of the Israeli massacres on Palestine quickly faded to the background. While I acknowledged that my country was still under occupation, the promise my mother made to me years ago was never fulfilled and rarely did I stop to think about the suffering in Palestine. One could say I was apathetic. The occupation had always been there, a routine or continuous event, which was only put under a limited spotlight anytime something out of the ordinary happened. Other than that, the occupation carried on in the background as I carried on with my life.

Today Palestine remains under Israeli occupation. My people continue to be denied their basic human rights, and they continue to live in exile. The song al hilm al ‘arabi just offered lyrics; the Arab world is far from unity and far from peace. Like many, while I have always acknowledged the injustices happening in Palestine, my actions have never gone beyond simple acknowledgment. This may be because I didn’t experience the occupation or know little about my grandparents being forced out of their homes to some refugee camp in Jordan. It could be that after 64 years of occupation I, like many others, have lost hope that Palestine will ever be returned to its people – that I will ever be able to walk on its land. As I have lived my life as an apathetic Palestinian, there are Palestinians who, after over six decades of injustice, have hope for the future of Palestine. These are people who, unlike me, have earned the right to say they cared for Palestine. I don’t believe I have done anything to earn this right, simply because caring goes beyond feelings. Caring for something is defined by one’s actions.

I’ve come to realize that while it has been sixty-four years since the Nakba, the occupation will not continue on forever. There are people who, to this day, are still looking for a solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian impasse and who continue to strive for justice in Palestine. The Palestinian youth have managed to demonstrate that resistance is not strictly limited to armed combat. Resistance comes in all forms: activism, sharing experiences, writing, the boycott, divestment & sanctions (BDS) campaign and raising awareness. They have demonstrated that as moral beings, we carry a responsibility to speak out against injustices.

This journey will be a long one, over sixty-four years worth of Palestinian bloodshed to scan through and read about. I don’t believe that I will ever be an expert on this issue, however this is not my goal. My goal is that my future children will grow up standing up for the struggle Palestinians had to endure for years seeking to attain freedom and justice. In essence, my goal in riding myself of this apathy is solely for the purpose of fulfilling my duty as a moral being, which in return, I hope, will one day earn me the right to say I actually, sincerely cared for Palestine.

Reem Shehada

Reem is a Palestinian Canadian from Gaza living in Ontario, Canada. She is a second year university student.  She has yet to fully develop her passion for the Palestinian cause, however, she seeks inspiration through the persistence and strength of the Palestinian people. Reem tweets here.

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