Two Lives in One Day
By Salam Qumsiyeh
Tuesday, Dec 4th 2017, Trump announced that he is declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. When I woke up the next morning, I lived two different Wednesdays!
The first Wednesday was waking up to my social media being filled with news of protests and demonstrations all over my home country and other pro-Palestinian communities, my email receiving emails from people I didn't talk to for years asking how I am doing and asking about the situation, and my phone being filled with texts from my family, friends, and people interested in the cause. I spent the whole day at my house being angry, sad, and frustrated: worried about people in demonstrations, worried about my family, and worried about what the future may hold.
My second Wednesday started when I went to class that evening. It was a whole different life at school. It felt like all that I was worried about was only in my head! Everyone at school was having a regular day. But then, why wouldn't they be having a regular day? Whatever happened didn't affect their life. But wait a minute: it was their own president who was all over the news declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and it's their own embassy being moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. I imagined I would come to school that evening and everyone who knows where I am from would run to me and start asking me questions about the effects and consequences of the president's speech. As college students, especially in the journalism field, they must have read or seen the news that day. It should have been as important to them as it was for me and the rest of the world. They must have been curious to learn more about it, and they have a direct source from that region whom they can ask, which is me! But they asked nothing at all.
Now the question is: what does it mean when Trump declares Jerusalem the capital of Israel? It means the following: giving Israelis more power and control over everything in Jerusalem, including the holy sites of other religions; declaring that east and west Jerusalem are now part of Israel; taking away Jerusalem from any future peace negotiations between the two governments (meaning it will be on the Israeli side in case of a two state solution); making Palestinians who live in Jerusalem move to the West Bank or somewhere out of the country; and encouraging other countries to accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, since the United States is currently the most powerful and important country in the world.
I'm a Palestinian journalist: you can't imagine how hard that is. When you are a Palestinian journalist working inside of Palestine, you are most of the time a political journalist in the field, which means you are facing attacks by the Israeli soldiers. Even when you are wearing your Press vest, your life is threatened at any time. You are facing being arrested just because you oppose your occupation by trying to expose the truth about its cruelty. Yes, every time I write an article or make a speech somewhere, I cross my fingers hoping not to be arrested or put on a black list by the Israeli government. On the other hand, when you are a Palestinian journalist working outside of Palestine, you are responsible for telling the whole truth about your own and your people's experiences, telling what is actually happening on the real ground, working really hard to reveal the biased reporting in the United States media, trying to explain to Jewish Americans that Israel isn't the most democratic state in the Middle East (because it doesn't make sense to be democratic and call for a "Jewish State" at the same time), and trying to explain to the whole world that it's not a religious issue back there, it's purely political.
As a Palestinian Christian living there, I assure you that all Palestinians, regardless of their religion, live under the same occupation, the same lack of basic human rights, and the same threat to life every single day. Most westerns don't even know that I exist as a Christian because the media is so controlled that they want the public to think that the conflict is between Muslims and Jews, which is nothing near reality.
I have been traveling around the world since I was 14 years old. I know what other people think about Palestinians and Arabs, I also know that they are not to blame most of the time. That's what got me to study journalism in the first place. I want to expose the truth, I want to tell stories about my people, and I want to do it in English because I want my voice to reach an international audience. It's our responsibility as humans to defend human rights, to speak for the weak, and to encourage people to seek the truth. I'm doing my part and will always do. It's now your turn to do the same. Please, let's be educated and educate others.
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