Empathizing with the the people of  Palestine

Sociolinguistics Series: Part 48

Language is a powerful tool.


We are back in Ramallah, at a meeting with the Palestinian Authority ex-minister of agriculture. We all sat in his building, around a conference table. We had some tea and watched a slideshow that he put together for us. He now worked for an organization called the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, which is housed in the building we were sitting in.

I will now talk about his narrative--from his perspective. You can notice that he uses language to convey his message; for example, he not only uses the term "apartheid wall," but he calls the people who live in Israeli settlements "colonizers." Again, I am here retelling his narrative, and it does not necessarily mean I agree with everything he says.

The four main goals of the CWR Commission are as follows: giving legal aid to Palestinians who have disputes with colonizers, mobilization efforts such as protests and demonstrations, documentation of all the wrongs the colonizers have done on Palestine, and steadfast support of Palestine.

An urgent issue to him is that of Palestinians struggling to stay on their land. Israeli colonizers are coming and encroaching on the land--not only that, they are booting Palestinians out of homes they have already been living in. He shows us videos of IDF soldiers destroying Palestinian houses and schools, and Palestinians working tirelessly to rebuild them, time after time. He tells us that there are many communities that use solar panels because they receive little to no electricity; the electricity they do receive is not stable. The CWRC is trying to keep Palestinians living in their own homes.

He says that according to the Oslo Accords, which happened in 1993, the Palestinian State was supposed to see the light by 1999. Well, it's now 2019 and Palestinians are still living in poverty compared to Israelis. The United Nations has made countless resolutions that are supposed to help Palestine, but none are enforced; he also points out that the US has used its veto power against the state of Palestine in Security Council decisions seventeen times, which is more times than was used against the USSR.

He shows us a map of the Israeli settlements in what is supposed to be Palestinian territory--the West Bank. It appeared to be a territory with people scattered as a result of the settlements. He used the word "colonies" to describe these settlements, and he argued that the settlements dismembered the land for Palestine. Israel is trying to disconnect the West Bank's northern half and southern half as well as separate the eastern border (near Jordan) from its western border (near Jerusalem). If this action continues, soon there will be no West Bank and no two-state solution.

He calls the system one of apartheid. The driving time from Ramallah to Hebron, two cities in the West Bank, used to be very quick before the wall was put up; it's a very short physical distance. However, since the construction of the wall, Palestinians are put at a disadvantage, even just trying to drive to see their families in another Palestinian city.

They now have to cross the wall into Jerusalem and then cross it again back into the West Bank--due to not only the wall, but also the Israeli settlements--just to get to Hebron. He said the apartheid wall contradicts the basis of human rights, and that there was a reason the one in Berlin fell eventually.

He says that if Palestinians wanted to cause harm to Israelis, a wall would not stop them. However, they are not interested in causing anymore harm; Palestinians only want peace. Fifteen years ago, when the second intifada ended, they were done with violence. They want nothing but a place to live.

He also does not see Israel as a valid state. He says that for a state to be a state, it must have set borders, a defined area, a population, and a constitution. Because of how much Israel has put illegal settlements in the West Bank, there are no set borders or defined area for the "state" of Israel. Also, Israel technically doesn't have a set constitution.

After that, he went on to describe the human rights violations Israel has done to Palestine in the past. The previous minister of justice in the Israeli Occupation Courts went around and legalized the systematic killing of Palestinian mothers because it would prevent the "delivery of future terrorists." As if blatant racism and prejudice is a reason to harm another human being!

Palestinians fear what Israel could do to Palestinians if there was one united state. Since Israel exists to serve Israelis first and everyone else becomes a second-tier citizen, there would be civil law for Israelis and military law for Palestinians living under an Israeli regime. He fears ethnic cleansing and apartheid for his people.

We are shown many proposed plans for the drawing of borders in the region. One example was the Alon Plan of 1967, where the current Palestinian territories are more broken up than they already are. Israel would occupy the entire Jordan River Valley, annex Jerusalem for themselves, and there would be more settlements in the West Bank than there is today.

In the Oslo Accords of 1993, the West Bank is split up into three areas: Area A, Area B, and Area C. Area A is Palestinian military and civil law; Area B is Palestinian civil law but Israeli military law, and Area C is Israeli law for both military and civil affairs.

Essentially, Area C is where Israeli settlements are, and Area A lands are places where Israeli citizens are not allowed to enter (such as Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Jericho, Bethlehem, and other large cities). Of course, there are way more nuances to this, like ambiguous areas and natural reserves, but the gist of it is that Area C (settlements, or "colonies") takes up 61% of the West Bank while Area A only takes up 17.7%.

Palestinian communities in Area C are not allowed to build schools or medical clinics for Palestinians. The videos we were shown of IDF soldiers destroying schools also showed young children being terrorized by Israeli forces. 44 schools were demolished in the West Bank in 2017, and the Palestinian right to education is seen as a threat to Israel because Israelis are scared that educated Palestinians pose danger to the security of the state.

He then talked about the Annexation wall (notice the language he uses). The international community condemns Israel for the illegal settlements inside the West Bank because they are illegal, yet Israel continues to build them. Also, rather than building the barrier on the previously agreed upon green line, Israel builds the Annexation wall inside the West Bank, which implies that they are going to further annex the land. All in all, Israel is preventing the building of a Palestinian state. There is much evidence to show this: the network of Israeli roads that breaks up the West Bank, so that the land is disconnected from each other.

In addition, it's difficult for Palestine to develop its own economy because everything they need to build it, they have to get from the Israeli minister. If a Palestinian needs fertilizer or medication--or even if he just wants to dig a well--he has to ask the state of Israel for it, so how can he grow his economy independent of Israel?

To conclude his speech, the ex-minister of agriculture reaffirmed that Israeli occupation and illegal settlements is the root to most, if not all, of the problems that Palestinians are facing--both socially and economically. There is no peace until the occupation ends.

And thus concludes me speaking solely in the perspective of his narrative. I personally empathize with the Palestinian people greatly, and it breaks my heart to see how poorly they are living in some cases. However, there were times during his presentation that I felt like we were being fed propaganda.

For example, the video of the school demolition, while heartbreaking, had some moral issues. The little girl who was beat in the video was brought intentionally to provoke pathos in the audience--and it did provoke great emotions in me. When I thought about it more, though, I couldn't help but wish she wasn't dragged into it. For that little girl, the experience must have been nothing but fear and hatred, and it only further breeds those emotions in her. Rather than having her see how hopeful, resilient, and strong her Palestinian community was for never giving up on building their school, she probably grew hatred for the IDF soldiers.

In the end, though, I do feel for the Palestinians. I feel for Israelis as well, though. I feel for any human who suffers, and naive as it sounds, I hope that they will have more hope in their hearts than hatred.

After our time with the CWRC, we went to talk to a Palestinian demographer, Dr. Khalil Shikaki. He gave us some very interesting--and hopeful--information about the Palestinian population, and I will share that information in the next chapter!

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The 10 Most Important Things You Need To Know About Relationships

Without communication, there is no relationship; without respect, there is no love; and without trust, there is no reason to continue.

When you see an old couple holding hands or sharing romantic kisses while sitting on a park bench, doesn't that spark warm feelings of love and happiness in your heart? Doesn't it make you think about how they maintained their relationship for so many years when couples you know have trouble making it past six months? And of course, some people are not made for each other and so their relationship just simply doesn't work. But then there are couples who give up the minute an obstacle comes along, which makes you think their relationship wasn't truly important to them in the first place. What everyone has to understand in order to preserve a strong, happy, and prosperous relationship is that love is colorful, and the same kind of love doesn't exist for everyone. Being in a loving relationship that continues to thrive, I'm going to share some of the few things that I believe should exist between two lovers who want to sustain their prosperous relationship.

1. Communication

Communicating with your partner is essential. I'm sure you've heard it before, but communication is key. If something is bothering you or what your partner wants to do isn't what you're interested in, say something! Neither you nor your partner are mind readers, so how are they supposed to know how you feel if you keep your feelings bottled up inside? Not speaking up and communicating your ideas, feelings, desires, and wants is unhealthy because one day you might blow up and say some things you'll either regret or feel sorry for saying. Communicate to find a middle ground in your relationship because it's unfair for one person to constantly accommodate the other. Relationships cannot grow without communication, so don't be afraid to speak your mind and embrace your thoughts.

2. Trust and Honesty

A relationship cannot continue without trust and honesty. By being honest with your partner, they have no reason to doubt you or not trust you. Trust is vital in a strong and successful relationship because you don't want to think twice about what your partner says or does. Almost anything can be acceptable in a relationship as long as you're honest with your partner. Being in a relationship doesn't mean that everything else in your life has to change. You can still see your friends, go out, and be your own person, but be honest with your partner with whatever you do because by hiding something from them, you might be giving them the perfect reason not to trust you.

3. Forgiveness

No relationship is perfect. That's because none of us are perfect. People make mistakes in everyday life in the same way that people make mistakes in relationships. Of course, there are some things that are unforgivable, such as cheating on your partner (at least in my eyes), because it means that your relationship didn't mean much to you anyway. But, most things can be forgiven. Forgiveness is extremely important and necessary in a relationship because we have to accept and be reminded that we aren't perfect. So if I bailed on you because something important came up or you had a bad day at work and said some things to me that should have been directed at someone else out of anger, it's okay. Sometimes all it takes is a simple I'm sorry and I forgive you.

4. Respect and Appreciation

Without respect and appreciation, there is no love. How can you disrespect the one you love and care for? Exactly: it's hard to find an answer. Respect is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Respect your partner by choosing your words carefully, honoring boundaries, being willing to compromise, showing consideration, and protecting your partner. Make sure you're being respected by knowing your worth, acting honorably, setting and upholding boundaries, being a man or woman of your word, and showing respect for yourself. Appreciate your partner for who they are, the things they do for you, the support they give you, and the growth that they contribute in building your own identity.

5. Emotional Support

Real men don't cry is a load of bullshit. I have been blessed to be surrounded by a few strong and courageous men in my life who I've seen shed a tear or cry when losing a loved one or simply out of pure happiness. We all have emotions and though we try to hold them in check, those emotions sometimes boil over. In relationships, it's important to show emotional support for your partner, regardless if they are a man or a woman. So when your partner is going through a tough time or is struggling for whatever the reason might be, stray away from the pathetic Be A Man go-to phrase and be their shoulder to lean on. If your partner knows that you're emotionally there for them, they might have an easier time opening up to you in the future.

6. Humor

Sharing laughs and smiles with the one you love is extremely important. After all, being in a relationship is sharing your life with someone you care for, cherish, and have fun with. Being able to joke around and laugh with one another is extremely healthy for your well-being and the relationship. It's not just about fun and games, but it's also no fun to be so serious and stern about everything. Keep your relationship alive with some humor, adventure, and daily laughs to see the smile of your loved one!

7. The Magic of Small Things

The small things in life are actually not that small. There are times where the smallest deed can make someone the happiest and that's usually because the small things are the most thoughtful ones. Preparing breakfast when your partner is too tired or surprising them with an iced caramel latte on their way home from work can be enough to make their day. The small things really do count and they are remembered more than you might think. There's something magical in knowing that your partner feels appreciated and happy that they have the privilege of calling you mine. And the small things can do just that.

8. Sharing Interests

Having things in common with the one you love and sharing interests with your partner is perfect because neither one of you need to accommodate the other! There will be days where both you and your partner will not want to do the same things and a middle ground will have to be met, but sharing interests makes it easier when looking for fun things to do and finding things to talk about! Having a few similar interests like bike riding or playing football allows you and your partner to have your "thing," the thing that brings you two together. Liking similar things is also a perfect conversation starter, but also talking about your dislikes and things that you don't agree on can spark an intense and even more enticing conversation!

9. Celebrate Achievements

The happiness you feel because of your own achievements should be the same feeling you get when your partner accomplishes something they've been striving for, no matter how little it may be. Whether it be winning the Noble Peace Prize, having a 4.0 GPA, or hitting a new record at the gym, no achievement should go unnoticed. Being proud of your partner's achievements can strengthen your relationship and bring the both of you closer together.

10. Love and Affection

Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life. This might strike you at first, but what's the point of being successful, rich, happy or really anything else if you have nobody to share it with? Love is one of life's greatest gifts. It brings people together and allows them to build a life that some can only dream of. But sometimes love is not enough to maintain a prosperous and healthy relationship. That's because relationships aren't easy, people are so different from one another, and relationships take much effort and patience. But in the end, if you don't have love in a relationship, you really don't have anything. Take the time to show your partner some affection, to make alone time a priority. The kisses, hugs, and even sex is something that in the end does make a relationship healthy. But without love, all of that means nothing.

Every relationship struggles, but only strong relationships get through it. Take the time to focus on these ten things that are important in keeping the love alive and feelings between you and your partner strong. And most importantly, remember that no one falls in love by choice; it's by chance, and no one falls out of love by chance--it's by choice.

Cover Image Credit: Marika Cygert

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8 Types Of People Fetuses Grow Into That 'Pro-Lifers' Don't Give 2.5 Shits About

It is easy to fight for the life of someone who isn't born, and then forget that you wanted them to be alive when you decide to hate their existence.


For those in support of the #AbortionBans happening all over the United States, please remember that the unborn will not always be a fetus — he or she may grow up to be just another person whose existence you don't support.

The fetus may grow up to be transgender — they may wear clothes you deem "not for them" and identify in a way you don't agree with, and their life will mean nothing to you when you call them a mentally unstable perv for trying to use the bathroom.

The fetus may grow up to be gay — they may find happiness and love in the arms of someone of the same gender, and their life will mean nothing to you when you call them "vile" and shield your children's eyes when they kiss their partner.

The fetus may grow up and go to school — to get shot by someone carrying a gun they should have never been able to acquire, and their life will mean nothing to you when your right to bear arms is on the line.

The fetus may be black — they may wear baggy pants and "look like a thug", and their life will mean nothing to you when you defend the police officer who had no reason to shoot.

The fetus may grow up to be a criminal — he might live on death row for a heinous crime, and his life will mean nothing to you when you fight for the use of lethal injection to end it.

The fetus may end up poor — living off of a minimum wage job and food stamps to survive, and their life will mean nothing to you when they ask for assistance and you call them a "freeloader" and refuse.

The fetus may end up addicted to drugs — an experimentation gone wrong that has led to a lifetime of getting high and their life will mean nothing to you when you see a report that they OD'd and you make a fuss about the availability of Narcan.

The fetus may one day need an abortion — from trauma or simply not being ready, and her life will mean nothing to you as you wave "murderer" and "God hates you" signs as she walks into the office for the procedure.

* * *

Do not tell me that you are pro-life when all of the above people could lose their lives in any way OUTSIDE of abortion and you wouldn't give 2.5 shits.

You fight for the baby to be born, but if he or she is gay or trans, you will berate them for who they are or not support them for who they love.

You fight for the baby to be born, but if he or she is poor or addicted, you will refuse the help they desperately need or consider their death a betterment of society.

You fight for the baby to be born, but when the used-to-be-classroom-of-fetuses is shot, you care more about your access to firearms than their lives.

It is easy to pretend you care about someone before they are even born, and easy to forget their birth was something you fought for when they are anything other than what you consider an ideal person.

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