“We are people with names, with dreams, with heritage”: A call for Palestine’s freedom

“We are people with names, with dreams, with heritage”: A call for Palestine’s freedom

Written by Lema Nazeeh

Photo: Photo by Akh Taufiq, creative license

Lema Nazeeh, Palestine

Lema Nazeeh is a Palestinian human rights activist and legal advisor in the Palestinian Mission to the European Union. Here we share her thoughts on the Palestinian struggle, expressed in an online event organised by Politics 4 Her, a global movement that advocates for the inclusive participation of young women and girls in politics.

As we convene today our hearts are heavy, not solely with sorrow but with the weight of unmet justice. A justice that has been refused for generations under the shadow of 75 years of occupation.

We’re here today not just, I think, for solidarity, but for an unyielding call for action, a call that echoes and demands what the Palestinian people are already demanding.

I was born during the First Intifada, in 1987. My life has been a testament of Palestinian endurance under the illegal occupation. The occupation has not only stolen our land, but attempted to rob us of our identity, our voice, and our very existence. 

The first Intifada was all about civil disobedience and popular resistance which I witnessed as a child, and met with a brutality that no child should ever see. Yet it was this very brutality that formed within us an unbreakable bond over common strength and resilience. 

The second Intifada further cemented my resolve, amid the armed resistance and the horrors of bombardment. Our city, Ramallah, once a place of culture and history, became the frontline of an imposed war. All my teenage years were spent during the Second Intifada, during the invasion and bombardment. As a young woman from that city, I have seen firsthand the expansion of settlements, the erection of the apartheid wall, creeping annexations carried out with bulldozers and rifles, backed by a narrative that seeks to justify such theft under the guise of security. 

Since the Second Intifada I have been active on the frontlines organising peaceful demonstrations and embodying the creative resistance. Yet our peaceful endeavours were met with imprisonment and violence, the marks of which I bear to this day, as I have been arrested twice. These are not just on my body, but on the soul of every Palestinian who has suffered humiliation, systematic racism and the denial of basic human rights.

Now, as Gaza once again struggles under the torment of aggression, we must elevate our discussion beyond romanticising the Palestinian struggle. This is a political and human crisis, one that demands a political response. The machinery of oppression operates unabated with each condemnation and resolution ignored, and every condemnation left unanswered by those with the power to enact change. 

The international legal framework is unequivocal: an occupying power is prohibited from waging a war against the people that it occupies. There is no clause, no exception, no legal terminology that can justify the systematic oppression and calculated aggression against the Palestinian people. This war is against the Palestinian people, who are under bombardment, siege and constant threat of dispossession and ethnic cleansing across the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and of course the Gaza strip. 

Our narrative is one of undying aspiration for peace, for sovereignty, and for the dignity that every human being is owed

Now millions of lives are at stake. What we have been demanding for more than 50 days is an immediate ceasefire, a halt to the forced transfer, protection of our civilians, and unimpeded emergency humanitarian assistance. The credibility of the international system and its universal code of laws are on the line not only in Palestine, but the world over. Nothing under international law grants an occupying power the right to wage a war against people under its occupation. Certainly, there is nothing that grants them a free hand to commit genocidal aggression on the Palestinian people, breaching every law of war and openly declaring its intention to continue doing so. 

The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is beyond catastrophic, as Israel is systematically degrading the fundamentals of life in Gaza and deliberately making the north uninhabitable while making life in the south unbearable. Our people in the Gaza Strip face an existential threat due to Israel’s siege, collective punishment, forced mass displacement, starvation and relentless targeting of civilians. Since the 7th of October, the occupying forces have deliberately and systematically committed egregious international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

The staggering human toll of Israel’s campaign of murder and destruction is an assault on humanity. Up to 20,000 Palestinians are killed and missing under the rubble, including at least 6,000 children. Even saying the numbers is heavy. More than 25,000 Palestinians are injured, 1.7 million Palestinians have been internally displaced. These figures are irrefutable evidence that they are the intended consequences of Israel’s aggression, not collateral damage. 

Israel’s escalation is most heinously manifested in its indiscriminate bombardment of the civilian Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, including the documented illegal use of white phosphorus in a densely populated civilian area. Dozens of families consisting of three or four generations have been wiped out entirely, without even a survivor to oversee funeral processions. Israel’s bombardment targets homes, schools, shelters, hospitals, bakeries, water reserves, wheat mills, solar panels, churches and mosques. The bombing targets all basic elements of life; 70% of Palestinians in Gaza don’t have access to safe drinking water

While all the global attention is drawn to the catastrophic aggression in the Gaza Strip and the genocide that is taking place, Israel’s criminal conduct in the West Bank during the last two weeks has not been any less horrific. Palestinians in the West Bank are kidnapped from their homes, Israeli soldiers and militias are terrorising entire communities. Since 7th of October, Israel has detained over 2,500 Palestinians, including journalists and community leaders. They are rounded up without charge, for no reason. These detainees are subjected to cruel treatment, including beating and abuse, and threats of sexual assault. They are denied access to lawyers, and even seeing any family members.

Settlers are also unleashed on Palestinian communities to inflict atrocities of hate with complete impunity. Israeli occupying forces are absorbing extremist elements of settler terrorist organisations with their ranks under a bridge named the “Desert Frontier“. Israel’s extremist ministers and the Israeli government are leading a campaign to arm settlers and mobilise them to partake in the extrajudicial killing of Palestinians. So far, they have distributed over 20,000 automatic weapons to settlers during October only. Since the 7th of October, Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed more than 212 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 51 children, and injured hundreds of others during daily raids and assaults. 

palestine, protests, lema nazeeh
Protest in Jakarta, Indonesia

It’s clear and beyond any doubt that the Israeli government is intent on carrying out its program of annexation, dispossession and collective punishment as envisioned by settler leaders and organisations this year. Settler terrorism is not just enabled and empowered by the government, it is the driving force of the Israeli decision-making process. 

Social media has also become a platform for hate and incitement of genocide against the Palestinian people and footage is being circulated of Israeli soldiers documenting their own atrocities. Meanwhile, Israel is adopting draconian measures that enable the detention of Palestinians and their passive suffering for social media.

Let us be clear here. What we demand today is more than sympathy. We demand accountability. We demand that the international community, particularly those who profess the highest democratic values, stand by their principles and act. It is not enough to acknowledge the disproportionate violence, as they call it, it is necessary to confront the perpetrators with the full force of international law and sanctions. 

The protests across the globe, the voice rising in unity from every corner of the earth, are not just a symbol of support. They are the embodiment of a global dissent against the double standards that have long clogged international relations. The narrative that seeks to vilify the victim and approve the aggressor is being dismantled by the sheer force of global solidarity. Israel’s recent atrocities, emboldened by the silence of certain Western leaders, have been predicated on the premise that their actions are beyond reproach; that they can without consequences label every Palestinian as a terrorist, a sympathiser or a human shield. This rhetoric is not just dangerous. It’s a blatant attempt to dehumanise an entire population to justify their systematic elimination. 

The Palestinian people are not a faceless mass to be dismissed or ignored. Our children are not collateral. Our medics are not combatants. Our journalists are not aggregators. We are people with names, with dreams, with a heritage that has enriched the world’s tapestry in countless ways. Our narrative is one of undying aspiration for peace, for sovereignty, and for the dignity that every human being is owed. It is for freedom. 

Therefore, I call upon all our friends and all our allies to intensify the efforts to keep writing, to keep speaking, and protesting – that’s the only weapon we have, by far. It’s people’s voices from all over the world. To protest, to pressure the government to reassess their foreign policies, to stop arm sales, to recognise Palestine and to use their own economic, diplomatic clout to bring an end to this brutal occupation. Let’s all now gather for the Palestinian cause because it’s not only an isolated cause. It’s a cause for justice, human rights and freedom. By standing all together, resisting together, we can all demand that Palestine should be free now, more than ever.

Watch the webinar here: Red, White, Black & Green – A look into Palestine – YouTube


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