I’ve never been to Palestine though I write about it all the time. I don’t always know the difference between ع and غ in Arabic. I don’t know how to wrap a keffiyeh around my neck. I don’t like hummus. I’d rather read George Abraham or Lena Khalaf Tuffaha than canonical writers like Darwish. I am still trying to reconcile my identities. My multiple displacements. The difficulty of seeing (and unseeing); the desire to be seen (and unseen). The profound privilege of living in America, where a drone is a bird in the sky I look at while walking through the park. It is not a bomb, not a symbol of fear, not a cue to panic and duck. The loneliness of living in America, paying for the bombs that kill my people. My language a sound I reach for with my tongue, heavy and imprecise.
There is a photo I can’t stop looking at. In it, a 35-year-old Dareen Tatour waves at a crowd of camera men. It’s sunny. It’s September. Tatour is smiling. This is an act of resistance.
The photo was taken hours after she was released from prison. Israeli authorities claimed her poem, “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” incited violence. She posted the poem on YouTube. In the video, Tatour reads her poem against a backdrop of photos of Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation. A week after posting her poem, Tatour was arrested and jailed for three months. In prison, guards denied her writing material, so Tatour used the broken slider of a zipper and carved poems on the wall. After being released from prison, she was placed on house arrest and denied internet access. She served an additional forty-two days in prison. Upon release on September 20, 2018, the photo was taken. Tatour is smiling. She says, “I regret being sent to prison for a poem, but it will be impossible to stop my writing.”
Tatour and I are worlds apart. What binds us is an allegiance to a land colonized by a country determined to erase Palestinians from existence. What separates us is a politics that refused reentry to my father for 15 years for working with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. But I am here and Tatour is there. When Tatour writes, the Israeli Defense Force is right outside her door, seconds away from bulldozing her home. When I write, the…