Freedom Rings In Palestinian American Writer —

Living in America and being raised as a Palestinian is a blessing.  Blessings come in all sorts of packages and being able to say I am a Palestinian living freely in America is a gift. I have moved from one country to another my entire life.  My name is Misoon Ghareeb and I am a Palestinian-American. It is more than a label, but an identity I am proud to carry.  I am a Palestinian American because I was born in Sacramento, California. My parents are both from Palestine however but moved to America after getting married for a better prosperous life and educational reasons because at the time Palestine was still under War and conflict and still is to this day. We have been blessed, myself and two older sisters, to be able to get the best of both worlds; Palestine and America all our lives.   The average American sees me and my family members and thinks “Chicano”.  I get remarks and shocked responses from many once they put the facts together that I am not from Mexico or of Spanish decent.  At first, they are in utter shock and don’t believe me and return with questions like, “You’re kidding right, you look Mexican.” When I tell them about Palestine and ask if they know where it is, they reply with, “Pakistan?” It is the everyday life I live and I love it.

I am always so excited to tell people about my country that is misinterpreted in the news and media.  If Palestine is broadcasted on any source, newspaper or news, it is always shown through Israel’s point of view. As the terrorists, murderers, and devil worshipers wish is entirely false of course.  I have lived in Palestine and have witnessed the daily struggle every Palestinian faces; heck I lived it. In order for anyone to understand what I mean, I must explain what I have experienced.  I have survived war, resistance, and occupation. I still don’t believe it, and when I tell strangers and friends they don’t either.  When I was in Palestine in 2008, Gaza was attacked and demonstrations and protests took place in my hometown of El-Essawiah. I remember it so vividly; it was a weekday.  It happened so suddenly, I was suppose to go to school but we woke up suddenly from  loud shouting and smell of burned rubber.  I lived with my mother who to this day is still in Palestine because of identification that Israel is not giving her, so it was just the two of us, the rest of my family were in America. We put the news on and it was reporting: “Breaking News, Gaza has been hit by Israeli missiles and drones.” Within hours of being bombed in Gaza, the men of my town went out to fight and protest and were attempting to help.  There is nothing to do but scream shout and fight and go out and show resistance, I wanted to do the same.  Al-Jazeera was broadcasting our city because men and children were being taken away for no reason, just because they were outside.  We live on a hill that is near a hospital that is Jewish; Hadassah.

Our area is meant to be the “safest” because when the Israeli Defense Force(IDF)  invade Essawiah they can only bomb and throw the tear gas from over the wall and not near our house but they completely did the opposite.  They entered from the beginning and end of the town putting stone wall checkpoints and with their guns, and bombs, as well as large massive dogs completely fearless; which is rare, blockaded the whole village from all entrances.  My cousin Mahmoud, who was fifteen at the time just like every other teenage boy wanted to see the action, but is always told to stay at home and be safe.  He didn’t listen and came downstairs from his house to ours through all the loud shooting and smoke banging on our door.  Somehow he managed to get out from my aunt’s tough control probably without her knowing.   He was all covered up in a scarf and was quite frightened but didn’t want to admit it. I tried to convince him how silly it is to go out and how they don’t care how old he is the soldiers will shoot and capture him.  He said he knows he will be careful but my mom and I locked the doors and told him there is no way to go out.  I went to go get him some juice and the next thing I know he jumped out through the back door of our balcony.  We got so mad; I ran after him barefoot in the cold December fog and ran like a crazy person screaming for him to come back.  We have these metal stairs that lead to more stairs and I don’t even know how he raced out to the main street.  This street is the narrowest one-way path you will ever see. It only leads to the beginning of the town, where the soldiers were.  I could see the green Jeeps the soldiers come in and fire burning as well as blue siren lights that they set off as well as the fireworks in the sky.  I didn’t know what to do and I heard boys coming my way.  I told one of them my cousin left if he knows him to tell him to come home.  I have no idea who they were, their faces were covered, so they can be unidentifiable, and I probably will never know. I just panicked and ran down to the end of the street seeing the craziest scene.  Around 100 men all wearing the Palestinian scarves “koffeyah” concealing their faces, gathered together planning to resist and ready to fight. Fight soldiers with weapons that can’t be warded off but these men were determined, and ready, to face the military with their bare hands and small rocks broken off the walls and streets.  I nearly fainted and I heard a really loud noise, looked behind me and a large truck was coming.  I hid in the corner of this little alley at the end of the street and waited for it to pass then ran back up the narrow street not looking back.  I felt like I was dreaming, and I was worried my cousin would get hurt or worse, get captured.  Meanwhile, I knew my mom was worried sick even if it was minutes of me being outside. Whenever our area gets invaded with soldiers, my mother and I always laugh and think we are in a movie.  Not like it’s funny but how it all happens.  We can easily get killed and always are under attack weekly if not monthly, and soldiers always come or throw bombs like it’s nothing.  My mother is still in Palestine.  I haven’t seen her in almost four years and she is my best friend.  Palestine is my life, and even if I am in America I am always connected and have a piece of my country with me in my heart wherever I go; always wearing my bracelets and necklaces connecting me somehow to my hometown.

Palestine is more than just a title and place that is said in my point of view. Legally, I am a Palestinian-American, but in reality in many others eyes I am only American because I only have a tangible piece of paper that states “Citizen of the United States.” Interpretation of identity is different from each individuals stand point and I see myself as a Palestinian whether I have actual “Haweya” Palestinian identification, or identification that states my nationality.  I was born in California, giving me rights as an American from birth.  However, from a young age I visited Palestine.  I knew my heritage as a child, as an infant, as a toddler and grew up on Islamic and Palestinian morals.

     My parents are both from occupied territories of Palestine My mother is from Shufat, and my father is from Essawiah and have blessed myself and my family to be able to live in America.  I may have been born into a “free” land one would say but it does not conclude my identity and character.  Freedom is not a word easily iterated off my lips because I do not believe it truly exists.  I have moved, and located, and lived under occupation, luxury, war, struggle and depression. I’ve had to deal with checkpoints, as an American, as a Palestinian, as a human being.  My background of being born in America gave me rights as an American to freedom of speech and lifestyle not comparable to the life given to a Palestinian.  My life is a gift, and some would literally die to be in my place to express themselves and their story through my path and situation.  Palestine is truly my identity.  Newt Gingrich once stated that, “The Palestinian people do not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity.” Oh surely he is wrong, we may not have a place on the map but we do exist and I as well as millions of other Palestinians are living proof that we are existent and alive.

Every day I feel empty and lost without my family and presence of my country—I live in America where everything is joyful, light, and accessible and anything you want you can have. Palestine is nothing like America and I always feel guilty any opportunity I get while living in California.  I use my success and knowledge to educate everyone I can the truth behind my life, my country, and my people who are not shown on the news.  News stations tend to report on Israeli perspective because of their strong allies with America – it’s a given and never a surprise.  Some news stations report on full stories and actual live footage from Palestine and occupied territories in Palestine and those are the ones to trust because they give you a 360 degree view on a  story, not just one perspective.

-Misoon Ghareeb

Twitter @NoosiMsooNs

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