A Palestinian at the January 21 Women’s March
Yesterday, January 21, 2017, I joined the hundreds of thousands of women who united in the Women’s March to protect diverse women’s rights, safety, health and families following the controversial election of President Donald Trump. An unprecedented number of men and women took to the streets of Washington, D.C. and in numerous cities around the United States and the world to non-violently demonstrate, demanding respect for women and their rights. I was fascinated by the various home-made banners held by men, women and children. Some wrote slogans of discontent in response to Trump’s statements during his election campaign regarding women and different minority groups such as immigrants and refugees.
I find it ironic that the Washington, D.C. march took place at the same time that President Trump attended his first church service as president. Christ himself was a minority on different levels - as a refugee and as a religious and ethnic minority under Roman rule - yet He is honored by a leader who excludes such minorities today. In a way, the people who took to the streets were preaching a Christ-like message of equality and respect for women, men, natives, settlers, immigrants and many others.
As a Palestinian who yearns for equality in my own country and for my people, I marched with the protesters. Women of the United States and the world, I hear your cries for justice and stand beside you in solidarity to achieve it. I know that when you stand beside me in our cry for justice, we feel supported and empowered. When we lend one another our voices and bodies, this act of solidarity births hope, hope that you are not alone, and hope that as human beings, we share similar needs.
In the last few weeks, Israel has demolished homes of the residents of Um al-Hiran. These are citizens of Israel who were given a short period of time to evacuate, and as a result, they did not have enough time to take all their belongings before bulldozers came in and turned their homes into rubble. This village is not recognized by the state, and therefore it is denied services and building permits. The issue of permits is a catch-22 where citizens pay hundreds and thousands of shekels to apply for building permits but are never granted them. Eventually, they build illegally only to be met with demolition orders. The case of Um al-Hiran is only one of many cases in which the government wants to evacuate the village in order to build a Jewish city instead. In response, the Palestinian community in Israel joined these families in protest, and they were met with police violence ending with two deaths. This is one of numerous recent incidents that exhibit the state’s discriminatory acts and responses towards its Palestinian residents. The Israeli prime minister directly ordered these acts as he sees me and my people as a threat and a fifth column.
The message that many speakers in the marches shared, the feelings of rejection and suspicion that an elected leader exhibits toward them, resonated with me. I couldn’t help but feel they were speaking to my context as much as theirs: One speaker at the march shared, “They act as if those who don’t look a certain way, dress a certain way, or come from a certain place should be feared. They believe that our differences in language, race, class and faith are somehow indicative of different world views. We are standing here today with like-minded individuals committed to the same values in which women, all women, are treated with dignity and respect. By our solidarity, we refuse to be divided.”
These marchers protested because new leadership threatens the progress they have worked for in the past generation. They marched to remind President Trump and his supporters that they will not let his ideology set them back.
While the Women’s March struggles for some issues that are very different from that of my people, there are similarities. We are still fighting to attain equal rights which we have not yet achieved. Nonetheless, it made me even more determined to call for equality for all regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. We won’t stop until we get there. By our solidarity we refuse to be divided.