Gaza don’t you cry, Palestine will never die

Reflecting on my Palestinian identity

Ali shares his experience as a Palestinian student on campus.

Being Palestinian is the greatest honour of my life.

I grew up hearing stories about what it’s like to live in Palestine, about my hometown, and all the traits I’ve inherited from family members from different areas in Palestine. From my Nabulsi grandmother’s  love of sweets,  to the craving for fruit from my grandparents from Jenin, to the  strong work ethic and passion for architecture I inherited from my family in Safad, every aspect of my being is intertwined in a rich tapestry of Palestinian heritage.

Knowing my blood is Palestinian gives me even more reason to speak up in defense of my country, especially during the tragic events echoing a history of occupation that dates back over 75 years.

In 1948, the Nakba, which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, led to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians, an ongoing injustice suffered by most Palestinians, including my family.

“Nakba” was a term I often heard while growing up, but never fully grasped until I spoke to my late grandfather, who survived the Nakba himself.

I was around seven years old when I first asked him about it. My grandfather’s eyes widened when I approached him, and he got up and went to his office. Moments later he returned with a book where he documented his experience. He started opening specific pages and explaining what it felt like to have gone through such a catastrophic event. A few hours later, I understood what the Nakba was, and more importantly, understood what being Palestinian meant.

The Nakba paved the way for the Naksa to occur. The Naksa took place on June 5, 1967, and marks the day Israel’s occupation of the remainder of historic Palestine expelled more than 300,000 Palestinians—including two of my grandparents.

The Gaza Strip, once historical Gaza, was transformed into the confined “Gaza Strip” in 1949, gradually shrinking to what we know it as today. Since 2007, Gaza has been under an indefinite siege, rendering living conditions unbearable.

The deterioration of the humanitarian situation and services is significant. Gaza has experienced power blackouts 12 to 16 hours per day every day for the past 16 years. There are 1.4 hospital beds per 1,000 people. Five out of 10 families are food insecure. There’s a plethora of other crises.

This humanitarian crisis didn’t arise after the events of Oct. 7. Gazans have been living in an “open-air prison” for almost two decades. While referring to it as a prison may be a charged term, it encapsulates the dire circumstances faced by Gazans, who are innocent victims of complex geopolitical tensions.

As a Palestinian, resilience is ingrained in my DNA. It’s a testament to an intricate understanding of my country’s historical narrative, and unwavering commitments to vocalize our reality.

Living in Jordan—surrounded by a large community of displaced Palestinians—made life much easier for me. However, now that I’m a university student in Canada, my Palestinian identity takes centre stage.

I began to realize that announcing “I am Palestinian” traces back to satisfying my need to tell the stories of my grandparents, who never got the chance to proclaim, “we are Palestinian, and we are proud to be Palestinian,” out loud.

However, being Palestinian in Kingston and at Queen’s during this point in time has been nothing short of devastating and disappointing. In a country where we’re all privileged to have the right to free speech, leveraging my freedom of speech to bring attention to the genocide that’s happening in Gaza has been met with challenges—accusations of supporting terrorism and antisemitism being unwarrantedly levelled.

I’ve worn my keffiyeh—a traditional Palestinian scarf that represents resistance and Palestinian culture—around campus for a month now. At least once a day, I receive a nasty look. Many people associate the keffiyeh with terrorism, even though the patterns on the keffiyeh represent significant factors of Palestinian culture, making it a symbol of resistance.

Though I was filled with joy after seeing a statement released by the Gender Studies and Black Studies department expressing their solidarity with Palestine, I was disappointed by the backlash that followed.

The message of solidarity filled me with the hope that a difference is being made, but when I saw students call this post disgusting, misleading, and antisemitic, my heart felt heavy.

I’ve experienced hate and injustice from some of the clubs at Queen’s University, including some where I’m an executive member. As I started to spread awareness on what’s going on in Gaza, I realized my Instagram story was viewed by one of the clubs I’m an executive of when I was looking at my views one day. I found that extremely weird since I’m the social media coordinator for this club, and the people that have access to the Instagram account were limited to me and the president. When I opened the Instagram account, I saw my username in the search history.

Instances of racism and xenophobia persist on campus, with misunderstandings about the phrase “from the river to the sea’. Groups across Canadian universities have routinely posted on Instagram, calling others antisemitic for using the phrase “from the river to the sea,” when it refers to the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and Palestine’s freedom. The phrase is unrelated to religion, referring only to the freedom of Palestinians, and the liberation of Palestine.

Even though this phrase perfectly highlights the freedom Palestinians desire, and doesn’t oppose Jewish people living in Palestine, it’s contributing to tensions.

Instead of mourning the deaths of our people, we are screaming for a ceasefire, while sharing very graphic pictures of Palestinians without any faces, and barely any limbs. Although we’re having to deal with the dehumanization of Arabs, Arabs all around the world are standing in solidarity with Palestine, ignoring the untrue narrative that Arabs are terrorists for the sake of solidarity.

This isn’t just a Muslim issue or an Arab issue, this comes down to human rights—the deprivation of basic human rights such as water, food, and shelter to innocent civilians who are dying by the minute.

No matter who you are, it’s never too late to stand up against genocide.


identity, Palestine

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

Comments (5)

  • This is so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your experience, and for educating us on what it’s like to be Palestinian. We stand in solidarity with all Palestinians, and we are many. Stay strong. One day, Palestine will be free from occupation, apartheid and hatred.

  • Brilliant and honest! Thank you Ali for opening up and contextualizing the Nakba for readers. Your resiliency is a testament to the strength and will of Palestinians to live a life free from oppression. May your grandparents find peace in knowing that the young has not forgotten. Thanks again!

  • So eloquently written Ali! Thank you for sharing this beautiful story capturing what its like for many Palestinians living in the diaspora. From the river to the sea, a liberated Palestine we will see – God willing!

  • I love this piece! It’s so touching.
    Very well written Ali, thank you for sharing with us. People thought the younger generation would forget, thank you for showing the worlds that we would never.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Queen's Journal

© All rights reserved.

Back to Top
Skip to content