I first set foot on Swedish soil in October of 2013, seeking the sense of security that had been robbed of me by the war in Syria. This same security was often celebrated as "freedom of expression" by the people who preached to the new immigrants about what it means to belong to a free society. ‘Freedom of expression’ was celebrated as a core tenet of my new-found security, an integral part of belonging to a free society.
The years roll on, one after the other. During my time here, I have witnessed four wars, with the latest being the one we're currently waging, within ourselves and with these so-called "free" societies.
Initially, our war was a battle of language and words. Since we live in societies that promise freedom of expression, we tried to convey the suffering of our people 'in a way they understand', removed from slogans they deem anti-semetic, and instead use the words that have previously united us Arabs.
The police is aggressive, reminding us of the oppression we, as immigrants, fled. Our security is conditional on our silence. Western democracy promotes a specific narrative–any difference in opinion results in punishment. Is this their freedom of expression?
Many, including myself, were taken aback by recent public reactions to our support of the Palestinian cause. Right-wing Swedish politicians rushed to issue statements to the kind of biased media outlets that tend to lean towards blaming the victim. Even the Swedish political left, historically supporters of the Palestinian cause, presented the oppressor as the innocent party, exerting its right to defend itself.
France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are waging war against anyone calling for Palestinian freedom, and are punishing those carrying banners condemning the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine. I was well aware that we were in a dirty war led by the 'deep states' in the land of "freedom of expression". The police became more aggressive, reminding us of the oppression we, as immigrants, have fled, and changing the concept of freedom of expression to: "If you go out in demonstration without a permit, we will revoke your citizenship and residence rights, and will send you back to the place you once escaped from." Our security and freedom of expression is now conditional to us remaining silent. In other words, our democracy seems to have a specific framework, one that does not allow for freedom of communication, opinion or debate. Any opinion that contradicts the collective opinion set by these “free” governments, will result in punishment and silencing.
As the war escalates, so too does public discontent in Germany, France, and Britain. Here, freedom of expression exists insofar as it does not challenge certain frameworks and narratives.
An example of this is when Meta began restricting pro-Palestinian content and reducing its visibility to users, in a practice referred to online as "shadow banning" by activists and social media influencers. Moreover, social media accounts for Western outlets often disable comments that could be deemed sympathetic to the Palestinian cause on their posts, consistently favoring the occupier’s narrative over documented facts.
As the war escalates, so too does public discontent in Germany, France, and Britain. These countries are supposed to champion freedom of expression, an integral part of the European Constitution. It is clear that the harrowing images of victims, wounded and dead children, are not enough to stir their ‘humanity’ that they promised us here in Europe when they welcomed us. Today, we find ourselves citizens of a country that has not held up its promise – the very promise that brought us here: the right to freedom of expression. There is no room for our voice, no value for the blood of our children. There never was. And if we do manage to express ourselves, police threaten us with arrest and deportation.
The images of dead children are not enough to stir their ‘humanity’ that they promised us here in Europe when they welcomed us.. There is no room for our voice, no value for the blood of our children. There never was..
So, I would like to pose a genuine question to the European community: What do you consider the international limit for self-defense? If we consider the resistance's actions on October 7 as acts of terrorism, without taking into account the 75 years of occupation, oppression, discrimination, violence and censorship, will anything ever justify a mother having to gather her child's dismembered body parts into a backpack? What can ever erase the image of that traumatized child trembling after being pulled from beneath rubble? Are the police protecting so-called "free" societies from opposing oppression? Why are the police preventing its citizens from protesting war crimes?
Western media are quick to capitalize on our pain, inviting television hosts and media personalities to weigh in on events and make a circus of the war. Piers Morgan, for instance, hosted the Palestinian Ambassador in London, Husam Zomlot, on his television show just to ask him the question, "Do you condemn Hamas?" Morgan also invited Egyptian TV host Bassem Youssef to get his opinion, "as an Arab", on the ongoing war. Youssef cleverly used satire and dark humor to expose the fragile Zionist narrative that Western media has been propagating.
But now there's a fear that the suffering and devastation in Gaza have become a hot topic and an easy means to gain an audience. Youssef achieved tremendous success and garnered significant support, from both Arab and Western audiences, for leaving one of Britain's most prominent media personalities speechless. Shortly after their first interview, Morgan traveled to Los Angeles for a second interview with Youssef, raising speculation about his intentions and desire. I am not here to criticize; anyone who can shed light on this tragedy is appreciated. Rather, I am trying to convey the helplessness, anger, and sorrow I am witnessing in the eyes of the people who are losing their loved ones and are unable to even honor them with a funeral.
A few days ago, Youssef’s second interview with Piers was aired, and I found it empowered the Palestinian people and their narrative. The Egyptian comedian spoke as an Arab expat, not as a satirical media personality (as he had done in his first interview). His voice and story began to trend among a wider English-speaking audience. Through a series of simple metaphors, facts and dates, Youssef affirmed the historical presence of Palestine and Palestinians throughout the interview. Piers Morgan's defensive tone even changed slightly regarding the Zionist narrative, bringing him somewhat closer to understanding the whole picture. bringing him seemingly a little closer to acknowledging the conflict in its entirety. Morgan is not the only public figure who has changed their tone. Early on in the conflict, Angelina Jolie had initially blamed Hamas and emphasized the importance of protecting the "civilian" settlers. More recently though, she issued a heartfelt statement strongly condemning the Israeli bombing of Jabaliya refugee camp that resulted in 400 civilian casualties.
Will anything ever justify a mother having to gather her child's dismembered body parts in a backpack? What can ever erase the image of that traumatized child trembling after he was pulled from beneath the rubble of his home?
In conclusion, when you leave a refugee camp, you leave Palestine twice. First, through the stories of grandmothers who died after the Nakba, and again, when the camp, where each neighborhood is named after a Palestinian region, is destroyed. In Yarmouk camp, for instance, we went out onto the streets multiple times during the wars on Gaza in 2006 and 2009. We lit candles, chanted the names of the martyrs, and filled the streets of the camp with our anger. However, the hypnotic feeling promoted by Arab governments gave us a sense of false complacency, and our strong sense of solidarity at the time turned into a feeling of helplessness upon our arrival in Europe.
We thought these protests were for expressing our opinions, but these so-called "free" governments have a different idea of what opinion should be. In our adopted Western homelands, freedom of expression exists insofar as it does not challenge their established frameworks and narratives. It means saying a word against Europe's favored ally and spoiled child.
During the last three wars on Palestine, Palestinians were the ‘clear’ victim, yet Western solidarity was rather timid— cautious statements of condemnation and various UN summits without any real impact. This is a stark contrast to the West’s reaction now, when Palestinians became defenders of a right in a conflict that has been 75 years in the making. European governments have been quick to remove their false humanitarian masks and reveal their bias. We are faced with a war within a war, a war of identity, and a quest to defend freedom of speech and opinion. Our sorrow for Palestine has mixed with our feelings of anger and helplessness, as our voice is being rejected from the ‘civilization’ of the West.
* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22
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