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No Matter How Hard I Try, I Cannot Share My Voice

By: Mariam Abaza

Mariam protesting in downtown Columbus, Ohio Image credit: Mariam Abaza

Blood rushed through my veins, just as it floods the streets of Gaza every second of every day. My hands shook as I raised my hand to contend the droves of misinformation and hate speech being so passively thrown around in my journalism class. 

“At least 8,000 children have died. The average age of civilians killed in Gaza is five years old. How could they have deserved that?” I asked, my shaking voice betraying my grief. A student in the back of the class straightened and looked at me, the gold of my Palestine pendant glimmering in his compassion-devoid irises. 

“Every Palestinian is a terrorist, and they all deserve to die,” he said with a grin. My heart sank to the soles of my feet as I realized that in this class of future journalists and policymakers, I was completely and utterly alone. 

As a Palestinian, Syrian, and Indian Muslim woman, I have always belonged to various communities. Never in my life have I felt as much pressure to disown or silence one of my identities as I do now as a Palestinian. My entire life, I’ve represented my identities proudly, whether it be through the Palestinian necklace I wear every day, the food I eat, or the languages I speak. However, at Ohio State, I have felt immense pressure to tuck in my necklace and silence my Palestinian identity to appease those around me. 

I am a reporter for the Lantern, the school newspaper at Ohio State. On October 7th, I saw their website flooded with coverage of Israeli students on campus. However, in the months of intense violence towards Palestinian civilians that ensued, equal attention was not given to the victims. Whenever I asked to cover Palestinian voices, I was rejected. I was told that it was a conflict of interest simply because I followed Palestinian accounts on Instagram, yet after further research, it was clear that the writers covering Israeli students were vocal about their pro-Israel support. The few articles that they did have covering Palestinian students were written by the same reporters who shared “We stand with Israel” posts on their page, yet that was not considered a conflict of interest. The newsroom decided collectively not to use the word “Palestine,” as it could not be considered a “real country,” despite the fact that it is the birthplace and home of my Giddo (grandfather) who, at 88 years old, is older than the entire state of Israel. When I finally pushed hard enough to write an article on the mental health of Palestinian students, I was naively hopeful. I wrote the entire article, featuring the voices of Palestinians on campus that have been grieving every second of every day. The article was intensely censored, with all of these voices being removed, before it was published as a non-controversial fluff piece. 

The administration at Ohio State is no better. As it vocally publicizes its acknowledgment of “the rich diversity of our students, faculty, and staff to be both a defining characteristic and an essential source of our institutional strength,” it silences the masses of students calling for an end to university divestments in Israel through protests and sit-ins. The double standard is as clear as day. When Israeli students set up a public display of empty chairs, representing hostages taken on October 7th, it was left to stand. However, when the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter set up a demonstration of wooden stakes, each representing three Palestinian children killed by airstrikes since October 7, it was bulldozed immediately. 

All peaceful Palestinian protests are met with heavy police presence and threats to arrest, despite the university’s “commitment to free speech.” On November 6th, the interim University President Peter J. Mohler released a statement following a peaceful Palestinian protest claiming “We will support such freedoms even when the views expressed may be highly objectionable and do not align with the university’s values.” What views are off-putting for you, President Mohler? The value of human life? The value of safety and security for all? The collective anger at the reality of mothers holding their mangled children’s bodies in their arms as they run from the continuing airstrikes? 

I am distraught, I am disgusted, but most of all I am angry. Angry that the university can hide behind the guise of permitting freedom of speech while clearly opposing the speech of the hundreds of students protesting for human life each day. Angry that this is the sentiment not just at Ohio State, but around the country. Angry that no matter how hard I try, I cannot share my voice. 

I feel useless. As a journalist, my duty is to report the truth and uplift the voices of silenced communities. Yet I failed to account for the fact that it is hard to uplift those voices when you are just as silenced. 

It is important to realize that my experiences are simply a microcosm of the greater issue: the dehumanization and silencing of Palestinians across the globe. I am sure there are thousands of Palestinian-Americans with stories just like mine, if not worse. There are thousands of Palestinians being dehumanized and murdered daily. This is not just a personal issue. This is not even just an Ohio State issue. This is a global issue. 

Despite what many think, the blatant genocide in Palestine impacts everyone. It is a clear example that despite the perceived progressiveness of the world after the Holocaust and the chants of “never again,” world leaders are not only standing by and allowing it to happen but actively funding it. When even Holocaust survivors are identifying this as a genocide, maybe it’s time to listen.

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