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Op-Ed: Amid the Horrors of War, the Fight for a Free Palestine Gives Me Hope for a Better World

A senior at CUNY Queens College explains how the genocide in Gaza is altering his perspective.

Sajjid Mian Dec 15, 2023

In the quiet of the night, my attempts to sleep were thwarted by vivid memories of harrowing scenes — heads blown off, an infant relying on a powerless incubator, and other scenes of pure terror in Gaza. Struggling to find reprieve, I resorted to imagining darkness to hush my mind, only to be interrupted by a lifelike explosion, a mental projection of Gaza at night. I didn’t sleep that night, fearing the gruesome headlines I would wake up to the following day.

I don’t need to look at all the horror unfolding in Palestine, but I feel it is my moral obligation to bear witness. These experiences charred the veneer of normalcy hanging over my daily life.

Although my life hasn’t changed, my unease with living in the USA grows daily. I randomly tear up during spontaneous emotional outbursts, which I later feel guilty for because I am safe and sound. I’m not sure why I have these tearful outbursts. I want to think I’m only imagining it, but I’m beginning to suspect that the optimistic American narrative of peaceful coexistence between different people is only conditional, not constitutional. 

From the core of my being, I have the urge to shout, “Free Palestine!” However, it’s Palestine that’s freeing me.

I’m a senior at Queens College, and I often like to mind my own business, but there is too much to ignore. At my university, I’ve witnessed a multitude of instances of suppression against Muslims and pro-Palestinian protestors, ranging from police interventions to counter protests, suspensions and even public condemnation by our school president. This standard is not held against Zionist marches or movements on campus. What happened at my university is only a minor blip in the grand story of suppression happening on college campuses nationwide. Many students and professors are being targeted by Canary Mission, a website that preys on people taking a stand against the Israeli occupation, leaking their personal information. This dangerous behavior paints targets on the backs of people who are fighting for a just cause. 

This suppression permeates every level of society, affecting professionals in every field, movie-franchise leads and even professional athletes. The double standard is especially apparent when celebrities supporting Palestine (such as Melisa Barrera and Anwar El Ghazi) suffer consequences for their stances, while Zionists (like Amy Schumer and Noah Schnapp) are celebrated for their vitriolic, racist and bigoted statements solely because they support Israel. 

The more I see the different ways that people suffer for their protests, the more precise the picture in my mind is of the wall enclosing our society. The freedoms that we claim are our human rights were fought for. 

This struggle for liberty and justice for all is a driving factor throughout human history. People always had to fight for justice to be accepted. I trace my roots back to Bangladesh, and I have great reverence and awe for the lengths my grandparents and great-grandparents took to fight for their right to be recognized and live without persecution. I find strength when I look through my history. We are where we are today because of the struggles of everyone who came before. Therefore, we cannot afford to be content when our institutions manufacture complicity.

From the core of my being, I have the urge to shout, “Free Palestine!” However, it’s Palestine that’s freeing me. It opened my mind to all the horrors tucked away from the public view. I am steadily realizing the extent to which American imperialism benefits from the exploitation and suffering of others across the globe. I refuse to be a willing participant in a society that values the profits of the few over the well being of the plenty. 

I was aware of the reality in Palestine well before Oct. 7, but I never wanted to talk about it. I knew American society at large was pro-Zionism, and I was one of the odd ones out. I knew what apartheid looked like in the modern day, but there was no public outrage like there is right now, so I just let my inner turmoil bottle up.  My crying fits aren’t my frustration or anger; it’s an emotional release. I felt I was numb to it all for years already because society at large did not care. Now, the people are lashing out, and I’m starting to feel again. I cry now for the times I couldn’t back then. I cry now because I feel hope that things can change.

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