What the Free Palestine Movement Means to Me... A Non-Palestinian
As a Canadian man with no heritage rooted in Palestine or any other West Asian country, who isn’t Muslim, Jewish or frankly religious at all, I am often asked why I support Palestine and use my voice to advocate for Palestinians. This is both an easy and a difficult question to answer. I intend to describe my feelings surrounding Palestine to the best of my ability and my hope is that Palestinians hear my words as genuine love and support, and that non-Palestinians connect with my words and find it in themselves to stand with Palestine as well. Before I dissect my support and put the pieces under a microscope for the reader I will give the easiest and most simple answer: I support Palestine because it goes completely against my personal beliefs and morality to NOT support Palestine.
It is worth my time to explain how I found out about Palestine. Growing up in Canada, I cannot remember ever learning about Palestine or Israel in school. If you had asked me at the age of 18 what Palestine was, I’d likely have been able to make a biblical connection but my knowledge would have ended there. Our textbooks weren’t even able to adequately portray the colonial and genocidal nature of my own country’s history let alone the history or current events of Palestine, halfway across the world. Mainstream media in Canada would match bold lettered tickers reading words like “self defense” and “terrorists” with videos of explosions to show how barbaric Israel’s neighbors are. Perhaps this is why my advocacy for Palestinians is often met with surprise.
I remember very distinctly the moment I opened my eyes on this issue. I happened across a podcast appearance by Abby Martin who spoke in great detail about the disturbing nature of Israel’s response to the Great March of Return protests in Gaza in 2018 and it changed my life. I remember the outrage I felt as Martin described the “watch parties” that Israeli civilians took part in on hills overlooking Gaza and the snipers firing on unarmed protestors, medics and journalists. From that moment I went all in on research. I had to understand everything. I listened to podcasts, read books, listened to lectures and debates and watched documentaries. I am no expert or professional researcher, but I have dedicated countless hours to understanding Palestine and all that its people have experienced since the start of the 20th century.
Perhaps my anger could be attributed to a good moral compass and a general care for humanity, however the connection between me and Palestine that sparked in that moment is something I still struggle to understand myself. I’d felt sympathy for oppressed people before. I’d felt anger over global events before. But I had never felt such a connection to a land I had never been to or to a people than I feel towards Palestine. I don’t know why this has occurred but I embrace it fully. The best explanation I can give for this are the words PaliRoots co-founder Aminah Musa said to me, “Dylan, you are Palestinian by heart.”
So I made a personal choice to seek knowledge that would allow me to better understand Palestinians. I’ve always been a knowledge seeker, this was not out of the ordinary for me. Speaking out and being vocal in support of global issues, however, wasn’t part of my life. I quickly became so passionate about Palestine that keeping my newly found knowledge and understanding to myself was not an option. I started a podcast in hopes of illuminating the story for my peers who, much like a younger me, have not heard of or do not understand the reality that Palestinians face. I became actively involved in spreading awareness on social media, which I believe to be one of the most effective ways to spread information in this day and age. I began to connect with Palestinians online to broaden my understanding further and in doing so I met Hussein and Aminah (co-founders of PaliRoots) and was welcomed with open arms by the PaliRoots community. The rest is history.
I find it incredibly unfortunate that it took me more than 2 decades of life on this planet to hear the story of Palestine, yet I feel so grateful to have found it when I did. This journey I have found myself on in the last handful of years has been one of discovery and empathy. I have forged friendships, had deeply meaningful conversations, challenged my worldview and opened my heart and soul in a way I never had before. Palestine, I’m still not completely sure why you found me, but you did. You will always have a place in my heart and I will always find ways to support you and advocate for your freedom. I believe fully that it is not if, but when a free Palestine will exist and I vow to never stand idly by while that day approaches.
About the Author: - Dylan found the story of Palestine as a young adult, and quickly became passionate about learning and educating others of its history and current events. A Canadian born and raised, he's been called a Palestinian by heart and couldn't be more proud to be that.