I can’t catch my breath – A Palestinian-American Speaks

Saffiya Shillo is an American of Palestinian heritage. She is an outreach coordinator and advocate for victims of violence.  She previously organized within the Chicago area Palestinian community and with Jewish American groups to build understanding and partnerships.

There was a time when hope was something to hang on to for the future.  These days it is difficult to even hope for hope.  Every day brings news of more tragedy.  Vicarious trauma is real for me as I am continually told through the actions and inactions of others that my identity is not worthy of humanity.

The ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah is abhorrent.  Leadership in the U.S. can easily condition aid to Israel on human rights, but they refuse.  Knowing my tax dollars are used to systematically oppress and erase my brethren is numbing. 

Add to the mix Covid 19 deaths throughout the pandemic and just last Friday a close friend’s husband passing, it’s too much.  He was 59 years old.  The week before that a cousin’s 31-year-old son was shot senselessly in front of his home.  Gun violence in America is destroying families and communities. It feels like I can’t catch my breath.  It is unnerving.  

The Palestinian people are struggling for their civil rights.  They are demanding liberation and justice, but you would never know that if you live in the U.S.  The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions  (BDS) is a peaceful movement meant to bring an end to the occupation and grant Palestinian basic human rights.  Its intent is not to destroy Israel. 

Palestinians, namely, Hamas, respond to Israel’s violence with violence.  Israel acts no different to either mode of resistance.  More killing, more maiming, more home demolitions, more settlement building, more incarceration of young and old.   As I write this Gaza is being bombed in response to the Hamas rockets.  Israel escalates with bombing and more innocent civilians are murdered and maimed.  This tactic allows for the overused, “Israel has the right to defend itself.”  Palestinians are labeled violent aggressors. 

How many more Palestinians need to be murdered?  How much longer can the intransigence of the world continue?  As a Palestinian, I am finding it harder to sit in my own skin.



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