We are writing this piece as six students who identify as Palestinian. We were born into different religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism and atheism, although none of this should matter. What matters is that all of us identify as Palestinian because our parents and/or our grandparents (and generations of our families before them) were born in Palestine. We cannot include our names because we fear being denied entry to the West Bank or Israel if we were ever to try to visit the lands where some members of our families still live.
Today we are asking you, our fellow Tufts students, to kindly read this with an open mind. Some of you may feel uncomfortable or angered by our actions during Israel Apartheid Week, and some of you may simply not care about a conflict so distant, but some of you may want to know: What were we thinking when we posed tough questions at the Birthright General Interest Meeting? Why do we wear kuffiyehs around our necks? Why did we join Students for Justice in Palestine? Why can’t we be “neutral” or “moderate”? We are writing to you, the curious, compassionate and questioning Tufts student. We hope that our words resonate with you and form a deeper understanding of what it means to be Palestinian on this campus.
None of us carry a Palestinian identification card. Because we do not have this ID card, we do not have the legal right to live in Palestine as Palestinians, just as our parents and grandparents did before the creation of the ID card and the state of Israel. Some of us are refugees because our families were expelled from the land in 1948 and never received an ID. Some of our families fled the wrath of what Noam Chomsky called, “the largest open-air prison in the world,” Gaza, and live as Palestinian-Americans in the diaspora. Meanwhile, some of us have lived in Palestine for our whole lives but still enter the territory as tourists with temporary visitor visas because some of those in our families had their identification cards taken when they were child prisoners.
However, if we did have Palestinian IDs, the chances of us attending Tufts would be slim. If you carry a Palestinian ID, you are not allowed to go into Israel without a permit, which means you don’t have access to the only airport in Israel and Palestine. There are ways around this, of course, but to be a Palestinian means that you have to get the Israeli government’s permission to leave your nations’s territory in order to travel to other countries.
So why mention this?
Well, imagine what it is like to walk by a Birthright poster on this campus, knowing that you have never, and perhaps will never see the very house your grandparents were expelled from in 1948. Yet, over one fourth of the Tufts population can see that house and they, simply by being Jewish, can eventually own that house, while their Palestinian fellow students cannot.
To us, Birthright is the erasure of our right to our homeland, and it promises our homeland to one in four students at this university. Birthright is marketed as apolitical. Participants are led to believe that it is an innocent trip of camel rides, hiking, clubbing and swimming in the Dead Sea. It offers tourists a chance to “reconnect” with a country to which they have never been, and often times, to which they have no immediate familial ties.