April 21st, 2024

Conference speaker talks about Palestinian diaspora

By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on March 5, 2024.

Deema Abushaban is a Palestinian Muslim who was raised between the West and Middle East and she spoke about Palestinians in the diaspora at the Conversations about Global Advocacy Conference at the University of Lethbridge on Saturday.
The conference focused on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Palestine.
“So that’s us, me, my family,” said Abushaban.
“Any Palestinian who is not in Palestine right now is a Palestinian in diaspora. So we’re all the Palestinians that are no longer on our homeland and I say homeland because it is ours, it is our land. There are more than six million Palestinians in the global diaspora.”
Abushaban reminded the audience that Palestinians are not detached from this cause.
“You most likely have walked by a Palestinian in your life,” she said.
“So there is this understanding that we are nearby, we are close to you. So please care for us.”
Abushaban pointed out that they are suffering and struggling.
“These six million Palestinians in the global diaspora are suffering,” she said.
“You don’t have to be in Palestine to suffer as a Palestinian and I know this as a 29-year-old talking to you right now. I’ve had 29 years of this mental health crisis I call being Palestinian. And I like that and I don’t like that. I’m OK saying that because it is, it’s true, but I don’t as well because it’s not all suffering, most of it’s actually beautiful and there’s a pride in being Palestinian – that only a Palestinian can really understand.”
Abushaban described being in a diaspora as a double, triple and quadruple whammy.
It starts with people finding out you’re born a non-white person and Muslim to start with is a double whammy, the addition of a hijab is a triple whammy and being Palestinian is considered a quadruple whammy.
“It’s like this internal competition I have with myself, how many whammies can I gather living in the West as a Palestinian?” asked Abushaban.
“People don’t love us. It’s so weird. I don’t know why, we’re pretty nice honestly. I work with kids, I’ve gotten police record checks, I’m not a criminal but it’s not enough. I don’t know what it is and people see you and they’re like ‘whoa’.”
Abashaban brought up an awareness piece through a teaching experience in Brooks with a stranger who walked by her says ‘oh, thank God.”
“I was like thank God. Why, like what’s going on?'” she recalled.
“And then I saw the kids, they all looked like me and I was like ‘whoa, this is great.’ So he was relieved. He was like ‘wow ,one of them,’ like you got this. Like I barely had to go to staff meetings honestly. It’s just like honestly, you’re good, like we need to learn, you can teach, yeah, we trust you.”
Abushaban learned something very valuable in that encounter.
“Well with that,yes he appreciated me, but it’s because he benefitted from me being there,” she recalled.
“So even then I felt used because we’re only loved it seems when we can benefit the people who are loving us. This has been constant.”
She encourages people to get educated about learning about their names properly, wearing their keffiyeh, wearing a pin to indicate that person is safe to them, placing stickers on water bottles, showing up to protests post on social media, donate and trying to help you have the abilities to do so.
“These aren’t unreasonable, especially if you are a white person in this community,” she said.
“You are most likely not going to be spoken to and if you are, there are probably no consequences to your actions.”
The Campus Collective Centre and Lethbridge Public Interest Group hosted the conference.
The conference featured workshops and a networking opportunity with community organizations.

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