thuraya zeidan

Thuraya Zeidan, Displaced Palestinian

Interviewed by Shanaz Deen virtually, 06/19/22

Transcribed by Asma Barakat, 07/25/22

Notes: Mentions of Thuraya’s current residence were redacted.

(00:00) Shanaz Deen: This is Shanaz Deen interviewing Thuraya Zeidan on June 19, 2022. This interview is being conducted over Zoom. So why don’t you start by telling me where you’re from, where you were born, what your childhood was like?

(00:21) Thuraya Zeidan: Sure. I’m from Falasteen. And I was actually born in Falasteen in al-Quds, which is also known as Jerusalem. And I was a year old when my mom and I moved to New Jersey. But I did have the opportunity to live in Falasteen two different times growing up each time for about two years. And I do have some very vivid memories of living there between the ages of seven to about nine. And one of those includes living in my grandfather’s house, in al-Quds, which is relatively close to al-Aqsa Masjid. His home was in a neighborhood in al-Quds called Ras al-Amood. And I remember going to the corner store there with one of my siblings, with my brother. And on our way to the store, a group of children joined us. And once we were inside this candy store, and just very excited, like children would be choosing these small candies, I remember. And I think this is maybe my first memory of the military occupation, I remember two soldiers of the Zionist settler regime, breaking into the store and grabbing two children, they were also our age at the time, probably, you know, seven or eight years old, one of the boys was wearing a pair of glasses, and one of the two soldiers threw his glasses and crushed them. And I remember hiding underneath of the register counter, and the other children also trying to seek refuge in this, you know, very small store. And they grabbed the two boys and threw them in their Jeep. And I remember as a child, from the lens of a child thinking, these were called green men because they were all dressed in green. And I think that that’s something that was always vivid for me, the green clothing, the green Jeep, the uniform, it taking the children, and I remember, everybody being completely mortified all the other children in the store. And, you know, we arrived to the store with those boys and left without them five minutes later. And I was very concerned for their moms because I started thinking their moms are going to look for them. Because if I was missing, my mom would look for me, and who’s going to go back and tell their moms that they’re not coming home today? And for several hours after I lost my ability to speak, I think I was just kind of in a shock until I was able to process what I could at the time. And so I think that for me was my first experience with the military occupation. And then just in my next couple of years living there at the time where I was attending Elementary School, in al-Quds. After that one particular experience, seeing the military occupation around everywhere, just reinforced this idea to me that although I didn’t have the language or the understanding, I knew that there was some kind of supremacist being had to have existed because there was a difference between people who were Palestinian and then people. And then these other people that I didn’t know at the time really what this was for, I didn’t have the language and the words for, but I recognized early on that there was something taking place that represented this kind of racism and inequality that I would understand, you know, in my later years. And actually, this is reminding me of several years later, when I have two boys, a 12-year-old and a 7-year-old when my 12-year-old was around four or five years old. I took him to Falasteen for the first time. And the first thing he noticed when we were you know, going around in Jerusalem, he would say to me, why do people have guns and they’re standing on the sidewalk, right? Like they’re just the existence and the presence of the military occupation. And I recognize that at the end of the trip, my son and I were able to come here to our other home in New Jersey and that other people can’t do that. Right. And not that I’m suggesting that they leave their home, but I just do recognize that I have the ability to go and visit and then leave, and other people don’t and their children are constantly exposed to that trauma. Not only to the trauma, but to the violence and the aggression and, and the displacement and the home demolitions and, and to murder and to attending funerals of martyrs.

(05:48) Shanaz Deen: Yeah, they’re incredibly jarring memories and images to have at such a young age. So you mentioned you have the privilege of, you know, eventually, like leaving Falasteen after your visits? How did your family migrate from Falasteen to the US and why?

(06:10) Thuraya Zeidan: So in about 1980, my father migrated, I actually don’t want to use the word migrate here. So I think because all Palestinians that live outside of Palestine, we are Palestinians living in the diaspora because our home is, is occupied and colonized and imperialism is enforced. So in 1980, 1980-1981, my father was able to leave Palestine and come to New Jersey, through an uncle of his, a maternal uncle of his. And he just happened to be one of the people in their family that had the opportunity to come to New Jersey. And so, you know, five, four or five years later, or so him and my mom married and my mom and I came over to New Jersey when I was a year old. And since then, my father and mother have both lived in New Jersey, they were both born in al-Quds and raised in al-Quds. And they actually both had Al-Quds, citizenships. So there are four different citizenships for people that are in occupied Palestine who are Palestinian. It’s either the Jerusalem citizenship, the West Bank citizenship, the Gaza citizenship. And there’s 20% of Palestinians in occupied Palestine are referred to as Arab Israelis. And they are the group of Palestinians who live in current-day, predominantly Israeli neighborhoods. So those are the four types of citizenships. And if you have either the West Bank one, the Jerusalem one, or the Gaza one, those three cannot have any other citizenship for any other country. It’s not even so much a citizenship, it’s just the kinds of ID because it doesn’t really give you rights as a person. And so my parents because they were born in Jerusalem had the Jerusalem citizenship. And so they eventually obtained the US citizenship after living here. And on one of our visits. And I was 17 years old at the time, my mother was called into the some kind of ministry office in Jerusalem, she was trying to also help me to get a Jerusalem citizenship, they allow you to get that ID there at 16 years old. And it gives you the right to travel within occupied Palestine. That’s really the purpose of it. And so they told my mom, well, it turns out that you have this sort ID, the Jerusalem ID and the US citizenship, and if you’re Palestinian, you cannot have both. It’s either the Jerusalem ID or the US citizenship, you may not have the combination of both because of other Palestinians, they are the ones with the Jerusalem ID are considered to have more rights. And so you’re it’s if you imagine sort of like levels or I guess we can call it different levels of some kinds of humanity. If you have a Jerusalem ID you are placed slightly higher than somebody with a West Bank ID for instance. And so the Jerusalem ID holders cannot also have a US citizenship and they told her to pick one. When we were there, they said pick one and then we’re going to withdraw the other one. So obviously she picked the US citizenship because this is our home and this is where we were going to school and she really picked it by force more than anything. It’s not something that we can call a choice because our people don’t have basic human rights in Falasteen. And so both of my parents lost their Jerusalem IDs despite being born there because of that law. Which by the way, I’m sure you’re familiar that if you are an Israeli citizen, you can also have a US citizenship or other citizenships belonging to other countries or governments.

(10:30) Shanaz Deen: Yeah. It’s crazy how much the settler colonialism pervades, every aspect of your life, down to what citizenships you can hold? I guess after that moment when they had to choose their American citizenship, what did conversations about identity? And, even ancestral land look like in your household? Like, did your family ever identify as Palestinian American? Yeah, how did they teach you about your identity?

(11:13) Thuraya Zeidan: Growing up, my parents taught my siblings and I that our identity was both American and Palestinian. But you know, with that growing up, we always knew that the Palestinian identity was a controversial one, even in childhood living in the United States. I remember things as simple as doctor visits. And then on the questionnaire being asked ethnicity or country at the time, you know, in the early to mid-1990s. And I remember a doctor, I was probably 10. And a doctor said to me, I, you know, he said, Well, where are you from? And I said I’m from Palestine. He said, No, you’re not. Maybe you’re from Jordan, but you’re certainly not from Palestine, Palestine is not a country that exists. And, you know, just like many other Palestinian kids that grew up in America, many of us have had teachers in the public school system tell us that we are not from Palestine when we work on things related to identity or culture in the classroom, which are usually assignments that students are forced to partake in, that are performative and superficial and shallow and related more to cuisine than actual identity. But growing up, we certainly did have that experience of being told that we are not what we always believed we were so Palestinian children in the diaspora always have that to face, although I think all marginalized kids do. And I think especially Palestinian kids in this particular scenario, as far as growing up and being in and in schools, and we know that the public education system intentionally leaves out kids who are marginalized.

(13:14) Shanaz Deen: So I’m curious. One of our, very interesting questions to ask narrators is, What does home mean to you? And how has that changed throughout your life? And also, I’d love to hear your perspective, like being a mother now with Palestinian children. You know, how do you create home for them too?

(13:40) Thuraya Zeidan: I associate a home with safety. And so what makes it very difficult is that I know that safety does not exist in what I know in my heart is my home which is Falasteen. And so it’s very, it’s conflicting because your home should be a place of refuge. And I know that that’s something that my people don’t have, because of colonialism, settler colonialism, because of the Zionist settler regime, because of imperialism, and land theft, and home demolitions. And so, it makes it very difficult to try to really find particular language to describe home because if you asked me that question as a [redacted] I would tell you, like this is home like my home, this is home like our condo in [redacted] is home and being safe and being comfortable and you know, just really being in a place where you have privacy and where you can just enjoy time with your family, with your friends. Like this is where you can rest. Right, that’s huge. This is your home. And so things as basic as that don’t exist for Palestinians in occupied Palestine. But I think that in evaluating and reflecting on this topic, home is always Palestine first. And then I consider home, like my physical home here, because I don’t know that I would be here, you know, had we not been forced to leave our home, right like we would be in Palestine in our homelands and would have had the opportunity to grow up there without the exposure of the aggression and the violence and checkpoints and imprisonment, including imprisonment of children, and the example I gave you was like one very, you know, minuscule example of several that take place all of the time that have become so normalized. And I’m really so glad for. And I don’t want to romanticize that Palestinians are resilient people, but they truly are probably one of the most resilient people. And, you know, many of them are so, so brave. And many of our young people are so bold and brave, where they’re documenting their experiences of being imprisoned and being violated on social media. And I think that now, for a lot of people who have been turning a blind eye, we don’t have that excuse anymore. And people who have always turned a blind eye are the same people now who turn a blind eye and we don’t need their recognition or for them to value who we are as a people. But now there’s really no excuse as to who they are, their character has come to surface.

(17:06) Shanaz Deen: I do want to come back to the topic of social media. But before that, I want to pivot a little to talk about your religious identity. And whether your family is religious and what that, you know, how did religion phase your childhood or play a role in your upbringing?

(17:24) Thuraya Zeidan:

I wanted to mention something about my kids being Palestinian, can I go back to that?

(17:29) Shanaz Deen: Absolutely.

(17:30) Thuraya Zeidan: Okay, I think I got off track when I mentioned social media. So raising two Palestinian boys, I make sure to be very conscious of talking to them about our identity as Palestinians, because I know that that’s not something that they will ever be exposed to in the public education system, which does not honor any marginalized people. Any brown, black, indigenous people, or people from any marginalized group, whether it be LGBT, or people with disabilities, or people with mental health issues, or people that or refugees, undocumented immigrants. And we know that according to research, well over 90% of curricula, and the public education system is dominated by white men. And so that’s a reflection of what we’re seeing in schools. And so because of that, I know that I have to be very conscious as a parent, that my children understand their identity, what their people have contributed, and what their value is because otherwise, they’re not going to find that in another place. And so that can include things like making sure that they’re aware of the truth, and what’s happening to their homelands. And then also trying to balance that as Palestinians in the diaspora, by teaching them the things that bring us joy, because we don’t have to also be robbed of our joy as Palestinians because of our reality and experiencing colonialism. This very harsh and tragic reality. And so it could include things like culture and music and food, and books and literature and art. And so just kind of being able to have a balance with teaching children. And just that approach of, you know, this is what the truth is, and this is what’s happening to our people. And then also, this is what our people have contributed and continued to contribute. And they are not people that are voiceless. You know, in fact, they have a very strong voice and we want to recognize that and be able to speak up on this if it comes up because we have to prepare our children because, you know, Palestinian parents in the diaspora know that our kids will face similar conflict growing up in the United States, such as what I talked on earlier with being told, you know, “your country is not on the map, how does it exist?,” by teachers who are either racist or, and probably also, you know, in support of settler colonialism? And then I just want to go back to your question on religion. So religion, I think is a topic that’s important to Palestinians. Ninety-six percent of Palestinians living in occupied Palestine are Muslim. And there is a strong solidarity between Palestinian Muslims and Palestinian Christians. So to point out that the majority of Palestinians are Muslim is not to say, it’s not to show any kind of lack of solidarity at all. But it’s just to point out that the majority of Palestinians are Muslim, this is a factual reality. And so the reason that we have to come to terms with this and acknowledge this is because not only do Palestinians face anti-Palestinianness, but we also face Islamophobia. And so that’s why it’s important to recognize what the religion of most Palestinians are. I think we also had a reminder recently, in Ramadan of this year, and in every Ramadan with high-end violence at the hands of the settler, Zionist entity of Muslims being attacked during their worship and their prayer. And I don’t think that we could talk about occupied Palestine and not talk about Masjid Al Aqsa. And so, for Muslims, Masjid al-Aqsa is Islam’s third holiest site. And it’s a seventh-century structure believed to be where Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him ascended to heaven, it holds much significant historical value to Muslims. And for Palestinians, and the international, the global Muslim community. And when I say that, I mean in regards to the people of Muslim countries, not to the governments, because Muslim governments collectively don’t support the people of Palestine. But I mean, the actual people are amazing, and their support for Palestine. So Muslims globally and Palestinians, including Christian Palestinians, you know, Masjid Al Aqsa is very symbolic for us. And so I think it’s very important to recognize that because it’s such an important place of worship. And so that’s why I think we can’t separate or completely remove religion from this discussion of Palestine, and also for Palestinians as a collective. They call to God in their oppression, while they’re facing displacement, for their alliance, and their hope. And so that’s why I think Islam plays an important role even in Palestine. I personally and growing up, my parents are both practicing Muslims and continue to, there are perhaps things along the way, in their, you know, about 40 years or so living in the United States where they may have shifted opinions or perspective on some things. But I think that at the core, you know, they still hold the same Islamic values that they held growing up. And so I carry much of that with me and apply a lot of that in my raising of my children. And when I think about my identity, I always include being Muslim as part of my identity. I don’t think that it’s something that I can ever remove from that as a woman, a Palestinian, an educator, a mother. I think that that’s always something that I center. That and being Palestinian and all of my different identities, I cannot. I feel like that’s always just included as just really part of who I am and my core as a person.

(24:34) Shanaz Deen: I’m curious because you said your grandfather’s house was very close to Al-Aqsa. Do you remember your first memory of going into the mosque and how you felt?

(24:38) Thuraya Zeidan: So my grandfather’s house in Al-Quds is very close to Masjid al-Aqsa and then so is one of my mother’s sisters. Her home is actually maybe a two-minute walk to Masjid Al-Aqsa. And I do also want to mention that she has been, on various occasions, offered large sums of money by the Zionist settler entity to leave her home because it borders the part of Jerusalem where the Wailing Wall is. And she has declined every time and almost knows that the home demolition is coming but doesn’t know when. And, you know, oftentimes Palestinians in occupied Palestine are not offered anything, she just happens to be in a location that is a very prime location. And so visiting her and then visiting my grandfather growing up and in the time that I lived in Falasteen being so close to Masjid Al-Aqsa, I have many memories of being there. And whether I’m thinking of my first memory as a young child’s going, or my last memory there, which was five years ago now, praying in Masjid al-Aqsa, it really is a feeling that of any place that I’ve been to, this particular feeling is just different than any other experience. It’s just a sense, there’s a sense of peace, inner peace. There’s definitely a sense of also like overwhelming joy at being in this place that has so much significance to me as a person who’s Muslim, as a Palestinian. And just being there really, at every time, the way that it’s, you know, the way that my soul and my spirit feel in this place is at an absolute kind of peace and joy and hope. And I think that it also represents how resilient the Palestinian people are, that despite almost all of Palestine, all of Palestine being occupied, just making the trip there, and some Palestinians in occupied Palestine are able to get in a little more easily than others. And ultimately, they face difficulty, our people face difficulty for trying to worship or, or pray at Masjid Al-Aqsa. Knowing all of this, just really this, this meaning behind going there adds to the experience for sure. I can’t remove it from the experience. There’s just an ultimate calm and peace that exists there. Which is ironic, considering what’s surrounding all of the gates.

(27:58) Shanaz Deen: I want to talk a bit more about your understanding and like lived experience of Islam? How does your faith inform your understanding of Palestinian resistance? And how do you allow that to inform your like daily work while also, you know, avoiding the idea that like the Palestinian occupation is like a religious issue in and of itself, rather than like an issue of settler colonialism?

(28:38) Thuraya Zeidan: I think that the issue of Palestine is an issue of settler colonialism. Are you asking me if it’s a religious issue versus a settler colonial?

(28:47) Shanaz Deen: Well, I think there’s a common, really reductionist narrative that it’s like Muslims versus Jewish populations. So I guess how do you, work with that narrative to while also like, also enforcing that it’s an occupation issue.

(29:08) Thuraya Zeidan: Okay. Could you repeat the question, please? From the beginning?

(29:11) Shanaz Deen: Yeah. If I can remember. One. How does your understanding of Islam inform the way you approach the Palestinian resistance? And how to talk about religion while also like not reducing it to like a Muslim versus Jewish conflict?

(29:36) Thuraya Zeidan: Okay. I think that being a person who is Muslim and Palestinian, I approach the topic of discussing the oppression of Palestinians in occupied Palestine as one with a lens of empathy and education. I think that these two components are very crucial to this topic. And I think that as an educator, the reason one of the main reasons that I’m able to implement empathy towards the communities that I work with who are majority marginalized. And although I don’t share many of the same identities as they do, some things that we share, or that as people of color and as marginalized communities, we have many commonalities. And I think that I’m able to extend my empathy being a Palestinian towards other marginalized communities, because of my experience of knowing growing up that we were excluded from being taught about in schools, just like communities that we see in the United States, for instance. And I think that my approach also in working with educators who are adults, at the high school and college levels, I also take that same approach with empathy and education. I think it’s very important to help people come to the understanding and the awareness of the truth only if that’s what they want because some people will not want to know the truth. Some people are comfortable in not knowing because once we, once we reach a certain truth, we then have to make a decision. Are we going to act on this? Or are we not going to, and I think for the conscious of many people, they would rather not being faced with a decision to make because it’s easier to be compliant. And it’s easier to not be someone who is going to be a nonconformist. And then I think you also there was a second question that you asked was it How does Islam inform? So the issue of occupied Palestine, this social justice issue is not one that can be reduced to a religious issue of Muslim versus Jewish, because any people of any practicing faith would not carry out the actions of violence and aggression, and in land theft, and colonialism and imperialism and imprisonment, including child imprisonment and checkpoints, and ethnic cleansing and genocide. So I don’t think that there are religions that teach this to their people. So I think that right away I don’t associate any of these actions with their religion. And that’s why I think it removes that one religion versus another religion issue. I don’t think this is religious. I think this is a matter of Zionist settler colonialism.

(33:17) Shanaz Deen: I guess I’m curious about a little bit more if you could talk a little bit more about Islam and social justice and why or whether that motivates you, or, you know, drives you to be so vocal about the resistance.

(33:35) Thuraya Zeidan: I think that it is an obligation of every person to speak the truth. And so, Islam encourages me to speak the truth on injustices and oppression. I don’t feel that speaking on the truth is something and educating people and extending my empathy and using my time to constantly unlearn, learn and teach others is something on Palestine is something that is that I’m doing as, an additional thing in my free time or something that I’m doing because I need to have any credit for doing this thing. Rather, I think that as a Muslim, it’s our obligation to speak the truth, especially when we are in a position or have some kinds of platform to inform others and we know that Islam is against injustices against other people. And in my beliefs, and my personal beliefs at my core. I don’t think that any people who have differences in faith or values or perceptions of the world should experience any kinds of injustice, I think that a person just for the sake of being a human being should have many rights, including access to safety and food and water and shelter and health care and an education, and just many other pieces that I think anybody should be entitled to just because they exist as a person. And so the injustices in Palestine, and in other communities in the world, including many communities that we see in the United States because we’re also not immune to this. Perhaps it’s just a little more swept away than it is in other countries because of the media. But I think that being Muslim definitely encourages me to speak out on injustices that any injustices that are taking place that we’re exposed to and that we’re seeing.

(36:05) Shanaz Deen: I do want to give you the space to also talk about some of the work that you do in terms of being an educator really changing curriculum and counteracting a lot of misguided narratives. Yeah, so if you could talk a bit about your work, and also maybe some of the challenges you faced, in those years.

(36:30) Thuraya Zeidan: I have been an educator now for nearly 10 years. And I teach in the public school system. And because the curriculum in the public school system is dominated by the narrative that is Eurocentric, intentionally, marginalized communities are left out. So we’re not learning in an authentic way about people who are black, brown, immigrants, refugees, indigenous, undocumented, disabled, and other marginalized groups. And so I think that as an educator, it is part of my work to also expose my students who are predominantly from Latinx and Hispanic communities. To know that their people have made so many positive contributions. I actually, a few years back, I had a student, and I teach seniors. So by the time they get to me, they’re already 17 or 18 years old. And she was from India. And she went to school her entire life, she went through the public school system here in New Jersey. And I had assigned the students to do some analysis on an excerpt from a novel by Arundhati Roy who’s an incredible writer from India. And she was very emotional at the end of the lesson and approached me and said, I never even knew there were writers from my country. And I think that experience is one that as a teacher, I have had so many times, whether it was including something from a trans author or an author, that was a Latina woman, or just people from, or an author who was either African or black from the United States because we’re not seeing these narratives, they’re being excluded intentionally from curricula. And I think that to do that, is to equate students with having low self-esteem, a horrible self-image, we’re not building up who they are, because they’re going through schooling their entire life, without it being enforced that their people have made positive contributions to the society and to the world. And so from a very young age, they’re taught that the euro, the Western and European, white contributions are the most important ones. And so, of course, this, this is going to affect their self-image, this is going to affect the way that they view themselves the way that they value themselves, growing up and having never knowing, you know anything about their people and their history, which I think can really empower young people to know about their history and their people and contributions. And so it’s not in my school curriculum, just like in really, any others. The majority of school curriculums across the country, to have marginalized people reflect it in an authentic way. And the reason I want to emphasize authentic is because usually when something is thrown in there, that has to do with a marginalized community. It’s usually something stereotypical. So I went through my entire schooling for instance, in New Jersey, the majority of my K through 12 years, and undergrad and graduate. And I don’t think I ever once learned anything about somebody, either Arab, Palestinian, or Muslim, ever. And if anything ever came up, it was always something that was very stereotypical. And so I think that we do the same thing. Schools practice microaggressions and biases by during Black History Month throwing in, I have a dream excerpts by Dr. Martin Luther King for several years of children’s schooling, and then that’s supposed to suffice the criteria for being quote, unquote, inclusive and diverse. So I think that that’s very inauthentic and stereotypical and not really teaching students about all the contributions of people from marginalized communities internationally. So something that I do in my classroom is in between things that I am assigned to teach, I’ll try to bring in pieces since we’re under-resourced. So I have to bring in pieces I try to, will continue to teach the same skills that I’m required to teach my students, but we can do that with really any piece of literature. So what I’ll do is I’ll bring in pieces by authors from different places in the world. And I do this based on where my students are from. So every year I have students anonymously share with me one identity of their of their many identities. And some kids will say something like, either black or refugee or, you know, whatever their ethnicity is that they feel comfortable sharing or something in regards to their sexual orientation or to their gender. And so what I’ll try to do is hit the different identities on that list during the school year. And I think that that’s one way to try to show my students that they should that they are part of the learning process, and we have conversations about this. And I asked them why they think they have been excluded from their learning process. And often, oftentimes, they never even had the realization before these conversations. And I think that it’s important to bring this to their attention and to give them the opportunity to then seek knowledge about the contributions that their people have made because they’re not going to ever get that in the public school system. Considering that all of the systems in this country were built on white supremacy and racism, so we can not rely on them to teach our students from marginalized communities, who their people really are. I don’t know if I missed something else that you asked.

(42:58) Shanaz Deen: Have you faced any like challenges? Yeah, during this time being one, an educator trying to really change the curriculum and also being a public Palestinian woman.

(43:12) Thuraya Zeidan: In my teaching, as an educator the last several years in the public school system, the challenges that I have faced, are not having school systems enforce, teaching on people who are black, brown, and marginalized, including also indigenous people who are refugees, immigrants, undocumented and every marginalized group that we can think of. And so I think that for me, it’s very challenging to know that these injustices are happening every day in the school system. And that although that I can try to do things individually in my classroom, to make my student’s experiences of learning, slightly more enhanced than maybe some of their peers. I recognize that that’s not enough because the change needs to come at a collective level as opposed to an individual level. And I’m glad to be able to make some changes in my classroom personally. But I also recognize that that’s not the end goal. And that’s not as an educator what I’m seeking and other educators who are for justice are seeking so that we can be fair to our students and teach them in a way that is authentic. So I would say that those are some challenges that I faced is not seeing change and having change being resisted in the public school system throughout the country. Some challenges that I have faced as a woman, and a Palestinian, and an educator. A recent one that I experienced was in February of the school year, I received news regarding false accusations posted about me on a website. This led me to discover that there were false statements being made about me. That existed on this one particular group’s website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And they had posted pictures of me that other people reposted several times and had written messages about me that were false. And they were circulating these messages with the attempt to defame my character. And this is a group that is supposed to be a watchdog nonprofit organization that’s supposed to be labeling people for being anti-semitic. And when in fact, I looked into the website, I saw people on the website like Shaun King, Ben and Jerry’s, Trevor Noah, Dr. Cornel West, Amnesty International. And so I realized that this group is really an illegitimate group. And they were labeling everyone. On, I didn’t look into all of the people on there. And there are over 100 people on their website that they had labeled, but all of the ones that I recognize, especially the more famous people, and like they had several Congress members on there as well. I noticed something in common. All of these people that they had on, there had been people that were at one point or another critical of the Israeli Zionist settler government. And so, when I initially saw these posts, and these false statements being circulated, I knew that it was to challenge me for being an outspoken person, and for teaching the truth on Palestine. And I knew that it was in response to that. And I did not feel at any point, worried or uncomfortable, because I knew that I had never made any mention of any religion. And I don’t in my teaching, in my workshops, in my presentations, my criticisms are of the entity that murders the Palestinian people in occupied Palestine, I don’t think that there is a religion that preaches this violence. And so I was not concerned about people thinking that I was what the statements were claiming, because anyone that has ever worked with me would know, would hear this and know that this is invalid. But that’s certainly a challenge that I experienced. Because as a result of that, I then faced harassment, I faced hate messages through social media and through email. And then something that’s even, that was even more really frustrating to deal with than that was having my places of work being called and emailed total, over 100 times, calling at me to be fired and not work with students for these false claims. And so, you know, this did not even result in an investigation, because I had a very even on the surface level, looking into any podcast interview that I’ve done, or any posts that I’ve posted on my Instagram page, or anything that I’ve said in an in on a panel, in a presentation in a workshop is, again, something that’s not related to any religion. And more, in fact, to governments, and I’ve also, you know, criticized some Muslim governments before, and, and other Western governments. And so, you know, this was all really, I knew that this was an attack on me as a woman, and especially as a Palestinian, and as someone who is visibly Muslim, and someone who’s an educator, because we know that educators in this country are under-resourced and underpaid and underappreciated and undervalued. And so I felt like I fit all of these different categories, which made me a target for this group, to attack me and to try to break my spirit for sharing the truth and educating people on the truth.

(50:07) Shanaz Deen: I’m curious, in moments like these, when you’re being surveilled and targeted, what brings you hope and strength and resilience?

(50:18) Thuraya Zeidan: In moments of being targeted, what brings me hope and resilience is my reliance on God first. And secondly, it would be that I know that the work that I’m doing is rooted in the truth. And the truth always prevails. And so I would say after that, it would be, you know, my community, as an educator and as a parent. What are my values? If I can’t speak the truth, on what I’m seeing, or if when I’m being criticized, I’m going to just stop teaching and stop educating people on the truth. I think that Palestinians, you know, more so than many than many other marginalized groups, even globally, are being attacked for sharing the truth. And the fact that the truth is so threatening really says a lot. Because who is the truth being? Who’s the truth threatening for? If not for the person who is the oppressor? Then who is it threatening for? What is the issue here, in sharing the truth, and also a lot of the, when it comes to Palestine, a lot of the different topics that I talk on, are, they are not opinion based, or even based on my personal experiences, even if I remove my experiences of living there. These are factual things that we’re seeing all of the time. And we talked briefly I know on social media, but we see what people on Palestine are going through between videos and readings and people’s experiences and, you know, oral history, like we’re doing here, which I think actually is so crucial for the people of Palestine. Because our people have experienced colonialism and imperialism in every possible form, through land theft, aggression, home demolitions, every form of violence, and active destruction of Palestinian life. And even with all of this, there are things that cannot be taken away from a people. And one of these is the oral history that we carry on.

(52:57) Shanaz Deen: Just as a closing question, if future generations listen to this oral history, especially the future generations of Palestinians, what do you want them to take away? And of course, if there’s anything you want to add, Before closing, you’re welcome to do that.

(53:11) Thuraya Zeidan: I think that for future generations of Palestinians, and including Palestinians in diaspora, something that I would want those young people to take away is that our resilience cannot be shaken. And I think the reason for this is that we know that our fight is rooted in the truth. The struggle is rooted in the truth. And, you know, I know I mentioned this earlier, but I truly do believe that the truth always prevails. And I think that something that’s very important that we’re seeing, and that we need to work on as a Palestinian community, and a community of anyone who supports the struggle of Palestine, is unity. I think that is something that we can work on, and that we lack, oftentimes, is just this unity, because many times we’ll have several small groups who are well-intentioned, and I think that wanting control or wanting to dominate, as opposed to come together as a much more powerful force and really work based on some common values, you know, would make us much more productive as a community of people who are Palestinian and people who support Palestine. So I think between our resilience and this unity that we definitely are capable of forming, and in our reliance of Allah first and then community and each other. That’s definitely a message that I would want future Palestinians to keep with them and to carry.

(53:18) Shanaz Deen: And is there anything else you’d like to add? And if not, I can stop the recording.

(55:12) Thuraya Zeidan: I think that’s all.

(55:14) Shanaz Deen: Thank you so much.

(55:16) Thuraya Zeidan: Of course you’re welcome.

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