21st April, 2015
Published in The Independent here
Last winter my cousin died on a migrant ship in the Mediterranean Sea. Amjad was 26 years old. My family were ethnically cleansed from Palestine in 1948, after which they settled in Damascus. Since 2011 they have been embroiled in a war not of their making. Food, water, heating, security and hope are becoming luxuries, scarcer by the day.
Meanwhile, I can buy mangoes and coconuts in December, I attend a top university, and my idea of a problem is when ‘Orange is the New Black’ won’t load on Netflix. My cousin and I are no different – we have the same genetic make-up, speak the same language and follow the same religion. And yet my maroon British passport gives me both immunity and freedom, whereas he perished fleeing a bloodthirsty civil war. Borders do not and should not mean anything: it is simply by chance that I am here and they are there. Where is the justice in that?
Everyone’s raving about these new Apple emojis, they’re more inclusive with five different skin tones (as well as the textbook yellow of course), same sex couples and families… you name it, they’ve got it. Hell they have an emoji for marijuana and a prawn. Apple has finally become more accepting and aware of the plurality of our society (not sure where prawns come into play but I’m open-minded). I’ve seen these new emojis applauded on social media and used – and abused – prolifically by my friends.
Then with a sinking feeling I realised who was missing in this big happy emoji family: the Palestinians. Apple has added 20+ flags and there’s an emoji flag for Israel… but no flag for Palestine. The closest you can get is the United Arab Emirates (and that’s a whole story in itself). They way I see it, this omission perfectly sums up the plight of the Palestinians – they are not recognised and not considered. This represents the subtlest form of epistemic violence.
Humans can be very funny sometimes. If I told you that a hate-filled man killed three young students it would be tragic news. If I told you they were community-serving, charitable, integrated and happy young people it would be even worse, no? Well, no, not really, certainly not if they’re Muslims. Because if they’re Muslims, their victimhood reduces in value.
Deah Barakat was a dental student who provided emergency dental care in Palestine and helped in the local community. His young wife, Yusor Abu-Salha was about to embark on her own studies and her sister, Razan, was studying Architecture and Environmental design. On Tuesday, all three ended up with a bullet in the head in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is a massacre that has not been awarded its proper place in the media.