Neurological Solidarity

I’ve had a new tic for the last few weeks. It’s frequent and consistent and leading to lots of conversations, some intense, some interesting, and some challenging.

This new tic is: “Long live Palestine, long live Gaza.”

This is a tic. It’s involuntary. I’m not choosing to say it and I have no control over when or where it emerges. It started after the events in Israel on 7th October and the devastating bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli Military. Civilians, whether in Israel or in Gaza are not legitimate targets and this violence, suffering and trauma will reverberate for generations.

The situation in Palestine and the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people has been close to my heart for a long time. I’ve written briefly before about attending protests calling for an end to the occupation.

It’s crucial to acknowledge that this horror didn’t start on 7th October and that it’s not by any means an equal struggle. Palestinians have been subjected to sustained brutality and violence for over 75 years, and the Israeli Government’s horrifying indiscriminate, collective military punishment of Gaza is in my view wholly wrong. As is cutting off food, power, and water to over two million people, at least half of whom are children.

This cycle of occupation, oppression and violence is a Disability Justice issue, as described clearly and eloquently by a number of disabled-led collectives in this joint statement, first issued in 2021. It’s equally important and relevant today. They say:

“Disability justice cannot exist under settler colonialism, military occupation, imprisonment, and apartheid…Disability justice requires solidarity with Palestine.”

This is a view I share, as it seems, do my tics. My new tic reflects the fact that I’ve spent time in places that are committed to Palestinian solidarity. It’s a protest chant and a lyric from a song by the artist Lowkey.

To start with I felt uncertain about this tic. I worried that it might cause distress to some people, and that it might make me vulnerable to hostile responses. It certainly means I can’t avoid conversations about Palestine and Israel.

My initial feelings were rooted in my own privilege. Palestinians are confronting unimaginable pain and trauma every day – they’re living under an apartheid regime to which they are always vulnerable, and they can’t avoid the relentless reality of their occupation. In that context my own concerns about this new tic pale into utter insignificance.

I’ve since come to understand this tic as an involuntary durational protest on the part of my neurology.

On some fundamental level my brain is braver than I am, and it’s not allowing me to ignore what’s happening – and for this I’m grateful. We should all follow this example and refuse to turn away from such stark suffering and injustice. We must listen to Palestinian voices and to all those working for peace. We must demand action from our politicians, consume media critically, and contribute to emergency appeals if we can, such as this or this.

I continue to hold the Palestinian people in my heart, in my thoughts and in my tics.

A digital drawing for Gaza by Jess Thom that reads Ceasefire Now, this text is made from many small hand drawn hearts outlined in black and filled in, in red, green and white, the colours of the Palestine Flag.

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