tv Palestine CSPAN October 26, 2013 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT
up confused in an arab-american family and that is the main thing that propelled me to write this book, was my own confusion and fear and apprehension about being the daughter of this famous palestinian and not really feeling like i had any idea what that meant or who i was. so i'm going to just talk a little bit about what's in the book to give you a background on that and done i'm going to read to you from it because i feel like that's explaining what what i have already written and just to give you an idea of how my own identity as a palestinian american has been -- how i formed it on my own which has been very difficult. my mothers from lebanon and my mom is from a christian family but they are actually quaker so
there is a different problem. and then my dad as many of you know was palestinian but born with american citizenship. went to british schools and wrote a lot about his own identity issues. he left palestine at a very young age. he was raised in jerusalem and in cairo and came here at the age of 14 or 15 to the united states. he was also christian anglican episcopalian and i was born and baptized as an episcopalian. they there again is another strange state. then i was raised in new york city and attended a private school for girls on the upper east side because my parents of course wanted me to have a wonderful and good education and it's a very good school however when i went to school -- but i was episcopalian. i sort of fit and that i didn't
and then my father meanwhile was in the other room writing rants of representation of the media and arts and literature. i was as i say in the book watching i dream of jeannie and trying to figure out why it didn't have blond hairs magic powers and a outfit. so there was a lot of -- this is sort of how i see myself to this day as this kind of confused lost child of immigrants and yet i mostly the daughter this person who too many people really stands like really symbolizes palestinian identity or palestinian american identities so when i became a professional actress and i'm not going to get too much into this but it became interesting to me to realize how much it mattered that my name was najla said and
i didn't want to change it. i didn't want to change it because i don't know as i said last night in my book talk i honestly thought maybe if someone set a different name i wouldn't answer them because i would forget that i change my name. it wasn't like -- everyone thinks i did these things with a certain amount of integrity and thought but i honestly just did what to change my name. it seemed like an old-fashiold-fashi oned silly thing to do in a world in which we live but when i became a professional actress and i realized what having the name najla said regardless of who my father was, how it meant i would be perceived and what would be expected of me i began to really start to deal with my identity. in the book i write a lot about how as a little girl i went to school with these white episcopalian girls and i was episcopalian and relatively white so i was trying to fit in but then i kept hearing that i
was arab and then i would sort of look at tv and see what was being presented to me as what an arab should read which was muslim and really browned skin and a certain type of you know all the things my father wrote about. either terrorists or fanatic muslims or belly dancers so i didn't fit into any of these categories. so i was trying very hard to fit into america and to be like my friends but it wasn't working. when i was in high school i switch to another school where the students were mostly jewish and all of a sudden i fit in. part of it was because of the way i look and the way i act. i was from the upper west side of manhattan which to many people is just a connotation of -- it's just jewish this idea that new yorkers from a certain part of new york could have a certain type of neuroses are jewish people. so i think what happened to me
was i had a lot of confusion about my identity and then as i got older i started and the time in which i was born in 1974 and my mom is lebanese like i said that we would go to lebanon but the war started when i was about a year old so there was a war in lebanon and that my dad was palestinian and i didn't quite understand how that fit in because sometimes you couldn't come with us and then my parents were there but they weren't muslim so there was a lot going on in my brain. i thought for a long time the best thing to do was just to avoid it and try to be american which i think is something that a lot of young children of immigrants try to do.
telling me i had just been diagnosed with leukemia and we are going back to palestinpalestin e. you're going to see it and then you are sort of going to grow up and deal with it. and i'm going to go. so that was the launch point for the book and the play so i realized in the process of writing this book although i constantly feel like i still am this like confused i don't know if i'm an american. i don't know if i'm palestinian or lebanese. i don't know if i and smart. i don't know if i understand politics that i somehow still managed to internalize and really take in and understand everything that my father stood for and spoke about and was famous for and was feared forward which is a certain amount of integrity and
association with my identity that it is part of who i am and that is something that i will not deny. even if i don't feel like i have a house in palestine that i note each nook and cranny of the walls or my grandfather was there. it wasn't tangible and that is what made it feel -- but in writing this book and going through this process i realized i had taken in everything my father taught me and taught all of us. in a certain way the most common question i've been asked other than how does najla said not know where she is from which is not a fair question is what would your father say were he alive now? people constantly are writing we wish edwards said are here. we miss his voice and what i have learned is he left us
everything that we need to analyze and look at things the way that he did and my style of talking and writing and performing is very casual, very american, you know i come off as just a human being who is trying to figure that out and i do that on purpose. it's important to me that i carry on something that he taught me which is that as long as you are human and present yourself as a human with all your faults and your daily struggles and your wishes and your thoughts about what you like and what we be -- you would like to be in the freedom of movement you would like to have two related specifically to palestinians people will listen to you. many people talk about how he used to speak of this permission to narrate and tell your own story and also this idea that we
are all just human beings. i think it's quite simple. sadly i went through this whole process of worrying about being a daughter of this person who seemed to represent so much and have these lofty ideas but what has come out with this is this incredible -- this incredible realization that it's very simple and we mustn't forget how simple it is. you know people have asked me, was your father an anti-semite and i'm like well know, he was just palestinian. if you have actually read anything you wrote he would know he is in no way an anti-semite that but people don't do that. take -- people take your associations about your tandy and just saying you are palestinian hearings this whole thing with it so the best thing we can do in that i can do in that i have learned to do is to present myself as a human being and that is all there is who are moving forward in our you you know, the in our
quest for just peace and in terms of what's happening in the middle east right now with all the upheaval and all the trauma and the sadness, i thank my father, he would be very -- i remember when in 2011 when mubarak was finally ousted i cried because i think i father would have been so -- it was everything he ever worked for was for this moment of people coming together in rising up and realizing that they have power to change things. but in the months that followed people have been asking me or the years that followed, people have been asking me i'll go what are we going to do? this is a necessary step. we are a necessary place. the upheaval has to come. the difficulty has to come. unfortunately there's a lot of violence and death and horrible things that my father would never encourage anyone to give up hope and i think that's most
important thing. my book was just written to remind those of us of the next generation whether we are palestinian or not. that we have all of the tools we need to continue to struggle and to move forward. i'm just going to read a couple of sections from the book and then i will answer any questions that you have. in 1982 we went on this trip to palestine and at this point i had just graduated from high school. my father has been diagnosed with leukemia and i am myself quite ill with a disorder which had developed in part because of my own sort of disconnect with my culture and my identity. i just wanted to kind of disappeared and there was a lot going on. but, so we went on this trip and i didn't want to go.
we went to palestine and we went to jerusalem. we went to a motel that was american and that was good because i wasn't excited about being in the middle east and then we went and saw my father's home. another thing which i pointed out last night was i was constantly -- i was worn in the states and i lived on the west side of manhattan and all my friends lived on the east side. all he wanted to do was live on the east side. my mother was from beirut which was divided into east and west and we lived in the west but we were christians so we were supposed to be in the east. my dad was from jerusalem. he was from west jerusalem but we were arab so we were supposed to be in the east kept happening. i was supposed to be in the east all the time and i was always in the west.
i only realize that reason only. it's fascinating. how much that played into these categories. these divisions we create and house completely arbitrary they are. i used to go to school in new york and i used to go to the east side and i would be worried that if somehow there would be a war and they would close off the west side and i would want to go home. these are very real things that were prevalent in my childhood and my consciousness and my psyche so this trip scared me for a lot of reasons. so i'm just going to read -- we went to jerusalem and visited the house in which my thought it was born and grew up which was as they sit in west jerusalem. my father wrote about this for the observer that although we were frightened my brother and i were convinced that we were going to see the name of one of our jewish friends on the house
door. we fortunately didn't but we did encounter a sign that said the international christian embassy which was a right-wing zionist christian organizations so again i don't know. all of these things started to just spin around in my head and i thought i'm never going to make sense of any of this. so, sorry. i just want to find -- so this is on the trip, okay? it was on this trip that i learned my parents grew up in arab cities with jewish quarters that were as much part of of the city as any other neighborhood. in the -- of my mothers you there was a shiite area in a christian area and there was also a jewish area and even now after more than one israeli invasion and countless internal religious battles the
synagogue still stands in beirut and as any other big city each quarter are each quarter aren't its particular designation because of the families who settled there and not because someone drew a line. my mom told me the story of how her famous philanthropic mother put money for the jewish home in a blue box on the coffee table of a german jewish neighbor in beirut. without knowing that home was going to be in palestine. my dad talks of his jewish friends in egypt trade my mom reminded me that her school, the one her mother ran come it was in the jewish quarter of beirut. i wondered how their experiences were different from mine. i consider the israeli kids in the park with their nannies. their parents and grandparents might have been victims of the european holocaust but those same adults have probably never thought about anything -- never thought anything about arabs until they got their, get here now not so much later their
children meet, these kids none of us had known anything about the other other than an enemy. it seems so bizarre. i was struck to the reality of the conflict. it had not been going on for centuries very dizzy origins were resent. not long ago reached the children has the memories of our parents separate tragedies to defend and protect that none of us really get it. the divisions and separations suddenly multiplied spasmodically my head and collide and violently come together. palestinian arab christian palestinian-american jewish-american. my father stopped in his tracks on the way back to the card to tell me what he really thought about the middle east conflict. it's my generation that has messed it up. we are too connected to the events of 48 and 67 and we have participated and until we are all gone my generation the sharon's and arafat's on all of
us nothing is going to get done. it's up to your generation to fix fix it fix it really. he put his arm around me as we resumed our walk. i turned my head to stare back at the saucer eyed palestinian children. it began to photograph them excessively whereever we went. i have no other way of capturing what i felt inside. on tuesday june 16, 1992 we piled into a vehicle went to gaza. my mom had told me had to wear a skirt there. which i thought would be no big deal since i had brought many with me on the trip great as i got up from the thick breakfast room to change might mother quickly added it could not be a very short skirt. i was taken back for a moment because my mother never seemed to care what we were. but i heeded her warning and carefully chose a skirt that my parents had given me for my birthday. by my standards of the time it hung just above my knees. i put on a pair of rounds played
oxford shoes from rossetti inelegant store on madison avenue. i had no idea was expected. i had no idea what to expect. i thought i looked modest enough this peso since my real then audience baby face made me look much younger than my 18 years but as soon as we enter the driver suggested we stopped to get a full let -- full-length for jobs or headscarf on the way. my mother refused chiding the driver in arabic we are not muslim. we are arabs and we can be respectful without being covered head to toe. he nodded his head and let us be. i wanted to throw up. we entered the strip to a military checkpoint. they were army posts in intimidating soldiers manning stations all over the area and more barbed wire than i had ever seen. daddy, to us and later in his own article that the entrance gave the place the appearance of
an enormous concentration camp. we researched cleared and let through. i took pictures from the car window as we approached gaza refugee camp. there were people everywhere. this place has the highest population density in the world dad told us. 65,000 people live here on top of each other. are you listening? and half a square mile of space space -- i was listening that i didn't need to hear the details. i could see everything. the car windows were closed but i could still smell the open sewers. daddy continued to lecture us all the while mentally taking notes for his article. the statistics are nightmarish. terrible infant mortality rates high unemployment the lowest income and appetite territories and the fewest medical services and on and on. this was 20 years ago. gaza today is much much worse.
despite my mother's insistence that my outfit was fine i felt conspicuous and alienated from my people as i descended from the car. then i put my fancy suede shoe into the muddy earth of gaza and inhaled that horrifying stench of raw sewage that penetrated the car window but i had only faintly smell that when i was inside the vehicle. at that moment i truly realized i had absolutely no idea about anything. we had lunch at the house with some important people. as we entered all of the men including my mother and father were guided into one room and the women into another. i was confused. i've been to the middle east many times before and despite my relative isolation in recent years had nevertheless grown up around lots of arabs. this was the custom i have never encountered anywhere and in the movies. i followed my mom into this
female salon and the women begin talking about cooking. i understood them. frankly i had nothing to say. i didn't cook. i didn't even eat. my mother nodded smiled and politely answered all their questions. i could tell she was slightly bored but was making every effort not to show it. i too was bored so i slipped away. i knew i would get away with it. i they knew that to these people i was just a little girl and essentially an american one. i could always pretend i didn't know any better. my father stand in the doorway waiving his hand gesturing for me to come in. quite a deal of the men jumped the to get miniatures but i smiled quietly and purged myself on my -- next to my father. they were not to my surprise talking about men in the middle east always need to be talking about, politics. i felt like i played the part of the bored teenager in the same and just about every country in the air broke i knew what to do.
tune out. arab men always seem to want to sit and talk very seriously about politics. they would all listen intently to one another one and everyone would smoke a lot of cigarettes drink cups of there but coffee and somewhat finger prayer beads as they thoughtfully consider the argument to which they had an audience. in a smoke-filled room all eyes were fixated on my dad. most of the men didn't know why my father was important other than he was a connection to the outside world or more specifically to the west. the irony of my dad's renown until he passed away his face was far more friendlier to people outside of palestine than to anyone who actually live there. they did know he was important and he had been brought here to tell them his stories. after we left i asked daddy to explain exactly what if instead. i would have been able to follow that heavily accented arabic conversation even if i have had been listening. later in his article use the
same word to use for me. i didn't hear single whole full-time in the two hours i was would the men. one of them spoke up having to and 17 years in jail. his children were sick and relatives destitute. there was a lot of anger. the phrase i kept hearing was slow death. there seem to be considerable animus against the west bankers who were characterized by gas is as spoiled or privilege. we are forgotten and because of the unimaginably difficult job improving gaza i was not to forget. i can try to conjure up a picture of gaza but all are member of the days of feeling. there was a dead head and all on a platter for lunch and a small piece of fruit given to me by one of the young girls of the house which i pretended to fight in and chew and swallow. she plucked it off a tree near the porch and chose a second
piece for herself. she popped it into her mouth and smile. all that i noticed was the way her filthy dust that covered the one she did not eat. i did not want to eat because of the calories but i also wondered how anyone could eat a piece of fruit without washing it. the inside of the house was immaculate usually decorated even though the outside was stinky and dirty. i tried to wrap my teenage head around the existence of such a place in the world where people are trapped like caged animals in the filthiest zoo unearth while i got to prance around in suede shoes and a $150 skirt and get on a plane and go home. in this way the trip to palestine added another dimension to my anorexia. i wanted desperately to suffer not just for my daddy but all of palestine as well. i felt guilty horrible and six my stomach. i never wanted to eat again. how could i when others who were just like me and every other way were unlucky enough to be born into nothing?
i'm going to stop there but that was the initial memory that triggered the writing of the play in the book and when i started working on both of these things i was writing from the point of view of everyone says i am my father's daughter and now my father is gone and i have to be my father's daughter. i want to explain to you how little i know about where i'm from and who i am and what i father did. in the process of creating this work and the play as well i realized that i am my father's daughter. everything in terms the way i see the world and where he fit in its, everything i think about is by palestine and being palestinian and trying to find a way to integrate that part of my identity. my father taught that having various kinds of identities and i have embraced all of my
confusion, my awkwardness and my pain and difficulty in accepting being all of these different things but at the same time what is come through is that i'm still proud to be a palestinian. so when i travel to schools which i do a lot with this work, i realize that what we have in part thanks to my dad's work but also also thanks to the work of so many people who work on behalf of palestinian rights, justice and solidarity is -- i went to college 20 years ago and you wouldn't be caught dead in a café in less you are palestinian and one at she start a fight or something but now i would say most of the kids on college campuses are well-informed and they are aware. even the jewish kids talk to me.
i mean i went to one high school in new york and i think they may have after i left started a program talking about jewish identity because a lot of the kids were raised by grandparents and parents who were deeply affected by the holocaust but these kids didn't agree with israel's policies. this one girl told me my grandmother called me an anti-semite. i don't like what israel does and what do i do? there is a lot of that going on and what i've realized in the process of writing and i'm working through this and engaging with younger people is that whether it's my father's work or all of our work or whatever it is there is still a movement for justice and equality for palestinians and so this fear that everyone expresses that we wish you were alive to tell us what to do or tell us how to react is totally
understandable but it's also not necessary because if i even turned out okay, everyone else will too and i have great faith in the coming generations of young people whatever their identity. as americans in terms of fighting for equality and justice for palestine. so that's really all i wanted to read and talk about and i will take any questions that any of you have. thank you so much. [applause] we thank you very much. just a reminder to those watching on line this will be the time to chime in with any questions that you have. again via twitter that's at palestine center and facebook and chat so please send the mend and we will ask najla to
respond. wade a moment for the microphones we can hear you. >> thank you for your presentation. i am a palestinian. i rely heavily on -- and so one so not a day goes by without your book. my question is quite simple. this is something that palestine is a place of an idea. could you please explain that because those who have kids who are worn and raised in this country -- >> it's interesting and i'm glad you asked that question. thank you. this is one of the most common things that has come up in my own journey. another reason that i wanted to write this story was i wanted to talk about my father as a human being because despite what he said about identity and being fluid in having many identities many people have conflated my father with palestine and a certain time but nationalism
that i don't think is really what he was about which isn't to say he wasn't proud to be palestinian and proud to fight for a quality but i think for my dad when he passed away he had wanted to be buried in lebanon. certain people were upset about this. i don't know them but they were out there because it was palestine to so many people and lebanon. but my dad liked me the only country i have known in the middle east because that's where my mom's family is from and my dads family, his mom has roots there is well it's where my palestinian and lebanese family have lived and it's where we have been and where we felt was home. part of the reason he wanted to buried was -- buried was -- buried there was because it was quiet and it nothing would disturb his rest.
i think that's something i really wanted to stress. my father was born in palestine in 1935 in the lived there until he was about 12 but he was also back and forth to egypt. this is why some people say my dad lies and says he's palestine but these really egyptian. note, he's really palestinian but lived between egypt and jerusalem as a kid and then left and came to america and he lived the rest of his life in america. he went back in 1982 for the first time and he may have been back another time, i'm not really sure but it was not a place. i am not -- i have a lot of palestinian friends, the american palestinian friends who go home to palestine. they have family in israel proper and their families are israeli citizens.
i don't have that. i have no family there. my house is not mine but i i don't know but still the international christian embassy but there's a sign on it that said that -- lived there. my dad also lived there but anyway so i have no real connection to the actual place and in many ways my father did not. i'm not saying that to sort of start a fight but i think what palestine represented to him because my father was not really fond of nationalism and identities in any way. he likes being in exile and he liked being a million different things. if you asked him he would say he is palestinian but he would also say all the other things. for him and for me at palestine conquered the idea of palestine is just a symbol struggle for
justice and human rights and that's it. just like any other struggle. south africa this country whereever it's about equality and justice and you don't need any sort of -- you don't need to be ashamed of that when you speak out on behalf of palestinians. you don't have to be ashamed of where you are from and what you are saying is it's very simple. that's been a way for me to explain especially when people are like oh dear dad wasn't anti-semi. no, my father leaves and equality and justice and especially for those of us who are american and field we are mostly american and have this other stuff behind us whatever it is what has been carried through to us by our family is that we are people and we are entitled to the same rights as
other people. that to me is why palestine despite it being not a place that i know very well or necessarily want to live. my father used to say he didn't want to go back and live there but he wanted people to be treated equally. that's as simple simple as it is and that is why learn from him. it's not that complicated. he wrote intense fancy academic books that were very hard to read at the central point is that i feel like my goal with my work is trying to continue that message. speeches wait for the microphone for one second. >> thank you so much for the talk. my name is oscar and i promote cultural humanities. i have two questions very
briefly. one is are you considering -- palestine here in the future? thank you. second in that vein how do you tackle the idea of the fact that any struggle begins with the liberation of women? [laughter] >> thank you. here is the other thing that happened. i wrote this play and i was like i don't know what i'm talking about. i want to write a play about palestine even though i don't know what i'm talking about. i'm so insecure. then i got an award from the feminist press -- feminist press. i am a feminist? i didn't even realize the way i have seen the middle east was through the eyes of the young woman. i think that's probably part of the reason i wasn't interested
because it seemed like men talked about politics and women were not supposed to you know. thankfully i had an amazing mother and grandmothers in m.a. members who were quite incredibly well-educated and strong and have a lot of integrity and were just as vocal and outspoken as bout things as my father. but to answer your question about my play, i would love to do it so if anyone has a theater or is a producer and wants to bring it to d.c. this would be an excellent environment. i don't have any specific plans but i would love to. how i dealt with the women's issue is i didn't deal with it. i just hold the story. i think a lot of that came out
of that. this is the idea that this experience about which i wrote was one i was in gaza and this house where there were women in one room and that was the first and only time i have experienced that in the middle east. i wanted to make that very clear because they are of women i grew up knowing and the women in the middle east that i know in general are incredibly strong intelligence, wonderful powerful women. part of my own work is to dispel images that the middle east is the place where women are oppressed or treated like second class people. there are laws and there are countries that are patriarchal and unfair and all that. my mother's mother ran a school in lebanon, the first national
secular school in lebanon. she came to america in the 30s to get her ph.d.. she was very active in palestinian human rights. she was an arab nationalist. she was brilliant and that's my grandmother on my mother's side. that's not even my dad's family. she asked me to say her name so i'm saying it. all of my aunts -- everyone all the women i know are part of this as much as anyone else. part of the reason i also wanted to write the book was because there was a really limited idea of what an arab woman is. i talked about this a lot. especially hollywood. it's this idea that the job you are going to get in a movie is a girl wearing a scarf on her head who is either the sister, the cousin or the wife of the
terrorists. it angers me so much because it's so one-dimensional. that is really how i initiated my interest in approaching this subject matter for my identity. maybe this is how my parents raised me but that's just a human reaction to this idea that i was worn and raised in new york city and for all intensive purposes i'm american and then i go to these auditions in the air like okay you have this name so you are going to be an arab woman and this is what an arab woman is. i will not stand for that. so i'm not entirely sure if i answered your question but that is to be fair my status as a woman is probably what initiated most of this exploration of identity. i'm just going to continue to talk and talk and talk and be
annoying and just make it clear that i come from a culture where women are far more powerful and interesting than others may know. [applause] >> i wondered whether you have suggestions or ideas how as a parent or a grandparent -- when do you start and how do you do it? >> i think it's very interesting and that's a great question. what i have noticed my family members who have read the book have said that they felt sad because they didn't realize what pain i was in. there is a lot more in the book obviously that they didn't
realize what pain i was in over my identity. a lot of what he went through was racial difficulties. in the world i grew up at the time the new york i was on the east side with the blond girls and i had brown hair and they lived on the side where the jewish people lived so i basically have this idea. it was all in my head but what i saw in front of me was i was different. i wasn't really a minority because there was no arab-american identity at the time and i would go home and my parents were like you are arab. you are arab. to their credit they were trying to make me proud. in a lot of ways i got very confused. i tell the story in my book -- sorry mommy about how when i started kindergarten in 1979 and i was in the first grade the hostages -- the iranian hostages were released.
they had the tv in our classroom and we got to see this thing on tv. i went home and i was deliriously happy because the americans were free. my mom told me that i should be happy of course because that's great but the algerians and the arabs helped broker this agreement to free these people from the iranians. so i got really mad at her. i was six years old. now i think it's awesome but it confused me a lot because i just wanted to fit in. when you are 60 you know there are good guys and bad guys. we were an american and we weren't iranian. part of the problem is that is how we set things up in this country and i don't know i have never been raised in another country but you were either taught to be an american or something else. if you are not american and you don't agree with america i think it's different now.
someone quoted the other day my father used to say dissent is the greatest form of patriotism meaning that part of being an american especially considering what's going on now today and this very city is voicing your discontent withstanding for all things that america stands for publicly and on a global scale. i think it's important to let kids know where they are from and to have them be proud of it. i do very much commend the way that parents constantly provide me with images of arabs or introduce me to a culture that i was just part of and i came to love the middle east because it was where my home was and where there was food and loving people. that's the best way to show
yourself as a human being who is their grandfather, their grandfather and their mother. it's good to know people want to know their father. especially in this country. someone asked my dad where he was from and this was the first time i had said it. i said he's from palestine and i said -- the guy said wade, where's that? i said it's called israel now. he goes they just changed it? [laughter] it's not that hard. so i was like yeah and they had to leave. that's all i said and he said that not fair. i think there are simple ways to talk about it and i don't discourage it. what my mom did was good because it obviously did help me but it's important to talk to them about it but let them leave and
let them ask questions because that is what i ultimately ended up doing. i just didn't understand. it's a different world now. when i grew up it was very different. i had to -- like i said i was born in 1974 in the civil war in lebanon was basically from when i was 1-year-old until i was 16 and after that as soon as that ended ended -- during that there was the first intifada in palestine and in the first gulf war. then i went to college during the oslo years it took a break from being tortured by that culture. then i graduated and the 9/11. i have never had a break from having to confront these things but i think what i learned to do in a different way from my
brother who set out to learn the language and learn the culture and live in it and this is possibly because i was female, i just listened and asked questions and i thank my parents did a really good job of helping me along the way until i was ready to start speaking for myself. i would say i would possibly -- i would say to a parent and i don't know what i know about parenting but just to be aware if you have a sensitive kid in it any way. i was so sensitive kid and it's why i'm an artist and a writer and it's why i'm an actress. if they seem to feel different or left out you might want to explore that with them because it could have -- because as i said it's a different world now. it's a much more multicultural world but we do live in a society where people make comments all the time about
arabs and palestinians and muslims without any regard for the fact that it's racism and it's hurting. if the kid is insensitive and internalizes that it's good to be aware that because i really believed it. i thought i was at dirty and disgusting person and apparently my family didn't know because i didn't say it out loud. i think that's important because there is a racial element and even though we live in this area as i said multicultural world especially now there is a lot of polarization in our society and a lot of identity extremes. it's very important to be aware of what your kids are internalizing and picking up. i mean i still sometimes watch movies and i'm like the bad guy is an arab guy.
he's a bad guy. i don't know. i still think in these terms because i was raised with it. >> what i have done since i was born as i tell my american friends privately or publicly -- [inaudible] say it louder. the my grandmother is from nazareth and i asked her about jesus when i was very little and she got very mad at me. she was old but that's a great way for a lot of young people. especially if you are christian christian -- you don't have to be christian but if you are christian people or isa maze. how did you get to be christian? i'm from nazareth. and understand the, how did you get to be christian? this is part of it as well and also making those connections. i was talking with a young egyptian woman and i was saying how when i was in school i
learned about egypt and how amazing it was but then i didn't know that egypt now was the same country. ancient egypt was amazing but modern egypt was an arab place. these are the things we have to do to make connections. we have to cannot bet it's the same place and it's got a long history. we can be proud of ancient egypt and also be proud of modern egypt. well, i don't know. >> it question over here and let's try to take a couple of questions at a time. over here and here. >> thank you very much for this wonderful presentation. the question i have is this. in my case i am a
japanese-american and asian-american and asian identity as well as an american. they are multiple entities but they overlap quite a bit. i'm very significantly aware of grace just like you are. what i wanted you to do is perhaps comment about how you have these multiple identities and how they intersect with one another and how they -- for you? >> my name is david. talking about polarization. i was wondering if there was any hope of four gaza or the west bank? people talk about the two-stateo state state solution in the one-state solution and the two-state solution. they also talk about women. whatever happened to --
who years ago was always on the news and relatively the same place and palestinian nationalism. >> she is on tv sometimes. speak to address the first question, thank you. i talk about this a lot in the book and i had a conversation with my father about this and it's in the book. when i was 18 there was a call political -- everyone thought my father was a huge fan because he was always talking about being palestinian and arab and all these things. he was to a degree but he said you have to be careful because when you are separating yourself.you are separating yourself out. he talks to me about how in canada because america is based on this idea of assimilation that the overriding thing is you have to find a way to the
american. you can be african-american nor asian-american but you have to make sure american is the one that's in capital letters and it's impossible for many of us. in the book i struggle a lot. i feel air then i feel un-american and when i'm in lebanon i feel completely american and when i'm here i feel completely arab sometimes and then of course when gaza is being attacked and i'm here i feel more just isolated and sad and scared and alone than ever. i still don't -- sometimes i go to a protest and this has happened to me before. gaza was being attacked and i went to protests and the other protesters were shouting all are out loud. i'm not muslim and what does that have to do with palestine and? them isela like i didn't belong there. i don't identify with my
religion that i feel like we are constantly doing these things where we are make in people feel left out when again what we are trying to do is assure them that we are all the same. i have just a think accepted that i am not arab or american or arab-american or i don't know. i am all of those things and one of them at the same time. or i will say i'm from new york because that's my most clear identity that i have. that is why i write about being -- the first line i wrote about being jewish and i new york. if you live in this neighborhood and act this way you are this thing so they are all completely arbitrary and i think -- but i don't think it's ever going to go away. i think i now realize it's what's fueled my father's work
and in the way it fuels my work. i don't talk about it as eloquently talking about exile in the poetry of not feeling -- i just to talk about being confused and feeling uncomfortable. it's the same thing and what it does is it encourages you to constantly seek connections and alliances with other people so bridge into the other question, i think my father was one of the first people to speak on the one-state solution and when people ask asked me about this i'm like i'm not a politician or an diplomat or anything. i don't know how these things happen and i know it takes a lot of time but it's so clear and i don't know why it's taken this long for people to understand this, the only fair solution is to have a country where everyone has the same rights. it's pretty simple once again. in terms of what you are saying when people say that to me in terms of gaza the first thing
that has to happen is there has to not be awol and a military occupation and people in gaza need to be able to leave and come and go. you know the very way way it's set up now with the palestinians cannot be a united group of people because there is west bank palestinians. there is palestinians who live within the state of israel and have citizenship. there are palestinians and diaspora. my father wasn't born there. he was worn here. i don't know how we are going to get out of the actual physical political situation but i do know that the only way is to start working towards taking it down all the walls and barriers and leading the country be an open country for all the people who live there.
i don't know what happens to hanna. i have seen her on tv a bunch and i matter on that trip. >> we are just about out of time but i have one last question right up here in front and then we will invite you to join us to check out najla's book and get some copies as well. >> first of all i want to -- excellent book. your journey of discovery, your identity is so inspiring when you are talking about the problems you are facing. it clear sense of identity. your father was arab-american
but why the emphasis on palestine because palestine -- the indignity that a bargain has taken place where the punishments of the west have allowed a bargain to absolve the west from the crisis during the 30s and 40s and therefore they have become permissive to israel violating the cuban and national rights of the palestinians. you are a palestinian and arab and a palestinian american. your arab aid can be -- but the palestinian has to be emphasized because it is the hidden meaning of the
humiliation that we want to recover from. [applause] >> i also recommend even though i'm here to promote my own book book -- i don't know what it's called in french or arab -- arabic but it's called identity and the need to belong and he says in it that you know we tend tend -- he's obviously lebanese and has a lot of different complex with his own identity but he speaks of this. you're always going to defend the one that needs the most to be defended. my sister half irish and half palestinian heoa says she is a palestinian first. she says ireland is okay right now so i'm going to speak out about palestinians. she is right. you do want to defend the one that needs to be defended and that's okay to hang onto that
identity. there is part of holding onto that identity because you are trying to insist that you exist and you are alive and that's part of who you you are and you're not going to pretend that it's not there because you owe to your family and ancestors and all the other people to say this is part of who i am the same way and people in this country who are native american who say it's native americans. it happens all the time and it shouldn't be any different for palestinians. ..
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