It is estimated that more than half of Palestinians in the world live outside of Palestine. Many are refugees or descendants of refugees who were forced out of their homeland by Israel’s ethnic cleansing practices. Others left Palestine to seek freedom and economic stability that is not available in occupied lands. Many Palestinians living abroad are not allowed to live in or even visit their homeland, yet still feel a strong connection to Palestine. That’s why Palestinians like myself consider ourselves to be part of a diaspora: a community scattered around the world that shares a common identity through a homeland.
Palestinians living in diaspora have to deal with preserving their heritage, especially in the face of those who attempt to erase our identity and even deny our very existence. These 10 amazing women have accomplished incredible things, all while advocating for Palestine and keeping their homeland alive, no matter where they live.
1. Linda Sarsour
If you’re involved in social activism, you’ve probably heard of Linda Sarsour. She is the Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, the co-founder of MPOWER Change, co-founder of Muslims for Ferguson, and the list goes on and on. Sarsour is a powerhouse who fights racism, Islamophobia, police brutality and more. Of course, Sarsour also regularly advocates for justice in Palestine, most recently while on the campaign trail with Bernie Sanders!It is estimated that more than half of Palestinians in the world live outside of Palestine. Click To Tweet
2. Noura Erakat
Noura Erakat is an activist, human rights attorney, legal scholar, and professor. In an interview with Upworthy, Erakat said that her activism was inspired by a protest that taught her about the oppression in Palestine. When Upworthy edited out her comments about Palestine, she refused to let them get away with erasing such an important part of her identity. Among other amazing projects, Erakat is currently working on Gaza in Context, a pedagogical project that aims to educate people about the situation in the Gaza Strip.
3. Rasmea Odeh
Rasmea Odeh moved to the U.S. from Palestine in 1994 and became a citizen in 2004. She is a pillar of the Arab American community, especially in Chicago where she is part of the Arab American Action Network. For decades she has fought for women’s’ rights, immigrants’ rights, racial justice, and more. In 2013, Odeh was arrested for allegedly not disclosing on her citizen application that she was convicted of a crime while living in Palestine. However, her conviction came after she was brutally tortured and raped by Israeli authorities and gave a false confession. Even though Odeh is currently awaiting trial, that has not stopped her activism and her passion for justice.
4. Rafeef Ziadah
Rafeef Ziadah’s poems about Palestine are iconic. The title of her viral poem “We teach life, sir” quickly became a slogan for the people of Gaza and all Palestinians. Her poetry is unapologetic, political, and deeply emotional. In 2009, Ziadah released a spoken word album dedicated to Palestinian youth called Hadeel. Ziadah tours the world performing poetry and advocating for Palestine.These 10 amazing women accomplished incredible things while advocating for Palestine. Click To Tweet
5. Maysoon Zayid
Her amazing Ted Talk went viral in 2014, for good reason, but there is so much more to the brilliant and hilarious Maysoon Zayid. She is a comedian, writer, actor and the co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. Zayid’s comedy deals with a wide variety of issues including Islamophobia, her life with cerebral palsy, and Palestine. Most recently, she brought her comedic talents to the Republican National Convention. Now that’s brave! Besides bringing light to issues Palestinians face through her comedy, Zayid also gives back to her homeland by running an arts program for disabled or orphaned children in Palestinian refugee camps.She brought her comedic talents to the RNC. Now that's brave! Click To Tweet
6. Rula Jebreal
Rula Jebreal is an award winning and groundbreaking journalist. She was the first ever foreign anchorperson of an Italian television news station and was also amforeign policy analyst for MSNBC. Jebreal is not afraid of standing up against unfair reporting. She publicly criticized MSNBC’s reporting of the Israel-Palestine conflict, arguing that “We are disgustingly biased when it comes to this issue.” Jebreal is also the author of Miral, a novel about a Palestinian orphan growing up during the Palestinian intifada. She also wrote the screenplay of the film by the same name.
7. Shadia Mansour
Known as the “the first lady of Arabic hip hop,” Shadia Mansour is a trailblazer in the industry for both Palestinians and women. The British-Palestinian’s music is very political and expresses her anger at the injustices committed against Palestinians. Besides singing about Palestine, Mansour also addresses the oppression of women. If you’ve never heard her music, you’re seriously missing out. Plus, she usually performs in a beautiful traditional Palestinian thawb!Shadia Mansour is a trailblazer in the industry for both Palestinians and women. Click To Tweet
8. Naomi Shihab Nye
Renowned poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, is the daughter of a Palestinian refugee father and an American mother. She lived in a West Bank village in Palestine for a year when she was fourteen. Many of her poems are inspired by her Palestinian heritage and her experience living in the West Bank. Nye’s first young adult novel, Habibi tells the story of a young girl who moves to her father’s homeland of Jerusalem.
9. Susan Abulhawa
Writer and human rights activist Susan Abulhawa is the daughter of Palestinian refugees of the 1967 war. Her bestselling novel Mornings in Jenin follows the journey of a Palestinian family who were forced out of their village after the creation of the state of Israel. Besides writing amazing novels, Abulhawa is also a political commentator and a biologist. She is the founder of an organization called Playgrounds for Palestine which works to purchase and ship playground equipment to Palestine.
10. Annemarie Jacir
Annemarie Jacir is an independent filmmaker and screenwriter who currently lives in Jordan. Her award-winning film Salt of this Sea was the first feature film directed by a Palestinian woman. Jacir is co-founder of the independent production company Philistine Films, and co-founder of Dreams of a Nation, a project that promotes Palestinian films. She is passionate about independent film, which she promotes as a film teacher, editor, and film curator.
Whether they are activists, journalists, singers, or anything in between, these incredible women are all renowned in their fields. They are also making sure that Palestine will never be forgotten or ignored.