Free Palestine

I have been trying to figure out what to say since the news broke. Nothing I think or say feels adequate. How can I rally folks when all I feel is anger at how desensitized my peers seem to be? Day after day, I have witnessed the live genocide of Palestinians. I know shame is not the most effective tool for organizing and radicalizing—but I am so deeply embarrassed and disgusted by my community and how many people are choosing to look the other way. Since when is genocide “nuanced”? Since when is the colonization of people complicated? I have felt utterly distraught. Disillusioned by my Filipino community not being united in this, given our own history — during Filipino American History Month. I am flummoxed, witnessing FAHM content and Filipino memes in between videos of decapitated Palestinian children. Perturbed at celebrations of Morro Bay on October 18, 1587, a day where Spaniards and Filipinos died in an attempt to colonize and occupy Chumash land. Pain-addled by Filipinos pedaling self-care rhetoric such as “drinking enough water” when Gaza has been cut off from water for days now...

For context, I am Filipino and Jewish. I can not believe I have to flash my Jew card, but as a Jewish person, IT IS NOT ANTI-SEMITIC TO CONDEMN ISRAEL. While I don’t practice Judaism these days, I grew up knowing my lineage runs long. My great grandfather immigrated through Ellis Island while fleeing the Holocaust. Due to my inherent understanding of Judaism’s history and values, it is absolutely imperative that I speak out against the atrocities happening in Gaza right now. If the cost of my convictions are alienating and results in losing friends, family, peers and acquaintances in the community so be it. It is a loss that I have learned to embrace over and over again. Even more crucial, I have gained clarity on what depraved acts are accepted amongst those around me, gilded by privileges that Palestinians only dream about having. I am no longer accepting excuses of being busy or burnt out, “not understanding,” or preserving mental health. I trust that those who stand with me on these matters will have my back once the dust settles. Risking my community and social status is nothing in comparison to the 75 years of Palestinian sacrifice on our hands. 

I cannot condemn a group of people that have been victims of colonization for almost a CENTURY straight, for finally resorting to violence. NO ONE should die over the fight for land. 

But Palestinians are not fighting for land, they are fighting for their freedom. Resistance to occupation has never been peaceful. Let it be clear that Israel is not fighting for peace, they are murdering people for land. And that resistance against the occupation of land is a fight that Filipinos know well!! What did we do when the Spaniards took our land in 1565? What did we do when the United States took our land in 1898? What did we do when Japan took our land in 1942? We resisted occupation time and time again! So why do we look the other way when our brothers and sisters across the way are asking for help in resistance? WHY are we celebrating heritage during Filipino American History Month, a month that highlights the damage of US imperialism and colonization on Filipinos, yet silent or “bahala na” about the current genocide in Palestine? A genocide that is funded by the US?! Are the resistance of Filipinos and Palestinians not the same?! Have we forgiven the US war machine already?! To TRULY celebrate FAHM, we must not only acknowledge our painful past, but also our painful present and potential future.

I see a lot of folx say that yelling on the internet doesn’t help anyone, and I know for a fact that it is not true. I don’t even think we have a large platform, but I have had countless strangers come up to me in person and thank us (Vinta) for taking a public stance on multiple issues. Our responsibility in the global community is to put forth the truth, whether that be via protests, screaming to the ethernet hills on a social media soapbox, or simply bolstering Palestinian voices — it is our duty to defeat fascism.

So what CAN we do? We can choose to not center ourselves and our feelings. We can learn more about Palestinian history. We can call out Islamophobia like we call out Asian hate and racism against Black folx. We can fight misinformation and pushback on Islamaphobic propaganda by media and news outlets. We can harass our local representatives. We can donate to Palestinian organizations that are on the ground. We can SPEAK THE FUCK UP because that is the right thing to do! It is absolutely imperative that we unequivocally denounce Israel’s previous and longstanding disregard for Palestinian life, even if it means putting ourselves at risk. Our silence and complicity centrist “takes” FASCILITATE fascism and totalitarianism.

I’m ashamed to even post about work or continue to do anything else at all. Our families depend on us and I am determined to make sure that my people eat. I will, however, continue to advocate for ALL bodies. For Palestinians, for Black folx, for Filipinxs, and ALL marginalized and occupied bodies. We continue to fight injustice today, tomorrow, and into the next lifetime. Maybe I will not see the full fruits of my labor while I am alive, but the next generation might, and that is enough for me to try my hardest until my last breath. We are only free until we are ALL free. 

When I went to the Palestinian Liberation protest in LA on Saturday October 14th, 2023, there were pleas of “From Palestine to the Philippines, stop the US war machine!” from local Filipinx organizations. Every time I heard the chant, I couldn’t help but sob. I thought, “Where are MY people?”


With Love,
Sydney Alicia Cohen

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