In your newly released book They Called Me a Lioness: A Palestinian Girl’s Fight for Freedom write about your time in prison. You went through hours of interrogation as a teenager in which you were forced to talk, what was that like?
“If you break in prison, it’s a shame. I thought about my father, how he was tortured in prison. And I thought of all the other Palestinian prisoners who refused to talk. That’s how I stayed strong.”
In your book you write that you felt guilty when you were released and that you fell into a depression. How are you now?
“I didn’t feel guilty because I was out of prison, I felt guilty and powerless because I couldn’t do anything for everyone who was still there. But after a while I got over this feeling and now I’m committed to what brings prisoners closer to freedom. Nothing built on injustice and power lasts forever, that gives me hope.”
You were invited to speak at the leftist festival ManiFiesta in Ostend. What was your main message there?
“That people should not see us as victims. We don’t want your tears. Tear gas is fired at us daily, we have enough tears. I’m not saying how wonderful that you support the Palestinian cause. No. I say we pay the price for the mistakes your governments have made in the past (the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the occupation of the Palestinian territory, AB).
“It is the duty of people in Europe to support Palestine and be part of the struggle. Show your solidarity by boycotting Israel politically, economically and culturally. It frustrates me that not only do I have to fight for Palestine, but also explain to the international community the reality of life under occupation. I also have other dreams. I wanted to be a footballer but gave up this dream so that I can fight for Palestine.”
People see you as a rising leader, but you have no political ambitions. Why did you choose law school?
“I am studying law so that I can fight for the justice that is being denied us. And to change laws, because I don’t believe in the current legal system.”
What is the difference between your generation and the previous one?
“My generation no longer believes in peace. The old generation had pinned its hopes on the international community and international law. They gave up everything for the sake of the two-state solution. To no avail, with all due respect to the prisoners and martyrs. Our generation is not the same. This is our country. We fight for all of Palestine. But we do not trust the international community, nor are we attached to Palestinian political parties or organizations. We strive for a world in which all of Palestine is liberated.”
You don’t call yourself a peacemaker but a freedom fighter. Why is that definition important to you?
“If I call myself a peacemaker, I would present myself as a victim and ask for empathy. The victims are 18-year-old Zionists living in the settlements, who have a weapon and are full of hatred towards us. I call myself a freedom fighter because I want to invite people to be a part of this fight. There is no peace in the world. And I’m not forgiving either. How can I live next to the soldier who arrested me? Our country has been taken by force, the only way to liberate and get it back is through resistance.”