‘Free Palestine,’ on a section of the Israeli Apartheid Wall sealing the village of Bir Nabala from the main road to Jerusalem. Cropped from the photo used in the cover of Ramsey Hanhan’s book, Fugitive Dreams. (Photo by the author, 2013).
‘Free Palestine,’ on a section of the Israeli Apartheid Wall sealing the village of Bir Nabala from the main road to Jerusalem. Cropped from the photo used in the cover of Ramsey Hanhan’s book, Fugitive Dreams. (Photo by the author, 2013).

OPINION | PALESTINE | LANGUAGE

‘Free Palestine!’ What It Means To Me

Slogans and the power of language in shaping the psychology of liberation. How language elevates, or degrades, the struggle for freedom and justice.

6 min readFeb 28, 2024

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To draw attention to the genocide in Gaza, a group of well-intentioned Palestine activists dropped a banner at the NBA all-star game on Feb. 17, 2024. Their choice of message left me exasperated. Out of all possible slogans, couldn’t they find anything better than ‘Let Gaza Live’? As a Palestinian activist who has been resisting oppression for decades, I have come to respect Edward Said’s lessons on “the power of words, and their capacity to liberate, or to oppress,” as I express in my book Fugitive Dreams.

“Learning how word choice was used to dominate, I grew to reject Israeli terminology, like calling a stolenment a “settlement”.”

— Ramsey Hanhan, Fugitive Dreams

People learn by repetition. Here, I ask what are we programming ourselves to believe when we reiterate each of three commonly-used slogans in the Palestine movement.

‘Let Gaza Live’

“Like “Black Lives Matter”, I find it sad and shameful that we actually have to affirm something as basic as the right of a human being to life. (At least in the one case, “Black Lives” are the subject — they “matter”. The defeatist “Let Gaza Live” puts “Gaza” as an object, acknowledging and accepting the power of the Occupier, whom the slogan addresses, over the lives of its people.)”

— Ramsey Hanhan, Fugitive Dreams

Let Gaza Live not only sets the bar too low, it is dehumanizing towards the very people of Palestine whom the activists purport to be helping. The objectification of Gazans removes their agency. The people of Gaza today are heroically enduring and resisting one of the…

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Ramsey Hanhan 🇵🇸 🌍

Author. Tree spirit trapped in human form, I speak for the voiceless: children and the Earth, nature, justice, truth, freedom, love and Palestine. 🇵🇸 🌍