Palestinian student in Vermont reflects: What crime did I commit?

Hisham Awartani
(Photo: Twitter/X)
What was my crime? What heinous deed did I commit for me to deserve to get shot and lose control of my legs? I was Palestinian. This is not the first time I had been tried and had a sentence passed on me in the kangaroo court of hateful violence. In 2021 I was shot in the knee by a rubber bullet during a demonstration. My classmate—not so lucky as me—suffered a gunshot wound in the leg from a .556-caliber-rifle. اضافة اعلان

When Israelis protest for the democracy of their courts, the Palestinian does not care. His court has adjourned with the presumption of guilt by existence. The judge, jury, and bailiff are all one: someone holding a rifle at a checkpoint, who will not meet my gaze.

It is of no importance that the person who shot me was not Israeli, because the hate that made this possible was made in Israel. It dehumanized Palestinians on an industrial scale, and was sent to the U.S. in neat little airwave packages. This hate is what makes the ongoing genocide in Gaza acceptable; a Palestinian is not human. When he walks through the prison-style rotating door, gets randomly selected for a search in Jerusalem, or is standing behind the bulletproof glass having his passport checked, he is no longer human. The pain of the Palestinian is not understood because to them we simply cannot feel pain.

This is not about Hisham Awartani though. It was never about me. On November 15 I joined my fellow Brown students to write the names of thousands of Palestinians killed in the war on Gaza. They gave us a document issued by the Gaza Health Ministry, and out of curiosity the first thing I did was look up my name. There were 30 results. 13 people named Hisham and 17 with Hisham as a middle name.

I didn’t know how to feel. My name was not a common one. The list was incomplete and only included around 6,500 names, while an estimated 11,000 had been killed by Israel or according to American media, “had died.” Had I been one of those Hishams in Gaza my picture would not have been on the BBC or CNN. Instead of being interviewed, my mother would be fleeing south or already killed, trapped under the rubble with me.

I am the Hisham you know. I lived. My story is being told. The 13 other Hishams were killed, their stories forever erased. They were human and they did not have to prove that to anyone. They knew no respite, no justice, no peace.

This article originally appeared in the College Hill Independent a Providence-based publication written, illustrated, designed, and edited by students from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design

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