As people get ready to embrace their loved ones, purchase those dozen roses and heart-shaped chocolates, and express their affection; Palestinians are having to go through barbed wires, checkpoints, walls, army jeeps, settler colonies and laws that prevent them from being with the ones they love.
This year, Valentine’s Day pays homage to all of those struggling to maintain their relationship or even be together due to the Israeli regime. A situation that many of us have sadly overlooked.
The Israeli occupation has existed for nearly 70 years now, and Palestinians living under its control have been exposed to various constraints and have been granted very few rights and privileges. From restrictions on movement, to limits on freedom of expression, employment discrimination, and limitations on legal rights; they have now added to that extensive list restrictions on who you can and cannot be with. The laws ban a Palestinian from the West Bank and Gaza from living with their spouses in occupied Palestine, as well as banning Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza from reuniting with their families who were expelled, or had fled to the occupied territories. On a daily basis, Palestinians are forced to go through checkpoints, walls, and an army of soldiers in order to pay their loved ones a mere visit. Separation in Palestine isn’t only distance, it’s the law.
Love Under Apartheid is a project that launched a few hours ago, and was developed to showcase the extent in which Israel’s discriminatory policies affects the lives of individuals in Palestine. How deeply this system restricts the Palestinians’ human rights, including that of their personal right to love. Tanya Keilani, who is the project founder and coordinator of this awe-inspiring initiative, explains that when looking for a partner to spend the rest of our lives with, we all naturally think about our futures – where we’re going to settle, work and raise our children – but planning a future is a completely different experience for Palestinians.
The Love Under Apartheid project is a video project highlighting Palestinians’ stories (at home and abroad) of how the Israeli laws, occupation, and siege have directly affected their ability to fall in love, and has defined their lives for the past 70 years. As Tanya so aptly put it, “In a place where love is made nearly impossible, these stories hope to capture singular moments of love in struggle.”
Minutes after this project took off, a twitter hashtag, #LoveUnderApartheid, trended worldwide in less than four minutes. The hashtag trend, in its own way, made the institutionalized oppression of Palestinians more personal and real, rather than a case of mere statistics. As one tweep put it, “[LoveUnderApartheid] reframes what people have desensitized into an explicit political situation back into a human problem.” The contribution and unification of everyone on twitter was indeed the best way I could have spent this Valentine’s Day. What an inspiration to be able to virtually unite with so many strangers over one cause – our love for Palestine.
On this Valentine’s Day, all I can say is: Palestine, although I have only been able to love you from a distance, my hope never wavers that one day, we will meet. Today, you are my one and true Valentine, and so I dedicate this post to you.
Happy Valentine’s Day