'Never the same again': What Palestine has changed within us

Child Gaza
6 min read
29 February, 2024

A few days ago, I saw a protest sign that said “Palestine has become the lens through which I see the world” and I was struck by how true that statement was.

It echoed my feelings over the last few months. The way I see influencers and celebrities, companies and brands — even my friends, family and colleagues — has been irreversibly changed by the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

I can no longer remain close to those who have nothing to say about the calculated and indiscriminate ethnic cleansing of the people whose plight fills our social media feeds, hearts and minds.

"Whether it is our faith, our personal relationships or our careers, we have been irrevocably changed by what we have seen from Gaza. But it seems like the most marked and poignant change has been in the normality of the every day"

Palestine a 'deal breaker'

I can no longer respect and admire those with substantial platforms who have done nothing but post vague, two-sided messages about peace in the Middle East.

No longer can I justify earning money, spending money, consuming and contributing to and from the corporations who use their profit to fuel genocide. But it’s not just me — it is all of us.

All of us who stand in solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinians and who remain staunch in our condemnation of the Israeli state and its allies. No matter whether we have Palestinian blood or not, it has become clear that Palestine has become the lens through which many of us now view life. And it has irrevocably changed us all.

In the United Kingdom, Israel's genocidal assault of Gaza has galvanised people from all walks of life [Getty Images]
In the United Kingdom, Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza has galvanised pro-Palestinian support from all walks of life [Getty Images]

A symbol of faith

One area that appears to have been altered by the events in Palestine is people’s faith. 

“I would pray sometimes in Ramadan and usually keep my fasts as a cultural thing to do with my family but I just never felt particularly connected to my faith on a spiritual level,” explains Ameerah.  “But all of this changed for me once I started seeing the videos out of Gaza.”

Ameerah describes how seeing parents holding the limp bodies of their infant children in their hands and still finding comfort in God’s justice was a turning point for her.

“I saw women so careful to stay covered in their hijabs despite their homes falling upon them. I saw children reciting the Quran at full volume whilst their limbs were being amputated with no anaesthetic. I saw people who had lost everything yet still didn’t lose their faith. I felt like — if they can have so much imaan (faith), what is my excuse?”

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This decision led Ameerah to start wearing the hijab again — something she had strayed away from in her late teens. It inspired her to begin praying more regularly and incorporate the Quran back into her daily routine.

“Every time I sit on my prayer mat now, I think of the Palestinians who cling to their faith as the only thing they have left. That motivates me to use my privilege to stay connected to mine.” 

It’s not just personal religious devotion that has been impacted. Out of solidarity, outrage or both, some in the West have even chosen to quit their jobs over their workplace’s stance on Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Yasmin* found out that her workplace had chosen to collaborate with an Israeli tech company on an upcoming project: “I confronted management about it and I was just met with anger. I was made to feel like I was being unprofessional,” she explains.

“Despite explaining why it was wrong and how such companies support the funding of Israel and therefore fuel genocide, they simply said that they had chosen the best supplier to get the work done,” she adds.

For Yasmin, this crossed a moral line that she could simply not condone and so she handed in her resignation. “There was no way I was going to sit on calls and collaborate with a company based in Israel knowing that they were funding the destruction of Gaza.”

"Not speaking out, not using your voice is just a deal breaker for me"

Many of us may have also noticed a shift in the online content we consume — and even ourselves create. As the genocide of Palestinians began to escalate in October, many Muslim figures online paused their usual output to instead dedicate their platforms to sharing the latest news from Gaza.

However, as the weeks and months went by, we started to see the usual social media posts creep back in: hauls and outfits and branded collaborations once again became normalised, casting a dystopian contrast to the horrific footage shared by those on the ground in Gaza.

Matcha tea, luxury holidays and designer bags punctured the stream of lifeless bodies, blown apart limbs and wailing children as it seemed as though there was an expiry date to the solidarity shown by even Muslims with the biggest platforms. 

Sumud goes online

For some influencers, however, it remains unconscionable to return to business as usual whilst a genocide is happening in real-time.

Charley — otherwise known as @modestlywrapped on Instagram — first started her platform years ago by sharing modest outfit ideas and had transitioned in the last couple of years to sharing educational reels and written posts on a variety of topics such as leaving teaching, parenting young children and relocating to Dubai.

Since October, however, her content has been solely dedicated to advocating for the Palestinian cause — whether that’s highlighting the manifold injustices executed by Israel, criticising the impartiality of the issue in the UK school system or sharing which brands to boycott due to their endorsement of Israel’s illegal occupation. 

“I had been battling for a long time with my content. I struggled to see its worth or why I was on Instagram at all. But now I realise that this is it. Using my platform to amplify the voices of Palestinians and to advocate for the cause is my duty," Charley explains. 

"It seemed like a sign like this was the reason my platform had grown so much over the last summer: so I could spread this message to thousands of people. Not speaking out, not using your voice is just a deal breaker for me.”

It’s not just Charley’s online life that has been transformed, “I couldn’t help but feel like there was a reason these Western fashion companies are so embroiled in support for Israel and why they are now being boycotted. It’s shown me that I should be dressing even more modestly than that anyway and buying from Muslim brands instead.”

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Whether it is our faith, our personal relationships or our careers, we have been irrevocably changed by what we have seen from Gaza. But it seems like the most marked and poignant change has been in the normality of the every day.

As depicted in a harrowing series of illustrations by artist Khadija Said, so many household items can never look the same to us again: from biscuits tarred with the image of a father placing them in the limp hand of his child to socks forever beholding the memory of the grandfather worried that his grandchild’s feet would be cold in the grave.

From the flour in our cupboards reminding us of the children licking leftover grains for their only sustenance to a little girl skipping past us in the street with space buns bobbing up and down prompting us to think of Reem, the soul of her grandfather’s soul. Gaza has changed us all. And we will never be the same again.

Nadeine Asbali is a secondary school teacher in London.

Follow her on Twitter: @najourno