Nadya Tannous holding a mic and speaking at a protest.

‘We Want to Go Home…We Want Our People to be Free’: Nadya Tannous on Palestinian Liberation

The Anti-Racism Daily spoke with Nadya Tannous, a community organizer and writer born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nadya is a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement—USA and has an MsC in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies from the University of Oxford. 

Q: Where’s your family from? 

My grandparents are from Jaffa and Lydd. I still have family who live in the 1948 territories, so-called Israel, in the ghetto of Ajami in the Tel Aviv governate. My father was raised in a refugee camp in Jordan and came to San Francisco in the 1970s. 

I’m a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement, a transnational, independent, grassroots organization of Palestinian and Arab youth exiled worldwide as a result of the ongoing Zionist occupation of our homeland, fueled by our aspirations to be protagonists in the struggle for the Palestinian Liberation and our responsibility to confront Zionism wherever we are. We believe it is our role to advocate for our people in the contexts where we live and to organize along the central demands of our struggle: the right of return for all refugees, the release of all political prisoners, the right to self-determination, and liberation of our homeland. 


Call Congress to demand a Ceasefire Now and an end to the genocide in Gaza.

Approach your city councils with a principled resolution, like the historic Richmond City Council Resolution Affirming Richmond’s Support and Solidarity with the Palestinian People of Gaza.

•  Follow and support the Palestinian Youth Movement

Attend and endorse the National March on Washington to Free Palestine on Saturday, November 4th, at noon at the White House in Washington, D.C. 

Q: Why were your parents made refugees? 

We commemorate the Nakba, “catastrophe” in Arabic, on the same day as Israeli independence in 1948. For us, the creation of the State of Israel was catastrophic: a period of explicit ethnic cleansing through murder or forced displacement with the intent to transfer us out of Palestine. Marauding units of Zionist soldiers, well-trained and armed with British weapons, went into Palestinian villages to terrorize us, smoke us out, so they could remove us from our homes and settle those lands themselves. 

Plan Dalet was an Israeli military plan applied across the 1948 territories—what some people would call Israel today—to forcibly displace the Palestinian population towards the sea or the desert, south towards Gaza, or north towards Lebanon. Plan Dalet is the roadmap that was used to forcibly displace most of the Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip in the first place. The Israelis at the time thought we would be refugees and thus perish or mix in with other Arab countries and disappear. Today, Israel is clamoring along the same lines that the solution to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, created by them, is to open up the borders with Egypt. But we don’t want to be Egyptian. We don’t want to be Jordanian. We don’t want to be Lebanese. We are Palestinian, and we want to go home. Gaza is an open-air prison, and Israel is the one with the keys to the open-air prison, so the demand is the same as it has always been: let us go home. 

The bedrock of Palestinian displacement is Zionism, a European secular political ideology developed in the late 1800s as a response to rising antisemitism in Europe. Theodor Herzl asserted that, for Jewish people to be secure in the world, they needed a Jewish national homeland. Many places throughout the world were considered for this project that became the State of Israel, but Palestine was ultimately chosen. Aside from the reservation-style Bantustan carving up of the West Bank and Jerusalem and the 2.4 million of us embargoed and imprisoned in Gaza, even Palestinians in the 1948 territories are perishing under an apartheid system, where we are treated as third-class citizens because we are not Jewish Nationals. 

Q: How can Israel practice an apartheid system when there are Palestinians with Israeli citizenship? 

My family in the Tel Aviv governorate lives in Ajami, the only district out of 31 that is “mixed,” which means they allow Palestinian residents. Ajami was set up as a Palestinian ghetto to hold people from the area who were not able to leave in the Nakba. Inside Israel, though some Palestinians are citizens, only Jewish citizens can be “Nationals.” Once land is owned by a national, nobody but a national is allowed to own it ever, and nobody but a national can rent it for over five years. Israeli citizens who are Palestinian can’t access over 50 laws that nationals can access. The kicker is that the Palestinian people, who are from this place, are actually the majority of the population, but the apartheid system benefits the Jewish Israeli population, in 1948 territories, Jerusalem, and the West Bank.

Q: What must we do now?

We have a big responsibility. First, to pressure our elected officials to sign onto an immediate Ceasefire and to end all aid to Israel, the largest military aid recipient in the world. Money that could be going to schools, healthcare, roads, or infrastructure should not be sent to a state committing genocide before our eyes. We should be demanding the end of the 16-year siege and blockade on Gaza. We need to open up humanitarian corridors and reject the population transfer of Palestinians from Gaza as the solution.

Second, to approach your city councils to pass a resolution in solidarity with the Palestinian people, like the Richmond City Council Resolution Affirming Richmond’s Support and Solidarity with the Palestinian People of Gaza. International Solidarity statements and support in times of significant struggle against oppression have a long and powerful legacy in the United States at the city council level, with resolutions against Apartheid in South Africa and adjoining Boycott initiatives as a prime example.

Lastly, to educate the people around us. There’s a lot of power in hearing perspectives from those closest to you; navigating “controversial” events in real time is more difficult than doing so once they have passed, and history characterizes them for us. Fundamentally, fighting for justice in the face of oppression is not “too complex to touch.” Folks might be more likely to trust information coming from their close relationships over the corporate media, and this is critical in bringing our communities with us. But our responsibility is to not remain quiet and to find a way to something different. We have to speak out about what’s happening and make real, material demands in order to stop the massacre of the Palestinian people. As of today, Israel has killed over 6,000 Palestinians, half of them children. Our friends and family members are hanging onto a thread of life, not hyperbolically but in real time.

Q: What about condemning “both sides”?

The events of the past three weeks actually started 75 years ago. We reject equating the occupier and the occupied and the colonizer and the colonized; structural injustice does not have two equal sides. Look at social media from Tel Aviv right now: everyday Israelis have access to running water, food, freedom of movement, music events, whatever they want. That is not the same reality as the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, within the ‘48 territories, or in Jerusalem. That alone should tell folks who are paying attention what the reality is and has been for two groups of people living on the same land.

As Palestinians, we’re fighting for our liberation and the liberation of all people on the planet. We’re not just victims. We’re protagonists in our struggle. I encourage all supporters of justice and freedom everywhere to support us in the fight for the right of return of our people, freedom for all political prisoners, and the liberation of our homeland from the river to the sea

1174 790 Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee is a writer and organizer plotting a better world in Philadelphia. His work has previously appeared in Notes From Below, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, Plan A Magazine, ROAR Magazine, and Teen Vogue.

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