By Sabrine Azraq
Published on December 8, 2014
What is home?
I’ve asked this question to family members, friends, and strangers at the bus stop. The same response is always given: home is anywhere where one feels comfort, security, and familiarity. I am fed the notion that home is just a feeling. I find, however, that I just can’t bring myself to swallow this idea.
Consider this: if a woman has developed comfort, security, and familiarity in a house she stole, should one be concerned about her calling it home? If that woman later gave birth to children who developed similar feelings, is there a problem in them calling this stolen home their home? This may sound absurd, but for Indigenous peoples with lived experiences engrossed in colonization, theft of their home is a reality.
As an indigenous person of Palestine and a settler in present-day “Canada,” my right to home is denied while I actively deny others of theirs. Identifying home is much more than feelings. Ideas of home are used to normalize colonization and alienate the oppressed. Home becomes the legitimizing basis for the lived realities I am forced to endure as a Palestinian and the justifying measure for my presence as a settler on stolen land.
This is precisely why the idea of home fills me with so many conflicting and hidden emotions. I find myself simultaneously trapped and freed each time I attempt to confront it. Despite being born and only having ever lived in “Canada,” I don’t think I can ever bring myself to call this country my home. My feelings of comfort do not legitimize my participation in this settler society.
The word “Canada,” actually, comes from the word Kanata, which means “settlement” in the language of the Wendat. Canada is a landmass erased of its originality and violently renamed “Settlement” in the language of the people they ethnically cleansed. Millions of Indigenous people were killed for the purpose of creating feelings of comfort, security, and familiarity for European settlers. And today, while we continue feeling at home on colonized land, over a million Indigenous people are forced into deplorable isolation.
The “Canadian” government, moreover, is a very close friend of Israel, a country currently destroying my own existence. Israel was created by Zionism, which is a political ideology that aimed to free the Jewish population facing European anti-Semitism by creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. As a result, my home is currently colonized, occupied, and reconstructed into a home for another people. And my taxes in Canada are currently going to a government that unconditionally supports the violent erasure of my existence.
There are roughly 120 illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine. Within these settlements lie roughly half a million illegal Israeli settlers who feel comfort, security, and familiarity in my home. Although these settlements are illegal under international law and not a single country (other than present-day Israel, of course) recognizes their existence, Israel has neither dismantled them nor ceased construction. Instead, these settlements continue to expand, creating more space for foreigners to feel comfort and security, while Palestinians feel alienated and dehumanized.
Can you see why I find it so problematic to assert the notion that feeling at home can legitimize one’s claim to home? Can you see how traumatic this very idea is to colonized peoples? Only specific groups of people are given the privilege to feel comfort, security, and familiarity, while others are not.
I’ve come to the conclusion that home is a claim, one that is often beautifully conceptualized and violently actualized. By relearning home, I acknowledge my place as both the colonizer and the colonized. In the end, I call Palestine my home while recognizing my occupier’s refusal to recognize me. I call Palestine my home albeit international idleness in the midst of its destruction. I call Palestine my home with contempt of the apartheid and oppression I face within it. I refuse to internalize this oppression and to inflict it on others. I have decolonized my perception of home and I strongly urge you to do the same.
Sabrine Azraq is a Palestinian Muslim Womyn and VP of Equity at the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union. She enjoys dismantling inequitable systems. She also enjoys weaponizing Love as a method of piercing through this colonial and patriarchal world. In her spare time she sleeps.
Further reading and viewing suggestions
- Daswani, Girish. 2014. “Where Are You From Really?” TEDxUTSC video, 17:30.
- Freeman, Victoria. 2010. “‘Toronto Has No History!’ Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, and Historical Memory in Canada’s Largest City.” Urban History Review 38 (2): 21-36.
- Mason, Victoria. 2007. “Children Of The “Idea Of Palestine”: Negotiating Identity, Belonging And Home In The Palestinian Diaspora.” Journal of Intercultural Studies 28 (3): 271-85.
- Veracini, Lorenzo. 2013. “The Other Shift: Settler Colonialism, Israel, and the Occupation.” Journal of Palestine Studies 42 (2): 26-42.