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Being pessimistic is not a solution

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(This is the author’s third diary of her life in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. Here are her first Palestine to Sheffield: One month away from home, and second Two months away from home)

And here the world is about to farewell a year filled with lots of ups and downs. A year that has been so long and hectic, it is when I started the course I was dreaming of the last five years. My Sheffield University, I couldn’t think of choosing a better place to study.

I gained the confidence I haven’t ever had during the first few days of my studies. Being tutored by a world-wide experienced and specialised staff in global politics and international law, I am quite proud of the amount of analytical skills I learned. The friendly environment I am surrounded by opens my eyes to different cultures and norms. I enjoy sharing good times with friends from all over the globe. I also like the competitive learning environment at the university that makes it unique not only for me as a student but also in the world standards. I find my tutors willing to get the best out of each student by encouraging us to develop our knowledge and abilities so that we will be able to deal with diverse circumstances.

I now do believe that studying global politics and international law is quite significant for this world and for the Palestinians specifically; the key is to use the international conventions in the right way and to choose a suitable political system.

The more days I spend in Sheffield, the more people I meet and the more knowledge I gain. Being elected as president of the Palestine Society and having a radio show about life in Palestine, I feel blessed for being able to raise my voice very freely and let others know about my country.

While recording my radio show at the university radio station Forge, the interviewer James Kenny asked: Malaka, I noticed that you are quite optimistic despite the unbearable situation you’ve come through, why?

Me: Simply being pessimistic is not a solution. It only worsens the situation. As a Palestinian, I try to make use of every positive bit of my life and make it a strong starting point for the kind of resistance I believe in. Participating or acting with sufficient power to influence and cause a change – even though it might be difficult- can’t come unless I am optimistic and “open” for life.

And this is life.

December 6th 

After spending two weeks touring around the UK in November and December, I noticed wide support and tireless efforts from many pro-Palestinian activists to educate themselves and people around about Palestine. This enthusiasm encourages me to do my best in all my talks.

On December 6th, I was walking somewhere in Sheffield before I was stopped by three Chinese girls. “Is she the lecturer?” one of them asked the other two girls. I wondered if I am a lecturer somewhere and I just do not know.

“Yes! She is. How are you Malaka?” My heart starts beating fast for no reason and I said, “Sorry, I am not a lecturer, which lecture do you refer to?” “The one in the Sheffield Student Union Auditorium about Palestine.” Then one of them said, “Some of my friends came and they were moved by your words, feelings and how you present the story of Palestine!” The second student said a similar thing and the third said, “I used to think of Palestine completely different from what I saw in your presentation. Now, I know about Samer Issawi and the border problem which I hope is solved out. I now know the truth and will tell all my friends and family about it. Thank you Malaka for being an inspiration.”

Of all comments and feedback I got after my tour talk, the mentioned has been the loveliest.

My Family 

I spent about 10 days in December without talking to my family not because I was busy but due to the electricity being cut and the heavy rain that weakens the internet connection for long periods of time. Water was at least three meters high in the street where my family lives. No one was able to leave his/her house for any reason. After I finally got a chance to speak with my sister, the electricity distributor burned; neighbors and I had to wait for another three days until the distributor was amended. Due to the heavy rain, three children died along with 86 injured. Many houses were completely destroyed or harshly damaged.


Three main triumphs made this month.

The Palestinian prisoner with Jordanian citizenship, Alaa Hammad, ended his 215 consecutive days hunger strike after his demand to let his wife and kids visiting him was agreed upon. Adding to that, he needs an important surgery. Note that Hamma has not seen his family for at least seven years now.

Another victory is on the Prawer Plan, an Israeli law aimed at displacing more than 30,000 Palestinians in Neqev by ethnically cleansing 40 Villages that will make 40,000 Palestinians homeless. The plan has been stopped after a very good campaign around the world. It died.

And last but not least, the biggest achievement is Palestinian detainee, Samer Issawi, the longest hunger striker in history, was released.

The day of his release was literally indescribable. I have been thinking of that day since ages but couldn’t imagine that it would be that amazing. He is a legend or more. I was so excited and extremely happy. The happiness that deprived me of thinking of anything but him. But his freedom. But his smile. That time when all supporters’ efforts for his freedom have paid off. We were quite hesitant when starting the first bit aiming to support his cause. But he teaches us that everything can be possible. His words are still engraved in my life. The letters he sent from his dark dirty cell are more than inspiring. I always think of how, while on hunger strike, he doesn’t think of his empty stomach but of us outside eating and feeling well among our families and friends. He is a real hero of principles and morals.

To my sister, Malaka:

Thank you for your great efforts and for your boundless spirit. I have the honour to know you as a sister through the campaigns of solidarity which you have arranged. I also congratulate your parents for having you; you are not just an activist but also a warrior beside the prisoners who are in hunger strikes and God willing, we will all obtain the imminent freedom, to meet in Jerusalem, and pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. What you are doing to support the prisoners shows that you are a true Muslim and a leader and that you will be able to assume strong leadership position possibly in the future. God willing, we will see you as a deputy in the Legislative Council to help your people who are in need of noble-minded people like you. Send my regards to all of the supporters, the Arabs and people from all over the world.

Samer Issawi,
Al- Ramla prison hospital

Issawi, you are the real inspiration. My hands are trembling and I find it pretty difficult to write of you or about your steadfastness. I am pretty blessed for having your family always taking care of me while in Gaza and here in Sheffield. How my mother Um Samer’s lovely words always accompany me wherever I go, how my father Abu Samer teaches me to be strong and confident, and how my sister Shireen has been a real friend I am proud of. The Issawi family is a sample of the Palestinians enduring devastating effects of the Israeli occupation but keeping their heads up and keeping the resistance on.

Remember Us cover Art

Remember Us cover Art

“Remember Us”

I have shared my personal experiences and political opinions in a book about the daily struggles of the Palestinians.

Remember Us features the stories of young Palestinian women. It is the sincere expression of love, hope, anger, dream, frustration, aspiration and desires that reflect the life under the Israeli oppression and continuous intimidation.

My first entry, entitled “My First Journey Abroad”, tells the tale of my struggle to travel to Malaysia due to the strict border control between Gaza and the outside world. I have also written about Samer Issawi, imprisoned without trial in Israel. And my third entry includes segments of my correspondence with the famous linguist and campaigner Noam Chomsky concerning a possible solution to the situation in Palestine.

My professor and I

I would like to end this diary by a small debate.

He: Malaka, what do you think the solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be?
Me: Erm, that is not easy, you know…
He: I believe the only solution could be two-state solution, do you agree?
Me: No. I only believe “one-state” is the solution.
He: What do you mean? One state for Arab and “Jewish”?
Me: No for the Palestinians only and I will not have any problem having Jewish or Christians or Seculars as my neighbors but not in a political background.
He: What do you mean?
Me: Our problem is not with Jewish or religion; it is with those Jewish or non-Jewish who turn into occupiers trying to use their political ideology i.e. Palestine is their land to claim their right in our land.
He (looked shocked): But that will not work, I assume?
Me: It will, if we look into how the world is now looking into us the Palestinians and comparing it with theirs a few years ago, you will notice lots of changes. Yesterday is not like today which will not be at all like tomorrow.
He: How is the world view about the Palestinians changing?
Me: If we take BDS in 2005 and now as an example, you will be able to notice lots. Literally when an intellectual like Stephen Hawking or the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel passed with 66.05% in favor (considering that he’s American), this is genuinely a dramatic change. Who could imagine that SA Apartheid system would fall? Nothing is impossible.


I recorded the following video on Ben Lomond, a 3,196 foot mountain, after I gifted this climb for more than one reason, and especially Samer Issawi’s victory. Given that Samer was released in December, I am attaching the video with the diary:

Malaka Mohammed

Malaka Mohammed is a Palestinian student from Gaza doing a PhD in Palestine Studies at Exeter University. Follow her on Twitter @MalakaShwaikh.

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6 Responses

  1. annie on December 30, 2013, 11:52 am

    Malaka, i love hearing your voice in this video. this is my favorite diary of yours so far. and the letter from samer is incredible. he’s right, you are a warrior. thanks for all you’ve done. your accomplishments at such a young age are magnificent.

  2. MHughes976 on December 30, 2013, 12:04 pm

    I’m glad you’re finding England warm for all the rotten weather of December 2013 and glad that our university system is serving you well. Though your professor sounds a bit narrow, for someone who works on international law and all that, in his ideas about the ME.

  3. just on December 30, 2013, 12:12 pm

    Your message, your hope and your resilience are an inspiration Malaka.

    I promise you my support.

  4. Krauss on December 30, 2013, 1:15 pm

    Those against the ASA pro-BDS resolution must grapple with the fact that people like Malaka are being denied opportunities for the sole reason that they have the “wrong” ethnicity on a routine basis. Some people, like Malaka, do get out of the country on a scholarship but there are many more back home who couldn’t get a permit or got one so late as to miss the flight, as she makes clear on her blog.

    I’ve enjoyed reading this series a lot. I hope more voices from young Palestinian students could be added. I wish you the best, Malaka. Would be great if you could come to America and give a talk to a SJP chapter. I’m sure Ali Abuminah could help you if you don’t know where to turn.

  5. rensanceman on December 30, 2013, 1:26 pm

    Malaka, you inspire us to redouble our efforts to bring about an end to the ungodly brutality inflicted on the Palestinians by the godless Zionist state. Your passion and commitment is deep rooted and with others like you, we can prevail.

  6. annie on October 28, 2014, 10:50 pm

    malaka, here i am 10 months later, listening to your voice again and again, ever confident in you and your spirit, your activism. believing, knowing, having faith in you. again, thank you.

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