The rise in attacks against visibly Palestinian individuals sparks concern for safety among Palestinian Americans

In the wake of the shooting of three college students and a series of other incidents, Palestinian Americans are expressing worry for their safety and the safety of their children. The shooting of three young Palestinian men over the Thanksgiving weekend in Burlington, Vermont, has heightened concerns among Palestinian American families. Samer Elbandak, a Palestinian-American Christian, immediately feared for his 16-year-old daughter when he heard the news about the shooting. His daughter, who lives in Florida, is vocal about the plight of Palestinians and proudly displays the Palestinian flag on her Instagram page. Recognizing the potential dangers she may face, Elbandak decided to have a frank discussion with his daughter about being cautious and aware of the hatred some people possess. Similar to African-American and other minority households, Palestinian parents in the US are increasingly having “the talk” with their children about encountering racism, particularly in light of recent incidents where visibly Palestinian individuals have been attacked. While police are still investigating the motive behind the shooting, the victims believe they were targeted due to their ethnicity, as they were conversing in a mix of Arabic and English and wearing keffiyehs, a symbol of Palestinian identity. This incident, along with other instances of bias and violence, has fueled concerns among Palestinian Americans that they are at greater risk since the Israel-Gaza conflict began. Anne Bordonaro, a mother of two Palestinian college-aged men, had a heartfelt conversation with her sons, suggesting they refrain from wearing their keffiyehs in public to avoid becoming targets. The Palestinian community in the US, consisting of a small diaspora of approximately 220,000 individuals, has also been shaken by the murder of a six-year-old Palestinian boy in Illinois and numerous reports of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) has received an unprecedented number of requests for assistance related to these incidents. Additionally, instances of harassment and assault against visibly Palestinian individuals have been documented, further exacerbating concerns among Palestinian Americans. The rise in prejudice against Palestinians is, in part, fueled by deep-rooted biases against Arabs and Muslims that have persisted since the 9/11 attacks. The current divisive political discourse surrounding the Israel-Gaza conflict is also contributing to the problem. As a result, Palestinian mothers are turning to organizations like Cair for guidance on how to address these issues with their children. There is now a pervasive and fear-saturated conversation happening in households as parents strive to protect their children while also navigating their desire to express their Palestinian identity. Palestinian Americans, like Abeer Ramadan-Shinnawi, feel “othered” and lack a sense of acceptance within American society. However, despite the fear and frustration, there is also resilience within the community. Following the Burlington shootings, vigils were held to honor the victims, and people are demonstrating solidarity by wearing keffiyehs. Some, like Anne Bordonaro, have decided to reclaim their identity and proudly wear the keffiyeh again. The issues faced by Palestinian Americans highlight the ongoing struggle for acceptance and coexistence within the US, illustrating the need for continued dialogue and understanding between communities.