‘It Makes my Heart Break Completely:’ Palestinian Alumna Speaks on the Importance of Empathy

by Emily Mosier

The Tropolitan has reached out to Troy University’s International office, as well as posted on public student forums, in search of students from Israel but was unable to find anyone willing to be interviewed. Any student with personal connection to the Israel-Hamas war is encouraged to reach out to The Tropolitan.

The Gaza Strip is home to more than 2 million Palestinians and is controlled by Hamas, a militant group that is recognized by many nations as a terrorist organization.

On October 7, Hamas launched an attack against Israel, killing at least 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages. The war that followed has caused the deaths of civilians in both counties. The Palestinian death toll is over 11,000 –and over 3,600 of those deaths were children, as reported by AP News.

The war is dividing America.  

This division is part of the reason why Troy resident and 2023 Troy University graduate Mary Anabata* wanted to share her perspective. Anabata, who was born in Jordan before immigrating to the United States as a child, is Palestinian. Many of her family members live in the West Bank, and Anabata said her family has faced oppression and violence for years, but it’s only gotten worse since October 7. 

“I was grieving for the innocent Israeli citizens that were killed, that were being held hostage, but at the same time, I was terrified,” Anabata said. “We know the power of Israel’s army . . .  and I know what their daily life was life before October 7 because, as easy as it is to say the war just started, it’s been going on for like 75 years.”

Since then, Anabata said she has cried herself to sleep and suffered from nightmares. She has faced discrimination in the past for being Middle Eastern, and she said she has seen Palestinians receive social backlash for speaking out about the humanitarian crisis. 

“A lot of people know that I’m Palestinian, and I didn’t want them to think that I was encouraging, Hamas’s attacks,” Anabata said. “I was sad, but I also feel guilty that I have the privilege of being able to put my phone down and not look at what’s going on while little kids in Palestine are not only dying, but they’re watching their parents, their siblings, their cousins have their bodies being torn apart.

“Whenever I look at [these stories], I see my family members, I see my cousins, my grandparents, my nephew . . . it makes my heart break completely.”

Anabata said the idea of “Palestine bad, Israel good” ignores decades of history and is a dangerous worldview. 

“People want to say it’s the Israel versus Hamas war, and that is true that that’s who they’re attempting to fight . . . but so many civilians have died,” Anabata said. “It is completely understandable for Israel to defend themselves, but it’s just another to completely wipe out families at a time – bomb hospitals, refugee camps, schools, ambulances.

“These are innocent people that didn’t have anything to do with this. They just want a normal and peaceful life, which is everyone’s right.”

The controversary in the United States is fueled by multiple factors, such as personal religion and politics. There has also been conflicting information circulating about the war.

Perhaps the most notable instance is when, on October 11, President Biden claimed to have seen pictures of babies beheaded by Hamas.

The White House later walked this claim back, explaining the remarks were based on a news report about an unverifiable claim from the Israel government and that Biden never saw such photos. 

Anabata urged Americans to become self-informed . She said such disinformation is not easily retractable and provokes dangerous rhetoric.  

“This might be controversial, but don’t just listen to your parents, don’t just listen to your friends, and don’t take their opinions and then make them into yours,” Anabata said. “Listen to both sides, and then make the decision that you want to make.”

The Council on American–Islamic Relations reported Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment has increased by 216% since last year, and The Anti-Defamation League has reported a nearly 400% increase in antisemitic incidents.

“I think it’s so important to have empathy for those that don’t look like you, for situations that don’t directly affect you,” Anabata said. “We live in such a privileged world where we don’t necessarily see these atrocities happening. 

“Only when Americans can really put themselves in other people’s shoes, and in this case Palestinian’s shoes, will they really be able to see like the whole situation and how horrible it is.” 

*A pseudonym is used in this story in order to protect the identity and well-being of the interviewee.,

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