The following is the full text from my plenary presentation at the IFS annual conference, that I delivered on Saturday morning, October 28, 2017.
Good morning. I want to start by acknowledging how overwhelming it feels to parts of me to be given the opportunity to speak for my parts that have been wounded by, and are healing from racism. I frequently have a part that worries about finding the words to fill a space of time. Today however, the concern falls more to: how can I Even Begin, to offer the context for what I want to get across, in just a few short minutes?
I am Palestinian. Even saying that feels charged. Forever, I have had a part that has felt it necessary to say, “I am half Palestinian.” Or to make a joke out of it and say, I’m half WASP and half Camel. As a kid growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s in a largely white upper middle class suburb of Utica, NY, being Palestinian was not something that was emphasized by either of my parents. I do not recall as a young person ever feeling pride when telling people that I was “half Palestinian.” It was not something that was hidden, but it certainly was not celebrated, or offered much historical context for me as to what it means to be Palestinian. There were stories about my father and his long multi-phased journey of how he got to Ithaca, NY; the heart-break his family experienced as he left as a teenager, by himself for a far away land; the sweet romantic story that he loved to tell of how he met my mom; but not a lot around the Why of his departure from his birth home.
A very notable moment in my family history came when my older brother and I began producing grandchildren, and, all of a sudden my father became the Palestinian grandfather. My four children, who grew up in close proximity to their grandfather, became proud Palestinians. It was at this time for me, alongside my own children, that I began to more fully claim being Palestinian. Instead of being embarrassed by being so much browner than my mother and most of my white friends, there came an opening of possibility that that might Not be so bad; maybe it was even Ok. So today I stand in front of you and let you know: I am Palestinian. I can claim it fully. I can also claim fully that I am British; I am Welsh; I am a smattering of other northern European ancestors. And yes, I am Palestinian.
Fast forward to a year ago. Last years Saturday morning plenary at this very same IFS annual conference, many of you will remember, offered a panel of extraordinary and brilliant Self-Lead loving beings, many of whom are here speaking again this morning; all of whom spoke with amazing eloquence for their marginalized, oppressed, and wounded parts. Listening to and taking in their offerings was a profound experience for me. And yet, as everyone else was leaving and exclaiming their awe and parting for their morning workshops, there were tears that I could not hold back as I left that session a year ago. Those tears came from my parts who experienced the absence of a Palestinian voice on that stage as a repeat of the pervasive and deliberate elimination of all things and wounds Palestinian by so many other powerful institutions that surround our daily existence. A deliberate and familiar choice my parts have come to expect of the erasure of the Palestinian experience. My parts felt again that same familiar de-selection from this community that I have strongly chosen to align with, and from whom I have learned so much about unburdening, healing, and loving. The oversight, as my parts perceived it a year ago, was now coming from the very community that has offered Me the tools and resources for This Palestinians healing, tools that have given me so much greater access to my own personal truths and wisdom. In the relatively short space of time since I began my IFS training, I have effectively used these tools in the service of healthier relationships and a life that feels more content and complete than I have previously known. My parts that teared up last year were confused and hurt. And now, I get to stand in front of you and speak for my Palestinian parts, and their ongoing healing.
As I do that, there are a couple of things that feel worthy of being named. First, the demographic that I represent, is not a demographic that is well represented in this room. Second, the demographic that I represent, is not all that well represented in most rooms that you’ll randomly walk into in this country. And, the demographic that I represent today is frequently misrepresented and misunderstood by those who are not Palestinian. That being said, I do not wish to, nor can I, represent all Palestinians. Just as with any other group of people, we are diverse, and I am just and only one. And yet, I am grateful to offer you a small window, into my world. Another important thing that needs to be named, is that there is a significant Jewish representation in this room. And, because I am Palestinian, I make a distinction between White Privilege, and Jewish Privilege. I’ll also name, that I have parts that are exceedingly aware, that the concept of Jewish privilege may be a challenge to some of you. And, of course: all Parts are welcome. That’s why we are here. It is however, important that I speak for my part that feels the Jewish privilege that belongs to my friends and colleagues, and that my Palestinian parts can never experience. And, It Is Important that discrepancy be named. My parts that hurt and feel invisible, have come here as much as anything so they can be named, and hence, be less invisible.
One of the most important things that I have learned through my process of preparing to speak here this morning, is a clearer understanding of the requisite and complex entwining of my Personal and Legacy Burdens. These burdens travel closely and are not always distinguishable, one from the other. The protectors that manage my personally felt burdens, carry a deep historical context, and are guarding and protecting me in my personal life and relationships, Even as they may stem from an historical context. An historical context, mind you, that this Palestinian has barely directly experienced in her lifetime. And, the fact of that, “barely directly experienced” context, too brings it’s own series of burdens.
As I spend time putting the legacy, the personal, the room I am standing in, and the audience to whom I am speaking in context, the reminder now is: The burden I speak of is a burden of invisibility. There are other burdens that travel with it: irrelevance, erasure, and betrayal should be named; yet the burden of invisibility is this mornings’ driver. In my lifetime, it has not been lost on me that I can have trouble finding my voice. Yet, preparing to speak here today, has not just highlighted, but has put an enormous Shining spotlight, on just how pervasive and deep, the confusion of, “Is it Ok to speak?” can be. I believe my plenary panel can attest to that for you! It has never been difficult to recognize a gendered burden of needing to be sweet, agreeable, and kind. I now also recognize the layers of burdening associated with the wounds and polarizations of being Palestinian that contribute to the challenge of finding my voice.
Significantly, there is a polarization between my Palestinian Part that has been well taught to do things quietly, politely, and without a whole lot of fanfare, or challenging of anyone, and a more activist Palestinian Part that wants to Scream Out the egregious injustices that have been committed upon us. This activist part wants to set straight so many misunderstandings and untruths about who the Palestinians are, and would offer an important, little heard historical context of how we have come to our plight. My gentle, “keep your mouth shut Donna,” part who quickly defers to other voices, understands that being generous and likeable allows relationship to grow and flourish. If any of you have ever befriended a Palestinian, you understand just how deeply this can run in Palestinian blood. The Palestinians are some of the most generous and hospitable people you will ever in your lifetime meet. For instance, you need to be careful telling a Palestinian woman that you like her jewelry; she might just take it off and try to gift it to you. The more assertive activist part of me knows, however, that if she never has a voice or significance she will never be seen. On a global level the result of such silencing is genocide. Personally, the result of such silence is a Profound and Lonely disconnection that carries the mantra: “they don’t get it, they don’t get it, they will never get it.”
Self-Leadership brings a humane understanding to the healing that is being sought between communities of conflict and unbalanced power differentials. Actively exploring and witnessing my parts over the last several months in preparation for this morning has offered me greater clarity, and helped me to understand things that I have felt, but have not previously understood very well. There are difficult dialogues that need to happen; and by rights have begun happening in this community. Speaking for the Unbalanced power differentials is an Essential piece in healing and shifting the differential. I have parts that deeply long for more Palestinian voices in IFS spaces. And, I am extraordinarily grateful to be here. Thank you for your kind, generous, open-hearted listening.