GUEST BLOG: Katrina Mitchell-Kouttab – I am Palestinian

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Previously, if I had said this, I would receive looks of concern, disdain or in the best-case scenario, 

“Pakistan?”

“No, Palestine.”

“Where?”

But all that has changed, the response is immediate.

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“I am so sorry, what is happening is awful, such a terrible history” or

“I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to talk about it, it is so awful”.

For the first time in my 50 odd years, I am witnessing the bloody reality behind the founding of Israel in 1948, its apartheid practice, its daily violence and human rights abuses against Palestinians, and its current genocidal actions in Gaza and the West Bank, being laid bare for the world to see and grapple with. 

I even watched a Norwegian choir sing our National anthem, the Palestinian national anthem. I did not dare to dream this would be possible, and yet, here we are.

In the bombing of the Greek Orthodox Church, we lost family.

Some were killed in the blast and an older male cousin died because he was not able to receive treatment for heart problems.

We also have family in the besieged Holy Family Catholic Church.

Israeli tanks and snipers stand guard outside preventing anyone from leaving. The Church has now become a living tomb. 

Slowly, those still inside including my family are dying.  And as you read this, they are still there, limited clothes, food and water and Israeli snipers ready to shoot anyone that tries to leave. It’s been over 80 days of war.

This war against civilians means that my family will probably see their last moments, humiliated, disheveled, as starving terrified hostages. 

The anger and hopelessness we feel has become a permanent stain. 

How is this allowed to happen? Where is the international law and support from governments like New Zealand? Why are they not fulfilling their international obligations to prevent a genocide as it’s unfolding before our eyes. New Zealand is a signatory to the Genocide Convention, signed in 1948. So why isn’t it joining South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in the international Court of Justice?  

As a New Zealand Palestinian I have suffered directly from Israeli apartheid and brutality, of being treated unequally and fearing for my children’s lives. I have been humiliated, strip-searched and abused, had stones thrown at my car and chased while driving in Jerusalem by orthodox Jews and settlers, fearing for my life. 

I have visited my mothers stolen home in Katamon in Jerusalem- stolen in the first Nakba of 1948. 

I knocked at the door and told the son of the family living there that we would one day return, that this house was still ours and we would always know where it was. Hearing this, the son became violent and abusive. After dismissing her son, I silently stared into the eyes of the Israeli mother now living in my home. We just stared, trying to understand each other as women, trying to find the humanity that connects us. She broke the silence with a few words before I walked away:

“I wondered when you were coming. I have been waiting for this day”.

Even buying food is difficult. Israel decides what food we are allowed to eat and how much. They sell it to us in our homeland at exorbitant prices, and sometimes the food is off or contaminated. 

Visiting my family is not simple.

I give my passport to the Israeli officer. She looks at it disinterestedly, flicking through pages with distain.

She looks up and clears her throat. Her voice echoes to those waiting behind me.

“When did you last have sex?”

I hear gasps from foreigners behind me, unused to these attempts of humiliation and abuse.

“Oh, not for a long time” I reply as coolly and calmly as I can.

“How many boyfriends have you had sex with?’

“Three”-I answer undeterred.

She is getting agitated.

She sniffs the air around me and scrunches her nose. “When did you last have your period?” She tries again.

“I can’t remember”.

She beckons to another armed female guard to come over. They speak in Hebrew. Communication is made to an unknown source and I am ordered to follow.

“Go with her” she commands. “Next”.

I am taken to a room with one door and a line of chairs placed against a crème coloured wall. 

Opposite is a one- way observation window that I can’t see out of. I am being watched by another who is allowed to restrict my freedom.

The door is slammed shut so I sit and wait.  They don’t give me any reason for my being detained. 

I am not offered water and I am not allowed the use of the toilet. 

It has been a long flight from the other side of the world and I am tired so I stretch out along the line of uncomfortable chairs and try to sleep. 

When I am asleep, an officer charges in, bangs the chairs around me to wake me up, and storms out again. The first time, I sit up startled.

But with the second entrance, that defiance and strength that characterizes being

Palestinian awakens, so I remain still with my eyes closed. The banging gets louder and they resorted to throwing chairs in the hope I will be terrified.

I don’t succumb. Finally, after 5 hours, I am roughly pushed out and let go with no exchange of words. 

My life has been characterized by Israeli oppression, by denial, by anger and regret. 

Regret at all that I cannot experience in my homeland, and the only experience I know is that of an Israeli uniform, a gun, a helmet and a constant threat. 

We don’t see Israeli life outside of their brutality and military. We are kept apart. I see the wall, the great illegal monstrosity that separates us from ‘them’. That divides us and reminds us that we are prisoners in our own country and we are not equal.


Katrina is an actress- (last project ‘Poppy’ NZ Film)
Recipient of the Kiwi bank ‘Local Hero’ award (for contributions to the Wellington Community, as part of the ‘New Zealander of the Year Awards’)
Assistant Director Peace Foundation NGO Wellington NZ,
Member of the Blue Lines Project  (they came up with the idea of the blue lines on the roads for tsunami warnings in New Zealand) which won The International Association for Emergency Managers award both its Global and Oceana Public Awareness categories in 2012,  
She was a part of the Wellington City Council Tsunami awareness program, 
Wellington City Council ‘Summer City’ Children’s Events Coordinator  
Island Bay Festival Managing Director
Wellington City Council Seniors’ Neighbourhood Resilience coordinator,  
Neighbourhood support coordinator for Island Bay.  Wellington City Council, Spring Festival Children’s coordinator.

38 COMMENTS

  1. We live in a corrupted world, led by the West with the USA sitting atop of this corruption. This is why genocide is allowed to happen. This is why NZ turns a blind eye to this travesty, as do all other Western nations, as does most of the world – none of them wishing to attract the ire of the country sitting atop of this rotten world we all live in. The system, otherwise known as politics, is broken, with the country leading this system, the USA being the most broken – bought and paid for by moneyed interests – country of all. Israel is the USA’s nearest and dearest buddy, hence why genocide is allowed to take place with little, if any international push back. No one wants to take on the USA, let alone their best bud. This is power, corrupted power, and given that this power is able to get away with mass slaughter, god only knows what this power (and all the varied money-bagged interests corrupting US politics) may do to anyone of us.

    The tragedy in Gaza-Palestine should be a seminal event because it starkly highlights the broken world/political system we are all living under. And if we, the people, cannot stop this tragedy from reaching its ultimate goal…then the same rotten drivers pushing this massacre, can, and will, have their way with anyone of us – anywhere – in the not too distant future.

    Stand up and fight, for Palestine, for us all…..

  2. “Where is the international law and support from governments like New Zealand?”

    New Zealand co-signed support for a military strike against the Houthi in response to their attempts to disrupt Israeli supply lines.

    New Zealand is now a party to genocide.

    • ‘Just some troll’ is quite appropriate. You make some big claims, but apparently don’t bother with facts. There is no genocide. There is war. There are ridiculous statistics direct from hamas – who we all really trust (#^) – and there are equally ridiculous accusations made by groups like the ANC and a handful of other Iranian-funded puppets. There are the enormous lengths Usrael has to go to in order to try to clear civilians before taking out precisely identified targets, and there is hamas – supported by the majority of gazans – who continues to fire rockets into Israeli civilians, and refuses to release the Israeli hostages. Hamas, who has profited by billions by playing on the sympathies of the world, is solely responsible for this tragedy.

    • International law makes it very clear that gaza/hamas are the criminals. The reason none of the non-terrorist states aren’t calling out Israel for breaking international law? There is no actual evidence that they have done so. Call for hamas’ surrender – their guilt is irrefutable- and the return of the hostages, then the war stops immediately. Then we can see if there is any validity at all to the crying victims claiming every evil in the world is Israel’s fault. In the meantime the actual victims are being tortured in hamas tunnels through friendly gazan neighborhoods, and their families heartbroken waiting for news. Gaza can stop this, all of it, immediately.

  3. You seem to forget who started this conflict and actually every conflict.
    If Hamas surrender then its all over and the people of Gaza can got back to living on Israeli welfare.

  4. Palestinian is not even a country and the Palestinians that occupy Gaza & West Bank (Israeli territory) need to removed and be resettled in Jordan or Egypt, but even Egypt don’t want these things in its country because of the amount of trouble they cause.

    • Why should they go to another country when apartheid Israel and its settlers are occupying their lands? Apartheid Israel wasn’t a country and shouldn’t have become one but did in 1948. Its should of just remain an imaginary country in the bible.

      Free palestine

      • Surely you’re not that thick? Have you not researched any of the 3500+ years of archeological evidence of Jews living in their homeland? As for apartheid….. clearly you’ve never been there to investigate for yourself or you would realise how ridiculous that old trope is. There is most certainly apartheid in the middle east- in Arab countries, especially Palestinian authority territories. Israel? Not even close. Ask some of the Arab Israelis – there’s 2.5million of them.

    • Fascinating, whilst researching my family tree back to the 1400 – 1500s the name Palestine comes up all the time. And do tell me why the name Palestine is on the memorials around the country for the first world war – the bridge of remembrance… Withe a simple google you could found out that Palestine has been a country for

      In 1799, during the French invasion of the Arab world, Napoleon issued a proclamation offering Palestine as a homeland to Jews under France’s protection. This was also a way to establish a French presence in the region. Napoleon’s vision of a Jewish state in the Middle East did not materialise at the time – but nor did it die. In the late 19th century, the plan was revived by the British.

      • Palestine, as your research should have revealed Michal was, from the time of the Roman dispersal of Jews always an imperial region, never a country with a national identity.

  5. This should be read by all commentors on this blog, but alas it wont change the minds of the Zionist-lovers here. They belive that Palestinans are subhuman and that is all there is to it.

  6. After the appalling atrocities Hamas committed on 7/10 against innocent Jewish men, women, kids and babies, the worst pogrom since the Holocaust, it defies belief that anyone would want to identify themselves as ‘Palestinian.’

    • You continually commit atrocities against the English language with your claims that are mostly untrue so anyone relying on your support for legitimacy is deluded.
      If Israel genuinely wants to live in peace then it needs to accept its faults in the past & implement a fair allocation of land to the Palestinians. Israel failed in its original purpose and while I would prefer to see the Jewish people live in peace that cannot be by depriving the Palestinians of their country.

      • A “country” that the Palestinians turned down in 1947 because they wanted the whole of the UN-partitioned territory. Have they since changed their minds? They don’t seem to be willing to return to the negotiating table since Israel relinquished control of Gaza do they?

      • Your own understanding of history seems to be a little lacking here. Every single one of the 5 formal offers for the arabs to have their own nation was accepted by Israel. Every time, the Arabs rejected it and promptly attacked the Jews. Given that there has never been a ‘State of Palestine’, that Jews – the indigenous people to the land (Arabs are not) have lived there continuously for over 3000 years – albeit under various occupations, the suggestions of Israel somehow being ‘created’ on stolen land are completely incorrect. Indeed, the only times in history when that land was an independent state it was Israel.

    • Gaby blah, blah holocaust. It’s either trundle out the bullshit anti semite line, or go a bit more “top shelf” and bring the holocaust up. I am sure those who died in that horrific period, at the hands of the Nazis, would not want it used as some excuse to be equally barbaric.

  7. Thank you for your story Katrina. I am so sorry about you and your family’s dreadful, cruel experiences at the hands of the Israelis.

    From what Katrina says it’s obvious history is repeating itself. Only this time, the once oppressed have become the oppressors with a vengeance, coming very close to doing exactly what was done to Jews, Romanies, Slavs et al in Europe not so long ago! But now, unlike in the past, the rest of the world does absolutely nothing to help the oppressed, in this case Palestinians, for fear of upsetting international Jewry!

    How gutless and inhumane world governments have become, when it all comes down to not wanting to offend those who control international money flow, virtually allowing ethnic cleansing and genocide to be committed! Appalling and sickening!

  8. Well said,
    What astonishes and confuses me is.
    That Israel was created as an apology by the western world for the appalling treatment of the Jewish people’s by Germany, and other nations in close proximity.
    Great, good idea, everybody went off patting themselves on the back for a job well done.
    Then we see this utter cruel genocide inflicted on the Palestinians by the Israelis.
    Could someone please explain how Israels behaviour is any better than Germanys. Especially given their experience in the hands of Germany

  9. Thanks for this confronting & honest description of your experiences. While this site is usually not in favor of the believe all women mantra, hopefully, most readers will take account of your circumstances before making any decisions. Since the late 60s we have been told that Arabs are bad & Jews are good & it is a major failure of Western media that it has taken this horrific destruction by Israel to to finally start making people understand the evil that exists in Israel.

  10. While strictly not a racial conflict the average white westerner readily identifies with the median and average Israeli. The narrative of the founding of Israel expressed in movies such as Exodus resonates with the heroic settler colonial narrative of white Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians. Coupled with the relentless media demonization of Arabs and other people of colour, and you have the explanation of the acquiescence of our government in support of ethnic cleansing of not outright genocide.

  11. Katrina, you escaped the Israeli yoke to find refuge among another colonized people on the other side of the world. You will now know, if you did not before, that the New Zealand state, as distinct from the people over whom it rules, blindly supports the United States, the United Kingdom and the State of Israel in their genocidal attacks against the Palestinian people of Gaza and the West Bank. Regardless of whether you now consider yourself tangata motu of Aotearoa, or still choose to identify as Palestinian, you have to face the fact that the New Zealand state, the Realm of New Zealand, is an enemy to both our peoples.
    South Africa is a different case. For pragmatic reasons the State of Israel strongly supported the apartheid regime in South Africa, and the new multi-racial government in Pretoria has not forgotten that the State of Israel backed the apartheid regime. Nor has it forgotten that the Palestinians supported the black liberation movement in South Africa.
    New Zealand, however, remains a colonialist state which is deeply complicit in the war crimes of its Five Eyes partners and the State of Israel. There is no way that it will join South Africa in bringing the Gaza genocide to book and it would be naive to expect any change in the New Zealand position until the colonialist regime is overthrown. That should be a priority for Palestinians as it is for tangata motu.

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