In this latest blog for Cultures of Sustainable and Inclusive Peace our Co-I Nazmi Al Masri attempts to find words for the horror he and his family and colleagues are experiencing through 11 days of bombardment by the Israeli Government on the Gaza Strip. At a time when preparations had been made to celebrate Eid, to be with family and friends in peaceful congregation, he finds himself at a loss for words, or more accurately, needing to use his full powers as an Applied Linguist to create new words for the fact that he has lost his ability to express his feelings about the reality unfolding around him. There is no peace in the language Nazmi is using here. It is the language of trauma, a poetic expression using academic resources of an applied linguist both up against the limits of speech but at the same time articulating in new ways what trauma, fear, anger, injustice produce in someone used to being able to find words in English and in Arabic for the experiences of peace, and for the experiences of inclusion. Nazmi’s words are staccato, like the bombs; they shatter; like the bones; they bleed; like the bodies; they make use of ellipsis and neologisms as part of articulating the loss, and the radical unwanted change that such loss visits upon the human community.

Feelinguisitc Deficiency is both a descriptor and also an injunction to those of us who enjoy peace, or who experience this war in different, bureaucratised forms, to feel our own linguistic deficiencies and inadequacies in expressing the full horror at the violence being done to a people, over decades, in Palestine.  

*This blogpost was written on the 22nd of May, during the attacks on Gaza.

Feelinguistic deficiency’ of trauma dramatic monologue of a linguist in occupied Palestine: To be Free


“Sorry, although I’m an applied linguist with an education and psychology background, I can’t do anything, I can’t do nothing, I can’t identify or specify my current feelings, I can’t describe my feelings for these 11 days. I feel that I may have caught a Feelinguistic Deficiency.”, I said to myself and to many of my local and international colleagues and friends who asked me, “How are you, hope you and family are safe” via email, WhatsApp, messenger, or other social media used to express solidarity and support the peace of mind of Palestinians living under occupation, besieged and exposed to Israeli attacks in Gaza, Palestine for 11 days.

I can hear my partners in Scotland exclaim: ‘Feelinguistic Deficiency’?! Astonished by hearing this term, Feelinguistic Deficiency, for the first time and knowing, my, Nazmi’s resilience and ability to create new context-based words like “Palestinise, projectise”,

I notice a big smile: “Feelinguistic Deficiency, what is this Nazmi? What do you mean?

Honestly and frankly, I could not give a specific explanation to this question but I started thinking about it and I am trying my best to give more explanation of what this term may mean.

To feel positive or to feel negative isn’t a question

To feel a mixture of feelings isn’t a question

What exactly a Palestinian feels under day and night airstrikes, from artillery and sea and the international community watching the killing and destruction of an illegitimately besieged Gaza for decades. It’s not easy to describe these feelings.

Though I endured 3 destructive Israeli wars on Gaza in less than 7 years (2008-9, 2012, 2014), I feel the current ongoing aggression (Monday 10 – Thursday 20 May, 2021) – on besieged Gaza (December 2008 – May 2021) is different and more difficult for logical and practical reasons. I am unable to describe it well due to having ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’.  Maybe this is why it is different and difficult…

Credit: Alison Phipps

This fourth aggression by the Israeli government occupation forces on more than 2 million Palestinians (about 70% are refugees) living in an overpopulated, tiny Gaza happened after I survived 3-months of health problems, and then before my full recovery, my 100-year father (May Allah have mercy on him) passed away. He got Coronavirus and was hospitalised in the ICU for 17 days during which I was taking care of him all the time. He had been living with me and my family in our house for 27 years, since I had graduated from Manchester University and came back to Gaza in February 1994.

Living, chatting, visiting relatives, eating, performing worships Fasting Ramadan and Mondays and Thursdays performing prayers in the mosque, and performing Haj and Omra and doing this and that … created a special bond of close mutual love, gratitude, friendship, attachment and … and … To me he is not only my kind, wise, passionate and resilient and determined father but also my closest friend, best brother, most experienced consultant, most talented advisor, role model and a big story of success for all Palestinians and humans … and  … Maybe all these events and the dots (and …) could be some symptoms of having Feelinguistic Deficiency.

Similar symptoms may have started to appear when I could not receive sufficient support and comfort or express my flooding feelings of love and attachment to my father and to others in the context of lockdown. (Curfews, in the Palestinian context, are those imposed by the Israeli government, who cite security reasons, on Palestinians.)

Chatting with my family and staying in all the time watching and reading and discussing news and being asked several if questions (e.g. Dad! what might happen if . . .  ? What are we going to do if  . . . .? gave me opportunities to contemplate and reflect on this new phenomenon, ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’.  I started thinking and writing these related questions and thoughts using synonyms, antonyms, collocations in the context of aggressions and wars.

I started monologuing and sometimes soliloquising, if I were asked next time about my feeling, I would say

“I am ok so far but unsure what might happen in the next minute , or the next hour , or even worse this night, as with most Israeli airstrikes hit 100s of Palestinian houses after midnight to create more … and  …. and …. among Palestinian families and children – ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’

Suddenly a heavy, loud bombardment killed my train of thoughts and I rushed to changing TV news channels, searching my mobile, and online news agencies on my laptop instantaneously to find which family was bombed in my hometown, Deir El-Balah, located in the middle of Gaza Strip. In less than 3 minutes, I got this heart-breaking news:

“An Israeli airstrike killed a wheelchaired father with a physical disability (Eyad Salha, 33), his pregnant wife (Amani, 33), and their 3-year old daughter (Nagham) in Deir El-Balah – ‘They were getting ready to eat lunch when a missile struck their home.’

My ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’ jumped and dropped down to its lowest level to start again and again monologuing painfully, agonizingly, uproariously, distrustfully, disgustedly, angrily, distressfully, . .. .. … and ….. and  ….

To feel or not feel, that is the question.

To feel and to experience physical, emotional and . . . feelings is . . .

  1. What do I feel these days? Can I tell and describe my true feelings comprehensively?
  2. Am I naturally and increasingly worried and awfully and desperately anxious or am I completely, fairly calm and apparently, outwardly quiet?
  3. Am I genuinely terrified and terrorised mentally, psychologically and physically or am I a powerful fearless academic who is steady and has firm self-assurance?
  4. Am I badly, bitterly and deeply upset and profoundly, seriously and terribly angry or am I sadly and (mildly) or hugely disappointed or deeply and increasingly dissatisfied?
  5. Am I profoundly and unbearably sad and wretchedly and woefully unhappy or am I pretty and absolutely hopeless or rather helpless and feel the suffering of loneliness and being isolated and deserted by . . .?
  6. Am I very emotionally, mentally, psychologically, socially and personally stressed distressed and agonised?
  7. Am I mentally, physically and visibly tired having had 11 sleepless, terrorising nights or a high or low spirited Palestinian who needs to sleep more hours (if I can due to . . . and . . .) to have more pleasant dreams to be true?
  8. Am I less or more active, less or more productive and less or more creative these 11 days because . . . and . . .?
  9. What specific feelings do I have to express and describe to myself and to my warm-hearted, generous-spirited friends and colleagues who have kept in touch with Palestine in solidarity and support to safety, justice and peace?
      • Possibly some of these feelings or possibly all of them combined and mixed.
      • Possibly a mixture of some of these feelings and some other feelings I have never experienced, felt or known.
      • Possibly none of these feelings but some feeling called ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’ that make me unable to exactly describe my own specific feelings in the context of non-stop war and aggression that make the state of mind confused, indescribable and traumatised, and . . . and . . . .
  1. Has this ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’ been caused by flagrant routine and systematic violation of basic human rights of 14 million Palestinians day and night?
  2. Has this ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’ been generated by the deaf ear and blind eye of the hypocrite ‘leaders of the free world” who never talk about the Palestinian dream of having a free Palestine: no occupation and no repression or oppression?

11 questions and 11 dreadful and aggressive days and night against Palestinian families that killed 66 children, 33 women, 17 elderly family members and other civilians in the name of the fallacy of ‘the right to self-defence’ but no rights are mentioned that would mean a free Palestine and an end to the occupation, root of all human right violations. How can we accept these double standards, supported by democratic states such as the US and Europe, in the face of clear United Nations injunctions and rulings?  I feel that this inequality in terms of whose human rights are protected and violated is also perpetuated with the complicity of superpowers and top media agencies and channels. These countries and media agencies may have another form of ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’ related to not feeling ashamed of moral bankruptcy and/or related to all of these: “justice promotion deficiency, ethical and moral deficiency or deficit,  moral disorder or  “inclusive and sustainable peace promotion deficiency ”

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).