MORAL INDIGNATION February 11, 2010

090510-qumsiyehDr MAZIN QUMSIYEH is a tireless activist for Palestinian human rights who returned to his hometown of Beit Sahour in the Israeli-occupied West Bank last year and now teaches at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. The author of Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle (2004), Qumsiyeh is both a human rights activist and a scientist who has a lengthy list of publications on genetics to his credit. The Electronic Intifada contributor Ida Audeh met with him in April and discussed advocating the Palestinian cause in the United States and his impressions about the current direction of the Palestinian struggle.

During the 29 years he lived in the United States, Qumsiyeh earned masters and doctoral degrees; taught at several prestigious universities, including Duke and Yale; co-founded activist organizations (Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition and the Wheels of Justice Tour — a traveling tour bus that stops at different communities to educate them about Palestine and Iraq); and was a board member for numerous organizations. Since the mid-1990s, he has maintained email lists that focus on human rights and international law. His weekly postings now reach approximately 50,000 individuals and include reports of events and comments that are informed by a deep understanding of common struggles in other parts of the world. An optimist who advocates “having joyful participation in the sorrows of this world,” he includes in every e-mail at least one action that the reader can take to make a difference. (From an interview with Ida Audeh, The Electronic Intifada , 11 May 2009)

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oush-grab-grand-tour

At around 3 PM today (Wednesday 10 Feb), a friend who lives near the area of the threatened land of Ush Ghrab (or Oush Grab) called to say the military just arrived and are bulldozing the top of the hill.  As I explained in a previous email, this hill of over 1000 dunums is in Beit Sahour surrounded by Palestinian homes on all sides.  From this hill the soldiers shelled the town destroying and damaging many homes. But the Israeli occupation army vacated the military base in 2006 (a site of nonviolent resistance for many years).  I arrive within five minutes and see extensive activities.  The soldiers show me an order issued January 29th 2010 with a map showing closure for a significant size (much more even than the original military base).  I call some people and they call others and soon we have over 40 people. The order is in Hebrew and no one reads Hebrew.  Later at night, we do partial translation and it is typical of all Israeli orders: using vague justifications of security to achieve what is clearly land thefts, harassments, etc.  The private land owners have decided last week to plant trees on Friday.  We will expand this and also asked people to come Thursday to the site.

See video here (but please understand this is amateur video).
Please join us and support popular resistance Thursday and Friday.

The quick response by many activists to the phone calls got me to think about why there are so many people willing to drop everything and work for justice while other people (e.g. soldiers) blindly obey orders manifestly illegal per International law or simply stay silent (silence is complicity)? There were many white South Africans who joined the ANC and other indigenous liberation movements while others stayed silent or participated in the crimes! There were many Israelis who abandoned Zionism and joined the local struggle. Others go about their daily lives oblivious to what is happenning behind the fences of segregation (Geder HaHafrada in Hebrew). But why would one employee of Yad Vashem obey orders and simply tell all visitors of the perpetual victimhood and that Zionism is the answer while another gets fired for simply pointing out to a few visitors that just down the hill is the ethnically cleansed village of Deir Yassin where the future leaders of Israel committed a massacre of indescribable brutality in 1948.

What exactly distinguishes people?  Why does someone like Alan Dershowitz choose to support torture, support racism, and defend war crimes and crimes against humanity? And why does someone like Hedy Epstein, a survivor of the concentration camps, choose to go on hunger strike to support the besieged and impoverished 1.5 million people of Gaza? Why does a Palestinian politician drive a gas-guzzling SUV and wear nice suits while other Palestinians choose to stand in front of a Bulldozer or an army tank and get shot or thrown in jail?  Why does a privileged white person in America choose to be silent and pay taxes that go to kill Iraqis, Afghanis, and Palestinians? Why does another privileged white person choose to come and join us here in the struggle? Rachel Corrie, a young 23 year old American student was intentionally crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to defend a Palestinian pharmacist home.  Tom Hurndall and others paid dearly. Thousands of Internationals come here annually to support our struggle.  Why do millions remain compliant? Is it not true that “silence is complicity” and “you can’t be neutral on a moving train”?

It would be superficially and wrong to say things along the line of having a conscience can differentiate people.  We all have seen people switch and join the struggle all the time telling us that it is indeed not people by ideas and education.  So what can convince them to change?  A colleague wrote once that those who comply live more comfortably but they are like the “house slaves”.  In the time of slavery, there were field slaves who were in the sun all day doing the work and then the privileged house slaves who dressed nicely, fed nicely but who were still slaves.  They got promoted to house slaves by being more compliant and trustworthy (to the masters).  I personally believe the slave owners were also slaves.  I believe those who rejected the system and yes occasionally got the whip, those were free in their hearts and minds.  Today, I believe those who are suffering are in many ways freer and more comfortable in their skin than all the privileged masters and house slaves.  I believe that freedom comes to the slave owners themselves when they free their slaves and when in the meantime the house slaves refuse to be house slaves.  In our situation here, I believe many Israelis and Palestinians are enslaved and they don’t even know it.  There are few who managed to shed the self-imposed chains around their brains (as  my late grandfather advised us when we were kids).  I find that the friendship and support of those is the best bliss in life. But still the question lingers of why people behave teh way they do and, perhaps more importantly, how do people change. We would like to hear your views on this. What can help us reach people to get them to show some moral fortitude, to show some spine, to shed their chains, to be free of being oppressor or oppressed?  I want to share your views with the rest of the world (these emails reach tens of thousands of people).  If you share your view with me please tell me it is OK to post it at the website qumsiyeh.org or you want kept private.

If you reached here thank you, and if you live near Bethlehem area, come join us Thursday and Friday mornings (9 AM) for planting trees (Friday only), for camaraderie, for activism, and for expressing moral courage.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
Popular Committee to Defend Ush Ghrab (PCDUG)
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
http://www.qumsiyeh.org
http://www.pcr.ps


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