KINDERGARTENS & ABANDONED GARDENS February 17, 2010

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Dr 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)

Events continue to cascade here with popular resistance growing in proportion to the growth of repression.  In Beit Sahour, there were meetings held to plan events that so far included tree planting and resilience and are growing to popular resistance to eth new military activities at Ush Ghrab.  Whether 3 year old or 90 year old, Palestinians are engaged.  This video shows tree planting that involved seniors and young people and also shows a visit to the playgrounds at Ush Ghrab by a kindergarten group. (I am learning new video skills including transition and voice over but this is still in training). Also see photos by my wife.
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The Popular Committee to Defend Ush Ghrab will have a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) at 6 PM in Beit Sahour and we are planning an event for Sunday at the site after church time.  Those of you in the vicinity, please join us.  Activities available for everyone.

This Friday is the fifth anniversary of the Bil’in weekly demonstrations. The local committee called for massive attendance.  The same day, Al-Ma’sara here in Bethlehem will also have its weekly demonstration.  The demonstrations in Al-Ma’sara sometimes were highlighted by certain Palestinian factions (Fatah, Popular front etc).  This Friday, it is to honor the anniversary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Israeli forces have increased their attempts to suppress nonviolent resistance  in places like Bilin, Ni’lin, Um Salamuna, and Al-Ma’sara.  But the popular committees are not only increasing their
activities in these locations but spreading their activities in other locations.

Some readers wrote to me about the previous message asking why it was suggested by a friend of mine that Yad Vashem in Western Jerusalem is a propaganda museum.  I think perhaps it is worth quoting Mark Braverman, a Jewish intellectual who wrote in his book after visiting the museum:

“It’s a brilliant exhibition.  One walks down, into it.  It is subterranean — no windows, no light, no escape.  You are led through corridors and tunnels, with no control and no way out but through ……  Then, turning a corner into the final gallery, on display are the blown-up photos of the ships bringing the refugees to the shores of Israel, faces shining with hope and gratitude.  There is David Ben-Gurion reading from the Israeli Declaration of Independence.  And then, suddenly, you emerge.  Ascending a wide flight of stairs, you are outside, in the light and the open air, standing on a wide patio that looks out on the Jerusalem Hills.  It’s the final exhibit.  And then it hit me.  This was no mere museum.  This was a lesson; this was indoctrination: from the biblical quote at the entrance, into the depths, and to this sight — The Land.  The reward.  Our destiny.”
Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the search for Peace in the Holy Land, p. 38

The bizarre experience would be complete if people are told to look a little further down the hill upon emerging.  There, the gardens of the village of Deir Yassin sit awaiting the return of peasants to tend them.  Few buildings remain. One building is (or was) used a Jewish mental institution.  This is the village that became symbolic of the ethnic cleansing of 1947-1949.  Here a large massacre was committed, one of 33 massacres that helped “convince” the local Palestinians to make space for the new (Jewish) democracy of the Middle East. 530 such towns and villages were depopulated. For pictures and other data on Deir Yassin before and after the massacre, see here and here

Anyway, we are not forgetting the atrocities of that period even as we try to confront the atrocities of today.  History is clearly on the side of justice and no amount of propaganda or indoctrination will hide the shame of what was and is being done in the name of Judaism to the native people. Join us to work for peace with justice.  Again email us if you are in the Bethlehem area and wish to help (or even if you are not but still wish to help).

Finally, I received many responses to the question “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?” A few of your thoughtful responses are posted here

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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