ISRAELI TROOPS ATTACK A SUNDAY MASS & MORAL RESPONSIBILITY February 22, 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)
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Some 100 people gathered at Ush Ghrab in Beit Sahour to pray for peace and protest the planned military presence there.   As we were gathering in peaceful contemplation and prayer, Israeli army jeeps quickly rolled in between us and one officer barked orders in Hebrew. We explained to them in Arabic and English that we do not understand Hebrew (later we realized they also knew Arabic and English) but they immediately started throwing concussion grenades and tear gas at the elderly, women, children, the priest doing the prayer, other town people and internationals (Christians and Muslims). A translator who reviewed our video footage later in the day said that their orders meant we have one minute to disperse!  The priest’s words, delivered as the army was attacking, was to plead to God to teach us to live in dignity based on morality and speak out for what is right (then we gave the Lord’s prayer together).  But considering the unusual circumstances, we persisted and succeeded in holding our ground.  On image captured on video that sticks out in my mind is Issa, which is Arabic for Jesus, holding his child in his arms while kicking the teargas canister.  His other child had started crying with the noise of a concussion grenade.  The tape done by IMEMC.org professional photographer Ghassan shows the rest of it:

My thought to the 40,000 people receiving this: If after watching this, you are not outraged, then you have no humanity.  If you are outraged and are able to do something about it, but don’t, then you have abrogated your moral responsibility.  Doing something about it means joining us next week if you are in the Bethlehem district or, if you are not, pressuring your government and the 101 other ways you know about that can make a difference.

The popular committee will continue and asks all of you to join us at 11 AM at Ush Ghrab next week where will have better organization and ensuring that young children and elderly who join us will be away from any potential area of conflict (we just did not expect the speed and viciousness of the Israeli attack this time).  Despite the arrayed forces against us (including both Israeli and unfortunately some supine Palestinians), we believe in the power of popular resistance to move conscience and achieve results.  The examples from our town of Beit Sahour during the first uprising of the late 1980s and places like Bilin in the past few years should be ample proof.  The fact that Bilin retrieved over 1500 dunums of its land thanks to its popular resistance in ALL its forms.  They are still going on strong five years later and they grew from a handful to thousands.

The attack on peaceful demonstrations fit a pattern of pathology (psychosis) indicative of the bankruptcy of the apartheid state.  Israeli forces shot at a private vehicle in Husan near Bethlehem yesterday injuring three civilians including one critically.  Their insults to foreign countries, demeaning the Turkish ambassador, use of foreign passports in sending hit squads are all telling: mafia like actions.  Acting irrationally and lashing out helps show the rest of the world the true nature of this sick regime.

I am so proud of the people who came and joined together with us and for those of you who did not join us, you missed something rather amazing.  The best of humanity is on the march with love. Those of us who were here are energized and wish you would come and join us in “joyful participation in the sorrows of this world”.  You can’t be neutral on a moving train. You are either on the side of justice or you are contributing to the injustice. Silence is complicity.
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Photos of popular resistance including tearing down the apartheid fences in Bilin

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“Beit Sahour: a new struggle” by Ben White – 21 February 2010 11:49, The New Statesman
[One correction to this article: I am not "taking a lead", there are 17 members of the Popular Committee to Defend Ush Ghrab, I am honored to be a small part of the team]
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“Injustice in Beit Sahour”
A Statement by Kairos Palestine

(Jerusalem 20.03.2010) As described by town residents, Ha’aretz, Ma’an News, and other sources in recent days, Israeli soldiers and bulldozers arrived on February 10 at a family recreation park in Beit Sahour – a town slightly east of Bethlehem in the West Bank, and the site of the former army base Osh Grab, which was abandoned by the IDF in 2006 – and declared it a closed military zone.

KAIROS Palestine condemns this action and calls upon churches worldwide to advocate for the Christians and all residents of Beit Sahour and intervene in the damage, present and projected, wrought upon their home.

Since 1967, Beit Sahour, one of the last Christian majority towns in the West Bank, has repeatedly lost land to the Jerusalem municipality and to the nearby settlement of Har Homa. Much of the remaining land was occupied by an Israeli military base, Osh Grab. After the army evacuated the base in 2006, the Beit Sahour municipality regained control of the land – largely private plots and some public ones. (That said, all of the land remained part of what Israel calls Area C, keeping it under harsh regulation by the Israeli State.) The municipality renovated the public land, built a recreational park and playground – the “Peace Park” – and was planning to build a hospital as well.

Over time, fanatical Jewish settler groups have often threatened to take over the site, protested there as part of their aggressive claim as its “true” owners, and even physically vandalized the park, as they did last month. As it stands, Israel’s stated intention is to build a new watchtower: a troubling reassertion of a military presence in Beit Sahour. The other
worry is that this could pave the way for a new settlement, which nearby settlers have been demanding for years. As Amira Hass writes in Ha’aretz, “The Beit Sahour residents have no reason to doubt either the settlers or the Har Homa neighborhood committee chairman, who declared that ‘This could become a reality, just as Har Homa spilled beyond what was planned and expected.’”

Either way, this new display of control on the part of the State – arriving with bulldozers, excavating the site around the park, prohibiting the entry of the Beit Sahour residents and various internationals who came to protest, declaring the land a closed military zone – is a grave affront. It is painful and unjust for some reasons of specific import to Christians (who form 80% of Beit Sahour); others are simply questions of humanity and legality, crucial for both Christians and Muslims.

First, the park area lies between two sacred sites: “Shepherds Field” and the place, as told in the Bible, where Boaz fell in love with Ruth. These are places of immense spiritual significance, and the State’s commandeering of the land is profoundly distressing. (As we wrote in the Kairos Document, “freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security.”) Second, the takeover is yet another example of the way Israeli occupation displaces us, divorces us from our basic rights of mobility and autonomy, and enforces a divisive view of human interaction that perverts the Word of God and the love and compassion it calls us to.

We request the solidarity of churches in the international community: to support us, to intervene in this latest encroachment on Beit Sahour and prevent it from continuing, and to speak out against the occupation in all such instances. We ask individuals and communities worldwide to contact Israeli officials and condemn their actions, to write the mayor of Beit Sahour and express support, and engage in other such forms of outreach and network-building.

As we make these requests, we quote again from the KAIROS Document itself to remind ourselves and each other of what is at stake and what we must call for:” Our connectedness to this land is a natural right. It is not an ideological or theological question only.[w]e suffer from the occupation of our land because we are Palestinians.”

And finally: “We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God.and distort [s] the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice.”

Please join KAIROS Palestine in condemning these oppressive actions in Beit Sahour and working to restore the justice that is both our calling and our right.

We ask you to call and write to Israeli officials in order to protest this action, call upon them to stop the construction of the watchtower, prevent settlers from attacking the park, and cease any idea of building a settlement in the site.

Please make appeals to:
[Ehud Barak] Ministry of Defense,
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 691 6940
Email: minister@mod.gov.il
Salutation: Dear Minister

Israeli Ambassador in your respective country
Copy to the:
Mayor of Beit Sahour
Email: bsmuni@p-ol.com
Kairos Palestine: www.kairospalestine.ps
Email: Kalimatuna@gmail.com

KAIROS Palestine is a group of Palestinian Christians who authored “A Moment of Truth” – Christian Palestinian’s word to the world about the occupation of Palestine, an expression of hope and faith in God, and a call for solidarity in ending over six decades of oppression – and published it in 2009.
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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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