AN ENCOUNTER WITH ISRAELI POLICE February 27, 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)

Every day here sees new injustices and no one escapes them. On Wednesday, my  wife, I, and a graduate student drove up to Salfit area where my student is doing a master’s thesis on the impact of the Burqan Industrial settlements on the health of the Palestinian villagers.  The Israeli industrial settlement dumps daily hundreds of cubic meters of industrial waste water laden with heavy metals and other chemicals down into the valley where residents of Brukeen breath air, use the fields for raising crops and feeding their animals.  This pollution of private lands has been going on for years. For summary on this area See here.

Barqan industrial settlement

Barqan industrial settlement-Salfit: levelling of Palestinian agricultural near the industrial zone for the purpose of constructing more factories

On the way back, a private car with yellow license plates (Israeli) cut in front of me and I had to hit my brakes hard not to hit him.  He drove later in front of me for bout a kilometer, stopped in front of me in the middle of the road and then two heavily armed Israeli “police” walked out of the car. Gruffly and in Arabic they asked for ID cards and from my wife they asked in English for her passport.  They refuse to answer any questions after that in any language and insisted on speaking only in Hebrew to give us two
violations 1) for me to go to a military court in the settlement of Ofer (not even a simple fine) and 2) for my student for sitting in the back seat without tying her seat belt (250 shekels, roughly US $70 for her, nearly a month salary). I checked with a lawyer later who told me that the police regularly pick on Palestinian drivers with extremely large fines; mine is likely to be in the range of $500 if not more after the “trial” (or worse). So we will get to see an Israeli military judge choose between believing three in my car telling the truth or two Israelis in the Israeli car with a grudge against Palestinians (I will let you know) . When one considers the average income of Palestinians in the West Bank is about $100 per month, you can see how devastating these Israeli “traffic violations” can be.

Many Zionists still live in la la land thinking that oppression, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, coupled with hasbara or Israeli propaganda, will paper allow them to get away with the ethnic cleansing of 530 towns and villages in 1948-1949 and continued land theft ongoing to this day (including in our village of Beit Sahour).  They thought that the massacres in Gaza and the blockade and starvation of millions of people living in concentration areas (ghettos or cantons) called “area A” will cause us to kneel.   And: “Israel’s latest conscripts in the fight to improve the country’s image have been unveiled: ordinary Israeli citizens. Armed only with a government-issued hasbara pamphlet and a winning smile, they will be sent to wage war with their detractors, in an effort to present Israel as a benign, democratic utopia whose only Achilles heel is poor
public relations.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/22/israel-pr-campaign).

I read the bizarre quote from a senile Shimon Peres (father of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal) that: “There are millions of Indians who love us, a billion Chinese who love us, and millions of evangelicals, who love us. We have a problem with Sweden, but we’re working on it.”  A recent study shows 1.57 billion Muslims in the world and a survey in Europe shows most people think the two countries that are most dangerous in the world are the US and Israel (not Iran and North Korea!).  It is amazing that some delude
themselves to think the world can be molded to follow their racist agenda. Instead of adjusing their racist behaviors they are desperate to get others to become like them.  But with the internet, even their Zionist implants, like Wolf Blitzer of CNN and Mort Zuckerman of Newsweek, don’t seem to be able to stem the tide of truth.  Even our little humble video of Beit Sahour attracted over 6000 of you  See here

The fact that the boycotts, divestments, and sanctions movement is spreading rapidly despite all the hasbara (Israeli propaganda) is telling.  More and more people wake-up and join the millions of us who are acting for justice (realizing that silence is complicity).  Just this week, the University of Michigan’s Dearborn Student Government passed a  divestment resolution and starting Monday in over 40 cities around the world, Israel apartheid week will mobilize thousands more for BDS (see  <http://apartheidweek.org/> and ACT in your area).

In other good news, Europe’s highest court ruled on Thursday that Israeli products manufactured in settlements in occupied Palestinian territories are not exempt from paying EU customs duties. This essentially means the EU does not consider the West Bank to be part of “Israel.”  The next step is that enough Europeans would pressure their governments to revoke the Europe-Israel association agreement which gives free access to European markets.  When enough pressure built on those same governments, they stopped supporting apartheid South Africa.

Locally, there were demonstrations against the Israeli government decision to add two Palestinian holy sites to the “Israel Heritage Site list”.  There is growth of resistance and if we just get better leadership that believes in its people instead of believing in Oslo and the US vacant promises, the upcoming and inevitable uprising will be the last one before we get our freedom and return.  Join us Sunday at 11 AM in Ush Ghrab in Beit Sahour for a land reclamation and protection activity.

Finally, my letter published in response to a misleading letter in Indian Country Today.  The claims are pure chutzpah

A letter “Remember who the real victims are,” from Elliot Kalman published Feb.12 [Vol. 29, No. 37] stated that “The Jews, who only wanted to live in peace with their neighbors, rightly defended themselves. Indians, who tried to live in peace with the two-faced invaders they were faced with, rightly defended themselves. Let’s remember who the actual victims are: American Indians, European Jews, and the poor Gaza Palestinians who would live in peace with their Israeli neighbors if not for Hamas, the religiously motivated thugs who run Gaza.” I found these verbal acrobatics not only factually wrong but rather offensive.

Hamas was established in 1988, 40 years after the ethnic cleansing that made the Gaza strip hold nearly a million Palestinian refugees, and 22 years after Israel occupied and economically destroyed this desert strip now holding 1.5 million starving people living under an Israeli blockade.

There is no such thing as “the Jews” with a uniform agenda as there is no such thing as “the Whites” or “the Blacks” with a uniform agenda. Not all European whites decided to colonize the “new world” and not all whites in South Africa supported apartheid. Similarly, not all Jews supported the colonization of Palestine or claim eternal victimization and chosenness (parallel to “manifest destiny”).

Zionism resulted in dozens of massacres and left two-thirds of the total population of natives (Christians and Muslims) as refugees or displaced people. Even Moshe Dayan stated: “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the
place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

Rather than being a victim, Israel is in violation of dozens of UN resolutions and has violated just about every article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights per International human rights organizations (and even Israeli ones like B’Tselem).

Thanks to the Zionist lobby, the U.S. government sent billions of dollars of military aid to Israel every year and even went to wars to serve Zionist’s narrow interests. Israel is now well recognized as the fourth or fifth strongest army in the world. Israel was also shielded from international law by more than 35 U.S. vetoes at the UN; 400 children were slaughtered in Gaza only a year ago and our lands continue to be colonized, including here in the Bethlehem district where we lost nearly 80 percent of our lands. After all these and many other horrors, to cynically claim victimization and to claim kinship to Native American struggles should offend any decent human being. In Yiddish it is called chutzpah and what we call “aib” (shameful) in Arabic.

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Bethlehem, Palestine
http://qumsiyeh.org


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