REPORT FROM SUNDAY BEFORE DEPARTING FOR US ISRAELI APARTHEID WEEK TOUR 1Mar10 March 2, 2010

090510-qumsiyeh

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)

I just arrived in the US to give a series of talks on Palestine as part of the 6th International Israeli Apartheid Week  www.apartheidweek.org

The day I left Palestine was a bizarre/strange day to say the least.  The second Sunday in Beit Sahour to hold events to protest the increased military presence was to contain a land reclamation activity.  The torrential rains put a damper on that option but lifted our spirits since it proclaimed a great planting and harvest season.  In three days, we received over 85% of the total needed rainfall for the season!! Nothing like this has happened here in over 15 years.  But there was enough of a clearing that over 60 people gathered at Ush Ghrab.  It included Dr. Moustafa Barghouthi and his supporters.  Because we had originally planned no demonstration for this Sunday, we (the members of the popular committee in Beit Sahour) asked that they do not chant and that they fold their banners.  Because there was no military, we decided to honor a request from our visitors and give them a quick tour of the military camp site.  But just after we arrived at the top of the hill and were about to spend five minutes explaining the tumultuous history of this site, the Israeli soldiers came barreling up the hill in their military jeeps.  Giving us five minutes to go back down and refusing to negotiate, things unfolded rather quickly. The soldiers threw about a dozen concussion grenades.  Three young people from those who came from outside Beit Sahour tried to throw stones.  I and two others tried to stop them.  But before we knew it, tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets were fired by the military.   I went to my car, pulled out the bullhorn (which we did not intend to use since we were not planning a protest) and explained in no uncertain terms that we in Beit Sahour do not appreciate or welcome anyone who throws stones as we in the committee have agreed on only peaceful popular resistance.  Within a few minutes, the crowds had dispersed and rain had resumed heavily so it ended.

At a particularly tense moment, an Israeli intelligence officer walked up to me and stated simply “You are Mazin Qumsiyeh, you are going to try to leave to the US today, I advise you not to go!” It was a surreal moment to  threaten me and let me know that they are keeping taps. I simply answered that “what I do and don’t do is up to my conscience and the rest up to Allah.” We continued with our plans and we think the rather harsh response to our presence foretells of the army’s insecurity.  Arriving to the US safely, I feel I am again in an occupied unsafe land where Zionists like Joseph Lieberman, Wolf Blitzer, and Alan Dershowitz need to be challenged just like our challenge to these Israeli soldiers. I am sure some of the local Israeli-apologists will be at my talks, and we will have opportunities to continue the dialogue. Before I give you my talk schedule though, I wanted to share to action calls.

Action call 1: From Playgrounds For Palestine
We are sending out this CALL TO ACTION to alert our supporters about a troubling development in the Oush Grab Peace Park, the site designated for a 2010 PfP playground installation.

The Israeli military is trying to implement a decision to confiscate community and privately held property belonging to the community and families in the Palestinian Christian town of Beit Sahour.

Included in this swath of land is the treasured Peace Park, which serves as a community space, park and recreational facility where Palestinian families gather daily and was to be the site of one of PfP’s next playgrounds.  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.

Follow the link and enter zip for to contact local congressmen - LINK HERE
Call the Israeli ambassador 202 364 5500 or email  info@washington.mfa.gov.il
Email the Consulate General of the US, Jerusalem – uscongenjerusalem@state.gov
Call the Israeli consulate in Philly 215 977 7600
Contact the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near East Affairs – Jeffrey D Feltman 202 647 7209
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Action call 2: CALL TO ACTION!!

The Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood Committee and Just Jerusalem call on you to join our struggle against the occupation of East Jerusalem. Please circulate this call and help organize solidarity protests throughout the world: WE WILL NOT BE STOPPED!

On Saturday March 6th please join us in our protest to stop the Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. At 7:00 PM we will be holding a mass rally in
Sheikh Jarrah against:
. The forced eviction of the Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah
. The Jewish settlement of East Jerusalem
. The undemocratic attack on political protest

50 Palestinians have already been evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. Another 500 are threatened. If the settlers and their government allies succeed, all Palestinians in East Jerusalem are threatened. If we stop them in Sheikh Jarrah, we can stop them elsewhere. We call on all groups who support the struggle for Palestinian rights and for a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinian, to hold solidarity protest vigils on March 6 near Israeli consulates and embassies abroad.

The Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood Committee
Just Jerusalem – the Israeli Coalition for a just solution in Jerusalem
For more information on the struggle see our blog

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Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
http://qumsiyeh.org


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