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)

The Israeli military finally constructed the watchtower in Ush Ghrab in the middle of our town of Beit Sahour today.  An ugly reminder to us of the apartheid military power and an eye-sore too.  News also indicates that the army decided to declare areas of Bilin and Nilin as closed military zones on Friday so that they try to prevent the weekly demonstrations.  The occupation army today injured 10 demonstrators including some with live bullets (I always hated this term for neither the bullets nor those who fire them know anything about the value of life).  They also arrested an activist with the Popular Campaign from the village of Al-Masara (Omar Ala’ Edin, 25-year-old).  There is hardly a day that goes by without such injustices that some in the outside world only hears about through the internet and others never hear about it.  But we also see acts of heroism and self-sacrifice daily that go unreported.  The dignified resistance starts by refusing to succumb in one’s own heart.  After all, if you accept injustice and believe in powerlessness, then you have already lost the struggle before it starts.  Many refuse to accept the injustice and thus are instrumental in keeping the hope alive and the fires of the struggles burning.  This can progress to acts of solidarity and support.  I meet many internationals daily in Palestine who are caring deeply about what is going on.  The Tree of Life group that was here Sunday was a blessing to us.  Families in Beit Sahour hosted them in their homes and many lif-long friendships were made.  Several other groups come to learn and support the people struggling to hang on to what is left of our land.

Many locals engage in activism and it does work.  As an example, the initial work to prepare for the watchtower was done weeks ago.  The time to put the tower today only took less than two hours.  Why was the delay? The answer is clearly related to the resistance encountered at the site.  Why the timing today? Because there was a division about best tactics to respond between the popular campaign and a city official. There are lessons to be drawn from this as from a long history of popular resistance in Palestine. The lessons are: we must act, we must act strongly, and we must do it regardless of “politics” (in its banal sense). It is possible to act from wherever you are and by whatever tool available to you: speaking, writing, blogging, demonstrating, boycotting, shouting, singing, whispering, dancing, helping. We have great opportunities and significant openings; e.g. letters about settlements and Israel’s apartheid policies are more read and published now. Together we are making a difference despite the oppression and together we can effect real change in our circumstances.

Action: Stop the Wall and are organizing the first international Israeli apartheid short film contest.  Please consider making and submitting a film to this contest. For more information

Background: Is Israel an Apartheid State?

A powerful speech by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

Open Letter
to Mazin Qumsiyeh from Howard Cort

Mazim Qumsiyet [sic], una storia di resistenza che nasce dai libri (in Italian)

A video done by a Spanish group about my visit to spain (in Spanish)
.   Vídeo donde se ve al profesor Qumsiyeh en una acción:

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
Popular Committee to Defend Ush Ghrab (PCDUG)
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home

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