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 Hurva synagogue was destroyed in the 1948 war by the Jordanian army.  Before 1948, synagogues were used by Zionist underground forces for illicit activities including hording weapons.*  But why is there a furor over building it again? First we must recognize that international law is rather clear that East Jerusalem is illegally occupied by Israel and per the Geneva conventions, and buildings or activities in the occupied areas are subject to those conventions.  Any transfer of population to the occupied areas including infrastructure for these individuals is considered proscribed settlement activity contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Second, Israel News reported that: “According to a centuries-old rabbinical prophecy that appears to be coming true, on March 16, 2010, Israel will begin construction of the Third Temple in Jerusalem.  During the 18th century, the Vilna Gaon, a respected rabbinical authority, prophesied that the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem, which was built during his day, would be destroyed and rebuilt twice, and that when the Hurva was completed for the third time, construction on the Third Temple would begin”.  Many Israelis believe this and there is a proliferation of designs, ceremonies and other events to launch this coming age of building a third temple. There are Muslim religious sites there: the first Qibla or direction of prayer for Islam and the third holiest site are the Haram Al-Sharif on this site. There are Israeli digs underneath that threaten the site already and this only added fuel to the fire.

Third, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and much of humanity, wonder why is it that such a synagogue is reconstructed but none of 1200 mosques and nearly 200 churches destroyed by Israel over the past 6 decades are not allowed to be reconstructed? For me personally and for most Palestinains, we know the history shows Jews, Christians, and Muslims living peacefully together for 1400 years under Islamic rule (with very few exceptions).  We know that it is possible to simply have a Jewish area, a Christian area, a Muslim area or even mixed areas.  We know it is possible even to intermarry, have friendships, etc.  But Zionism had a different idea and it did not revolve on coexisting but on ethnic cleansing and destruction of others.  How else can we explain the destruction of 530 villages and towns? How can we explain the rapid growth of colonial settlements on Palestinian land or even inside Palestinian homes? There is surely enough space here for all.  Why are Palestinians denied the right to go to school just this week (see story and picture where they even held school at the checkpoint) Why not simply live and let live.  The density of population inside the Green line is now nearly 1/8th that of areas of the West Bank and Gaza that are designated reservations/ghettos for the native Palestinians. If Jews want to live in the old Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem and rebuild the synagogue there, why not allow the Palestinians to return to the old neighborhoods in West Jerusalem and rebuild the many churches and mosques there?

AIPAC issued a statement supporting Vice President Biden who claimed that there is no space between the US and Israel.  In other words, the US and Israeli interests and policies are/must be one and the same including on starvation, oppression, colonization etc.  (and oh yes, we have to always put Iran first now that we finished off Iraq for the sake of Israel). US General David Petreaus disagrees:

“Insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace. The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.”

I would go much further and say the US interests and treasury have already been crippled by the subserviant relationship to Israeli lobbies.  If the lobby finally succeeds in deepening the conflict with Iran, it will not be Iran that loses, but US and Israel will suffer a horrible blow.  The US economy would go into a tail spin and the value of the $3 billion dollars in US military aid to Israel will be reduced even further as the US dollar accelerates its decline.

ACTION: AIPAC and Christian Zionists are mobilizing thousands to write the congress and white house to keep funding and supporting Israel in its policies of colonial settlement expansion.  We can do no less write to the white house via  and to congress.

*This was common practice for the Haganah and other forces to fire from synagogues and use them as military outposts, see here.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
Popular Committee to to Resist the Wall and Settlements-Beit Sahour
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home

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