MOTHER’S DAY IN PALESTINE 21Mar10 March 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)

Today was mother’s day in Palestine.  It was not a good day for my mother. In the morning my sister took her to an eye doctor in Hebron as her sight is affected by her diabetes.  On the way back, my sister was slapped by an Israeli policeman with a ticket of 500 NIS (roughly $120) for making what he considers an illegal turn.  The stress made my mother forget a pot of syrup on the stove and it burned through with smoke all over the house as she was visiting with my brother in law who has cancer.  I felt bad because instead of being with them most of the day, I was in two popular resistance events in Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.  The demonstration in Beit Jala, birth place of St. Nicholas, got a delayed start as we negotiated with Palestinian security forces to let us through.  It was a commemoration of the murder of Rachel Corrie and it was coincidental with Mother’s day. After several phone calls and conversations, the baton holding Palestinian security forces retreated and we were allowed to  proceed down the hill towards where the Israeli soldiers were stationed.  In this regards we felt fortunate.  But we also noted a new Israeli procedure this week as opposed to last week  here: a barbed wire was strung across the road to prevent people from trying to continue down the hill to their lands. The demonstration proceeded peacefully and several people spoke including Jewish Israelis.

See video

We left before the demonstration ended because we wanted to get to the event in Beit Sahour.

On the way we heard that Israeli forces shot dead two young Palestinians who were working in their own lands because as they claim they were carrying deadly tools with intend to harm (one was carrying a shovel and digging in his land).  The two 19 year old farmers Muhammad Faysal Qawariq and Salah Muhammad Qawariq) were shot in their village of Awarta near Nablus.  We also heard that the other 16 year old kid shot in the head yesterday died; the two 16 year olds are Mohammed and Useid Qadus from Iraq Burin village.  This brings the casualty figure in 30 hours to 4 Palestinians murdered and over 100 injured.  An ISM volunteer was among those injured (see here)

Many were arrested. Huwaida Arraf of ISM was arrested and released 31 hours later but two Palestinian young men who were with her in detention in an illegal colonial settlement were abused worse and are likely to face further repercussions for demonstrating against the illegal colonial apartheid soldiers on their lands of Nabi Saleh.  It appears that Israel is upping the pressure on popular protests. They also bombed Gaza injuring 12 Palestinians.

At Ush Ghrab, we had a small number of people (15) who volunteered to do some cleaning in the area (photos)  We could not proceed beyond superficial cleaning of a staging area and some of the land around it because land owners were not there for us to build stone hedges etc.  I wondered if they are with their mothers and wives. But I kept thinking of those in Israeli jails (over 10,000 of them) and of their families.  Here are excerpts from Fatma Abu Rahima whose husband is in jail:

“I am grief-stricken since Adeeb’s imprisonment. However, I cannot allow myself to lament my husband’s loss as I have a family of nine to take care of. Since Adeeb has been away, I have to be both mother and father to my children. We shared the care over the children, this is now my sole responsibility. We miss him very much.  Batuh, the youngest daughter, has caught on the topic of the conversation, stops playing, and stresses the intensity by softly, but firmly addressing her mother: “I want to go with you, to see ‘baba’!”   We have only been allowed one visit since Adeeb’s arrest [four months ago]. Batuh was there to see her father, but she was afraid of the pale and sad figure that her lively father had turned into. She did not even recognize Adeeb and refused to talk to him. Since this visit, no one from the family has been allowed to visit. We are all considered to be “security threats”. It has been even harder on an emotional level. Two months ago, Alaah, my daughter of 17, was very sick and was even hospitalized twice. She could not walk or move, as if she was paralyzed. The doctors could not find anything wrong with her and decided it was psychosomatic…”

I thought about these mothers and wives of prisoners (and over 300 women prisoners) and the mothers of the many murdered Palestinians, thousands over the past 20 years alone, tens of thousands injured.  How will they spend their mother’s day? When I talked to my mother this afternoon over a cup of mint tea, she wondered when the death and killing end will and she seemed very sad.  I wondered what I can say that comforts her or any of the millions of Palestinian mothers worried sick about “the situation”. I wondered this and many other things silently. I wondered when we in Palestine will celebrate a mothers’ day in freedom.  I wondered what happened to Cindy Sheehan, mother of American marine who was killed in Iraq and who was arrested yesterday in Washington in an anti-war demonstration. I wondered how much longer we will suffer of colonial occupation, ethnic cleansing, and oppression after 62 years.  I wonder why people are so patient on injustice.  I wondered why politicians can’t think of themselves as fellow human beings.  I wondered who will visit the mothers of the dead Palestinians. Will the Palestinian President or the Israeli Prime Minister go visit some day and try to comfort the grieving mothers.  I wondered for how long my US taxes will still go to fund all of this. I wondered when I will stop wondering about these and many things. I tell myself to take a deep breath and meditate to regain hope and energy.

There is much to be hopeful about. Yesterday there were many other popular resistance actions throughout the West Bank as more and more people take matters into their own hands.  See for example these reports:

Bethlehem district: al Ma’sara and al Walaja defend their lands and homes
Ramallah district: anti-Wall protests spread to five villages
(to remember Rachel Corrie) Video: Gaza the killing Zone watched by over 3.3 million viewers on youtube and 140,000 comments!

I end with a Greek song for Palestine (English subtitles)!

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
Popular Committee to Resist the Apartheid Wall and Settlements-Beit Sahour
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
http://www.qumsiyeh.org
http://www.pcr.ps


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