FOLLOW-UP ON OMAR, LAND, DAY, AND MORE 27Mar10 March 28, 2010

090510-qumsiyeh4Dr 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)

On Wednesday, the Popular Committee Against the Apartheid Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour hosted a gathering of over 100 town people and guests (including Nabil Shaath of Fatah Central Committee) to brief them on what is going on at Ush Ghrab with the military watch tower erected. The discussion revolved around the popular resistance. We explained the nature of our activities and it was made clear that even though the mayor would prefer that we limit our activities to just being in the park, that the committee has monthly schedule of events that we would like people to participate in. The next two popular resistance events here will be 1) a march from the Nativity square in Bethlehem to Rachel’s tomb area (Sunday at 11:30 AM), 2) land day events in Ush Ghrab throughout the site beginning at 10 AM to 2 PM on Tuesday (in Beit Sahour).

Land day will be commemorated in hundreds of cities around the world on March 30th as a day to promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (act in your area please) as it has been since the first land day in 1976 when Palestinians inside the Green Line (Palestine of 1948) rose-up against the continued unfair land expropriation. My wife, who does not yet have a Palestinian ID card, was thus able to travel to Nazareth area and brought pictures and stories of the beauty of the stolen lands of the Galilee where my maternal grandmother comes from. The greenery and the richness of the soil reminded me of my grandmother’s stories about how idyllic rural village life in Palestine was before 1948 and the ethnic cleansing that followed. We also had a press conference with Omar Ala’Eddin who was abused by the Israeli soldiers. Amira Hass attended the conference and reported the story in Haaretz

Omar’s case was highlighted today in the weekly demonstration in Al-Masara also attended by Imam Tamimi (for this and previous events mentioned and other activities of the popular committees, see new short video and our earlier video of Omar at the Hospital. The Israeli military doctor that Omar was brought to see was merely making fun of him. When Omar would try to show him bruises on his side, the “doctor” would look at his arm and so on and telling him to shut up. This is not the first or the last Palestinian to be treated that way. In fact I was reminded by a friend that another Omar was also beaten, this one a young journalist from Gaza of exactly the same age as our friend Omar from Al-Masara (see story in Haaretz)

The idea that there is a serious conflict between the Obama administration and the extremist Israeli apartheid government is only PR efforts. The US voted against four resolutions dealing with Israel at the United nations Human Rights Council. Even the resolution that simply reiterated the internationally recognized right of self-determination for Palestinians was voted against (45 countries voted for, no abstentions, US against; i.e. unanimous with the exception of the US). The US continues to cow-tow to a noisy lobby in Washington that claims to represent Jews (see their self-definitions and claim of importance here) But a   new poll of American Jews shown very interesting results that are contrary to what AIPAC and its supporters claim  So we MUST keep pressuring the Obama administration, keep writing, and keep ACTING. In good news, Britain took the modest step of expelling an Israeli “diplomat” (a Mossad agent) over the forgery by Israeli intelligence of British passports while violating International law by extrajudicial executions. Let us hope more countries follow. I also got this from Code Pink that put a smile on my face and showed that few dedicated individuals can make a difference (imagine such action wherever US officials appear):

“On Monday morning, just days after we marched for peace with thousands in DC, CODEPINK issued a fake press release from The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) calling for the freeze of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Many media outlets bought it including CSPAN, which showcased this “breaking news” during Hillary’s Clinton’s speech to AIPAC. Most commentators noted that our fake release forced AIPAC to say it was not against settlements, thus putting AIPAC at odds with the White House and the State Department. Later that night, CODEPINK activists interrupted Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu during his keynote speech at the AIPAC gala dinner. Rae courageously stood on a table a few feet away from the podium to unfurl a banner that read: “Netanyahu: Build Peace Not Settlements.” While most of Congress still bows in fear before AIPAC, CODEPINK stands up for a peaceful and just future for both Palestinians and Israelis. We can’t wait for our government to lead the way; we need to join the Palestinians, Israelis and international activists around the world who are using Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel to respect human rights and international law.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
Popular Committee to Resist the Apartheid Wall and Settlements-Beit Sahour
Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities
Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People,

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