090510-qumsiyeh41Dr 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 articles and images crossing my mind and my computer screen over the past two days are an amalgam of ironies. An ultra orthodox Jew who burned the flag of the Zionist state on Sunday was arrested and charged.  True to the Torah ultra Orthodox Jews have traditionally called the state of Israel, founded with the aid of British bayonets and guns as an abomination and a rebellion against the will of God.  But recently, the virus of Zionism has spread to infect so many Jews who even claim orthodoxy even as more and more non-Jews and Jews shed the malady.  The Satmar and Neturei Karta remain loyal to the traditions of orthodoxy and the commandments of the Torah to seek Justice.

Israeli officials pose in the midst of flags to be videotaped affirming Israel will control occupied Jerusalem forever (International law notwithstanding).  In my hometown of Beit Sahour, settlers showed up on Monday night to party with soldiers on Palestinian lands of Ush Ghrab (see also recent story on Beit Sahour as a microcosm of Israeli colonization).  To celebrate “independence day”, Israeli settlers uprooted 250 olive trees in Qarout village near Nablus and Israeli authorities handed down a few orders for home demolitions. The soldiers were everywhere; some were drunk with Alcohol or power or both.

We live in a la la land of make belief.  Collective amnesia is characteristic of the lunatics running around.  Few remember even recent massacres like Sabra and Shatila (see this amazing and heart-wrenching letter by Franklin Lamb). Even fewer recall the Nakba or catastrophe of ethnic cleansing between November 1947 to December 1949. I believe it was a Nakba for all concerned, it is just that the intoxication of power prevents some from realizing how much they have hurt themselves.

On these days of cruel images and blue and white flags, it is critical to be reminded of why this Hasbara or Za’bara as Dr. Salman AbuSitta articulated beautifully.

But I actually think the excessive flag waving is a sign of insecurity and that the Zionist movement is feeling the end is near and the game is up (afterall truth is rather hard to hide). In the 1950s, there was an outpouring of Western public support for Zionism.  It even included thousands of Internationals serving in Kibbutzes as volunteers.  Today, the thousands of International volunteers are working with Palestinians and Zionists have lost the support not only of the Western public but even if he Jewish Israeli and Jewish Western public. See for example this inspiring report from Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director, Jewish Voice for Peace which articulates the breadth and diversity of support for human rights and the narrow and regurgitated non-sense of Zionist support: “This morning’s UC Berkeley divestment vote–it isn’t over yet.”

The action at University of California is but the tip of an iceberg.  BDS is now in hundreds of cities around the world.  The Zionist flags will not endure the strong winds or harsh sun of Palestine. The last colonial occupation in the 21st century will also come to an end. Minds long chained by propaganda will shed those chains and join the rest of humanity. Israeli “independence” will then be recognized as the day of sadness for losing moral compass and trying to create a Jewish state in a land that could have easily accommodated both immigrant European Jews and native Palestinians.

We are off to the International conference in Bil’in where hundreds are expected to attend including representatives of ALL Palestinian political factions, Israelis acting on their good conscience, and internationals. There, the struggle for justice will gain new momentum.  Freedom for Palestinians will also mean freedom for Israelis from the chains of mythologies. Stay tuned.

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