FROM BIL’IN TO BEIT JALA 23Apr10 April 25, 2010

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 past two days witnessed further Israeli war crimes from shooting at unarmed protesters in Gaza, to destruction of land and property, and to raids in the middle of the night. But we also had a good first day of the International conference in Bil’in.  It was so good to meet with dear friends (e.g. Neta Golan, Huwaida Arraf, Lubna Masarwa, Iyad Burnat,Mohammed Al-Khatib, and so many more) and make many new ones.  Hundreds of people attended on the first day from many countries.  Speeches were delivered from dignitaries (e.g. Archbishop Atallah Hanna) and politicians (e.g. Salam Fayyad).There were representatives of all political factions (Hamas, Fatah, PFLP, DFLP etc) and all perspectives.

But the most interesting of all was the video-uplink with Gaza.  Facilitated by Lubna Masarwa on this end and our dear friend Dr. Haidar Eid in Gaza. The site of the video uplink was a destroyed three story residential building whose residents still remain homeless. We also heard from a daughter of one of the abductees (many activists were abducted by the occupation soldiers and are still held in the gulags of the fascist occupation army).  We also heard from relatives of the martyrs (murdered mercilessly by the occupation authorities).   Everybody especially remembered the wonderful positive spirit of Bassem Abu-Rahma murdered one year ago at peaceful demonstration against the apartheid wall.

My excitement about the achievements in Bil’in was needed to balance the pain as we watched the Israeli bulldozers destroy a family’s front yard (the family of Mitri Ghneim in Beit Jala).The olive trees did not stand for two long. Nor did the children’s playground.  The carefully tended garden lasted even less.  Feelings of anger, sadness, pain, misery and more fluctuated but the emotions settled always on a sense of betrayal.  Why is the world letting this happen.  Israeli soldiers behaving like sadists dragging internationals out of the way and preventing all activists from getting close to victim’s family as they ravaged the yard. Six activists managed to get through and were beaten. They included two Palestinians.

One international was taken asnd the others released on site later.  My eyes welled up with tears as I watched two of the family’s children return from school and look in horror at what is happening to their gardens. In Al-Walaja village, the fascist Israeli army uprooted over 50 trees as it bulldozed areas around the illegal colony of Har Gilo.

Much of the Land of Al-Walaja (near Beit Jala).  On Wednesday, the illegal Israeli colony of Etzion poured its sewage on the grape vineyards of of the Palestinian village of Beit Ummar.  For days, the Israeli army had closed the roads to the village at the main intersection as an act of collective punishment for the peaceful protests of land confiscation.

There will be demonstrations today (Friday) after mosque prayers at Al-Ma’sara, Al-Walaja, Bil’in, and other places throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.


Some more photos of the ongoing apartheid

Video: Hope demolished in Al-Khadr village near Bethlehem (village named after St. George)
Video: Night raid in Bilin the night before the conference

Inside the “Green Line”  (areas occupied in 1948), there was a lot of activity also. There, according to speakers at the Bilin conference apartheid has long been entrenched in the system of laws and regulations in addition to the persistent ethnic cleansing and land loss by the native Palestinians. But those who are “on the inside” also continue to resist and refuse to give-up their basic human rights including the right to return to their homes and lands. Uri’s video and pictures of the return march touched us here in the West Bank even though we could not enter through the walls and checkpoints to join them this time. The march is from Tira to Miske, one of 510 ethnically cleansed villages and towns.The march of Native Palestinians coincides with Zionist “celebtrations” of this ethnic cleansing which they call “independence day”. A refugee from Miske explained that the reason for the coincidence is that the march was not allowed by the military rules for many years so Miske families took advantage of lax rules on the day of Israeli celebrations to march back to their village during these years and then this became a tradition.

Video: “Al Nakba”–The Palestinian Catastrophe of 1948

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