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 Ghetto of Bethlehem is shrinking, the people are resisting but feel abandoned by the self-appointed leadership.  Many people complain who come to give their blessings to projects or to plant a tree for the cameras or to promise support that never materializes.   Planting a tree for the photo opportunity is not a replacement for real action.   Internationals and locals did  replace the children’s swings and slide in Mitri’s home in Beit Jala only to see them pulled out again a few days later (see  video of the dragging of nonviolent protesters from the garden and its destruction.)

Saturday night we had an educational protest to hundreds of Italian tourists who were brought by the catholic church on pilgrimage.  We were distressed to find that they had coordinated their visit with the Palestinian ministry of tourism AND with the Israeli ministry of tourism.  We objected to the way it was presented and dealt with.  The wall is not after all a border between states to march to for peace and play games on the “other side”.  The wall is an illegal apartheid structure built on occupied territories separating Palestinians in the shrinking Bethlehem Ghetto from their land and from other Palestinians and from their holy sites in Jerusalem.

PHOTO: Anne Paq/ActiveStills

PHOTO: Anne Paq/ActiveStills

As the Italians were crossing the apartheid wall, the Israeli army was extending the wall around Al-Walaja village of Bethlehem and destroying more of Mitri’s land. But Al-Walaja people were heroic on Sunday. These people were displaced in 1948 and are being displaced again today.   They delayed the uprooting of their trees at a great cost Sunday: over 30 Palestinians and a few internationals were injured and several detained.  Photos here.  We will try to get you the link to a video of the actual action.  It is hard for us to be at many places of destruction at one time and we lack resources to get video cameras in the hands of qualified people to document the atrocities so this initial video (photographed by another person) has little of the more rough and tumble action.

We hear talk of resuming “proximity talks” between the administration of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu.  The negotiations have been going on for nearly 20 years while Israel continues to demolish and destroy and ethnically cleanse the land of its people.  The disastrous Oslo accords really caused the second Nakba for us.  It freed Israel of its obligations as an occupying power and gave them a green light for squeezing us into disconnected ghettos.  Meanwhile, many politicians of all backgrounds continue to draw big salaries while destroying any chances for peace (which can only be based on justice).

We need lots of letters and lots of direct contact with everyone (friend and foe).  Things are getting out of hand here with Israel intensifying its colonial settlement activities.  Apartheid here is far worse than it was in South Africa. We need much more pressure on this fascist government here and on its enablers abroad and on its local Palestinian enablers.

Finally here is a question asked to influential US Senator Charles Shumer who answers in a way that reveals where his loyalties lie:

Question: Finally Senator, just for our own curiosity, just like the most recent justice appointed to the Supreme Court, will the next one also be a
New Yorker?

SCHUMER: I don’t know. I would like it to be, I recommended the first one. I have 3 criteria for Supreme Court Justices: they should be legally excellent, they should be moderate as is typical of my politics I don’t want too far right or far left, and diversity, which means different ethnic groups and everything else. Luckily in terms of Jewish people we have good representation in terms of the Supreme Court. That will continue. One thing I want to assure your listeners Nachum, my name as you know comes from a Hebrew word. It comes from the word shomer, which mean guardian. My ancestors were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkov and I believe Hashem, actually, gave me name as one of my roles that is very important in the United States Senate to be a shomer for Israel and I will continue to be that with every bone in my body..

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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