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 we managed to attend two demonstrations organized by residents of Wad Rahhal and Al-Ma’sara.  In the former, the military ‘intelligence” officer named ‘Fadi’ came to check things out.  This is the same guy who told me before my trip to the US last March that I should not leave.  The morning after I left, Israeli army came in the middle of the night and surrounded my house ostensibly looking to arrest me.   In today’s demonstration he first tried to discredit me by claiming ‘friendship’ and ‘closeness’ (those in attendance knew this tactic).  Then he tried verbal threats and intimidation.  While his soldiers prevented us from getting to where my car was parked, he made a point of driving to it within view of us and “checking it out” (we have video).  When the demonstration was finished, we saw that what he scribbled was the world ‘Hamas’ on the car (I guess he did not realize I am not Muslim).  As we drove to the other demonstration he followed.

Unlike in Wad Rahhal, the people of Al-Ma’sara were allowed to march to their lands on this day.  ‘Fadi’ kept a close watch on us.  He pulled his jeep in front of my car as soon as we got in and were ready to leave at the end of this second demonstration.  I backed up and got on the road and he then followed us in an intimidating fashion for two miles.  Nevertheless, we were thrilled with the success of both demonstrations and that no one was arrested.  They are still holding our friend Hassan Breijiya and likely to charge him with serious charges from last week.  There is no ‘justice’ system here.  There are Israeli military courts with Israeli military judges who always choose the Israeli soldier’s version and apply random ‘sentences’ on us (for being Palestinians in Palestine).  Even Israeli activists like our friend Yotam face tough ‘sentencing’ for merely engaging in nonviolent protest of Israeli colonial land theft and land destruction.

In this land of apartheid, there are still some surreal moments.  Today, I witnessed no less than 6 acts of kindness and generosity.  I also stopped by Talitha Kumi school to visit with a  friend (who donated a box of books to us) and we saw their groups of Israelis  and Palestinians engaged in singing for peace and eating together.  The normalization activity was happening less than a kilometer away from Al-Walaja, the village which is slated to join hundreds of other villages ethnically cleansed since 1947. The remaining 2000 residents watch (and occasionally demonstrate and get arrested and jailed) as the apartheid wall is being built around their houses and separating them from their lands. Just two days earlier, I was with the lawyer for the village as we say that the destruction of agricultural lands even extended beyond the areas mapped by the Israeli authorities for ‘closed military zones’ around the projected wall.  The contractor took the lawyer (and I tagged along) to the ‘operations room’ to show him the map.  The room was an amazing record of planned destruction in the Bethlehem district.  On all four sides of the walls, there were maps showing the projected stages of the apartheid wall completion.   I was not allowed to bring my camera but it was a horrific scene.  Some 20 minutes into this, the contractor talks to the Israeli military command who tell him to get us out of their and not show us any maps (too late though!).

If all goes according to Israeli plans, Al-Walaja will be a small version of Gaza: an open-air prison with one gate out controlled by Israel.  The wall comes very close to Palestinian homes to separate them from their front or back yard and all their agricultural lands.  In 1948 Alwalaja lost 63,000 of its 70,000 dunums of land.  The remaining 7000 while now shrink to about 1000 and eventually to nothing.  Palestinians were once 95% of the population and in control of 95% of the land and now mostly refugees and displaced people while the five million who remain in Palestine have access to 2.9% of the land.

Israeli army destroys children’s playground in Beit Jala and drag children away

Jewish challenges to Zionism on the rise in the US; Gabriel Ash, Emily Katz Kashawi, Mich Levy, Sara Kershnar, The Electronic Intifada, 14 June 2010

Shooting and sobbing, by Gilad Atzmon

Volvo Equipment: Effective tools of the Israeli occupation

Standing Up to the Bulldozers in Palestine

And here is a brave Australian member of Parliament speaking out for human
rights (if only more parliamentarians would speak the truth)

I wrote to her with this brief thanks.  I am a professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit universities and have just finished my fourth book (this one on the 130 year- history of popular nonviolent resistance in Palestine).  Every week here, we have new atrocities on the ground.  Today we had demonstrations in Bilin, Nilin, Al-Masara, Al-Walaja, Wad Rahhal and other places.  It is thus very good to read your speech in the Australian parliament.  We in Palestine thank you for your solidarity…for reminding us of who we are as fellow human beings. What Margaret Mead once wrote comes to mind “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The Committee to Resist the Wall in Beit Jala invites you to the weekly demonstration this Sunday 20 June 2010 at 11:30 AM and this one in honor of our friend and popular committee leader the martyr Abu Alwaleed AlAzza. Please spread the word and come join us to protest the destruction of Palestinian lands.  Your presence supports the struggle for peace and justice.

And while the Israeli government issued a press release in English that claims they will ‘ease’ the medieval siege on Gaza (the release in Hebrew made no such mention), the International civil society is not fooled: we demand an end to this siege not media gestures.  More boat flotillas are being planned and lawsuits are demanding Israel release the belongings (especially video cameras and tapes) stolen from the passengers and that a real independent investigation is allowed.  We will not let the Israeli criminals get away with murder.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities
Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People,

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