PALESTINIAN RESPONSIBILITY 12Jul10 July 13, 2010
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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚Äúhaving joyful participation in the sorrows of this world,‚ÄĚ 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)
It took over 10 hours to cross from Amman, Jordan to the Ghetto of Bethlehem, a distance of 60 miles.¬†¬†From the first moment on the bridge from Jordan, we begin to be immersed in Palestinian suffering.¬†¬†The 19 days outside of Palestine are not possible for most Palestinians. Yet, this was not a vacation and I gave many talks and spent lots of time in cars, trains, and planes.¬†¬†During the travel time, we can have time to think and reflect on many things and this short assay on Palestinian responsibility is a fruit of many hours of this.
During this trip I met many Palestinians, far more than before.¬†¬†Many were dedicated activists and others attended our talk out of curiosity or a sense of obligation.¬†¬†In Jordan we stayed with close friends (Palestinians originally from Hebron).¬†¬†We interacted with many others of all backgrounds.¬†¬†We even had a chance to briefly visit one of the many proliferating malls in Amman (this one is called ‘Mecca Mall’!).¬†¬†The mostly Palestinian population, like the rest of the society in Jordan, is divided between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. I was reminded of my visit with the Wheels of Justice bus tour to New Orleans months before the catastrophe of Katrina Hurricane and flooding.¬†¬†There in the deep South in richest country on earth was also a city that is deeply divided economically.¬†¬† The hundreds of customers whether in a rich mall in Amman or New Orleans have the same ‘choices’: Starbucks, United Colors of Benetton, and MacDonalds, trendy shops with latest lingerie and other fashions.¬†¬†The reality of life just 30 km to the west in the occupied areas is as alien to those Palestinian shoppers as it is to their American counterparts.¬†¬†I thus pondered on our collective human responsibility to address injustice.¬†¬†Nowhere else in the world today is there a more obvious example of massive and blatant injustice of ethnic cleansing, colonization, murder, and distortions of reality than that associated with creation and maintenance of a ‘Jewish Zionist state’.¬†¬†That this process was initiated and promoted by Europeans and later Americans leaves the people of these countries with the duty to act to rectify this injustice. Many take this very seriously.¬†¬†I was touched by the passion and dedication of many Italians to the Palestinian cause.¬†¬†But ultimately, the main responsibility for Palestinian liberation and wellbeing falls on us Palestinians.
In my visit to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, I was saddened to see the basically inhuman conditions of life.¬†¬†Yes, we must blame the Lebanese government for this but we also must look in the mirror.¬†¬†How many Palestinians who are of the ‘haves’ category are actually caring enough with deeds (and not mere words) about their fellow Palestinians.¬†¬†While we seek and appreciate solidarity and joint struggle with all people, we must rely on ourselves first and foremost. I just finished a book on history of popular resistance in Palestine.¬†¬†That there are millions of Palestinians in Palestine despite all the Zionist effort is testament to the efficacy and depth of this resistance and caring.¬†¬†That millions more who were forced to leave refuse to forget where they came from indicates the fallacy of the notion advocated by Zionists of ‘the old will die and the young will forget.’¬†¬†But keeping the attachment and acting strongly to defend your right are two related but separate issues. And those who are truly dedicated to act for the cause in any nation remain a minority that we should try to grow.
How many people get involved and how many dedicate their life to the struggle can be the deciding factors in the success of any liberation movement.¬†¬†Success can come using mixtures of different tools. No two liberation movements follow the same paths.¬†¬†Lessons can be drawn from Places like Algeria, Vietnam, and South Africa but these stories are different and liberation in Palestine will be different when it comes (some would say if it comes).¬†¬†I believe we have significant and unique opportunities to move forward positively.¬†¬†Here are just five of hundreds of reasons for my optimism.
1.¬†¬†The International civil society is emerging and mobilizing in unprecedented large numbers to help challenge the oppression and colonization in Palestine (think of the growth of social media activism, websites, International Solidarity Movement, Free Gaza Movement, Freedom Flotilla etc.).
2. The Zionist project represents the antithesis of morality and justice in such a blatant way that no caring and decent human being can ignore.¬†¬†It is obvious to all that it is wrong to ethnically cleanse a country of its native inhabitants in order to bring people of a Particular religion and create a state of such immigrants with a set of racist laws to ensure hegemony. Thus, it carries the seeds of its ultimate destruction within its own ideology.¬†¬†Its persistent war crimes and crimes against humanity (in Deir Yassin, Nablus, Jenin, Gaza, Lebanon, international waters etc) are but the natural symptoms of the pathology.
3. The Zionist project is now recognized internationally (despite the massive propaganda efforts) as a destabilizing force not only locally but internationally.¬†¬†From its inception in the 19th century, political Zionism survived only by creating divisions and wars.¬†¬†But people are tired of conflicts and wars.¬†¬†Wars also used to have little cost to the Zionist movement.¬†¬†In the last few years, the cost of war has risen and Zionists cannot wage wars without some blow back hitting them where it really hurts (think Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008/9).
4. The growth of the boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS movement) has been phenomenal (visit bdsmovement.net for details).¬†¬†The Israeli government is frantically trying to suppress this but they always end up promoting it by their own arrogance of power.¬†¬†The arrogance of power that allows Israel to lose Turkey as an ally or to forge passports of ‘friendly countries’ will lead them to lose what few allies they have left.
5. For every act of murder or destruction, for every attack on a human rights activist, Israel creates many folds more resistance. The murder of Rachel Corrie generated thousands of Rachel’s and her story is now known by millions (Google gives 1.9 million hits).¬†¬†After the attack on the flotilla of 6 ships, we will now have 60 ships arriving in September. Each of the hundreds of activists who were unjustly kidnapped in International waters, mistreated, and stripped of his/her belongings is now a lifelong activist for Palestine.
We cry over the Bassem AbuRahma (see video 1 and video 2 and thousands of other innocent Palestinian victims of Israeli crimes.¬†¬†We cry over the many internationals who lost their lives such as Rachel Corrie (see video) and the victims of the Mavi Marmara (see video).¬†¬†To honor these martyrs for this good cause, we must turn tears into action and shatter any remaining ‘deafening silence’ and negativism among our people (and here I mean Palestinians and other fellow human beings). We do see corruption, defeatism, and lack of self confidence among many people (Palestinians and others).¬†¬†We must challenge these human frailties but this can only be done by putting out positive actions and examples.¬†¬†As we learn from basic physics, only the pluses can neutralize the minuses.¬†¬†The good news is that we see more and more pluses and more and more people deciding to get off the proverbial couch and get into the fields.¬†¬†Here the harsh winds blow, the vultures circle, the dogs bark, but the caravan of freedom moves on and we are getting good company and making great friends along the way.
“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.”-Alphonse Karr
See also this related article ‘Of Cowardice and solidarity’
Italian famous tenor Joe Fallisi who we met in Italy had created operatic songs for Palestine
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,