Mar 2, 2014

Crimean war

                                                    The Siege of Sevastopol 1855

It is sometimes instructive to learn a bit of history to reflect on current events because if we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat the tragic history of useless wars.  This came to me as I read about the escalating situation in Ukraine, where the US and western countries invested heavily to dislodge the Ukraine (strategically located on the Black Sea) from Russian influence.  The coup that toppled the elected government in the capital and Russia’s strong influence in the mostly Russian Speaking Crimean peninsula of the Ukraine threatens to ignite another Crimean war (1854 prelude to many more European wars). 

The Crimean war 1854-1856 was a devastating and useless conflict that was started with a with an incident here in Palestine (then under Ottoman Rule). The British were in the midst of an industrial economic boom (at least for the elites, the workers were essentially enslaved). To fuel this industrial boom, Britain (and to a lesser degree France) were aiming to expand their empires.  The weak Ottoman empire seemed a target. Russia’s influence on the religious Holy Places was high. This was understandable considering that most Palestinian Christians at the time and even still today are Orthodox (especially around the holy sites of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem). Russian intellectuals have gone through a period of Westernization before the 1850s then grew disillusioned with the west and its hypocrisy.  Those who considered themselves Patriotic Russians thus became increasingly oriented towards Czar Nicholas and the Orthodox Church and increasingly opposed to the Western Encroachments on the borders of Russia.  When France instigated a provocation by Catholic supporters challenging Orthodox long standing traditions at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, a fury of high level diplomatic lobbying ensued with threats and counter threats that escalated to the Crimean war.  Alyce Mange wrote that ‘The Crimean War (1854-1856) was a war fought ostensibly for the preservation of the Ottoman Empire but actually for the curtailment of Russian encroachment’!

The war was costly to all sides concerned even though the Russian empire lost to the alliance of the three empires (Britain, France, Ottomans).  But the origin of the problem remained here in Palestine where competing Russian, British, and French interests remained until the first draft of the Sykes-Picot agreement (which divided their influences).  Russia withdrew and so it remained for Britain and France to divide the spoils of WWI in the “Near East/Middle East” (I prefer the term Western Asia to these colonial terms).  In parallel, there was the growth of the world Zionist movement that got from France and Britain the infamous Jules Cambon and Arthur Balfour Declarations (1917) partially as quid pro quo for the Zionists lobbying the US to enter the war.

Fast forward from 1854 to 2014 and we see again beating of war drums for hegemony with triggers in Palestine. The circumstances differ but this could also degenerate into yet another useless devastating war (except some people do profit from wars). The Zionist movement was unhappy about the lack of progress in their efforts  to destroy the Iran-Syria-Lebanon axis using others as canon fodder. A big part of their failure to get more conflicts (as they did with Iraq) is due to the fact that Russia (and China) refuse to go along and realized that the end-game is total Western hegemony in Western Asia (with Israel assuming even more power over Western foreign policies). The Russians and Chinese also took lessons from the disastrous US attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan and NATO attacks on Libya which had terrible consequences (including spreading radicalism and terrorism around the area). The calculated they must draw a line. The Zionist movement became involved as they do frequently because their key members are in the US State Department and also heavily influential in France and Britain.

They thought that we must break Russia’s will to resist encroachment in Western Asia. Ukraine seemed like an ideal “soft belly” for Russia. It seems possible that such reports as this one on Israelis involved in the protests in Kiev ( may have some basis. However, most Israeli meddling is not done via Israelis but via their now obedient people working for the US government. Also in this case, the  Russian government has been very friendly to the Jewish establishment. But Zionists preferv conflicts that help arm sales (laboratory tested on Palestinians). It is not a coincidence that problems are fueled in various parts of teh world especially in countries taht are not 100% in line (e.g. Ukraine and Venezuela). I do not know what will happen, but suggest that all wars are useless and counterproductive (to all ides); the history of the 1854 Crimean war should give us pause. And we shoudl not allow wars by proxy (as in Iraq) or direct (e.g. Israel last two attacks on nearby areas of Lebanon and occupied Gaza). Enough suffering.

What I suggest is that the talk about democracy by Western leaders like Kerry, Obama, Hollande and company is wearing thin. European public identifies Israel and the US as the two most dangerous countries on earth. Most people recognize hypocrisy. Most people know that democracy is not achieved by Coups against elected governments (whether in Egypt or Ukraine) and certainly not done on behalf of countries who support dictatorships everywhere that are friendly to their interests (see Saudi Arabia as a glaring example). For the good people of Ukraine (both in the East and the West), do not let your country be used for power politics again.  But also I suggest that they remember who their neighbors for the next few hundred years will be (hint it is not Israel or the US or England). But even those countries will not remain immune from destabilization and change if they do not learn to share this planet earth and respect other people.  Remember might does not make right and even great empires fell before. This brings me back to the point I always emphasize: READ HISTORY (objectively and not tribally).

(See Andrei P. Tsygankov Russia and the West from Alexander to Putin: Honor in International Relations)

Feb 19, 2014

Another world is possible

A visit to the Galilee just emphasized to me that we are on the right track to one democratic state where we live together in equality, peace, and harmony.  Another world is coming.  As you will see below, there is no difference in colonial settlement activity inside 1948 or 1967 occupied areas but that is all temporary phenomenon. Since my trip was focused on environmental issues and science (biodiversity), I was more concerned about time passage that makes the environmental destruction in the Galilee irreversible.  

Haifa was the first planned Palestinian city built in 1761 by Daher Al-Omar (Zedani) who is credited by many as the first Palestinian ruler who managed to develop an independent modern government inclusive of all religions that covered much of what is now northern Palestine (see  Most of the citizens of Haifa were removed in 1948 and the 3000 remaining were squeezed into Halsa and Wadi Nisnas against their will (now they number some 35,000 due to natural increase).  Today the highest Israeli court in the north is built on top of ruined buildings but also overlooks abandoned Arab homes and businesses.  It must be some sight from the windows of that glittery building looking down on to what is left of Arab Haifa.  The historic train station built in 1905 to take pilgrims to Macca through Jordan is slated for demolition.  Next to Al-Istiqlal mosque, there is a monument with a faded inscription: "Faisal (emir Faisal who dreamt of Arab Unity) said that no freedom is given but it is to be taken by struggle.."  More on Haifa

While I was in the north, a three story building in Akka collapsed killing 5 Palestinians including one child. There are various stories about the causes but it is clear that Israeli authorities prevent the remaining Palestinians from repairing or rebuilding their houses in the old city in an attempt to further impoverish them.  We cried for the victims but we were also impressed by the generous and resilient spirit of those remaining family members.

Sakhnin is 30,000 people reduced to use of only 9,700 dunums.  The 16,000 colonial settlers of Misgav which took the land of Sakhnin and other nearby Palestinian villages in the Galilee control 183,000 dunums (population access to land of 39 fold more given to new settlers from the land of the natives). The settlement of Karmiel is billed as a model of tolerance even though it was built to increase Jewish presence in the Galilee because Israel is not happy with natives who remain in a “Jewish state.” When we visited, we noted Bedouins who are going to be kicked out of the land now allocated to “Karmiel” even though those Palestinians have lived there since before the Zionist state was established.

The house we stayed in has a demolition order just like tens of thousands of houses throughout historic Palestine built on private Palestinian land that Israel covets and does not allow building on.  Palestinians in historic Palestine are now 6 million people living on 8.3% of our historic lands (these are also in disjointed enclaves in the Galilee, the Triangle, the WB, Naqab, and Gaza) while 91.7% of historic Palestine is off-limits to us and dedicated for the use of the 6 million Jewish Israelis (most of them immigrants from other countries).  Why not justice and equality where we all prosper together?

But let me move to environment.  If you want more on politics you can see my report and video from my 2010 trip to the Galilee here

This time I was studying biodiversity and the preliminary scientific observations I made were extremely worrying.  The Jewish National Fund recruited hundreds of millions of dollars from Jews around the world in the 1950's and 1960's to “plant trees in Eretz Yisrael.”  This was simply an attempt to hide the destroyed Palestinian villages via large scale planting of pine trees.  Even Israeli environmentalists recognized this as an environmental catastrophe.  The pine forests that now cover much of the Galilee destroyed the natural plant cover (primary oak and scrub forests and green fertile valleys) used for thousands of years by native Palestinians as rangeland as well as agricultural lands.  Conifer trees do not allow much to grow under or around them since their needles increase soil acidity and impoverish the soil.  So even species of snails I noted in the Galilee were so much fewer than I expected.  There are no good scientific studies to predict if such damage can be reversed when done on such a large scale.  There are pockets of natural habitats still existing and they could be used to reclaim the artificially forested areas.  But time is not on our side in this situation.  The problem is compounded with Israel building massive infrastructure like expanding roads, drying up more springs (to control the water and prevent Palestinian access), schemes like the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal and more to destroy this ancient land.

For a detail history of what transpired and continues to transpire in the Galilee and the rest of Palestine in terms of populations, see Ilan Pappe’s book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.”  If you are interested in environmental issues, write to me and I will send you material.  Politicians on all sides do not address these issues. 

But we have positive signs all around us: 1) more and more Israelis are joining the struggle for environmental and political justice, 2) more and more global civil societies are adopting the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions movement, 3) the Palestinian generation of Oslo is passing on and a new generation is coming up that is taking matters into their own hands.  Examples are many: from the bus freedom riders to successful challenge to the Prawer-Begin plan designed to finish ethnically cleansing the Naqab (Negev) to Kufr Qaddoum to Majd el Krooum to Sakhnin.  An example of resistance in the footsteps of Land Day of 1976 is the return to the two villages of Iqrit and Biram.  These were Christian villages which were ethnically cleansed and the houses destroyed leaving only the village churches.  This did not happen in war but by a process long after the ceasefire lines were declared in the relentless effort to “Judaicize” the Galilee.

We were gratified to visit some young people from Iqrit and Biram who returned to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.  Even Zionist leaders like Moshe Arens struggle to twist things to explain Israeli policy with respect to these two villages (see  While we were in Iqrit, a group of elderly Jews from Tel Aviv showed up with a guide.  They were “left Zionists” who get a distorted but still better version of history than that taught at Israeli schools and universities).  I saw the puzzled looks on their faces and lack of answers to basic questions that came as a challenge from the Palestinians around who technically hold Israeli citizenship but who are treated as unwanted non-citizens.  These 1.6 million represent 25% of population inside the Green Line.  They were everywhere we looked:  from the bus station in Jerusalem to the University in Haifa to the gas-station attendant at the road to “Karmiel.”  I wondered why I could see and interact with them everywhere as a visitor but most of those Jews who walk pass them daily either ignore them or do not know they exist (many “Palestinian-Israelis” speak Hebrew more fluently and without an accent).  Why couldn’t we all intermarry, live in one country without discrimination, with justice and human rights to all?  We saw a glimpse of that future in a demonstration of 150+ people of all faiths including many youths in front of Haifa municipality.  They were objecting to the deputy mayor who called the sound of the Muslim call to prayer as “squealing like the sound of a pig!”  We saw it in a young and kind Jewish waitress working in a Palestinian owned restaurant in Haifa.  We saw this future.  As Arundhati Roy said: "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."

For tours in the Galilee including Palestinian villages present or ethnically cleansed, I recommend Galilee Today Alternative Tours (galileetoday on facebook).

Note: Israeli policies forbid people like me to visit the Galilee even though my grandmother is from Nazareth and it is still our country; these restrictions apply to me and millions of Palestinians similar to the restrictions on blacks under apartheid in South Africa.

Haifa video from a refugee

Jan 27, 2014


The distance from Amman to my house in Beit Sahour is 45 miles (72 kilometers).   In normal situations, that should take 1-1.5 hours.  Sunday it took me some 13 hours (i.e. Ten times more) and I arrived at my home at 3 AM.  I won’t bore you with details of misery and can just summarize the main reason: occupation.  The illegal military occupation and colonization of the West Bank by Israeli forces has now been in place for almost 47 years, one of the longest in history.  I see the worst of people and the best of people daily.  I spent five days in Jordan working on biodiversity issues with my friend Prof. Zuhair Amr. He and his family always treat me so nice and their hospitality is unmatched.  But most important for me was getting to learn so many new things.  We even got to the Jordan river under the watchful eye and with permission from the Jordanian military and collected some freshwater snails there (pictures were not allowed).  This is highly unusual for a  Palestinian (or a Jordanian) since Jordanian military ensure a buffer zone with no one to get near the water border for the shared parts of the Jordan river with the Israeli-Occupied West Bank.  Of course from this side, Israeli occupation prevents Palestinians from getting anywhere near the river while Israeli settlers and soldiers are free to move around as they wish.

Prof. Zuhair in his lab

Snail from the Jordan river basin

Jordan, a constitutional monarchy where I did my bachelor degree, is still a fascinating, beautiful and diverse place. Home to 3.5 million Palestinian refugees, some 600,000 Syrian refugees, and almost one million Iraqis and Egyptians.  The original Jordanians thus constitute the ruling minority in a place  surrounded by problems.  But the country miraculously managed to navigate through the instability affecting nearby countries and even profit from such instability (getting significant subsidies from Western Countries and gulf states).  It is the only venue out for Palestinians from the West Bank into the rest of the world.  Our economies and people are intertwined and not just because millions of Palestinians hold Jordanian citizenship. Palestine to the West of Jordan is under a brutal colonial occupation with Palestinian leadership and people in between uprisings and thus in a state of maximum weakness. Syria to the North used to be even more self-sufficient than Jordan but has now descended into mayhem.  Egypt to the southwest likewise is suffering significantly with a military run country that could not and would not figure a peaceful way to deal with the “problematic” Muslim Brotherhood so they decided to fight them and even designate them a terrorist organization. The Palestinian authority President Abbas openly sided with the military rulers (contradicting long standing Fatah policies of non-interference in Arab affairs). Saudi Arabia to the south is Western supported absolute monarchy (not like Jordan which has a parliament) and has its own issues. Iraq to the East is.. well you know from the news what happened after the US invasion (one million dead and more dying daily).  These difficulties hopefully will not come to Jordan and Jordan will continue to develop peacefully in this midst.  What is most shameful is that Syrian refugees were allowed into all neighboring countries except one: “Israel”.  Israeli authorities are also persecuting the few hundred African refugees that came.  Imagine if the Israeli government had at least allowed the Palestinian refugees who fled their Syrian refugee camps (nearly 400,000 of them) to come back to their homes and lands in the Galilee.  Imagine how much this would have helped change political dynamics.
Photo from RSCN website

I do not want to paint too rosy a picture of Jordan even though much has already been accomplished (for me the work of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature is a brilliant example as is the levels of healthcare and education).  And certainly it is not up to me.  Most Jordanians (unlike most Israelis) recognize there is a lot of work to be done on their own government. While waiting for hours on the bus from Jordan as it was held up with over 15 buses at the bridge to the Israeli border controls, we watched shows including a Jordanian satirical political show that mocks the government and the ministers.  I think more shows like that should be encouraged. A similar show in Palestinian TV that mocked our authority was closed by the PA thought police (shamefully). A similar show in Egypt (“Albarnamej”) was also shuttered more than once.  But we also should not put all blame on governments.  Large part of the blame is on us.  I was dismayed for example to see how some Palestinians cut through lines even in front of old ladies or toss their garbage out of a moving vehicle or do not show sympathy for suffering civilians (e.g. in Gaza, in Yarmouk Refugee camp, in Syrian Hama area).  It is these attitudes that need to change.  While intellectually I can understand that decades of colonization and dehumanization can “rub-off” on our souls, we must teach our children to respect each other and the environment.  This is a concept that I hope we will do with starting to build educational museums (we are working on one in the Bethlehem area now).

There is so much that each of us individually can do to help. For example on the issue of Palestine, see
This week in Palestine highlights innovation in the latest issue

In other good news, the virulent Zionist attack against the American studies association and other organizations and churches seen to be back-firing and there is a constant growth of these movement.  Every day brings us good news.  For example, according to Haaretz: “ABP, a Dutch pension fund considered the world's third largest, Nordea Investment Management, a Scandinavian firm, and DNB Asset Management, a Norwegian company, want more information about the Israeli banks' involvement in Israeli settlements.  The three European firms combined manage nearly 500 billion euros' worth of assets.  The review by the three pension funds comes about two weeks after PGGM, the largest Dutch pension fund, divested from Israel’s five largest banks because they have branches in the West Bank and/or are involved in financing construction in the settlements.”
The Palestinian Capitalists That Have Gone Too Far: While most Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are struggling to survive, a powerful group of Palestinian capitalists is thriving and growing in political, economic and social influence.

Jan 14, 2014

Palestinian rights

                                            Dancing with 92 year old Umm Atallah

We are in a new year and certainly I wish all humans (friends and foes) a happy new year that would bring justice which is the prerequisite for peace. In the first few field-trips in 2014, we saw beautiful budding lilies, many species of snails and insects, and birds and others signs of renewed life after the snow in Palestine.  Our water wells are full and Spring is coming. Life renews itself.  We remember fallen comrades but we look to the future with hope. I spoke to several groups of young students from around the world last two weeks and they also give us hope.The young and old Palestinians I interact with daily also give us hope. In a party, I talked to the oldest Qumsiyeh alive, a 92 year old woman who is phenomenal in her inspiration (picture above).

We must learn to appreciate and thank people more while they are alive.  I felt sad at hearing the news of the passing of Dr. Lamia Haddad Khairallah.  She was a great activist who loved Palestine (where she is from), Lebanon (where she grew up) and the US (her adopted home where I met her first in 1979 and she and her late husband sort of adopted me). Services will be January 24 at 2 PM, Storrs Congregational Church, 2 North Eagleville Rd., Storrs, Connecticut. We will miss her dearly. I wish I could be there.

New facebook page to like, join, and disseminate to protect Palestinian rights  “The original PLO charter called for right of return and self-determination. These remain the quintessential demands of the majority of Palestinians. We reject the planned structures to liquidate the Palestinian cause. International law states that all agreements that abrogate basic rights like the rights of refugees are null and void (even if signed by some “leaders”) . We believe and will join forces to achieve these goals including via Sumud (resilience) on our land, popular resistance, and the spread of boycotts, divestments and sanction against the Israeli apartheid system. Palestine (from the river to the sea) is our homeland and our priority. We will work to make it a country of all its citizens with all the returning refugees regardless of religious beliefs.”

Prof. Qumsiyeh: Conditions for the next uprising are there

Professor Qumsiyeh on the American Studies Association and the growth of the Academic boycott

Dec 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas in Bethlehem (Beit Laham, Aramaic for House of Laham, the Canaanitic God) is still a very special and meaningful time even under the brutal Israeli apartheid occupation.  We are not talking about the visual aspects and the unique religious services at the Church of Nativity (you can now follow these live stream for example on the link shown below).  It is special because reflection here is special.  Nowhere is there an exhibit of “Occupation Art” shown in a “Peace Center” in front of a large Christmas tree in front of one of the holiest places in Christianity. Nowhere on earth do people pray that the wall suffocating them is dismantled then watch and listen to Christmas carols from around the world after admiring such exhibits. Nowhere can we hear the same singers mix Christmas and patriotic songs in the Manger Square and the Shepherds’ Field. 

                                  Figure: teargas canisters shaped as a peace sign in Nativity Square. 

In my town of Beit Sahour, the Shepherds Field, we just concluded two nights of the three nights called “Shepherds’ Night”.  Yesterday Reem Al-Banna the famous Palestinian singer entertained hundreds.  Today a magician entertained children and hundreds of them (Muslim and Christian) received gifts from Santa Clause.  Later in the evening the crowds enjoyed the patriotic music of Thaer Barghouthi who gained fame as the musician and composer for the 1987-1991 uprising (of which Beit Sahour was then at the forefront). 

                                            Reem Al-Banna at Shepherds’ Night Festival

Tomorrow on Christmas day (Western calendar) starting at 4:30 PM we will have a candlelight march under the banner “Light a candle for Self Determination” in Beit Sahour (organized by Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and the Joint YMCA/YWCA Advocacy Initiative). We demand that Bethlehem is freed from the occupation and colonization that now limits us to develop only 13% of our district. We demand the right of return and self determination for all Palestinians.

The end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 is a time to reflect that some 2.5 billion human beings believe in a message that originated with a Palestinian child thought to be born in a manger over 2000 years ago.  The land was called Palestine at the time of Jesus’ birth and also for hundreds of years before he was born and it is still geographically Palestine today.  It is also a time to reflect on the real message of Jesus, sometimes distorted (like happened with the Crusaders and with the marginal misnamed “Christian Zionists”). It is still a message of hope, peace, joy, justice, love, and harmony.

It is the busiest time of the year for us. This is a time when we are asked to speak to a lot of visiting delegations, most of them Christian pilgrims.  We also get invited to all sorts of events and prayer vigils organized by many Palestinian groups (in the last few days alone YMCA/YWCA, Bethlehem University, Catholics, Evangelicals, and Presbyterians). We reflect with them on our mixed backgrounds and history and the future of our joint humanity.  They all pray for people in Syria, Gaza and elsewhere where there is suffering.

Gaza is 1.8 million Palestinians besieged in a semi-Arid strip. 1.1 million of them are refugees who can look across the "fence" built on their lands and see the rest of their lands and many of their original destroyed villages across this fake "border". Places like "Sderot" and "Ashqelon" after all were not empty lands before 1948 (see or 1.8 million people will soon start to starve in large scale. The UN said it is a humanitarian catastrophe and will be unlivable by 2020. Just today, on Christmas eve, Israeli forces also bombed Gaza killing at least two including a 3-year-old girl and injuring others in her family.   So many Palestinians in Bethlehem and in the churches directed our Christmas gifts to people of Gaza and people of Syria.  And most of us (me included) are barred from entering our city of Jerusalem which is methodically being stripped of its Palestinian population (Christians and Muslims) and isolated by walls (physical and psychological).  But with all this suffering why are we Palestinians filled with hope, peace, and joy?   

It is because we take a long view of history. Some 150,000 years ago, humans migrated from Africa using Palestine as the passage way to Western Asia and then the rest of the world.  15,000 years ago, this Western Asian area (dubbed by the European colonizers as “Middle East”) was the center of development of agriculture and we call it the Fertile Crescent.  This region was where we humans first domesticated animals (sheep, goats, donkeys) and plants (wheat, barley, chickpeas, lentils).  This move from hunter-gather societies to agricultural societies quickly spread around the world.  It was also a key transformation because it allowed people to have time to evolve what we now call “civilization”.  Hence the first writings (also in the Fertile Crescent) and the first thoughts of deities (Gods).  Here in the Eastern Mediterranean region our ancestors were called Canaanites (hence my 2004 book was titled “Sharing the Land of Canaan”).  They spoke a language we refer to now as proto-Aramaic.  From this language and its first alphabet came the Arabic, Syriac, and Hebrew languages and alphabets. The more advanced Aramaic was spoken by Jesus.  It is closest to Syriac Aramaic now spoken by few villages in the Fertile Crescent some of them threatened (like Maaloula in Syria that briefly was over-run by Salafists zealots just this year). But also the Canaanitic Phoenicians evolved the Aramaic alphabet and delivered it to Europe and it became the Latin alphabet which is now what I am typing with.  A is from Aramaic Alpha (turn upside down to be the symbol of the bull; b from beit (=house), turn to side to see a domed house, J is from Jamal (became Camel, letter hump shaped) and so on.  This human connect history needs to be taught in schools as a source of hope.

Evolution of the Aramaic alphabet
(Taken from Qumsiyeh, 2004, "Sharing the Land of Canaan")

For the 15,000 years of civilization, there were thankfully very few attempts to transform Palestine from a mixed society of various religions and backgrounds to make it monolithic (a Christian state, a Muslim state, a Jewish state...).   Thankfully, these attempts lasted a tiny percentage of our long history and all failed or are failing (Saccaries, one Islamic ruler, the Crusaders, and now the Zionists).  We are grateful that in this year 2013, there has been tremendous growth of actions by civil society around the world to push for human rights and justice in Palestine, the Holy Land.  This included some really significant actions for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions from Apartheid Israel.  This happened even with such prestigious American societies  like the American Studies Association (ASA) and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). This was the best Christmas gift they could give us. Together we can create a more just and humane society.

So we are happy this Christmas. I am especially blessed with a mixed family that can celebrate many holidays: my mother’s family is Lutheran (celebrate Christmas December 25) and my father’s side of the family is Greek Orthodox (celebrate it January 7), my wife is Chinese American whose family is leaning more Buddhist, my sister studied in Utah and is a committed Mormon, my son was born in Texas and lives in California, and that is just my immediate family! My extended family and my close friends cover the spectrum of all other major religions (and agnostics and atheists) and backgrounds.  

My grandparents were born in a world that did not have fax machines, phones, cars, airplanes, or emails (let alone Facebook!).  The world was disconnected and full of diseases with no cures.  Life expectancy was short.  Children here in Palestine were sometimes not named until they were 2 years old because most of them perished before then.   One of my grandparents lost his parents and siblings within a span of three years (1914-1917) and was an orphan.  Even though things are very difficult now in Palestine, the Holy Land, we have to remember that 12-15% of the native Palestinians perished in WWI and between 1936-1939 nearly 10% of the native Palestinians (Christian and Muslim) were killed or injured.  Today many people grumble a lot but we are more connected than ever and we hold in our (people) hand more power than we ever had before.  History teaches us that injustice cannot last long especially when so many people join the struggle. The thousands celebrating in Bethlehem tonight give us hope. Merry Christmas everyone (and we do mean every human being on earth).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn : for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness : for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart : for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers : for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Palestinian Jesus of Nazareth

Live stream of Christmas events in Bethlehem

Videos/Images of Christmas 2013 in the birthplace of Jesus
Bethlehem Images and Arabic Christmas song
Message from Palestinian Christians

Dec 18, 2013


Mohammed on left, Sarraj and Wife on right

Our colleague and friend Gaza Psychiatrist Dr. Eyad Sarraj died today at age 70 from cancer. Eyad was a great man of integrity, a refugee from Beer Al-Saba' (renamed Beersheba by Zionists), and one who dedicated his life to help people in Gaza and throughout Palestine. I got the call about his death from a friend soon after I got a call from the father of Mohammed (8 year old child who spent two weeks with us in Bethlehem area for treatment) that they have crossed into Gaza at the "Erez crossing" after a long journey through checkpoints.  Here is a recent interview with Dr. Eyad Sarraj about situation of Palestinian children:

On good news, the success of mass demonstrations against the Prawer-Begin plan to ethnically cleanse 40,000 Bedouins of the Naqab (Negev) forced the Israeli government to back down. This should give us pause to think about strategies of liberation (besides endless negotiations).  There are also other successes namely growth of the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement (see below).  And Palestinians continue to miracles with little resources in their own communities despite incredible odds.  For example, today we had a conference to discuss the future of the Faculty of Science at Bethlehem University and attended by community leaders in and outside the university.  It was an inspiring event held as part of a series of events commemorating 40 years of Bethlehem University and as preparation for a significant expansion of the University. We can indeed challenge occupation and transform challenges into opportunities (freeing our minds before freeing our bodies!).  

Richard Forer, Author, Breakthrough-The Autograph-09-28-2011
In telling the story of how he himself went from being a diehard supporter of Israel, from someone raised in a Reform Jewish household who saw Israel as that plucky little democracy trying to provide a secure home for the long-beleaguered Jews to someone who now supports the Palestinians in their struggle for justice, he provides us with an inside look into the mind of a Zionist -- his own -- and how being confronted with the more grim reality changed his mind and the reality of the Palestinian struggle.

(and another Jew who saw reality) Matthew Cassel examines why so many American Jews defend Israeli policies regardless of the issue or cost.

How the worst video song made exposes Zionist racism and stupidity.  A Jewish settler sings why “Jews can’t stop”: Watch the video and Read the lyrics here (also read some of the comments on the video)
and see comment on the Israeli liberal website 972mag

Another AIPAC loss, win for us

American Studies Association the largest scholarly association dedicated to American Studies voted to endorse a resolution supporting the boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education.

Academics should boycott Israel: Growing movement takes next step

(enjoy) SODASTREAM: Keeping Apartheid in Business

It's been a great week for Israel in the US Congress this week. But not for the American taxpayer. While many Americans are gearing up for the Christmas holidays and trying to earn the money to buy their children presents, and while the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits surged, Congress voted yet more money to Israel.

ACTION:  Open Letter to boycott a cinema studies conference scheduled at Tel Aviv University for next June.  Below is a link to the letter and a means to sign it.  We hope you will add your signatures--and share the links widely with friends.
Click here to read and sign letter:

Mazin Qumsiyeh,
Professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities
Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People
Al-Rowwad Children Theater Center
Technology Transfer Association
Higher Council on Excellence and Innovation
Author of several books including “Sharing the Land of Canaan” and “Popular Resistance in Palestine”
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at Home
Beit Sahour, (occupied but soon to be free) Palestine

Dec 12, 2013

Snow and subserviance

It is snowing here in Palestine.  My visitors from Gaza (a child being treated and his father) wish to go back to their family even though their wife tells us that they have no water and no electricity and that parts of the refugee camp that they live in is flooded (in Rafah).  But we are all concerned for the even more precarious position of refugees from Syria (both Palestinain and Syrians who esca[ped the fighting and now live in tents in a snow blizzard).    

Those horrific conditions in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan make it even harder to understand the subservience to Israel of Mahmoud Abbas and company. In meeting with journalists in South Africa, Abbas went against the growing BDS movement that is supported by hundreds of Palestinian civil society organizations.  Abbas said to journalists in answer to a question: “No we do not support the boycott of Israel. But we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements. Because the settlements are in our territories..… But we don’t ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.” What mutual recognition is he talking about since Israel does not recognize any rights nor does it recognize there is a Palestine. His comments drew condemnation from South African and Palestinian activists. Abbas also did not mention the refugees, the ethnic cleansing, the Israeli apartheid, or even the close cooperation between Apartheid South Africa and Apartheid Israel including in nuclear weapon development.[that was part of the reason Netanyahu and Peres both skipped the ceremonies as there was a call in South Africa to protest their attendance]

The denial of Palestinian rights to please Israel seems to know no boundaries.  The World Bank just sent a press release (available in Hebrew and English but not Arabic at the world bank website).  The release hails the signing a Memorandum of Understanding  (MoU) for implementation of Phase 1 plans of the horrific Red Sea-Dead Sea project.  The Phase 1 MoU was signed by Israeli apartheid minister and war criminal Silvan Shalom, by Minister Hazim El-Naser for Jordan and  Minister Shaddad Attili for the Palestinian Authority. The MoU includes: a) the development of a Jordanian desalination plant in Aqaba where the water produced will be shared with Israel free, b) releases of water by Israel from Lake Tiberias for use in Jordan (Jordan will pay for it even though it is part of the 1994 agreement), c)  the sale of about 20-30 million m3/year of desalinated water from Mekorot (the Israeli water utility) to the Palestinian Water Authority for use in the West Bank (this is also Palestinian water), d) a pipeline from the desalination plant at Aqaba would convey brine to the Dead Sea to study the effects of mixing the brine with Dead Sea water.

My field of research focuses on environmental issues. All environmental groups (even Israeli ones) opposed these plans from the time that Israel as a colonial power tried to peddle them in the 1990s.  As all colonial powers, they destroy things and then destroy in other areas.  The Red-Dead Canal is it is now known intends to “save the shrinking Dead Sea”.   But there are two main sources of decline in Dead Sea Water levels: A) Diversion of upstream waters which resulted in decrease in water flow in the Jordan River from 1300 million cubic meters (mcm) annually in the early 1950s to about 200 mcm and B) Dead Sea water used per year by the chemical industries is estimated at > 262 MCM. Both of these environmental problems are from Israel.  Instead of reversing them, Israel (now with help of Jordanian and Palestinian authorities) intends to create a new problem. It is highly disturbing to see this trend of destruction, collusion, lack of direction, and continued people suffering. 

Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons
Exclusive: Secret apartheid-era papers give first official evidence of Israeli nuclear weapons

Red Sea – Dead Sea canal and desalination, destruction of the Wadi Araba area

Palestinian activism grows at US universities: Despite heavy backlashes, academic institutions are increasingly endorsing boycotts against Israel's occupation

In South Africa, Abbas opposes boycott of Israel

Walid Khalidi’s classic book “Before Their Diaspora: A photographic history of Palestinians 1876-1948” Now available online

Better Six Billion than 6 Trillion! Bibi and Bandar Badger Obamam.. What the GCC/Arab League/Israeli team is asking of its western allies (meaning of course mainly the US) is to immediately fund the IF to the tune of $ 5.5 billion. This, Israeli security officials argue, is pocket change compared to the $6 trillion spent in US ‘terrorist’ wars of the past decade.

On The Side Of The Road by Israeli journalist Lia Tarachansky poses difficult questions about memory and responsibility and relates to how Israeli Zionists refuse to face the past and own-up to the crimes of ethnic cleansing (that are still ongoing)

Silence is complicity