Oct 22, 2011

Just two prisoners

Just two prisoner stories and the olive harvest
by Mazin Qumsiyeh
Please forward and act

Western media try to make Palestinian political prisoners mere numbers while personalizing one Israeli soldier. So let me just give you the names and brief story of two of those released Palestinian political prisoners.

-Chris Bandak, a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem was just 21 when he was abducted by the Israeli occupation forces.  He was released after spending the last 9 years in Israeli prisons for his resistance activities to the colonial occupation.  But the deal meant moving him to Gaza.  In an interview with Al-Quds, Bandak stated that he has no relatives in Gaza but since he arrived there he felt all of Gaza people are his relatives.  He emphasized that the various resistance groups including Fatah (his group), the left groups, and the Islamic groups all respect and treat Christians and Muslim Palestinians the same as comrades.  He also stated that the occupiers treated natives with the same cruelty regardless of their religion.  He explained how painful it is to leave so many colleagues in Israeli prisons. 

-Ibtisam Al-Eisawi, Palestinian Muslim woman from Jerusalem was kidnapped 10 years ago by the occupation foprces.  She has 6 children. The youngest was only 6 months when her mother was jailed and she cried the most when she was finally able to begin to get to know her mother. Ibtisam's oldest daughter was married only one week before Ibtisam was released.  The pain of missing her daughter's wedding, missing seeing her children grow up.  Her name Ibtisam means "Smile" but thuis brave woman had seen few smiles in the last 10 years. Back now in her city of Jerusalem witnessing increased colonial settlement activities and increased efforts to make Jerusalem "Jewish" by ethnically cleansing its native people and importing Europeans and othesr to replace them. She says that she is happy to be out with her family but sad that so many people remain behind and thus the struggle will continue.

From personal experience I know how prison inmates become very close friends and how hard it is to leave people behind. So we must all never forget those his still await the day of freedom (or at least freedom from the small cage to the big cage of the "people warehouses" or bantustans we live in under Israeli apartheid and colonialism.

Action for prisoners (thousands remain in Apartheid prisons): See this exemplary call to act from the UK based Palestine Solidarity Movement

New video on the attemps to Judaize Jerusalem: The story of Shaikh Jarrah and other Jerusalem Onighborhoods http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YQszhJ3acs

Just finished harvesting olive trees (my fourth olive gharvest season since returning to Palestine from the US).  Body is sore but spirit lifted.  Here is an article on the meaning and value of Palestinian olives, the olive harvest, and resistance. I wrote this for the 2009 harvest but it is the same this year including the low yield since 2010 was a good year.

Oct 20, 2011

Hypocrisy knows no limits

Obama celebrated the killing of Gaddafi.  He did not talk about Gaddafi's cozy relationship with the US and the west for the past 8 years including torturing people for the CIA**.  On several occasions, the US administration said that revenge should not be practiced yet no western leader said a word about lynching happening daily in Libya.  A Libyan rebel leader told Al-Jazeera that Gaddafi came out and greeted them but was shot anyway.   I spent two months in Libya (studying its fauna) and know how bad the regime was and I am certainly happy that his rule ended.  Congratulations to the Libyan people.  But we must be cautious.  The US government considers this its first victory in getting a government moved from an erratic despotic western stooge to a government that will be (at least they hope) more reliably dominated and subjugated.  My inside information tells me that they hope Syria would be next so that it will be two for two: Egypt and Tunisia changing from pro-US/Israel to perhaps a democracy (which would mean against US and Israeli interests) vs. Libya and Syria changing from unpredictable western allies to more predictable western puppets (not democracies).  Let us not forget that Bashar Assad (and before him his father) and Gaddafi were not bastions of support for Arab causes.   After all, both had close CIA ties and were more than happy to receive and torture prisoners captured by US forces (a process known as rendering which was never stopped under the Obama administration). The Syrian regime was also an ally with the US in the destruction of Iraq (including the genocide of over 1 million civilians).

By US/Israeli calculations, if the Yemeni or Bahraini dictator is toppled first then the score will be 3:1 and they want Syria's dictator first.  In their chess game, they are also trying to turn the loss of Tunisia and Egypt into a gain. The US and Israeli governments are meddling in Egypt and Tunisia to stop them from having governments that reflect the will of the people (including the people's will to boycott Israel and stop helping the US/Israeli designs).  I think they underestimate the Arab people.  In Libya, they believe that Abdul Jalil will stay in his self appointed seat and then open the country (like Iraq) for Western oil exploits, for the US military base (closed in 1969), and establish friendly diplomatic ties with Israel (which already met with the so called national transitional council or NTC).  The NTC is talking about elections "maybe in two years" (in other words after they consolidate power and money and can manipulate the system).  US lawmakers in congress (prostituting themselves for their AIPAC masters) are talking about Libya and Iraq paying (financially) for their "liberation" and that they expect these countries  to have friendly relation with Israel!  But there are already voices within Libya and Iraq who say "enough" BS. I think the Arab spring and Arab people will surprise the (Zionist) US foreign policy makers. Democracy is coming. Stay tuned.

PS: A note to my Kurdish friends and people with contacts in Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey: you do have a right to freedom and self determination but please do not (continue to) accept the recently offered support of the regimes in Damascus and Tel Aviv (both regimes have no future in the new democratic Middle East). 

** For examples on Gaddafi's CIA ties see
(Recall Saddam Hussain's similar CIA ties)

A Living Movement: Toward a World of Peace, Solidarity, and Justice: Joint Conference of the Peace & Justice Studies Association (PJSA) and the Gandhi King Conference. Hosted by the Christian Brothers University, Memphis, TN, October 21-23, 2011

Secret CIA/FBI files of NUMEC nuclear diversions to Israel could aid $170 million toxic cleanup

Oct 15, 2011

Mandela and Barghouthi

قرائة مقارنة لكتب أسرى سياسيين : نيلسون مانديلا ومروان البرغوثي 
 مداخلة د. مازن قمصية

قرأت السيرة الذاتية لنيلسون مانديلا منذ سنوات عديدة. عنوانها "المسيرة الطويلة إلى الحرية" لأنها كُتبت بعد انتهاء نظام الفصل العنصري. كتاب مروان ليس سيرة ذاتية لأنها ملاحظات دقيقة عن فترة معينة ومسيرته ومسيرة شعبنا إلى الحرية ما زالت مستمرة. العنوان "ألف يوم في زنزانة العزل الانفرادي" يشير إلى جزء من الصراع. نحن ننتظر نهاية الطريق الى الحرية ونتلهف لقرائة كتاب فلسطيني بمثل هذا التاريخ لجنوب إفريقيا . 

يكرس الكاتب كتابه لزوجته وأطفاله، وإلى الشعب الفلسطيني، وإلى العالم العربي والإسلامي، ولجميع الذين يكافحون ويقاومون الاحتلال والاستعمار، وإلى زملائه السجناء. بالمثل مانديلا ذكر عائلته، وشعبه، والسجناء السياسيين الآخرين. 

البرغوثي يتذكر حياته في قريته كوبر حيث عمل وأحب ألأرض الخصبة. مانديلا أيضا يذكر بدايته الريفية في قرية صغيرة تدعى مفيزو حيث كان راع وحرث وأحب الأرض الخصبة.  ولكن تجد تجد بلدهما الكبيرة (فلسطين أو جنوب إفريقيا) في كل فقرة.

كلاهما إهتم بالتعلم والثقافة وقرائة الكتب.  إلتحق مروان في جامعة بيرزيت عام 1983 ولكن نظرا إلى المنفى وعوامل أخرى لها علاقة بالمقاومة فقد أنهى البكالوريوس فقط في عام 1994 (في التاريخ والعلوم السياسية). وحصل على درجة الماجستير في العلاقات الدولية في عام 1998. قاد كل من مانديلا والبرغوثي حركات شبابية ودفعوا ثمنها في الصغر. 

مانديلا مثل البرغوثي يكتب بالتفصيل عن السجن لفترات طويلة، عن التعذيب وسوء المعاملة، عن المقاومة، وعن كل ما تتوقعه من الذين خاضوا هذه التجارب. . كلاهما إتهمهم النظام  بقيادة مجموعات مقاومة مسلحة.  

مانديلا مثل البرغوثي يقول انه يُعاقب ليس لما فعله بل لما يمثل.

في هذه الكتابات تشاهد سمة رئيسية مشتركة للأسرى السياسيين: تواضع عظيم. على الرغم من أن بعض منا يعتبرهم قادة فهم أنفسهم ينظروا لدورهم كجنود وأفراد عاديين. انهم لا يرفعوا أنفسهم فوق الآلاف الذين يكافحون من أجل الحرية. البرغوثي يصف تعرضه للضرب على أعضائه التناسلية ويفقد وعيه وفي وقت لاحق يستيقظ ليجد شرخ في رأسه من السقوط وضرب جدار الاسمنت تاركا علامة دائمة. ولكن على الفور بعد وصفه هذا  يقول (ص 21) أن هذا هو مجرد مثال على ما تعرض له عشرات الآلاف من النشطاء. هذا الكتاب يعج بمواقف وتضحيات الآخرين وربما ذكر كاتبنا أسرى من فصائل أخرى أكثر من ذكره لأسرى من فتح. بالنسبه له القضية واحدة. ومن هنا تزيد قناعته بأهمية الوحدة الوطنية.

في منتصف الخمسينات وضع مانديلا خطة إنشاء هيكلية مركزية لحزب المؤتمر الوطني الافريقي وأ قنع زملائه القادة على اعتمادها. تعتمد الخطة على تشكيل خلايا قاعدية على مستوى ومنها تخرج قيادات على مستويات وسط وتضمن السرية ومستوى من الديمقراطية والعملية. البرغوثي أيضا عمل كقيادي ولكنه لا يذكر عمله التنظيمي. يمكن إستنتاج بعض الأمور مثلا عندما يتحدث كيف أنه لم يكن راضيا عن كيف كانت تمر القرارات في عهد الرئيس عرفات. ينتقد البرغوثي بطريقة بنائة القيادات الفلسطينية (مثلا سماحها للفاسدين). مع نقده الواضح  فهنالك ولاء البرغوثي لياسر عرفات رغم كل العقوبات والإغرائات له للتخلي عن أبو عمار. 

البرغوثي ومانديلا يتحدثان عن الحرب النفسية بما في ذلك لعبة المحقق الجيد والمحقق السيئ وطرق أخرى لكسر إرادة الأسير. البرغوثي يتحدث عن مدى أهمية الزيارات التي قام بها محاميه لكسر عزلته وجعله يشعر بصلة للحياة خارج السجن. مانديلا يشير أيضا إلى رفع المعنويه  التي تلقاها بمعرفة أن الشعب يدعم المقاومة ويدعم الأسرى. 

البرغوثي يصف الحبس الانفرادي بالموت البطيء (ص 81) ومانديلا يذكر "السنوات السوداء". البرغوثي كتب عن الكثير من الوقت للتفكير في السجن وذكر أفكاره بالتفصيل من شعوره بالتضامن مع جميع المضطهدين والمظلومين في جميع أنحاء العالم إلى فقر البرمجة في التلفزيون الفلسطيني (عندما سمح للقناة في السجون). يتحدث عن شغفه بقراءة الكتب ويتحدث عن حبه لعائلته. يتحدث عن تحرير المرأة ويتحدث عن تعلم اللغات في السجن. أفكار مانديلا في السجن تناولت قضايا مماثلة. 

البرغوثي يتحدث عن كيف أن القيادة الفلسطينية لم ترقى إلى مستوى التحدي أو نضال وتطلعات وتضحيات واحتياجات الشعب. ويتحدث عن كيف وضعت الولايات المتحدة والدول الغربية ضغوطا كبيرة على عرفات. في نهاية المطاف تم تعيين السيد محمود عباس رئيسا للوزراء. وفقا لبرغوثي عباس كان معروفا بمواقفه ضد المقاومة (ص 156). 

البرغوثي يقول في الصفحة 148 أن إسرائيل قادرة على هزيمة زعيم معين أو فصيل أو مجموعة من الناس ولكن لا تستطيع أن تهزم إرادة الشعب الفلسطيني. ويقول في عدة مواقع أن المقاومة في جميع أنواعها ضرورة للنجاح في تحقيق أهدافنا الجماعية فلا بد من زيادة كلفة الاحتلال والاستعمار وحتى جعله لا يطاق حتى يتراجع. 

البرغوثي يتحدث عن إستمرار نشاطاته السياسية في السجن. ويعطي أمثلة عدة من بينها إتفاق وقف اطلاق النار للفصائل الفلسطينية الذي طُبق في 19 ديسمبر 2001 عشية زيارة المبعوث الأمريكي الجنرال أنتوني زيني. واستمر وقف اطلاق النار التي لمدة شهر تقريبا حتى اغتيال اسرائيل للشهيد رائد الكرمي. 

البرغوثي يذكر أن اختطاف ابنه القسام كان مؤلما . رسالته الى ابنه أخذت 30 صفحه من الكتاب (أي 15%)! هذه الرسالة الفريدة  تذكر تاريخ فلسطين ، وتاريخ النضال ، وتاريخ الحركة ألأسيرة وأكثر من ذلك بكثير. ومن تواضع الكاتب أنه يعتذر لأننا لم ننجح أن نجنب جيل القسام ما مر به جيل أبو القسام.  هذه الرسالة تعكس أيضا مشاعر ومواقف البرغوثي في فترات رئيسية من حياته. كيف شعر عندما ولد ابنه بينما هو في السجن. كيف بنى علاقة مع زوجته على الرغم من كونه رجل مطلوب أو سجين لسنوات عديدة  (لغاية الآن 17 سنة). هذه الرسالة المفصلة تذكر التواريخ والأحداث والمناطق المحيطة بها وتضع القارئ (ابنه ونحن) في تلك الظروف. يتذكر وفاة والده 5 أغسطس 1985 ويتحدث عن آلام كثيرة. ويقول أن الاستجوابات والتعذيب والحبس الانفرادي كانت نفسيا أقل صدمة من نفيه إلى الأردن في أواخر الثمانينات (ألم المنفى بعيدا عن وطنه). ولكنه يقول انه بعد انضم عائلته إليه في المنفى وجد حياة أسرية تساعده في تخطي المرحلة الصعبة. الرسالة تنتهي مع توصيات يعطيها لابنه مثل أي والد يعطي لابنه. ولكن هنا توصيات حول ممارسة الرياضة في السجن، وحول قراءة الكتب ، وتعلم اللغات ، والحفاظ على علاقات ودية مع زملائه السجناء. 

هنالك فصل حول شريكة حياته وما تعنيه الحياة الزوجيةز

ينتهي الكتاب بفصل حول العملاء  في السجون الاسرائيلية مما له دلالته أنه قرر أن يفضح الأساليب الخسيسة للتعاون مع العدو. وبالمثل السيرة الذاتية لمانديلا تتضمن قسما عن الخيانة. 

وصف أوليفر تامبو مانديلا بأنه عاطفي، شجاع، صبور، وحساس. أنا لم ألتق مانديلا أو البرغوثي شخصيا ولكن بعد قراءة هذه الكتب يمكنني أن أقول إنني أتفق مع هذه الوصف وأضيف  على مانديلا والبرغوثي صفات أخرى: صدق، تواضع، ذكاء، قدرة متفوقة على التعبير .... ويمكن أن أستمر ولكن لضيق الوقت سأترك ذلك للمؤرخين لإعطاء هؤلاء الأبطال ما يستحقونه. معرفة هؤلاء الأشخاص (على الأقل من خلال كتاباتهم) وكتابات الآخرين عنهم تضيف إلى اقتناعنا بأن الحرية أمر لا مفر منه للدول التي لديها مثل هؤلاء الأفراد.

لي الشرف أن أتعرف اليوم على زوجة مروان وأقول لها أنني أرسلت هذه الملاحظات عن الكتاب بالإنجليزية لقائمة ألإيميل الكبيرة كما فعلت عندما كتب زوجك لائحة إتهام لإسرائيل سنة 2002. وصلني العديد من الردود بالتسائل حول ترجمة الكتاب إلى اللغة ألإنجليزية وأرجوا أن يكون هذا بالمخطط وأنا مستعد للمساعدة.


Oct 13, 2011

Lessons learned

In today's email: update of lessons learned in life, demonstration schedule, olive picking, and some news and analysis.

It has been over three years since I returned to Palestine from living in the US for nearly three decades.  Those three plus years in Palestine have been truly phenomenal and inspirational.  I took time to change and update the lessons I learned from life especially from those three years (and from >30 years of activism). http://www.qumsiyeh.org/lessonslearned/

Weekly Demonstration Schedule:
Thursday 13/10/2011 5:30 in front of Peace Center, prayer vigil for peace
Friday 14/10/2011 12:15, Beit Ola Village Assembly down town
Friday 14/10/2011, 12:15 Sosya in Yatta Assembly at Khallet Saleh Mosque
Friday 12:15 Kufr Qaddoum, Qalqilia
Friday, 14/10/2011, 2:00 PM, demonstrating near racist Israeli colony Anatot http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=168276839926053
And of course in Friday Nebi Saleh, Bil’in, Nilin and other locations
Saturday 15/10/2011 13:00 pm Beit Ommar Assembly at Committee residence

OLIVE HARVESTS: There are literally dozens of (solidarity) olive harvest programs around the occupied territories. Here are just two examples.

Joint Advocacy (YMCA/YWCA) with Alternative Tourism Group and the Visit Palestine Program

International Solidarity Movement Olive harvest programs

Tree of Life conferences in NY City; Old Lyme, CT; Hyannis, MA;  and shorter versions at Harvard University and Hartford, CT. Info on all of the conferences is on the web-site: www.tolef.org 

This shit is got to go (wisdom from a 94-year-old man)

9/11 Masterminds - Explosive Connections

Christianity /Islam Medley (Nesma and Mohammad Dakdouk) - Star Academy 8 Lebanon Prime

Why the elites are in trouble by Chris Hedges

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

Oct 12, 2011

Political Prisoners

It is good news that over 1000 Palestinian political prisoners will be released in a prison swap deal.  But there are still thousands of Palestinian political prisoners.  This Saturday we will be discussing in our cultural group the new book by Marwan Barghouthi about his life behind bars.  He will apparently not be part of this prisoner exchange deal neither will Ahmed Saadat of PFLP nor other key leaders.  For English readers on this list, I translated my review of Barghouthi's book (originally in Arabic) and included it here.  Below that I include some text on prisoners from my book "Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment." Hopefully those two sections will give you some idea about the struggles of political prisoners now in the news. Hopefully, Hamas (which did not get all it wanted but did score a political victory here) and Fatah (which scored a political victory by abandoning the futile US-led bilateral negotiations) could now implement their signed agreements especially on representation in the PNC.
Comparing Books by political prisoners: Nelson Mandela and Marwan Barghouthi
Review by Mazin Qumsiyeh

I read Nelson Mandel's inspiring autobiography many years ago. His book was titled "Long Walk to Freedom" because it was done after the end of apartheid.   Marwan Barghouthi's book is not an autobiography in that sense because our people's walk to freedom is still ongoing. It is thus titled "One thousand days in prison isolation cell" and refers to a part of the struggle. We indeed look for the day that our political prisoners can write books at the end of the road to freedom.

Barghouthi's book is dedicated to his wife, his children, to the Palestinian people, to the Arab and Islamic world, to all those who struggle and resist occupation and colonization, and to fellow prisoners. Mandela's book similarly recalls family, people, and fellow political prisoners.

Barghouthi recalls his village life in Kuber with much passion and love in his newest book but you will find the national cause dominate the book. While Kuber is mentioned two or three times, Palestine is mentioned on just about every paragraph. Mandela had a rural beginning in a small village called Mvezo and still retains that love of land.  He was a shepherd and ploughed lands.  He dreamed of becoming a lawyer and was like Barghouthi interested in learning. He enrolled at Birzeit University in 1983 but due to exile and other factors only finished his bachelor in 1994 (in history and political science).  In 1998, he got masters in international relations. Both Mandela and Barghouthi led youth movements in their teens and became strong leaders even as they were pursued and jailed.

Mandela like Barghouthi reports on mistreatment, lengthy incarcerations, resisting, and all that you expect from someone who went through such experiences.  Mandela like Barghouthi says that it is not what he actually did that he was being punished for but for what he stood for. Both were charged by the respective apartheid regimes of leading armed guerrilla groups.

Through these writings, you see a common characteristic: great humility.  They do not elevate themselves above the thousands who struggle for freedom.  Even though some of us consider them key leaders, they themselves see their role as foot soldiers. Barghouthi describes being beaten on his private parts and losing consciousness waking later to find a gash on his head from falling and hitting the cement wall.  The gash left a permanent mark.  But immediately after describing this, Barghouthi merely says (p. 21) that is it is merely a small example of what tens of thousands of activists were subjected to.

In the mid 1950s Mandela devised a plan and convinced fellow ANC leaders to adopt it that created a decentralized structure. Cells are formed at the grassroots level and select among them leadership at intermediate levels which insured secrecy and yet some level of democracy and operational meaning.  Barghouthi recalls how he was not happy about Arafat's autocratic structure and especially those around Arafat many of them were corrupt and not dedicated to the Palestinian struggle.

Barghouthi and Mandela speak of psychological warfare including the games of good investigator and bad investigator played to break prisoners' will.  A lot of what he says about mistreatment in prison will not be new to Palestinians alive today.  Most Palestinians above age 30 have tasted at least some of these pains.  Of course Barghouthi suffered more than most Palestinian males his age.

Barghouthi talks about how critical the visit by his lawyer was to break his isolation and makes him feel connected to life outside the prison.  Mandela also refers to the psychological boost received by knowing that people outside continue the struggle and care about the freedom of political prisoners.

Barghouthi states on page 130 how in prison you have lots of time to think.  He recalls these thoughts in detail and they range from his feelings of solidarity with all persecuted and oppressed people around the world to poor programming on Palestinian television (when the channel was allowed in prisons).  Barghouthi speaks about his passions like reading books. He speaks of his love for his family. He speaks of women liberation. He speaks of learning languages in jail. The thoughts of Mandela in jail also dealt with similar issues. Barghouthi describes solitary confinement as "slow death" (p. 81). Mandela calls them the "dark years".

Barghouthi speaks about how the US and western positions put significant pressures on Arafat and that finally, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas was appointed prime minister.  Abbas, according to Barghouthi, was known for his positions against resistance (p. 156).  In one section he talks about how leadership did not rise to the challenge or match the enormous struggle, aspirations and needs of the people.

Barghouthi says on page 148 that Israel can defeat a particular leader or faction or group of people but cannot defeat the will of the Palestinian people. On the next page he articulates beautifully why resistance in all its types is so critical to success in achieving our collective goals.  The cost of occupation and colonization must be made unbearable or at least more than the benefit from it for Israel to back off.

Barghouthi speaks about how his political actions did not stop in jail.  He gives several examples including the Palestinian factions observing a cease fire that started 19 December 2001 on the eve of the visit by American envoy General Anthony Zinni. That cease fire lasted for nearly a month but was broken by Israel's assassination of Ra'ed Karmi.

Barghouthi recalls that one of the more painful episodes was the abduction of his son Qassam. His letter to his son takes 30 pages of the book! It is an amazing letter that recalls the history of Palestine, the history of struggle, the history of the prisoner movement and much more.  But the letter also reflects on feelings and attitude of Barghouthi himself in key periods of his life.  How he felt when his son was born while he is in jail.  How he built a relationship with his wife despite being a man spending most of his life either on the run or in jail.  It is very detailed mentioning dates and events and surroundings that put the reader (his son and us) in those circumstances.  He recalls the death of his father 5 August 1985.  He talked about his biggest pains (which were not the interrogations, torture or solitary confinement) but when he was exiled to Jordan in the late 1980s.  Yet he also says that after his family joined him in exile from the homeland, the family life alleviated the pain of exile from his homeland. The letter ends with recommendations he gives to his son like any father gives to his son.  But here the recommendations are about exercising, reading books, learning languages, and keeping friendly relations with fellow prisoners.

The book finishes with a section about his wife and a final section about collaborators in Israeli jails.  It is significant that he decided to conclude with detailed exposure of the despicable methods of collaborations. Similarly, Mandela's autobiography includes a section on treason.

Oliver Tambo described Mandela as passionate, fearless, impatient and sensitive.  I never met either Mandela or Barghouthi personally but after reading these books, I can say that I agree not only with these adjectives applied to Mandela and Barghouthi but I can think of many others: humble, honest, intelligent, articulate, and I can go on but I will leave that to historians to give people their due.  But knowing such people at least through their writings and writings of others about them adds to our conviction that freedom is inevitable to nations that have such individuals.
Prison struggles in the book "Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and empowerment"

In this book I discuss the efforts for release of political prisoners that started in the 1920s when the women movement in Palestine succeeded in gaining release of three prisoners (Chapter 6). In chapter 7, we find that "On 17 May 1936, prisoners in Nur Shams prison declared a strike and confronted the prison guards who ordered soldiers to open fire. One inmate was killed and several wounded as prisoners shouted in defiance: ‘Martyrdom is better than jail’.(ref) On 23 May 1936, Awni Abdel Hadi, secretary general of the Arab Higher Committee, was arrested.(ref)…. On 9 September 1939, fighters took over Beersheba government facilities and released political prisoners from the central jail."

When the British government felt more confident in 1942-43 about the prospects of winning the war, it released some Palestinian political prisoners and allowed others to return from exile. Attempts to revive political activity during this period were nugatory. Awni Abdel Hadi returned from exile in 1943 and revived Hizb Al-Istiqlal, with help from Rashid Alhaj Ibrahim and Ahmed Hilmi Abdel Baqi, and even started a national fund."

In other section sof the book, I discussed the struggle of Palestinains inside the Green Line, many of them ended in jail as political prisoners.  Like Palestinains in the West Bank and Gaza, they supported their political prisonesr and struggled for their release. The struggle in the occupied territories continued. When Israel introduced extensions of so-called ‘administrative detention’ (detention without trial) for up to six months, a strike among Palestinian political prisoners started 11 July 1975.

Political prisoners in Israeli jails also organised themselves into effective committees [during the uprising of 1987] which carried out collective strikes which were especially effective in the 1980s and early 1990s.36 King interviewed Qaddourah Faris (from Fatah) who was a key leader of the prisoner movement. He talked about a successful hunger strike for humane treatment that involved 15,000 prisoners throughout Israeli jails.(ref) In 1990, Israel held over 14,000 Palestinian prisoners in more than 100 jails and detention centres at one time according to Middle Rights Watch.(ref) Even Israeli supporters like Anthony Lewis became outraged enough to write:

"The Israeli Government has taken thousands of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza into what it calls ‘administrative detention.’ That means they are held as prisoners, for up to six months at a stretch, without trial. At least 2,500 of the detainees are imprisoned in Ketziot, a tent camp in the burning heat of the Negev desert. On Aug. 16 Israeli soldiers shot and killed two of-the detainees there … The story had further grim details that I shall omit because they cannot be confirmed ... The prisoners at Ketziot, it must be emphasised, have not been convicted of doing anything. They have had not a semblance of due process. They are there because someone in the Israeli Army suspects them – or wants to punish them. Mr. Posner went to Ketziot to see two Palestinian lawyers being held there and four field investigators for a West Bank human rights group, Al Haq. He concluded that they had been detained because of ‘their work on human rights and as lawyers."(ref)

On 6 December 1998, during President Clinton’s visit, over 2,000 political prisoners went on hunger strike demanding to be released. Their message to both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership was not to negotiate issues that do not place their release on the agenda.

In September 1988, the Israeli army stated that the number of detainees it held was 23,600 and Peter Kandela reported cases of the use of torture on detainees.94 After the Oslo Accords many thousands of Palestinians were released. But many thousands more were imprisoned in the uprising that started in 2000. In total, over 700,000 Palestinians spent time in Israeli jails. On occasion, nearly 20 per cent of the political prisoners were minors.95
Political prisoners in Israeli jails also participated in non-violent resistance. Israel radio reported on a hunger strike by prisoners in the camps of Jenin, Ramallah and Nablus, who demanded improvement in their deplorable conditions in 1987.96 Al-Ansar prison in southern Lebanon, where thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese political prisoners were held by Israeli occupation forces, showed incredible acts of resistance and resilience, ranging from hunger strikes to refusal to obey orders to writing.97

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners went on a hunger strike from 15 August to 2 September 2004. During this time, the Israeli authorities tried various methods from persuasion to threats to beatings to break the strike; 13 UN agencies operating in the occupied areas expressed their concern.98
Outside the prisons, Palestinians and internationals protested and worked diligently to spread the word about the prisoners’ demands and their plight. It started with the prisoners’ families, many of whom joined the hunger strike. Crowds assembled on 16 August 2004 outside local offices of the Red Cross and marched to the Gaza headquarters of the United Nations where they delivered a letter addressed to Secretary General Kofi Annan, calling for him to apply pressure on Israel and improve the prisoners’ conditions. They demonstrated again in the thousands two days later.99 The PA, Palestinians inside the Green Line and the ISM called for hunger strikes outside the prisons to support the prisoners’ demands.100 The strike slowly gained momentum despite repressive measures.101 Israel’s Public Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi stated: ‘Israel will not give in to their demands. They can starve for a day, a month, even starve to death, as far as I am concerned’102 Eventually, the prison authorities conceded that the prisoners were entitled to some basic humanitarian rights.

Palestinian female political prisoners in Telmud Prison were mistreated and on 28 November 2004 their spokeswomen who complained about this was beaten and punished. When others complained, they too were punished, so they too went on hunger strike.103

Prisoners continued to use hunger strikes to protest against ill treatment and draw attention to their plight. For example, on 16 February 2006, Jamal Al-Sarahin died in prison. He was a 37-year-old ‘administrative detainee’ (held without charge or trial) who had been detained for eight months and badly mistreated. Prisoners called a one-day hunger strike.104

On 11 March 2006, a sit-down strike in front of the ICRC in Hebron was held to demand better treatment of prisoners. On 27 June 2006, 1,200 Palestinian political prisoners in the Negev Desert started a hunger strike to protest against the arbitrary and oppressive practices of the prison administration. In total, over 700,000 Palestinians have spent time in Israeli jails and the latest statistics show that 11,000 are still being held according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society.105

By 2009, Palestinians in Israeli prisons had achieved a number of successes by non-violent struggle and civil disobedience, including wearing civilian clothes (no orange uniforms), access to news, reasonable visiting rights and better access to healthcare. But the Prison Administration continues to chip away at those rights.106 Unfortunately, the PA is forced to subsidise the cost to Israel of maintaining Palestinian prisoners.

Because so many people are jailed for their resistance activities, Palestinian society has a profound respect and appreciation for the sacrifices of the prisoners. Time spent in prison is considered a badge of honour. Prisons also shape character. One former prisoner stated:

Like any human community, there are contradictions, but there is a common thread in the experience in prison that gives us strength, a common goal, a common purpose. We are joined together in struggle, so our shared experiences only make us stronger.107

(Excerpts from the book: "Popular Resistance in Palestine" by Mazin Qumsiyeh, Pluto Press, Available in Arabic from Muwatin, Ramallah).

Oct 9, 2011

The Great Book Robbery

Colonial history is a history of attack on native people and everything associated with them.   It is an attempt not only to erase the people but to erase their memory.  No other colonial system developed as many tools  to achieve this erasure than Zionism.  Zionsits used the classic brute force forms of ethnic cleansing where 530 villages and towns were depopulated and destroyed. Today more than 7 million of us Palestinains are refugees or displaced people.  Zionists also deployed all available tools from linguistics (erasing place names and creating new ones), to history/archeology (distorting and lying about history of an indigenous people while creating a fake history to justify zionism), to communication (planting agents in amin stream media to propagate the mythologies), to urban and rural social engineering to transform the ancient landscape. 

Part of this tsunami of destruction was the looting of Palestinian culture and property.  Israeli airlines even used Palestinain embroidery designs for ethir crews in the early 1950s.  They expropriated even food so that falafel and hummus became "Israeli foods." But as a professor who have spent all his life among books, I found the looting of Palestinain books as particularly troubling.  Ofcourse Israel looted the land, the houses, the factories, eth farms, and everying inside of those to create the "Jewish state" (see for example http://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Palestine-Remembered/Story680.html ).  But books hold a special meaning for us educated Palestinians.  We believe that the essence of a modernized people lie in the books they read.  Before 1948, Palestine had a vibrant cultural scene with Jaffa, Jerusalem, and Haifa (together with Cairo and Beirut) being great cultural and academic centers for the Arab world.  Local publishers in fact published just as many books in Palestine as in Beirut in the first half of the 20th century.  In that period, Palestinian politicians used to be the highest educated class in society.  Leaders from families like Al-Khalidi, Husseini, and AbdulHadi took pride in their private libraries. My own grandfather taught me that money comes and goes but a decent book purchased and read provides priceless life changing habits.  He himself authored several books and provided me with a role model for that.  As such, I feel pain when I recall people pushed out of their lands and then their property stolen and labeled "abanoned property".  This is such a horrible name since no one abandons their property.  It is and remains stolen.  I believe Palestine will eventually be free and refugees will return to tehir homes and lands.  They will also return so that this generation can reclaim the books of our grandparents.  As we dust and open those books, the hidden history will come to life and the the years of pain and exile will slowly recede into memories.  New knowledge will be built upon this old knowledge and this will help shape the Palestine of the future. 

Oct 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, Palestinians steps and more

In this week’s digest, further tree uprooting and destruction in Walaja, upcoming Friday Demonstrations, the death of Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple and son of a Syrian immigrant to America), home demolitions increased five folds, Israel police turning a blind eye to lynching, "anti-Semitism" in the occupy Wall street movement, where did Palestine come from, and two opinion pieces (one on biology of religion and one on the Palestinians next move).

The media, the Palestinian political leadership, and the public is not rising to the challenge as life is destroyed.  A good example is the village of Al-Walaja: this week another 100 olive and other trees were uprooted by the Israeli apartheid system just before the olive harvest season begins next week.  See here some comparison pictures (pictures taken on 28.09 and then 03.10 of the same area):
more pictures can be seen here:

Another example is the lack of media attention to the thousands of political prisoners illegally held by Israel.  Many prisoners are engaged now in a hunger strike after Israel removed some of their basic rights. So join us for Friday gatherings, vigils and demonstrations in several villages with emphasis on the issue of Palestinian political prisoners and land destruction.  Gather after Friday Prayers 12:30 in front of mosques in Al-Walaja (Bethlehem District), Susya (Yatta area, Hebron District), Nebi Saleh, Ni'lin, Bil'in (Ramallah District) among others.  Join us also Saturday at 1 PM in Beit Ommar.

I used computers since 1979 at the University of Connecticut and I bought my first Apple IIe computer in 1984 shortly after Time Magazine declared the computer as machine of the year in place of its "person of the year". Since then I have been an Apple computer fan.  The death yesterday of Steve Jobs, a cofounder of Apple was sad for me.  He was born in San Francisco to Abdulfattah Jandali, a Syrian immigrant and Joanne Schieble.  His parents separated and he was put up for adoption and was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs (née Hagopian, Armenian). Unlike others who connect to tribalism, Jobs believed in humanity and wanted to show that he, an individual can achieve by shedding any cultural and religious baggage.  He stated that people should never stop learning and should voraciously open their minds to new ideas. Here is Steve telling stories about Connecting the Dots, Love and Loss, and Death:

Demolitions by Israel increase fivefold, says new UN report: In the first six months of 2011, OCHA reports that the Israeli authorities demolished 342 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, including 125 residential “structures,” displacing a total of 656 Palestinians, including 351 children — almost five times as many demolitions and people displaced as during the first half of 2010.

Israel police turned a blind eye to a lynching: What happened at the entrance to the settlement of Anatot was a pogrom, a lynching. Media outlets that don't see fit to report a pogrom of this magnitude are partners in the policy, or the sins of omission, of abandonment.

On charges of anti-Antisemitism in the "Occupy Wall Street Movement"
Note: In my upcoming book about life and activism in the USA, I go in detail about how Zionists tried (many times successfully) to infiltrate all leftist and peace movements in the US to prevent any criticism of their beloved idols (Zionism and Israel).  To be with these movements, they can talk about repression everywhere in eth world and about economic or other exploitation at home but Israel becomes a taboo subject.  And when logic cannot work for them, they hurl the change of anti-Semitism, the weapon of last resort (sometimes first resort) to try to scare good meaning activists. But the trend in history is now clear and this will no longer work because Zionism is the antithesis of universal humanism and basic human rights (as I discussed in detail in my 2004 book "Sharing the Land of Canaan").

The Department of Corrections: Ben Hur, the LA Times and a place called Palestine

Opinion: Science and religion-- God didn't make man; man made god.  In recent years scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion's "DNA." J. Anderson Thomson and Clare Aukofer

Opinion: The Palestinians' Next Move by Prof. Rashid Khalidi

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD