Jul 7, 2012


I just returned to Palestine after a week giving talks in southern Germany (für einige meiner Schriften in deutscher Sprache sehen http://www.qumsiyeh.org/articlesingerman/ ).  Back in Palestine, there are many stories and interest in new scientific evidence that Yasser Arafat was poisoned and that his death ended the only (remote) possibility of a peace with Israeli leaders.  Germany is so beautiful and so organized and people are extremely hard working.  Everything works on time and quality is paramount: quality of manufacturing, quality of life, quality of education, quality of health care etc.  On the last night in Germany I went to the emergency room at 2 AM because I felt sharp pain in my left shoulder and arm and was not sure what that was.  Fortunately, ultrasound and an EKG assured us it was merely a muscle tear (from carrying luggage).  I had bought some old books and received many other books and reprints from colleagues especially at a museum of Natural History in Munich.  The latter museum contained millions of specimens meticulously cared for.  I am determined to work hard for establishing a Palestinian Museum of Natural History and to work even harder to bring our society along the way in health care and education.  Every room of the 6 patient rooms in the emergency room was fully equipped including with a state of the art EKG machine.  Here in my town of Beit Sahour we would like to get just one EKJ machine to serve 12,000 people especially the older people (including my mother), many with high blood pressure or diabetes.  We must change this!!

So I go back to contrast a week in a sane functioning country with our chaos, misery, occupation, and struggle just to live.  Of course not everything problematical here is due to the occupation/colonization.  Our problems (of economic poverty, cultural poverty, inequality, tribalism, religiosity without education, paternalism, poor civic engagement, poor health care etc.) are merely exacerbated by decades of occupation and more recently by the Oslo process and what followed it.  Even as a simple two steps we must insist: 1) on freedom of speech (see below on attack on Professor Budeiri as an example), and 2) that we respect our public spaces in the same way as we respect our private spaces in terms of cleanliness etc.  I do believe we are moving/will move in the right direction to struggle for democracy, dignity, and freedom.  None of these are given to us from others; they must be extracted with a price of sweat, tear, and blood.  Here is a segment of what I said at the conference in Munich June 30-July1, 2012:

Last week I was in a small threatened Palestinian community in Jiftlik in the Jordan valley. Their homes were demolished and livelihood threatened daily.  One man who has not gone through formal education but whose hands and face show that he got the education of the fields said to us: life is not difficult, only we humans make it difficult.  This reminded me of what black people in the deep South in the US used to say during the civil rights movement: “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow!”  Indeed I tell my students that they can do anything they choose to do.  The external obstacles are actually far less a problem than the internal obstacles we keep (the chains on our minds).

We are working on a movement for one democratic state.  All of us here believe it is inevitable.  In fact a survey of Israeli Jews a few years ago showed that nearly 70% believe there will not be a Jewish state by 2048.  Palestine was and continues to be one country from the past few thousand years.  Only for very brief periods it was divided for example between 1948-1967.  Since 1967, we had one political system but it is a system of apartheid (and this is not my description but a legal definition based on the International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and Racial Discrimination.)  All of us in this room are convinced that we can do better than that: we can have democracy, justice, human rights.  How to go from here to there (point A to point B) is why we are gathered here. We hope to build on the movement for one democratic state.

What is the definition of movement? Change in position or posture, transference from one situation to another. The agents of change are human beings and humans act when they are informed and convinced of a certain direction.  I personally read and write first so that I can understand/change myself.  In the 1990s I was very active in the rights of refugees and we collected 750,000 signatures by 1999 for the Right of Return.  This exercise and its positive results showed everyone how action on the ground can CHANGE perceptions and create MOVEMENT in a positive direction. This led me to write a book which was published in 2004 called “Sharing the Land of Canaan” (http://www.qumsiyeh.org/sharingthelandofcanaan/).  In it I argue in a scientific way (my background is biology and medicine) why there is no other logical scenario to arrive at a durable peace: a win-win situation.  Here are some of the chapters: 

People of the Land: Here I address as to why we are one people and not two people, who are the natives, how did people coexist despite differing religious beliefs .. etc.
Biology and Ideology: I addressed how biology of humanity and our genetics should be clearly and wisely interpreted and not distorted to claim support of racism.  The trajectory of our social human evolution is towards coexistence and peace not tribalism.
Palestinian Refugees: This is the most important issue that makes notions of segregation/separation impossible.  It is the basic and elemental right of Palestinians 11.5 million of us, 7 million of us are refugees or displaced people.
Jerusalem as a Pluralistic City
Zionism. Yoav mentioned in his talk that Zionist apartheid is not about separating Palestinians from Israelis but separating Palestinians from their lands and building the country up into a Jewish state.  Indeed, peace is incompatible with Zionism as a political idea (not cultural or religious Zionism that died out over 100 years ago)
Is Israel a Democracy? This chapter built on the previous one because Israeli laws were natural outcome of racist Zionist ideas in the same sense that laws in Apartheid South Africa were natural outcome of the Afrikaaner Apartheid philosophy.
Human Rights: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides a very good base for a real road map to peace, a durable peace. Other suggested ideas including two states lead to violations of human rights and thus sustaining the conflict.
The Conflict and Sustainable Development:  The future of the tourism industry, water, environment, and other natural resources, all argue against separation/segregation. 
Political Context: Politikos in Greek described relationship of citizens to government.  Many times the interests of the few who are in political leadership position are contrary to citizenship interests.  But the relationship is dynamic and depends on public pressure to change status quo.
International Context and International Law: I argued that this is not hostile to ideas of unity nor is it in support of segregation/separation.

In the last chapter of this 2004 book I point that “Peace can be Based on Human Rights and International Law” and proposed specific short term, medium term and long term goals for our MOVEMENT.  Others like Prof. Ghada Karmi and my late friend Prof. Edward Said argued along the same line. Subsequent people like Virginia Tilley and Ali Abunimah wrote books in 2006 also argued along the same line. So the theory and philosophy underlining work has already been done but implementation now is most urgently needed.  The Arab spring provides both opportunities and challenges as a new geopolitical landscape is created.

We also had several conferences in London, Dallas, Stuttgart, Haifa, Cambridge and now in Munich that informed us, allowed us to network, and put material and writings and sometimes in concise declarations and documents.  Just recently a group of Israelis and Palestinians published a vision/charter/foundational principles for one democratic state in significant detail (see http://www.1not2.org/One_State_in_Palestine/English.html). The group that formulated it includes myself, Ghada Karmi, George Bisharat, Haim Bresheet, Nur Masalha, Alma Jadallah, Naseer Aruri, Ilan Pappe, etc. but many many people endorsed it.  We all know these are all steps in ther right direction but more is needed.

We need structured movement that puts information in one place and shares it and builds a political infrastructure based on it.  Information may include material such as:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1949
- The PLO charter 1968
- The Canaanite movement charter
- Palestinian Civil Society Call to Action 2005
- The Palestinian Christian Kairos document 2009
- The various declarations and manifestos

Digesting these and taking from them what is positive and serves the movement (or at least lessons) is important.

In my book subtitles "Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian struggle" and also you heard from Ghada Karmi and Norton Mezvinsky that a struggle for human rights to change the status quo is an underlying principle of our movement.  We all asked to be concrete about what are we doing? What are we building? Thus I suggest we need working groups in areas like communications, outreach, finance, actions (including more actions of BDS: Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) etc….. [more later on the conference]

The BDS movement is maturing and coming really close to achieving its objectives of bringing peace and human rights to the Holy Land.  Read more about the amazing inspiring work by the Presbyterian Church on BDS:

The following letters were written by the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA).  The first, regarding Professor Musa Budeiri, is addressed to Khalil Hindi, the President of Birzeit University.  The second, regarding Gaza students' right to study in the West Bank, was sent to top-ranking members of the Israeli government, among others. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/6306/maghreb.jadaliyya.com/

A humanitarian got attacked for saying: “I must mention human rights violations in Syria and, being in Israel, human rights violations in the West Bank.  Silence in the face of evil is evil.”  This happened at Yad Vashem, a place that perpetuates tribalism and racism against others instead of teaching the universal lessons of our common history of many catastrophes including the Nakba

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home

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