Feb 10, 2013

Lessons for next uprising

Recommendations for the next uprising

My book on Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and Empowerment” was intended to let readers draw on lessons of 130 years of our resistance.  Yet, even that 300 page book was a small token of the kind of lessons drawn by locals here on the ground every day of our lives.  The fifth attempt to VISIBLY increase our presence on threatened Palestinian lands was met with even more brutal force in Yatta area of South Hebron hills (videos, pictures, stories below).  I say “visibly” because ofcourse local farmesr are doing this and successfully hanging on to a lot of their lands by sheer persistence and resilians every day 24 hours a day and for several decades of Israeli occupation/colonization.  Palestinians learn lessons from these activities towards the upcoming 14th or 15th wave of resistance (uprising).  Some of these more common lessons include (other lessons are not be discussed in public and are shared only between activists)

1) We do not need a lot of money: much was spent on Bab Al-Shams with many tents, bedduing, food etc that was all taken (stolen) by the Israeli authorities.  In the last attempt one tent was used and people started to build a stone hut.  Imagine if we all build stone homes or dig bunkers/caves in the hillside.  This only needs few resources (mostly volunteer effort).  In the process fixing the land and living on it.  It will be possible now that Spring is here and our land is very productive and more areas can be reclaimed to be even more productive.

2) We need mechanisms to educate participants about their rights and what to expect.  This is especially the case for their legal rights (including under International law).  If the Palestinian leadership is unwilling and/or unable to help with legal costs, then we must find a mechanism to do this. Proper medical care must also be provided to those injured. 

3) Palestinian politicians invariably try to attach themselves to any activity to advance their personal political agenda.  This is natural but activists must be aware of it and try to manage it politely but firmly (everyone ofcourse should be welcome to participate but not hijack the message). Further, a “leadership” that is only interested in maintaining privilages and positions must be challenged to either reform or get out of the way.

4) We must learn from mistakes.  For example in the first press release sent by the organizers of the Bab AlShams event, we were told: “For decades, Israel has established facts on the ground as the International community remained silent in response to these violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the game, for us to establish facts on the ground - our own land.”  In my opinion this was not a good statement. [Just for the record, I was a media activist for 25 years in the US and I organized media teams that for example were able to place hundreds of stories in mainstream US media and that is not an easy task considering its Zionist tilt]. But this area is already inhabited and we are certainly not mimicking colonizers with their “facts on the ground”.  We are Palesinians who are trying to help other Palestinians (of Al-Zaiem, Al-Eizeriya/Bethany, and Eisawia) hang on to this land.  Israel already cut down hundreds of fruiting olive trees, removed people, confiscated their lands etc. These facts were not articulated simply and effectively in the media messaging.  It was also disappointing that with media swarming around the even, the organizers did not pass a press kit that at least included a map and basic facts on the site (these are readily available including from a nice Palestinian source like Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, see for example this  http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=570).
Our subsequent events had clearer messaging/better media approach. 

5) We must increase use of social media in recruitment and education of activists. Activists must undergo some training.

6) We must undermine the Israeli policies of control.  Israeli planners via the Oslo mechanisms developed a system to ensure control of the Palestinians (the prison inmates!) by systematically removing our rights and returning tiny portions of them to us only when we “behave”.  For example the use of permits to enter our own cities like Jerusalem and the withholding of our own tax money (stealing). While difficult to reverse some of this (it would have been easier to simply refuse to comply in the beginning), it is not impossible to change the whole dynamic.  When there is a will there is a way. But more importantly, it is not possible to maintain the status quo.

7) We must make sure the occupation is costly to the occupiers (today it is profitable to the tune of billions of dollars).  Towards this we can learn lessons from other countries where local people where able to challenge and render impossible the continuation of occupations/colonizations: South Africa, Algeria, Vietnam etc. 

For more on strategies and techniques of activism, see http://qumsiyeh.org/activistmanual/ (a work in progress, your ideas can help expand these things).

Other police states  use water cannons to disperse crowds.  But to my knowledge only the apartheid state of Israel invented stinking chemical weaponry to use on peaceful farmers trying to tend their lands. The  mix of noxious substances and extracts from fecal matter sticks to skin and clothes and is hard to remove even if one is not knocked out and injured by the high power spray.   That was the fate of farmers from Yatta today as well as as us who came to show solidarity (see pictures below).  Israeli soldiers actually began their attack by simply kidnapping four journalists (I guess that was to reduce coverage and intimidate other Journalists present).  This was rather shocking especially to the many Internationals who have never seen actions of such brutality.  Our collective message for the fifth direct action to support local farmers stay on their land was "It is our natural right to develop, reclaim, improve, use, and live on all our lands, free and without threats from the occupiers".  The initial three tents were removed (stolen) by the occupation army very early at 6 AM.  We then went back to a somewhat different location and commenced building/developing the area (with a tent, a beginning of a simple stone hut etc).  But the 70 or so heavily armed apartheid racist troopers would have none of that.  They proceeded to kidnap people and then used that stink water cannon on peaceful civilians.  Against Israeli attempts to prevent us, we  made lots of pictures and videos.

On Friday there was a prayer vigil attended by over 100 Christians from the Bethlehem area to save the land near Cremisan from being overtaken by colonial settlements.  Already Bethlehem lost most of its lands to the growing colonial Jewish-only settlements.  One person at the event complained loudly about the presence of the British consul (after all Britain was instrumental in helping establish Zionism on top of Palestine.

Silence is complicity.  But I would go further and agree with a great thinker who once said that standing neutral in situations of injustice is taking the side of the oppression.  We are reminded of every day when we travel around the occupied areas and see the suffering but also the inspiring persistence and resilience of local farmers to hang on to their lands, of children to gop to school, of teachesr to teach, of healthcare professionals to take care of their patients, of artists to do their art, etc.  In short when we see Palestinians living in Palestine in dignity and (for the vast majority) refusing to succumb to the dictats of the racist regime. 

Photos of events at Cana’an village

Article from Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israeli-forces-remove-new-palestinian-tent-village-in-west-bank-1.502430

Interview I did about the subject earlier today

Silence is complicity
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD


  1. Please test my theory that Palestinians (Jewish or not) expect the Israeli state to complete its self-immolation in the near future. To the extent Israel ever had a purpose, this is its purpose. It is a Jonestown, Guyana, type operation. If you can reach Uri Avnery, much less Ira Sharkansky, I'd love to hear their reactions to your suggestion of this on my behalf.
    If that is the mind of the "Jewish and democratic state", it is rational to "sit tight" (sit quietly) and wait to see if you are still alive after they finish their ritual. This rather pathetic airstrike on Syria and the inconclusive general election suggest that the end is approaching.
    So the only reasonable and moral strategy for you would be to make yourself available to talk them out of suicide, keeping firmly in mind that you cannot force this conversation on them. It seems proper to ask them why they are commmitting suicide. "Them" means any supporter of Israel you meet: it might be your brother. If they accept that premise and still look ready to talk, you now have your operations and tactics to figure out. How do you convince someone who has doubts about their prospective suicide to come to the conclusion that this course is not justified? Can you do a cost-benefit analysis on such an intervention? Is a media kit an asset there? I would think such a conversation withers and dies with the first breath of publicity.
    I have an old bit of imagery, from reading about some "mission to hobos" (pardon my language) in Times Square, NYC, where it seemed to me the intervener had to throw a drape around the intended beneficiary so the latter could remove the stinking clothing, put on some fresh clothes, even take a bath, there in Times Square, without increasing an already massive sense of embarrassment. It must be very embarrassing to be a Jewish supporter of Israel, the racist genocidal state that is the suicide-strike-force of "Western" racist genocidal intent to invade Asia once and for all.

  2. Very interesting blog and well written of course. Some of these points would make a great impact on video and you could buy youtube views for it and increase it's popularity.

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