Feb 25, 2013

Liberating the Land of Canaan

I just returned to Palestine after a productive but tiring short tour of European cities (Paris, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Geneva) to rejoin the growing uprising against the occupation/colonization (a change) and to witness the PA and Israel still engaged in “security coordination” with our own tax money used as “leverage” (a no change).  Today was a day of anger as we buried Arafat Jaradat, a 32 year old father of two (and a third on the way) whose autopsy clearly showed he was tortured to death in Israeli jails (over 200 Palestinians lost their lives in Israeli prisons).* 

The tour featuring me and Jeff Halper to discuss the one-state solution was organized by the European branch of “Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace”. The organizers are mostly young students (though some of them are in graduate programs).  They did a tremendous amount of work.  They had invited me and Jeff to speak on the issue knowing that we hold somewhat different views (he is for a binational state within a confederation of Middle Eastern states while I am for one democratic secular state).  We both agree though that any dreams about the mirage of a two-state solution must be abandoned.  The discussions both during and between presentations were rather useful to all concerned including me. 

I had written a book on the subject called “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle”.  As it is out of (second) print now, I went ahead and put it on my website (http://qumsiyeh.org/sharingthelandofcanaan/ ).  Briefly I argued then (nearly 10 years ago) that a just peace can be achieved and that it can be durable and a win-win situation for all involved.  I suggested that instead of wasting time and energy talking about fictional solutions (like that of two-states) or less workable ones (vague binational state), we should insist on human rights as a basis for our activism.  Human rights are well enunciated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  These basic rights include the right not to be removed from one’s own lands and thus the rights of refugees to return to their homes and lands.  They include the rights to equality regardless of religion (thus Israel’s basic laws favoring Jews and discriminating against the native Christians and Muslims are against human rights). 

The various provisions of the UDHR clearly present us with only one way forward: one country for its entire people.  This happens to be also the main demand made by the native Palestinians from their first encounter with the harmful effects of political Zionism in 1880 (the colony of Petah Tikveh).  It remained our demands despite the Nakba of 1948, the Naksa of 1967, and the political setback of the Oslo “process”.  The latter was like a second Nakba: devastating to the psyche of the people. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of these disastrous “Declarations of Principles” and the agreements emanating from them.  They were supposed to be for a five-year (1993-1998) interim period while Palestinians and Israelis “negotiated” the final status issues.  But as most people realized then and all people realize now, no peace can be achieved by negotiating between a weak, imprisoned population and a strong colonial power that has no incentive to give up any stolen lands/resources.  After all, the occupation of the 1967 areas is the most profitable occupation in history (>$10 billion in direct profit annually to the state of Israel).  And this is not taking into account the benefit Israel gets from continued use of the land it occupied in 1948 by continuing to deny the refugees the right to return to their homes and lands.  It is also not taking into account the hundreds of billions Israel got over the past 65 years from Western Government and individual “donors” by playing the victim card while it was the most repressive regime engaged in massive war crimes and crimes against humanity.

These kinds of facts are slowly being recognized by civil societies around the world.  Many of those people finding these facts are also acting on them.  The Israel-Palestine question remains the most pressing issue in the world agenda since the collapse of apartheid in South Africa.  This is because, like that situation, the racism and apartheid in Palestine presents a severe challenge to the “world order” created after WWII.  After all, what value is all this talk about democracy, human rights, international law, and peace if the western governments continue to support a racist apartheid regime that ethnically cleansed 530 villages and towns and imprisons the remaining Palestinians in open air prisons (ghettos, Bantustans, cantons, people warehouses)?  Add to that this is the Holy Land where members of one religion now determine everything that happens with a set of discriminatory laws against members of other religions.

My humble recommendations for going forward (not in any order):
-Palestinians should rise-up against the system created in Oslo and rejuvenate the Palestine Liberation Organization to be representative of all 12 million Palestinians. This must be based on a clear strategy advocating for one democratic state.
-Palestinians continue and intensify resisting the occupation and colonization schemes of the Israeli government and settlers including pushing for a new wave of resistance (the 14th or 15th uprising)
-The international community intensifies its efforts at Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) in the same manner as we did with apartheid South Africa.  We encourage all to act by visiting Palestine and see for themselves the horrors of apartheid and then to act by many methods (see http://qumsiyeh.org/whatyoucando/ for 64 ways to act)
-We intensify the use of the internet (social networking, Tweets, Facebook etc.) to bring millions more to join the global struggle against Zionist apartheid and colonization.
-We should increase outreach among Israeli Jews who were isolated and brainwashed by their own government, so that they can see reality and the writing on the wall that there is no future for the programs of racism and ethnic cleansing done grotesquely in the name of “Jewish nationalism” (a false messiah).

“Our food is our curse” was a title of an article in an Egyptian newspaper I read on the way back home.  The author argued that Egyptians have become so focused on making their daily living as individuals that interest in issues, knowledge, and societal improvement have diminished or disappeared.  I agreed somewhat especially after being tricked to pay more on three occasions just in the last day of my travels.   But I would think he was a bit too pessimistic.  I think there is still a lot of good in Egypt, in Palestine, and in the Arab world.  The fact that he can write and critique is in itself a good indication.  I am also optimistic because the growth of the internet made change inevitable.  There is now hundreds of millions of people logging in and socially networking and learning from each other.  Ideas spread like viruses and power, previously concentrated in the hands of the few, is slowly diffusing to the hands of the many.  While we have no illusions about the obstacles we face (greed, institutionalized racism, western politicians beholden to Zionist lobbies, apathy etc.), we are 100% confident in the inevitability of democracy, justice and peace.  Much of our work will only help speed up the arrival of that inevitable future.  This acceleration will save lives and reduce other forms of suffering.  I see the change happening all around our shared blue planet.

Action: Please work for the release of all prisoners: Israel continued to kidnap Palestinians including several people we know or are friends of friends.  For example they arrested our activist colleague Mohammad Shabaaneh was kidnapped by the Israeli occupation authorities and has been isolated without seeing a lawyer and without charges.  He is a cartoonist.  He is added to the thousands of Palestinians imprisoned in the apartheid jails. http://mondoweiss.net/2013/02/palestinian-cartoonist-international.html
See also this report about other human rights violations including the arrest of 27 year old Yazan Mohammad Sawalha who was imprisoned years before and returned to university and was about to graduate

Feb 18, 2013

Samer near death and more

I will be speaking in Paris, Bordeaux, Grenoble, and  Geneva this week, and in South Africa (Johannesburg and Capetown) the week of 3-11 March 2013. Details will be updated at http://www.qumsiyeh.org/upcomingevents/

Letter from Samer Issawi, Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike xclose to death (210 days without food)
[here in Palestine, we had regular vigils, demonstrations, and confrontations with the occupiers to de mand the release of Samer and other prisoners of conscience unjustly held by the occupiers.  Samer and others were released as part of an exchange of prisoners and tehn Israel rearrested or kidnapped them under the unlawful system of "administrative detention" without charge or trial].

BDS Good news: South African agricultural company severs Israeli relations

Together for one democratic state; conference in Stuttgart

Action: Open Shuhada street campaign 25 February

The Center for Constitutional Rights, in collaboration with the National Lawyers Guild and others, is organizing the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support initiative in order to protect and advance the constitutional rights of Palestinian rights activists across the U.S. http://palestinelegalsupport.org/

A new genetic study of the European (Ashkenazi) Jews and Middle Eastern and European populations shows again that the Zionist idea of Jewish dispersal and return to Palestine is false.  Most of the genetic affiliation of European Jews falls squarely in clusters of other Europeans with very limited Middle Eastern input.  By contrast Iranian, Iraqi and even Azerbeijan Jews are Middle Eastern (by and l;arge).  See figures in the original paper titled “The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses” by John Hopkins scientist Eran Israeli-Elhaik http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1208/1208.1092.pdf

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

Feb 6, 2013

Turkel report whitewashes war crimes

Turkel report whitewashes war crimes:
The ball is now in Palestine’s and Turkey’s court
By Mazin Qumsiyeh

Victims from the attack on the Mavi Marmara, Furkan was also a US citizen

The Israeli “investigation” of its own crimes exonerated itself, again.  In the first part of the so called Turkel report, in January 2011 the Israeli appointed commission (not independent but known apologists for the Israeli government) “found” that its attack on the Mavi Marmara and the Gaza freedom flotilla (Turkish and international-flagged civilian ships in International waters), was “kosher” by International law.  International legal experts, UN investigators, human rights organizations, the Turkish government, and most of the world governments and world public disagreed.  In fact, if the US has not blocked action by NATO (because decisions must have agreement of all NATO members), this is an actual attack on a NATO country.  But today (February 6, 2013 more than two years later) came the second even more shocking (though not unexpected) part of the Turkel report.  This is the most convoluted whitewash sophistry in jargon that one can see.  This part was supposed to look at the actions of the Israeli commandos as they pirated (and yes that is the proper term PIRACY) the ships but also in actions in the West Bank. Turkel concluded that Israel’s oversight and investigations procedures of war crimes in this incident and in actions in the West Bank “in general meet the requirements set by International law.”!  Ironically in another part of the report it says that Israel unlike other Western Countries had no definition or delineation of what constitutes war crimes! The commission thus could not really evaluate something they had no definition of and if they wanted the definitions that most countries ply it is available in International law (e.g. the Geneva conventions which were not brought up in this context by Turkel).  Israel is obliged to follow International law including refraining from war crimes.  I do not need to go through the rest of the lengthy report since it is mostly dealing with “operational improvements” in the actions of the Israeli forces and the Israeli government.  It actually regresses by making a recommendation to the government that such events as attack on Palestinians or Internationals should not be investigated by Israeli police or Israeli civilian legal system but by the “Israeli military advocate general”.   This is the same advocate general who received 240 well documented cases of abuse by the Israeli forces in 2012 but not a single case was brought to indictment/trials of the perpetrators (this is from Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization that looked into this).  And this was a relatively quiet year. In 2003 and 2004 there were hundreds of executions and other war crimes by the Israeli military.    

The Turkel report assigned no responsibility and was clearly intended as a PR campaign to show that no International and truly independent investigation is needed since the occupation army and the colonial state do a “good job” investigating themselves though they can improve “operationally” in this good performance!  Even the Israeli investigation of the massacre of hundreds of civilians at Sabra and Shatila in 1982 (a massacre performed by Lebanese phalange paid mercenaries of the Israeli army with lighting and protection by Israeli forces) was a bit more nuanced.  That 1982 investigation at least assigned some responsibility to then defense minister Ariel Sharon who left political life briefly but returned to become prime minister instead of being sent to the Hague for war crimes.   And of course independent UN investigations are not allowed or if they happen are dismissed out of hand.  Even the killings of US citizens are not investigated independently (for example see the murder of Rachel Corrie).

I think this “Turkel report” should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I think Turkey (a member of the International Criminal Court and a member of NATO) and Palestine (which can now apply for membership) should take Israel to the ICC.  I think Palestinian and Turkish officials meeting with President Obama next months should say to him: enough is enough.  It pained me to see Salam Fayyad meeting with Israeli Knesset members and pleading with them to release the Palestinian tax money that Israel stole.  After 20 years of “Oslo”, will they learn that pleading and begging colonizers/occupiers for our rights does not work?

If you want to waste a lot of time reading gibberish, here is the website of the Israeli commission that exonerated the Israeli actions: see http://www.turkel-committee.com  but for for real reports on what happened on the Mavi Marmara and the pirated ships people can read the reports below:

Two UN reports contradict the Israeli report.  See for example

All human rights organizations who looked into this even wanted stronger actions (and of course these were not on the agenda of Mr. Turkel).  See for example Amnesty which first described the initial Israeli report of January 2011 as a whitewash
and came up with a  strong report of its own

The Turkish government detailed report (though I coulf not find a direct link to the text, there are many new reports on the internet about it).

But if Israel is about transparency, why not release the hundreds of camera/video cameras that it confiscated from the hundreds of passengers on board?  Why not even mention them in the Turkel report (which did use the selective videos by Israeli military commandoes).  The few smuggled videos are rather damning and indeed show war crimes. 

Here is a segment of execution by Israeli soldiers of a peace activist on board the Mavi Marmara http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pi6c10ntFZk
And here is a far longer smuggled video that shown many other atrocities issues
And of course Mr. Turkel and company did not care about the testimony of hundreds of survivors.  Here is just one chilling testimony: http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/middle-east/kidnapped-israel-forsaken-britain
And the Turkel report does not allude to these Photos that show Mavi Marmara passengers protecting, aiding Israeli soldiers http://aliabunimah.posterous.com/blog-post-israel-hasbara-fails-again-pics-sho

Gideon Levy wrote an article that says “Israel does as it pleases: Until now it’s worked. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Sudan and, of course, the Palestinians wiped the saliva, said it was rain and restrained themselves, because they are weak and Israel is strong.” http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/israel-does-as-it-pleases.premium-1.501032

Well I say again this “Turkel report” could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back if Turkey (a member of the International Criminal Court and a member of NATO) and Palestine (which can now apply for membership) can get their act together. I do hope we will not have to wait for the next war crime to act.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

Feb 3, 2013

Here facing immorality

Here is where Israeli colonial settlements continue to expand on our lands. Here is where Israeli elites make billions from injustice while nature and people suffer.  Here is the forefront of a global struggle. Here is where western hypocrisy gets exposed.  Rhetoric about democracy and liberty in Syria and Iran is stripped naked when people see Western supported colonialism, racism and subjugation in Palestine. Here is where billions of Western taxpayer money is used to destroy life while enriching land thieves and war criminals.  Here where we lost most of our land to colonial settler activity and suffer regularly from racist settler attacks.  Here is where morality is shed daily because of paranoia and inferiority/superiority complexes (chosen but eternally victimized Jewish “people”).  Here is where immorality has become a norm of society (see good analytic piece in Haaretz below).  Here is where yesterday the Israeli occupation army and racist colonial settlers attacked villagers in Burin.  Several Palestinians were injured (one 16-year old Palestinian was shot by live ammunition from settlers). 18 were brutally arrested/kidnapped including our friend Ashraf Aburahma from Bilin. Ashraf was himself arrested many times in nonviolent demonstrations.  In one videotaped event, he was handcuffed, blindfolded and THEN shot at close range by occupation soldiers.

But here also is where we must and we will change things.  Here the struggle goes on (La Luta Continue, tastimur almasira) to hang on to our humanity. We Palestinians with help of people of conscience from around the world must do better to challenge immorality (including “mental occupation”).  We must work harder to undermine apartheid and repression.  More people come to visit and participate with us in our struggle thus lighting candles in the darkness.  We must accelerate this and be more bold.  Nothing scares the elites in the apartheid state or their Western and Arab/Palestinian collaborators than actions like civil disobedience and BDS (boycotts, divestments, and sanctions) and other forms of practical resistance.  There are signs of a new uprising/intifada. It will be the 13th or 14th wave/uprising on the way to liberty.  We hope it is a global uprising against injustice and that is why many of us talk with internationals on a daily basis about morality, justice, and human rights.  Of course there will be pain along the way (as happened yesterday in Burin) because no freedom is acquired without struggle and sacrifices. May the families of those thousands of martyrs killed in the struggle be comforted.  May the injured heel.  May the prisoners be released (some are now close to death as they engaged in a hunger strike).  May all the suffering end.  May more people shed immorality and join us to work to accelerate the end of injustice.

Do visit Palestine frequently even if only in your mind.

Just one story of thousands in the land of immorality: The struggle of Burin village
Pictures http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.560035280673447.130173.136633479680298&type=3
Videos before the evictions and arrest but shows settlers throwing stones
https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=K5mtU5SPRYU
Video of beating and kicking a Palestinian during the arrests https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVklEywRgUE

Standing defiant. Khalid Daragmah's family protect their land in a sea of settlements

Follow-up: In my talks and in taking delegations around, I sometimes mention some things which happened in the past like the story of the “fugitive cows” in Beit Sahour or the destruction of a playground in Beit Jala.  Here and in future emails I will send some follow-up on these stories and on stories I had shared in previous emails.  They are not only relevant to those who heard directly from me about these things but to the thousands of others who receive those emails.
The Story of 18 fugitive cows of Beit Sahour
 Video of the Israeli destruction of a playground to build an apartheid wall on Palestinian land http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH5KAvkgoDE

Analytical pieces
Never Again – unconditionally:
 “As Jews, with our own painful history of oppression, we are compelled to speak out against human rights violations committed by the State of Israel – in our name – against the Palestinian people.” These are the first words of a group of South African Jews in their public statement in the Mail & Guardian of 14 December 2012. They recognize not only their own wounds and humanity…………

Big Brother: When secrecy becomes a norm in Israel, it comes as a price premium