Sep 28, 2023

September Update

Update from The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) Bethlehem University The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability was created at Bethlehem University with the vision of enhancing and promoting sustainability of human and natural communitie. Its mission is to research, educate about, and conserve our natural world, and Palestinian culture and heritage, and to use knowledge to promote responsible, empowered human interactions with all components of our environment. The institute developed infrastructure and human resources, which now include a Museum of Natural History (PMNH), an ethnography exhibit (cultural heritage), a botanic gardens, a community garden, an animal rehabilitation center, a biodiversity center, a herbarium, molecular laboratories, and more. PIBS is engaged in activities including: 
 1. Exploring the diversity of the fauna, flora, and human ethnography via collections and scientific research that includes morphology and genetics. 
 2. Environmental protection and responsible interaction between people and the environment. 
 3- Using the knowledge acquired to promote science education and develop citizen science 
4. Developing and increasing respect: a) for ourselves (self-empowerment), b) for our fellow human beings (regardless of background), and c) for all living creatures and our shared planet. 
5. Using research results in areas such as history, culture, permaculture and biological control to promote sustainable communities. View our latest annual reports, and for short videos about activities, please see and
The past academic year 2022/23 was a very busy year. Here are some highlights: 
 1) PIBS published 18 research papers in peer reviewed journals in many areas: fauna, flora, conservation measures, environmental injustice, sustainable agriculture, climate change, protected areas, and human rights. 
2) PIBS held over 55 local workshops for children, several for women, and many for adults to empower and encourage good stewardship of the environment. We also organized global workshops and conventions on areas like biodiversity and human diversity. 
3) PIBS led the effort to create the national report for the Convention on Biological Diversity and to create the National Strategy and Action Plan 2023-2025 
4) PIBS led on-the ground efforts to create a new Protected Areas Network which was then approved by IUCN and the Palestinian government. 
5) PIBS developed a mobile museum that reached marginalized communities 
6) PIBS staff traveled to the many countries (UK, USA, Greece, UAE etc.) during the year spreading knowledge and awareness. For example, the August trip to USA included giving 45 talks in 12 states plus DC meeting hundreds of people and gathering support for the State of Palestine and our Institute at Bethlehem University. Upcoming trips are planned in the next few months to Italy, Qatar, Australia, and New Zealand 
7) PIBS has provided leadership and acted as a model for national, regional, and global actors in areas like environmental justice and challenging settler colonialism vis a vis the environment 
8) PIBS, having secured 2/3rds of the funding (more is needed), started a major project to create a national level museum of natural history and ethnography. Work commenced on site at the Mar Andrea Campus (see pictures below for design and renovation work in progress) 
9) PIBS set up a successful animal rehabilitation unit. For example, we now are rehabilitating five hyena cubs and just released a rehabilitated fox.
Our plans going forward are ambitious including completing the model museum, executing projects for conservation of wetlands, accelerating research, increased educational activities to marginalized communities (including via the mobile museum), expanded animal rehabilitation facilities, and implementing restoration and rehabilitation of habitats including via tree planting.
Our collective past successes and plans for the future are only doable because of hundreds of volunteers and donors. It is a COLLECTIVE work and we can do much more with your additional support. YOUR partnerships advances sustainability for both humans and natural communities in Palestine and beyond (our collective vision). Please visit to partner with us or email us at or call us 970-22773553 Visit us in Bethlehem and follow us on facebook

Sep 4, 2023


 Having traveled over the past month in 12 states plus the District of Columbia, given 45 talks and met hundreds of good people (most for the first time), Jessie and I have a few observations. Some of our views were held before, some sharpened, some new. Our talks and conversations emphasize biological diversity, agricultural diversity and human diversity (hence by nature opposing colonialism, zionism, imperialism, racism). We also emphasize joint struggle for a more peaceful and sustainable planet. Our work in Palestine exemplifies this global growing power (e.g.

 We still have few more events in California and Florida which you can see at the posted schedule here:
We thought to share with you in bullet points below some observations and some photos:

-The homogeneity in the US is mainly in areas associated with the economy and. consumerism. Streets look and feel the same from coast to coast and in the midd;e of the country
-People on the other hand are still heterogeneous and you encounter all sorts of people: poor, rich, ultra rich, some Middle Class (shrinking), right, left, homeless, ultra religious fundamentalist, atheist, self-sacrificing, etc
-The few US citizens that travel have a more liberal views of the world and ted to be less chauvinistic and self-centered (that is expected)
-There is still a collective amnesia regarding the genocide of natives and of slaves (tens if not hundreds of millions).
-There is little knowledge of how Israel and Zionism damage the US.Few know of the intentional Israeli killings of US citizens (USS Liberty, Rachel Corrie, Shireen Abu Akleh etc) and violations of US law by supporting Israel
--There is increased Zionist infiltration at every level of government and civil society that tries to shape policies in support of Zionist colonization (apartheid and genocidal racist). American Jews are still by and large supportive of Israeli actions including of ethnic cleansing and they reject the right of return to Palestinian refugees. Flying Israeli flags in synagogues etc, However, Younger Jews are more questioning and groups like Jewish Voice for PEace are growing
-We get asked all the time about why the Palestinian authority is so corrupt and inept and how to change that
-We visited the Israeli Elbit towers along the US-Mexico border, a contract that was given to an Israeli company inspite of the facts that se sellinga) there was other local bidders, 2) It is against US law to give technology to foregcountries that then repackage them and sell them to others - in this case selling it back to the US
-Most US Citizens did not know that their country is violating its own laws for example the Leahy amendment that prohibits the support of countries that persistently violate human rights. Israel is a state that persistently violates human rights as documented by all human rights organizations (Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, B'Tselem, Physician for Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights etc), the UN, the EU and even the US state department! Yet, Congress pressed by the Zionist Lobby gives billions of tax $ to "Israel" every year and denies the treasury billions more by allowing tax deductible donations to the apartheid system (even tax deductible donations to illegal settlers/squatters on Palestinian land and even to the largest terrorist organization in the world (the Israeli military)

Finally we say: people are intrinsically good, generous, & kind. The minority that guide us to wars, racism, conflict, consumerism, habitat destruction, pollution etc. get away with much precisely because the majority remain silent or comliant. It is our collective job to mobilize, to organize, to push for positive action... for a global intifada. Nothing less than the future of earth is at stake.

Join us and stay human

Mazin Qumsiyeh & Jessie Chang
in San Francisco

Aug 27, 2023

US Tour 2023

 Dear All

I can not begin to describe how grateful Jessie and I are for the hospitality, positive interest and support we received as we undergo a whirlwind tour of the US. 12 States (NY, CT, MA, DE, MD, VA, OH, MI, IN, AZ, CA, FL) and the DC area included some 45 talks over a little less than 5 weeks.  So many great people and organizations hosting us. Organizing events is hard work so we thank those who organized events (many events also offered attendees food so that is lots of work). We thank those who attended the events. We thank those who hosted us in their homes allowing us to disrupt their lives and making us feel at home. We thank those who donated money and resources (in kind donations). We love you all. For those who could not come or are so inclined, we would love to get your support. Go to or Below are selected photos from some of our activities. And here is a partial list of groups and entities that hosted us

Middle East Crisis Committee; Palestinian Museum-Woodbridge, WESPAC-NY, Community Church of Boston , Jewish Voice for Peace, Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, Smithsonian Institution, Purdue University, Arizona Palestine Group, United Methodist Church, Jerusalem Fund, Bethlehem University Foundation, Rotary Clubs in several states, WSLR, KPFK, UC Berkeley among many others.

Jul 14, 2023

Lebanon & Palestine

I just concluded a quick trip to Beirut. Conference on Biodiversity at the UN and also a quick visit to one of the most unlivable refugee camps in the world. Shatila's 1 square kilometer houses over 20,000 Palestinian and other refugees! Not allowed to work in 73 professions, poverty is now deep-rooted. It is hard to describe as extremely crowded with children everywhere living in subhuman conditions. They are prevented from returning to their homes and lands from which they were ethnically cleansed by colonial settlers and they are forgotten by a cruel world. But due to Lebanese resistance to Israeli expansionist and imperialist policies, the Lebanese economy itself was also shattered. Lebanon and Palestine, one entity shattered first by Sykes-Picot then by the Balfour project and the Nakba and continues to be assaulted. Poverty is so high among Lebanese and Palestinians in Lebanon. One quarter of the population of this small country are refugees. Lebanon is infected by factionalism pushed for by colonial "divide and conquer." Inflation fueled by "western" sanctions to serve Israel is extremely high ($1 = 80,000 lebanese lira). Human misery is hard to describe. Things only got worse from my last visit in 2009 (see this which includes video ) Yet, I and the people I met with (Lebanese and Palestinians) still have hope. I had a fruitful discussion with over 50 people in a children center there focused on our hopes. Our hope springs from the fact that there are still good people giving and working for peace, for justice, for a better future. After you look at the pictures below, read further below on what Kahlil Gibran (honored globally) wrote especially on giving.

the camp honors a human rights activist

talk at children and youth center

mass grave with martyrs names

children give hope

a camp photo
Gibran was so observant

Kahlil Gibran’s the Prophet: On giving
Then said a rich man, Speak to us of Giving.
And he answered:
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need by need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?
There are those who give little of the much which they have—and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes. He smiles upon the earth.
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.
You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, or receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life—while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
And you receivers—and you are all receivers—assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.

Jul 3, 2023

Hope: present and future

 The past 30 hours, Israeli occupation and apartheid forces invaded the city of Jenin including the Jenin Refugee camp. They bulldozed streets and electricity and water infrastructure. They prevented ambulances and attacked he press. Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes. A second etic cleansing for them. Our people are refused international protection and as before, Israeli atrocities are done with western and Arab world complicity. The few "statements" issued by some governments to express "concern" are satisfactory to the Israeli oppressors. While the Western powers hypcritically give billions of aid to Ukraine against Russia for occupying part of its territory, the same powers support the occupiers of Palestine. They support apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

I would like to make a personal reflection here. I am 66 years old and has spent all my adult life working for the cause of freedom, A vision of sustainable human and natural communities. Hope is indispensable because we cannot afford despair. Empowerment is far more challenging because it implies work on conviction. IWe find it most challenging to get enough people empowered to effect the change needed. Once empowered people engage and use methods they deem most effective to get the desired results. I discussed hundreds of methods people used here, most of them not armed, in my book "Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and empowerment". I also engaged myself in dozens of popular resistance methods. For the past 9 years my wife and I have been volunteering full time (and 7 days a week) building up from scratch a "Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability. It is an oasis of hope and of sanity in the middle of mayhem. It is a candle in the darkness. I do not want you to have the illusion that we are 100% sure of our way. Doubts and uncertainty abound especially in difficult times which we face a lot and in times of crisis like this one with Jenin. For example, how certain are we (at a personal level) that our way is the right way when the Israeli regime has been bombarding us for 75 years, has caused 8 million refugees or displaced people? Was John F. Kennedy right to say “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”? Is there a survival of the meanest and the most wicked in this crazy world? Are the majority of Palestinians infected with mental colonization that immobilizes them (I wrote a chapter on this in a book on post-colonialism)? How many people have discipline and a work ethic and a commitment to make this a better world? How many people have "enlightened self interest" rather than narrow and foolish self-interest?  Are my expectations of myself and those around me higher or lower than it should be? Last night as I pondered these and other questions in a sleepless night, I realized that I do not have many answers and what answers I have, they can only apply to me (afterall, we can only change ourselves in reality).

Twenty years ago in my book "Sharing the Land of Canaan"  I articulated what I consider the rational way to stop the onslaught on people and nature in historic Palestine (now under the boot of Israel) I add the quote from Howard Zinn related to hope which I used in that book to remind myself:

"There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment we will continue to see. We forget how often in this century we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places -- and there are so many -- where people behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

A blog I posted in late 2014 about life and how we live

B’Tselem Conquer and divide

Palestine video 1938

Who is the national security advisor Jake Sullivan, the man running US foreign policy?

Palestinians are in Israel's cross hairs because they are not Jews

The Hindu Nationalists Using The Pro-Israel Playbook

Bill Clinton Lied—And So Did Everyone Else: A Mystery Solved in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Apr 10, 2023

Loneliness and Rachel

 On this day, Rachel Corrie’s Birthday, I reflected on her message which mentions loneliness (see message below). In my 65 years on this earth I talked to more than 120,000 people and I continue to find difficulty understanding connectivity and loneliness. The Beatles' song "look at all the lonely people" plays in my head with every encounter. “We feel alone, and in this we are connected” said Leo Babauta. In other words, everyone at some level is lonely. While many are reluctant to admit it: we are lonely even when we are surrounded by friends, a lover, and family.As a biologist and at an intellectual level, I can understand that. While we (Homo sapiens) evolved as a social species, our genome and chromosomes produce variations and characters that ensure uniqueness and individuality. This is both a blessing and a curse. Of course there are variations among people in behaviours and even in levels of feeling lonely. How different people react to their circumstances is also shaped by their background and upbringing. Being adored or being popular does not free you from loneliness. Stars and celebrities all feel loneliness and their mind may react to it in different ways generating behaviours ranging from self-destruction to charity. How many stars went down the path of self destruction (Elvis Pressly, Marilyn Monroe etc.)? On the other end of the spectrum we find people like Danny Thomas ("make room for Daddy")  who went on to establish St Jude Children Research Hospital (where I worked in cancer research for two years meeting him three times before he died and old and happy man.  My conversations with him as with Edward Said and many other "famous" people taught me that the most important aspect is to remain humble, to remain curious, to remain a student of life. This does not save you from loneliness. It does shed a new light on loneliness. Recognizing that we humans have a biological need for acceptance and validation, our mind and attitude can deal with this and manage it by inward reflection. The Buddhist philosophy says to mediate and be still. Be like water which seeks the lowest places yet can erode and shape rocks. But even when we feel pain, our Buddhist friends tell us: embrace it and do not fight it. It is part of you. Many religions even encourage followers to endure pain (such as pain of hunger when fasting) by keeping an eye for the goal. But we do not have to believe in heaven and hell (carrots and sticks) to do what all know is right (and not do what is wrong).

Loneliness is not the same as being alone or solitude. Loneliness can be turned around. It has to do with choice. You can take time alone (whether because you choose or because you are forced ) to learn from books, reading poems, reflecting on what you want to do next, and even to forgive yourself (we all have our sins to atone for including the sin of wasting time vegetating and being sorrowful!). Getting out of depressive loneliness like any other negative emotion (fear, hate, guilt) requires practice and mind "management." The only minds we can actually (& thankfully) control are our own minds. When I visited Mumbai many years ago I saw thousands of people in abject poverty on the streets. One image still etched in my mind: a family, father, mother, two children sprawled at 11 PM semi naked on card boads on a street with a cell phone that they were watching and laughing (their own TV). The sound of that laughter never leaves me. It is the same laughter I heard from Children at a Palestinian refugee camp who invited me to share a meager meal with them (hummus, zait and zaatar and bread). It was the jokes and laughter I heard from Palestinian prisoners sharing a cell with them (even though it was for one night, and I feld crushed to leave them). When I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, I need to remember those times and places where hope, kindness, love, and camaraderie was shown. Those memories sustain us when we are alone (by choice or not) and certainly can pull us out of the loneliness (even that which happens when we are surrounded by people).  I end with the words of our friend Rachel Corrie who wrote in January 2003 (two months before she was murdered by the Israeli occupation army):

"We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone. What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing? If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor, it would be a reality. And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless. This realization. This realization that I will live my life in this world where I have privileges. I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly. I can wash dishes...."

Rachel changed millions of minds and hearts… that is something to celebrate on her birthday (she would have been 44 today) …..

The rose that grew from concrete: Palestinian refugees in Jordan 'green' their camps to resist:

American held by Israeli occupation

Occupation 101- Voices of the Silenced Majority

For first time more US democrats sympathize with Palestinians than Israelis according to Gallup poll

Feb 21, 2023

Carter and Al-Haq

Last week I shared one inspiring story on my blog on my mother. This week, I share another two stories, one a bit controversial. You can read my reflections about Jimmy Carter and about Al-Haq (a Palestinian brilliant human rights organization) below. 

President Jimmy Carter born 1924 whose mother was a nurse and father ran a general store in Plains, Georgia. It is hard to sum up his achievements in 99 years (he was just checked into a hospice). Racist Zionists vilified him for writing a book called “Israel: Peace not apartheid”. But let me leave this aside for few more sentences. Carter grew up in the great depression among African Americans greatly discriminated against, served in the navy, and became a peanut farmer in Georgia. Deciding to run for office to give him a platform to speak against racial discrimination. He succeeded and was inspired by John F. Kennedy (a president who was likely assassinated by the deep state as was his brother). 

John F. Kennedy, tried to force Israeli lobbyist in the US to register as foreign agents (per the law) and to prevent Israel from developing nuclear weapons.  To this day, many Palestinians in refugee camps still have JFKs pictures hanging in their homes. Carter became governor in 1971 but did it by employing what many considered unethical attacks on his opponent to gain the “white vote”. On Zionist David Rockefeller's endorsement, he was named to the Trilateral Commission in April 1973 and ran successfully for President in 1976. His inconsistent positions and trying to straddle the fence to pleas conservatives while losing liberals caught-up with him and he lost the election to Ronald Reagan in 1980.  I think had he served a second term in office he would have rectified his mistakes. He tried to do that out of office. For example while in office he presided over a so called “peace agreement: between Israel and Egypt which basically sold out the Palestinians, strengthened the Egyptian dictatorship, limited Egyptian people access to their own lands, sent $billions more to Israel every year since, and resulted in removing Sinai Bedouins.  Historian Jørgen Jensehaugen argues that by the time Carter left office in January 1981, he was "in an odd position—he had attempted to break with traditional U.S. policy but ended up fulfilling the goals of that tradition, which had been to break up the Arab alliance, side-line the Palestinians, build an alliance with Egypt, weaken the Soviet Union and secure Israel."  It was the beginning of the normalization of an apartheid system that strengthened the right wing in Israel and led directly to what we see happening today in “Israel” (including a fascist government). 

Carter's efforts at fixing things after he left office by speaking out for human rights where paved with good intentions but limited capacity. As the Democratic Party continued to follow the failing strategy of bargaining human righst to cater to Zionist funders (estimates of over half its funding come from Zionists). Carter is a ky figure in Habitat For Humanity ( and over a dozen other charities that help the poor and disenfranchised, The story of Jimmy Carter is the story of all politicians (and all of us): an angel on one shoulder, a devil on the other egging them on. I am reminded of the story of the old native American asked by a grandchild about good and evil. He answered that inside every person there is a good wolf and a bad wolf continuously fighting. The child asks which one wins. The old man answered “the one you feed”. Carter’s good wolf was fed well especially in the second half of his life. It is a lesson to learn from. 

Now for an inspiring organization I wanted to also highlight here (most of the below is also from their website  Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization, It was established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Al-Haq documents violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians in the OPT, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and seeks to end such breaches by way of advocacy before national and international mechanisms and by holding the violators accountable. The organization does advocacy before local, regional and international bodies and works with governmental and non-governmental bodies to ensure that international human rights standards are reflected in Palestinian law and policies.  Al-Haq is the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists - Geneva and is a member of the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Habitat International Coalition (HIC), the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PRHOC), and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO). For its work in protecting and promoting human rights, the organization has been awarded the Fayez A. Sayegh Memorial Award, the Rothko Chapel Award for Commitment to Truth and Freedom, The Carter-Menil Human Rights Foundation Prize, the Geuzenpenning Prize for Human Rights Defenders, the Welfare Association’s NGO Achievement Award, The Danish PL Foundation Human Rights Award, the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic, the Human Rights and Business Award, the Bruno Kreisky Prize in 2022 and the MESA Academic Freedom Award 2022. 

Professor Lynn Welchman published a book titled “Al-Haq: A Global History of the First Palestinian Human Rights Organization” - (University of California Press, 2021 - New Directions in Palestinian Studies). Read the publication in full at For the same activities Al-Haq was vilified by the Israeli occupiers reaching the point of banning travel of organization leaders and then in October 2021 declaring Al-Haq “illegal” with other organizations (see

I used their publications regularly in our own group’s work on human rights and environmental justice. Here is a recent publication so you can see their rigorous and very useful scholarship: Al-Haq 2022. Corporate Liability: The Right to Water and the War Crime of Pillage.