Mar 30, 2012

Land Day

Two of our  friends were among the over >150 people injured today by the Israeli occupation forces.  Demonstrations were held in dozens of locations in Palestine and the border areas of Palestine.  Other demosntrations were held for Land Day in cities around the world.  The ambulance took our friend and home guest Don Bryant (US Citizen) to the hospital as he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister.  We quickly gathered the rest of the group and rushed to the hospital.  There we find many injured people (I counted 8 in the emergency room and two at the X-ray).  One of the injured there was our friend Yusef Sharqawi hit with a rubber-coated steel bullet that fractured his shoulder blade. Mohamed Zakout, 20 year old was shot and kileld by Israeli forces in Gaza as he participated in a demonstration near the Erez checkpoint.  In Jerusalem, Israeli occupation forces used horses to trample on people and arrested 36 individuals.  Before all is done Israel will likely to arrest 300 people.   Below is our video and other relevant videos.

Some of my students have more logic/sense than the political leadership of the USA, Israel and the "Palestinian authority" combined.  For example, last week we had a lively discussion about roles of politiciansin creating the problems and perpetuuating the disastrous human rights violations here. I don't teach this course human rights but I coach it so after we exchanged significant information about these issues all of it showing the bad things of politics (collaborations, agreements of surrender, etc), I asked to take time for us to talk just about the positives (no negatives).  I was surprised at some of the good comments that came out: persistance of the Palestinain people, demonstrations and many forms of popular resistance happening, the fact that rights are not lost for people even when their leadershuip is corrupt and weak, the fact that many were martyred/injured/imprisoned for their work for Palestine, the fact that while some collaborated and even sold their conscience and tehir heritabe, more simply refused ……

So it is that we can always look at the glass half empty or half full.  We can always curse the darkness or light a candle and hope for the best.  We can feel depressed and powerless or we can actually do something.  I was anxious before the demonstrations today.  Our mind racing to worry about level of participation/attendance and about Israeli authorities' violent reaction to peaceful demonstrators (there is afterall a long history of that including shooting at unarmed demonstrators). We have to remind myself of the positives and forget all the  negatives (or at least just learn from them lessons and keep them in the back of our mind).  The march was a success even before it started.  The thousands who tried to arrive to us here in Palestine got an education THROUGH the process of preparing to come to nearby boerders and they each  told many othesr where they are going and why.  This ripple effect that started montsh before today's events is critical. Here are a few other positives before, during and after this event today:

-37 Indian activists were stranded in a ship off the port of Beirut for 36 hours.  Activists in India mobilized speaking to parliamentarians and other officials and the indian embassy was able to get the Lebanese government to finally issue the visas for them.  This ensured atht more people because aware of our predicament here: not onlt the Zionist regime but the col;lusion sometiems of Arab regimes.  It also meant more avtivism in india will be growing and more boycotts, divestments and sanctions.
- Hundreds of actvists from different countries did not know about each other or their commen interests until this event. The process of linking together via physical meetings and internet empowered many of tehm and they became more active in tehir local communities.  I know of several example where new projects (e.g. on boycotts divestment, sacnction, different ways of media work etc) were started in some copuntries or localities because they learned from the networking with other activists.
-Activists learned via doing how to work in team efforts, how to make collective decisions etc.  These skills are useful for any kind of collective work.
-The attempts by the Zionist manipulated media to hide and ignore the brutality of the apartheid regime is backfiring.  More and more people stopped seeking news via these corporate outlets and started to get news directly via blogs, live feed, email etc.
-Israeli  Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai said about the events today "It's important to remember that this is the first day. The Nakba and Naksa days are ahead of us, and that is where the challenge will be."  It is obvious that they start to worry!

I could go on to list a few more.  But we need now to focus on our next events : the Welcopme to Palestine Campaign for 15-21 April.  We do need people to work hard on this (volunteers are always welcome).  Action is the best antidote to despair.

Our video in Bethlehem:
Other videos


Israel Defense Ministry plan earmarks 10 percent of West Bank for settlement expansion. Newly released maps indicate Civil Administration secretly setting aside additional land for Jewish settlements, presumably with the intention of expanding them. By Akiva Eldar

More links/news on this land day events
Thousands of demonstrators mark Land Day in Jordan
Rabbis of Anti-Zionist Group Join Protest Marking Land Day on Lebanon-Israel Border
Why Land Day still matters: Today, with no resolution in sight to the historic injustices inflicted upon them, Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere use this day to remember and redouble their efforts for emancipation.
By Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

Mar 23, 2012

Faith under occupation

Need Volunteers: We need media and other volunteers for upcoming critical events including the Global March to Jerusalem and the Welcome to Palestine Campaign (see below for links).  We especially need volunteers in the West Bank.  All levels of skills and knowledge would be appreciated.  Send a brief description of your background and availability to

We just had the book launch of "Faith Under Occupation: The Plight of Indiginous Christians in the Holy Land" in Beit Sahour
 "Palestinian Christians are one of the most misrepresented and poorly understood groups in the Middle East. In this study by Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), they tell their own story of life under an occupation that discriminates against all Palestinians, regardless of their faith. " You can download the PDF file here and use it in your advocacy and outreach (especially to churches):

Global March to Jerusalem 30 March 2012: Delegations and volunteers are assembling in various bordering countries and mass movements in Palestine is materializing.  If you are unable to join us in Palestine or along the borders, join or organize events in your cities (particularly at Israeli embassies and consulates)

Welcome to Palestine 2012: Over 1500 have already purchased tickets from Europe alone and we expect many more to arrive for a  week of activities beginning April 15.  Join us as stand together Internationas and Palestinians for peace, nonviolence, freedom of movement, and solidarity with those struggling to stay in their land. (email to help or for more info:

UN Report: The Humanitarian Impact of the Takeover of Palestinian Water Springs by Israeli Settlers

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), was "appalled" by Israel’s racial segregation policies and that an advanced version of an upcoming CERD report indicates that racial prejudice can be found in almost every facet of Israeli life.

Mar 15, 2012

Christ at Checkpoint

Israel has been paranoid about people finding out the truth of what it is doing. In an example of this, 55 Harvard students were expelled from Al-Walaja earlier this week (see 1 below). On several occasions when we took delegations to visit Al-Walaja we were harassed.  This included the times when I took a group of Israeli Jews, evangelical Christians, and even diplomatic staff to Al-Walaja.  Some who were sympathetic to Israel did change their views and started to see this as the apartheid system h it is (by International legal definition).  Just today I took some of my Palestinian students to see Al-Walaja and talk to villagers and even do their research projects on the village.  More Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals should come to these struggling villages and see reality. We are happy to show people around and/or put them in touch with the right people and not those who are profiteering from claiming they represent popular resistance.

I do see signs of hope here every day. For example, last week over 600 people (most Christian Evangelicals including renowned evangelical leaders) attended the Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem.  “Christ at the Checkpoint,” addressed the issue of how to find hope in the midst of conflict and in short "what would Jesus do?". The conference exceeded all expectations (2).  I was honored to connect with friends but even more encouraged to meet many more new "converts": those who now see that "Christian Zionism" is an oxymoron because one cannot be a true Christian (or Jew for that matter) and be a Zionist(3). Palestinian Christians of various denominations usually do not agree on things (like who gets to clean what part of the Church of Nativity).  But in an unprecedented show of unity all of us agreed on a document called Kairos Palestine (4). This generated a huge outpouring of support from churches throughout the world and now has an Islamic response to it (5).

We also see the hope in the determined spirit of most of my students (at three universities) to go beyond the misery and difficulty of the occupation and colonization.  They challenge their own minds and begin to see that it is only they who can shape their own future despite incredible odds. We saw it in the play by Al-Rowwad theater group in Aida refugee camp, a play called Handala after the inspiring cartoon character of Naji Al-Ali (6).

Meanwhile life here goes in sometimes mundane things and sometimes dramatic issues.  In the mundane for example one could count spending two and a half hour on the checkpoint coming back from teaching at Al-Quds University. We could count the incident where freelance photographer Mati Milstein videotaped Israeli border police tossing a tear gas canister at Palestinian women who were just enjoying a late afternoon chat outside their home.  Mati said "There was no violence in this area, no stone throwing or any kind of organizing by demonstrators. Border Policemen were driving around the area and suddenly on one of their patrols the commander decided to toss a tear gas grenade at the people, for no apparent reason, at least as far as I could see". (7)

In the intermediate level we saw it in the demonstrations in Beit Dajan area where villagers were trying to open the road to the village that was closed by the Israeli occupation army 10 years ago (8). And we see the struggle to allow our people to keep solar panels for their electric use (9).

And in the other end of the spectrum we saw a massacre of 26 Palestinians in four days in Israeli illegal attacks on Gaza.  We also see the life of Palestinian political prisoner Hana Shalabi in danger as she is in her 29th day of hunger strike to protest the policy of administrative detention.

Final Quote from Zionists who pushed for the $3 trillion war on Iraq as they now try to repeat that episode on Iran: "A critical challenge for this policy option is that, absent a clear Iranian act of aggression, American airstrikes against Iran would be unpopular in the region and throughout the world" (10)

We must maintain our hope and our energy and move towards justice, freedom, and equality and that redemption called for so brilliantly by young South African Mbuyiseni Ndlozi speaking on Palestine (11).

4) see the Palestinian Christian call "A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering"

5) See for example United Methodist response. and The Justice Committee of the General Assembly Mission Council (of the Presbyterian Church) voted to approve a recommendation to the General Assembly for divestiture

8) See "After much injustice, Beit Dajan debuts its peaceful resistance" and see photos here

9) See Palestinians prepare to lose the solar panels that provide a lifeline

10) Kenneth Pollack, et al, Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran, pp. 84-85. Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, June 2009 

11) Mbuyiseni Ndlozi - Israeli Apartheid Week, London. 22.2.12

Mar 3, 2012

Palestinian Political Prisoners

It snowed in Palestine and the heavy rain washed away many things but not human sins.  I thought of the huge amount of water running by friends of mine in Al-Auja near Jericho whow ere prevented from capturibng that water while colonial illegla settlers get all eth water with all eth infrastructure they want.   I watched Israeli children play in the snow in a park built on the ruins of a destroyed Palestinian village.  I thought of the shivering political prisoners in unheated cells hundreds of whom are in administrative detention who do not know when they will be out in any park. Some sacrificed decades for internatioanlly recognized struggle to end colonialism and occupation.  Many joined the hunger strike of administrative detainee Hana Al-Shalaby.   Below are relevant links and material so that we can stand by those freedom lovers.  But first two quick items:

1-Many of you asked about the answers to the test for the course I teach on human rights that I posted earlier to the list. After sending it to over 20 people, I decided to post the questions with suggested answers (but of course much more can be said and discussed) here:

2-Muslim and non-Muslim to join Jerusalem solidarity
(the Zionist movement mobilized to defame the march by claiming it is an Islamist march.  Well, there are many Muslims and also Islamic groups like Hamas that do support the march but also leftist groups and all people who agree that Jerusalem is being slowly transformed and it multiethnic, multireligious character eroded slowly to make it a Jewish Zionist city)

Hana Al-Shalaby entered her 14th day on hunger strike to protest her unlawful kidnapping and being held in "administrative detention". Profile here

Video by Sanaa on prisoners

Israel issues third consecutive detention order against prisoner of conscience Ahmad Qatamesh

In my book on "Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment" I explained how the women movement in Palestine was very strong in the 1920s and even successfully lobbied the British government to release Palestinian political prisoners. And on May 17, 1936, prisoners in Nur Shams (3 km east of Tulkarem, made into a refugee camp after 1948) declared a strike and confronted the prison guards.  The prison warden, a Mr. Grand ordered soldiers to shoot and one prisoner was killed, several wounded as prisoner shouted in defiance “Martyrdom better than jail”. On 9 Sept 1939, freedom fighters took over Beer Al-Saba' government facilities and released political prisoners from the central jail. Political prisoners in Israeli jails organized themselves into effective committees which carried on collective strikes that were especially potent in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Peaceful demonstrators during the 1987-1991 uprising were fined 500-1000 shekels (about $200-400, almost half a year’s pay at the time) and jailed for 8-12 months (ref).  The ranks of prisoners in Israeli jails swelled to over 20,000 at one point. In September 1988, the Israeli army released the number of detainees it held at 23,600 and torture was common (ref.).  In total over 700,000 Palestinians spent time in Israeli jails. 

Israel radio reported on an open hunger strike by prisoners in the prison camps of Jenin, Ramallah and Nablus who demanded improvement in their deplorable detention conditions (ref).  90 prisoners in the Ansar 2 jail in Gaza engaged in an open hunger strike to protest the deplorable condition especially during the harsh winter season (ref.).

In 13 prisons, prisoners from all factions rejected food and water starting on 26 September 1992 (ref.).  These collective actions forged solidarity and raised political consciousness of all who participated

Al-Ansar prison in South 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 (ref.). On December 6, 1998 (and during President Clinton’s visit), over 2000 political prisoners engaged in a hunger strike to press for their release.

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails started a hunger strike that lasted 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 and 13 UN agencies operating in the occupied areas expressed their concern (ref.). 

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 August 16, 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 conditions for the prisoners. They demonstrated again in the thousands two days later (ref.).  The Palestinian National Authority, Palestinians inside the Green Line, and the International Solidarity Movement called for hunger strikes outside the prisons (ref.).  The strike slowly gained strength. Then 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" (ref.) but eventually gave in recognized some basic humanitarian rights the prisoners were entitled to. 

Palestinian female political prisoners in Telmud Prison were mistreated and on November 28, 2004 their spokeswomen who complained about the mistreatment was beaten and punished.  When others complained, the prisoners were all punished.  They engaged in a hunger strike (ref.). Prisoners continued to use hunger strikes to protest ill treatment and draw attention to their plight.  For example on February 16, 2006 Jamal AlSarahin died in prison.  He was a 37 year old “Administrative detainee” (never charged or brought to trial) who had been detained for 8 months prior and badly mistreated.  Prisoners declared a one day hunger strike (ref. ) and on 11 March 2006, a sit-down strike in front of the ICRC in Hebron was held to demand better treatment for prisoners

On 27 June 2006, 1,200 Palestinian political prisoners in the Negev Desert launched a hunger strike to protest 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 showed that 11,000 are still held according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society (ref.)

By 2009, Palestinians in Israeli prisons were able to achieve a number of successes by nonviolent struggle and civil disobedience including wearing regular cloths (no orange uniforms), access to news, reasonable visitation rights, better access to health care.  But the Prison Administration continues to chip away at those rights (ref.).

The sacrifices of prisoners were highly appreciated: “Prison became a rite of initiation, so much so that if one had not been imprisoned, his or her loyalty might be questioned, and prison records earned by the young replaced the stature once enjoyed by the elders.” (ref.).  But more importantly prison built common bonds and strengthened social cohesion and resistance under occupation.  One ex-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" (ref.).

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD