Oct 12, 2015

Beyond Global Disorder

I just came back to Palestine from aa high profile meeting on The World Beyond Global Disorder: Rhodes Forum (Greece, http://wpfdc.org/ ). It was a great productive meeting with hundreds of great attendees who shared their views on everything from political turmoil to refugeesexcept for an unexpected appearance of Russian billionaire Viatcheslav (Moshe) Kantor (representing European Jewish Congress) who hijacked the spirit of the meeting and lectured the attendees to promote his Zionist and Islamophobic views. No response or balancing view was allowed (see below for discussion of this disturbing incident).

My speech (I skipped some portions of this in my delivered remarks due to time constraints.

Thank you for your kind invitation to speak at this forum. I am honored and the settings are very beautiful. My only question is why this hotel has selected three channels from the area of WANA and the three are Al-Jazeera, Al-Masriuya, and Israeli channel 2. Do you have many tourists from Qatar, Egypt, and Israel? Anyway,  I will not reiterate what was said earlier by the distinguished copanelists. The title of this session is which way WANA (really the Arab world) and on the cover of teh program book we are have "Beyongd Global Disorder". Yes we want to look for solutions and I am pleased that below it says "scientific program". I am a scientist and a medical geneticist. Having taught at Yale and Duke Medical schools and now at Bethlehem University in Palestine, I tell my students that our task is always to provide accurate diagnosis based on medical history and present symptoms, offer appropriate therapies, and give the prognosis. This can also be applied to social phenomena like the conflict in Palestine. 

Patient history 

In this paper we discuss the current mayhem in the Arab world as an inevitable outcome of a historical process originating in Europe 150 years ago and not as claimed going back hundreds and even thousands of years. In reality Palestine is part of the Fertile Crescent where we humans first left the hunter-gatherrer life style and adopted agriculture and shepherding ifestyle. This is thus the dawn of civilization (Jericho is one of the oldest continuously inghabited towns on earth >10,000 years). In this long history there were attempts to make Palestine monoloithic on rare occasions and conflicts also ion rare occasions such as the crusaders and oe muslim ruler and more recently Zionism. All these conflicts and attempts failed and all constitute less than 1% of our long history. The most recent attempt is Zionism and here are key dates:
1840 British government contracts the services of Lt. Col. George Gawler to make a study on colonization by Jews of Palestine. He was selected because he was responsible for the penal colonies in Australia. Government adopts his recommendations to advance British Interests at the expense of the Ottoman Empire.
1860s Zionism coined as a political ideology and beginning of its funding
1880 First Zionist colony in Palestine (then less than 3% Jewish)
1916 Sykes-Picot secret agreements to divide Western Asia (France, England and Russia but Russia later withdrew)
1917 Balfour and Cambon declarations in support of Zionism partially quid pro quo for Zionist lobby to get the USA into WWI
1919 Paris "Peace Conference" (Palestinian natives not invited)
1920 San Remo Conference (dividing up spoils of war affirming commitment to Zionism)
1921 Appointment of first Jewish Zionist ruler of Palestine, British Lt. Col. Herbert Samuels and beginning of enacting and implementing apartheid laws)

The unifying thread of these key events was western support for fragmentation of the Arab world via sectarian and ethnic divisions spearheaded by the formation of a Jewish state in the heart of the area.

Present situation (patient symptoms)

Israel was created via armed invasion of Palestine and concomitant ethnic cleansing that left 7 million of 12 million of us as refugees or displaced people. 530 villages and towns were depopulated of their native and most wiped out. Massacres were committed (my mother’s school friend 18 year old Haya Balbisi was killed in the massacre od Deir Yassin). Massacres and state terrorism continue today with killing of unarmed civilians by trigger happy Israeli soldiers and colonial settlers, home demolitions, political imprisonment without trials and with ill treatment, prevention of rights of movement, religious rights, and other civil rights. Nearby countries were set-up by the west with dictators who overtly try to say they are for Palestinian rights but covertly work with the US/Israel (and they are the same since the US government is largely Israeli occupied territory to be liberated). I was not surprised then that the Arab Spring started.

December 2010 26-year-old Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. Less than a month later, the Tunisian president Bin Ali was gone and a domino effect was in progress as more autocratic leaders were under pressure. The young who led the popular movements that pressured and some cases toppled regimes had strengths in number but weakness in organizational structure. From Jan to February 2011, dissent had spread to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, UAe, and Syria. This left a power vacuum and the more organized Islamic forces mobilized to fill this power. It is worth here to reflect on the real reasons for the discontent and its trajectory since. The first sparks in the Arab world started modestly and in Egypt when on March 23, 2008, few young people called for a strike and mobilization on April 6 (henceforth called April 6 Youth Movement). It started with a Facebook page to support a planned textile workers' strike in Mahalla al-Kobra protesting low wages and high prices. The April 6, 2009 movement later developed four demands: 1- Minimum monthly wage of 1200 Egyptian pound (about 210 $), 2- Indexation of wages, 3- Election of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution to guarantee the country's political and trade union freedoms and to set a maximum of 2 terms for any president to stay in power, and 4- Suspension of exporting gas to Israel (http://6aprilmove.blogspot.com/ )

Mayhem rains at least partially because of an Israel lobby that pushed the US for war on Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and now pushing for conflict with Iran. Much can be said about that but my time is limited and I do want to focus on Palestine.


In Palestine we had 14 uprisings in the past 140 years (because social movements are never a straight line but go through waves). We are apparently at the beginning of a new wave. The two state solution is dead (I think was always dead and a mirage but even if you think it was alive, Zionism killed it). The apartheid system we have is even worse than in South Africa as testified to by many leaders from South Africa. The resistance is the main form of combatting injustice, occupation, and colonization. I wrote a book on this (Popular Resistance in Palestine) and it was largely successful (here I gave a few examples). We also could use outside interventions just like we did with South Africa through Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDSmovement.net). The fact that today 6.2 million of us live in historic Palestine with 6.1 million Israeli Jews suggest that Zionism has failed (past tense) to achieve its goals. That is thanks to this resistance. (more can be said here but look up the information).


In short the prognosis is very Good but we have to pass through one more acute crisis. If we agree on the diagnosis being colonialism and racism (apartheid/segregation/hafrada) then we can think of models to stabilize (if not resolve) the conflict: Algerian Model (natives win), New Zealand/Australia Model (natives lose), and South Africa Model (compromise). For reasons I can discuss only the latter model is possible in the 21st century. (perhaps we can do better on the economic rights area). S a biologist now we are building a museum of natural history. Our motto is respect (for oneself hence empowerment, for others who differ from us hence diversity, and for nature). We scientists know that a sign of healthy ecosystem is many species with few individuals of each species while an unhealthy ecosystem is dominated by one or two species. Same for human societies: health societies have a diversity of backgrounds and beliefs and Palestine will go back healty once we discard the notions of chosenness, a “Jewish state” (or a Muslim or a Christian state) and accet plurality and equality.

What is our role

While I appreciate conferences and academic papers, I am a grassroot activist and organizer (I was arrested several times by Israel). Many of ending charges against me have to do with incitement. So here I am inciting you: ACT. A Chinese saying is “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”. I urge you to come see for yourself and then I urge you to act. You can’t be neutral on a moving train as Howard Zinn said. Read Martin Luther King Jr letter from Birmingham jail to understand why he and many of us today believe apathy is far more dangerous than those who oppose human rights actively. Perhaps the best thing about this conference is meeting many of you and I hope we can develop further collaboration in the months ahead.
Addendum 1: The attendees were surprised when in the closing session, we see space given to a surprise guest: Mr. Moshe Kantor a biollionaire Russian Tycoon living in London. Even board members of the Rhodes forum apparently were not consulted and were equally surprised as we were. Mr. Kantor proceeded to regurgitate the same lies and distortions he had done in articles and letters to key Europeans. Lies and distortions that act as a fog to cover up Israel's crimes against the Palestinians. He claimed that unprecedented Jewish emigration is occurrirng out of Europe because of rise of anti-Semitism (his definition which is being imposed). Cantor's letter on behalf of the European Jewish congress to the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency in April 2012 is illustrative and it claimed that “the new form of anti-Semitism, which emanates from pro-Palestinians, from Arabo-Muslim extremists [sic], is today considered by European Jews as a real threat, which creates fear and tension among European Jews. Therefore, the definition of anti-Semitism should be clarified: the new form of anti-Semitism emanates from Arabo-Muslim extremists, from pro-Palestinians, being one way importers of the mid-East conflict into Europe.” [1]

The reality is that Kantor and EJC do not speak for European Jews as they claim. Many European and other Jews  are horrified at Israel's crimes. For a partial list of decent Jewish organizations who disagree with Kantor libelous accusations [see 2]. Much more can be said about Mr. Kantor [e.g. 3]. Perhaps The reality is that over 300,000 Israeli Jews moved and now live in German!  Kantor commanded us that anti-Semitism should be "punished in Europe more severely than ordinary crimes" and that Europe should watch out for perhaps 500,000 of “those people” (Muslims) are coming with different cultures and would start violence because they have “different culture”. He claimed all sort of other unsubstantiated claims. No one was allowed to rebut him. Russian born Israel Shamir and I tried but we were told the conference is over and we can send our remarks by email (this is what I am doing but to a slightly larger email list). I believe in speaking truth to power and I believe in the idea of the Rhodes conference of a dialogue of civilizations (though I believe we are all one civilizations but with many ideologies and ideas).

it is important to say positive and perhaps the organizers can create some positive energy when they get feedback. Perhaps they will invite me for a debate/dialog with Kantor next year where attendees are afforded the chance to really discuss real anti-Semitism versus imagined one, discuss Zionism, and more. In the meantime we need to continue to act.

[1] Tony Blair recruited by cheerleader for Israel’s crimes by David Cronin
[3] Kantor pushed EU to not work with a Palestinian unity government

Addendum 2: My sister's blog of love (I agree with her)

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History- Bethlehem University