Dec 29, 2023

Hope for 2024

 Why I am optimistic about 2024 despite the ongoing genocide in the Gaza Strip largely absent from Western media coverage? Just the two bits of news yesterday could be enough to depress us: that about 1000 children had undergone amputations without anesthesia and that Israeli trafficking business in Palestinian organs is flourishing. Well, let me explain my optimism despite the horror.

I remember my late mother telling us of the 33 massacres that happened during the Nakba of 1948 and the ethnic cleansing she witnessed at the tender age of 16 where 850,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed or escaped from the Zionist onslaught intended to create a Jewish state where there was a pluralistic society in Palestine before. 530 villages and towns were ethnically cleansed. She remembered her friend and school mate Hayah Balbisi (a teacher murdered by the Zionists with her students in Deir Yassin 9 April 1948). She remembered the refugees who came to Bethlehem area (later set-up in three refugee camps). She remembered the American Friends Service Committee and then UNRWA who helped them. My mother died in April this year. at almost 91. In a way, it is a blessing tht she did not live to witness the carnage and genocide in Gaza.  In number of people displaced and those killed a bigger Nakba/Catastrophe than the one she witnessed in 1948. Yet, her life after 1948 was not the same as before 1948.  Thus, at 16 she became a life long activist. A generous and kind person who raised six children, helped the refugees, cared about fellow human beings. My father was equally dedicated and passionate. I remember when he was crying watching the news in 1970 of Jordanian tanks in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan.  Both of my parents, survivors of the Nakba were teachers who influenced thousands of students. I still meet people my age who tell me how they were helped and how the lessons they learned are remembered 50 or 60 years later. Thus, the 2.3 million residents of the Gaza strip (nay the 15 million Palestinians in the world) have to pick the banner and I already see more activism from them than ever before. Many will join the resistance (armed or unarmed). Many will speak out, will donate, will lobby, will not be silent. But we Palestinians ar not alone: 350 million Arabs, over one billion Muslims, and over 4 billion people of conscience are there. You will see more and more of them mobilized. Even tens of thousands of Jews (perhaps hundreds of thousands) have already mobilized against racist Zionism.

Haya Balbisi and my mother

75 year of ethnic cleansing and genocide were little discussed in the West until this year. I lived in the USA for 28 years and traveled in 45 other countries and reached tens of thousands of people with my talks, books, and writings. We even had a wheels of justice bus tour 2000-2005 that traveled 48 states speaking at 1200 colleges and universities, over 300 schols, and hundreds of community centers and other venues.  This email now reaches 55,000. But past activism pales compared with what happened in 2023 and what will happen in 2024. Hundreds of millions are mobilized and once eyes are opened, they cannot be shut again. Hypocrites including Arab, Muslim, and Western leaders and their associated organizations like the UN were exposed and will retreat. Those who supported Zionism under the table (Jews and Gentiles) had to take stand: with apartheid genocidal Israel or against it; with human rights and peace or with war (even against a simple ceasefire). The US government is now leading in financing and arming this genocide after having committed a number of genocides itself (native Americans, blacks with slavery, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq, Yemen and many other countries and its leadership in spreading unfettered consumerism globally that destroyed our planet with climate change). The accumulated sins will not allow the state to remain a superpower and its might is declining. The US is now reduced to being a hired gunman to defend the thug. Hence, its navy ships in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea to attack any country that is trying to stop attempts to end the genocide and illegal blockade of Gaza.

This is not far fetched. The war machine is only succeeding in killing civilians (nearly 30,000 so far including about 9000 children) and injuring some 55,000 civilians which they bomb from the air. In the land battle against resistance forces, they are losing or at best it is a stalemate since 7 October. The Israeli army is losing soldiers by the hundreds. Over 750 military vehicles (tanks, APCs, bulldozers) are rendered out of service. Their economy and social order cannot sustain a prolonged war that their government keeps talking about. The resistance now says they will not discuss prisoner swaps (139 Israelis vs 11,500 Palestinians) until a complete ceasefire. Netanyahu regime is not willing to accept because that would mean he and his other corrupt lieutenants will end up in Jail.  More and more Jews around the world now openly oppose Zionism. Political Zionism is a racist movement that intended to transform Palestine (multiethnic, multireligeous, multilingual) to a monolithic Jewish state. Like the worship of the Golden Calf, this false new God cannot be sustained in the 21st century. It has failed and this genocide is the last gasp / the last nail in the coffin. While 94% of Israelis supported the killings in Gaza in a poll conducted in November, there is now growing disillusionment. Most Israelis no longer believe their government (military or political leadership). Afterall, they lied about what happened 7 October (beheaded babies, rapes etc. read The most remarkable transformation is that the truth is coming out about the history of Palestine, about the Nakba, about the genocide, about the statements of Israeli leaders, and about the impact on te globe of a massive fraud. This despite the hundreds of millions spent, AIPAC and the 150,000 Sayanim producing slick propaganda and talking points especially in Western Countries. The truth is spread through hundreds of billions of posts on social media (FaceBook, X/Twitter, Telegram, Instagram etc) cannot be silenced by the money being spent by the rich Zionist movement. We say in Arabic “Ma Bitghati AlShams biGhorbal” (you cannot cover the sun with a sieve).

It is an existential struggle as you know: we either allow subjugation of people or we all achieve freedom and peace. As many of us predicted before, these pains are the birth pains of a new era. It always happens when empires collapse and new powers come to be. The US/Israeli Empire is waning. The Western Roman Empire declined in the 5th century AD. Every empire declines and the US decline is accelerating because both Democratic and Republican parties are under the thumb of the Zionist lobby that puts racism and greed first. Corruption is rampant at the highest levels (Netanyahu, Biden, Trump).  Many are starting to realize that and to realize that the repercussions of this allowed genocide is not just local but regional and global. Israel/USA are destabilizing the whole world.

A new multipolar world is emerging and cannot be stopped. Our task is to shape it so that it is more just. We the people of earth cannot continue to let the greedy 0.1% control our lives. Only love of all humanity and all nature that can work the miracles needed. So let us talk of that. While our hearts go to all who lost loved ones we must thank the millions who did not remain silent. Those who fought against Nakba denial. Those who worked for human rights and justice. Those millions like Greta Thunberg who understand the connection between climate justice, environmental justice, and land justice.  Thousands of organizations (Jewish Voice for Peace, CodePink etc,) engaged in civil disobedience, in boycotts, divestments, and sanctions. People of all faiths and no religious faith who mobilized and acted. We thank you all. You are the love that conquers the fear and gives us hope of a better humanity and a sustainable earth. Of course, it will not be easy and no worthy cause is easy.

We must muster all our resources, all our will, all our energy to stop this genocide, stop all wars, seriously tackle climate change, reshape the failing world order to not allow any future silence on genocide, remove the rampant capitalist/consumerist system that exploits people. We must all stop being consumers of (mis)information and of products to become engaged, compassionate, caring people. This is not easy for any of us. After all, we are all fragile “human beings” and doubts and fears and the devil on one shoulder keep nagging at us. Let me to give you a small example from myself. If they want to be saved, they should sit with the resistance forces (Hamas, Islamic Jihad etc), with Iran, Russia, Brazil, Venezuela, and China to implement return of Palestinian refugees per UNGA194, democracy (right of self-determination) and end apartheid and militarism locally and globally. They must also address creating a truth and reconciliation committee and tribunals to address war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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."

My mother agreed with this assessment in our last full conversation. She said to me she will not live to see the end of the tunnel but we will. I do see it but it is darkest before the dawn. May we all connect with nature and with our humanity. We will overcome someday and that some day could be in 2024 if we work together. For example by using BDS: 

Our Institute ( plans to redouble our efforts to serve people and nature in 2024: watch for our upcoming annual report, plans for our tenth year anniversary which we celebrate in June, and plans for the future (all coming in January). From our institute we wish each of you (friends, colleagues, donors, volunteers, activists) a productive, healthy, human-friendly, and eco-friendly 2024.

Dec 14, 2023

Christmas greetings

Christmas greetings from Bethlehem

 We have been writing annual Christmas messages of peace, for human rights, and relating sometimes what happened in the passing year for decades. Since I returned to Bethlehem in 2008, these messages have been special. Since founding the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) in 2014, we also added greeting from PIBS.  This year writing seems tougher than ever considering the ongoing and unprecedented genocide/holocaust occurring in Palestine. In the ten weeks before Christmas, more than 20,000 civilians (>8000 of them children) were killed. 2.3 million people were denied food, water and medicines while all means of life around them was systematically targeted. Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) are literally starving to death and dying from lack of medical care. 65% of Gaza residential buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged. Israel also targeted schools, hospitals, clinics, churches, mosques, bakeries, sewage and water facilities, electrical, communication and other infrastructure.

Rubble Nativity scene in Lutheran Church, Bethlehem

 We local Christians cannot “celebrate” or do decorations while injustice persists.  The Church of Nativity during this season usually received hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Today it is shrouded in dark cloud. We can only pray and meditate on the need for peace and justice in the birthplace of the prince of peace. We native Christian Palestinians (the first Christians) reflect that some 2.5 billion human beings believe in a message that originated with a Palestinian baby born in a manger here. We reflect on the real message of Jesus of love and caring for the oppressed and the suffering. The harsh reality on the ground reminds us of our responsibility to shape a better future. Bethlehem is home to 260,000 Palestinian Christians and Muslims including over 60000 refugees. We natives are limited to live in only 13 percent of our district while over 150000 colonial Jewish settlers live on stolen Palestinian lands of the district.  Bethlehem is besieged and blockaded. Bethlehem University like other universities is mostly offering courses online due to the apartheid system. Bethlehem is isolated from its urban twin city Jerusalem (5 miles away) via an apartheid wall destroying the economy for Palestinians on both sides of the wall. Israeli Jewish settlers and soldiers move freely and have taken over most of our land and natural resources and regularly attack us.

Nativity Square 2022
Nativity square 2023

Eight million of the 15 million Palestinians in the world are refugees or displaced people thanks to a meticulous Western-backed program of ethnic cleansing. The vast majority of Palestinians who remain are living in concentration camps like Bethlehem, Jenin, and Gaza under a ruthless apartheid fascist Israeli regime. Despite all of this, we are still hopeful because we take a long view of history. Some 100,000 years ago humans migrated from Africa using Palestine as the passageway to Western Asia and then the rest of the world. This is where our ancestors first domesticated plants and animals (agriculture and pastoralism) some 11 millennia ago. This allowed development of the earliest civilizations (in the Fertile Crescent), the first writings and the first thoughts of deities. Our Canaanite ancestors spoke a language we refer to now as proto-Aramaic. From this language and its first alphabet came the Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew languages and alphabets. Aramaic was the language of Jesus. Phoenician Canaanites evolved the Latin alphabet delivered it to Europe and it is the alphabet you are reading now. ‘A’ is from Aramaic Alleph (turn upside down to be the symbol of the bull) and ‘b’ from Beit (house) turn to side to see a domed house and so on.

People lived in relative harmony here with nature and with each other for thousands of years. Thankfully very few attempts to transform Palestine from a mixed society of various religions and backgrounds to make it monolithic. The latest such foolish attempt was to transform Palestine into a “Jewish state” (apartheid and ethnocentric chauvinistic state), a state that is failing though with significant bloodshed.

As we reflect this Christmas from Bethlehem, we aspire to a certain future when refugees
are allowed to return and all people of all religions live in equality and justice. Jerusalem/Bethlehem will then become a true light unto the world. We are grateful that there has been tremendous growth of actions by civil society around the world to push for human rights and justice in this “Holy Land”. This has included some significant actions for boycotts divestments and sanctions (BDS) from Israel in the same way we did with Apartheid South Africa.

So this Christmas we remember what Jesus said: “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 6). So think of us Palestinians as you think of Christmas and do boycott products that aid the occupation/oppression, see

History teaches us that injustice cannot last long especially when so many people join the struggle. We in this land will continue to struggle and yearn for freedom. We at at PIBS, Bethlehem University ask for your prayers and for your support (time and money) which helps us expand our work with thousands of Palestinians especially from marginalized communities (see And do come visit us or at least email us/stay in touch. Such are the best of of Christmas gifts.

May 2024 bring us closer to peace with justice.

Dec 1, 2023

Assault on Education

 (Below this section is a statement from Palestinian Higher Education Institutions)

Al-Azhar University before and after

Over 56 days, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) denied water, food, electricity and fuel to 2.3 million Gaza residents. The IOF killed over 14500 civilians (72% women and children) and injured over 27,000 in 40 days since 7 October 2023 (see updates from the UN at This is not counting over 4000 estimated missing/under the rubble. Over 50% of buildings in Gaza were destroyed and medical facilities ran out of medical supplies and have no power. Hundreds of families were wiped out. 1.5 million Palestinians were forced to move though no place has been saved the vengeful bombing campaign. In the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), educational institutions are under attack. The ghettos that we Palestinians are squeezed in were sealed off on 7 October 2023. Thus, most our students are not able to get to their classes in any of the 34 HE institutions in the West Bank and education when possible is done online for some of the 138,800 students of HE. Further every one of the HE institutions in the West Bank has had some of their students arbitrarily arrested and detained without trials in so-called “administrative detention” where they are abused. The situation in Gaza is far worse. The occupation forces onslaught on Gaza closed 19 HE institutions in Gaza denying 88,000 students the right to education completely. 219 educational institutions were destroyed and that includes destruction of 12 buildings in three universities in Gaza: Al-Azhar University, AlQuds Open University, and the Islamic University. According to the Ministry of Higher Education and Research as of 5 November and over 5 weeks of indiscriminate bombing, 446 academics (432 students and 14 staff/faculty) were killed. Many more were killed after 5 November. The president of the Islamic University of Gaza Prof. Sufian Tayeh and his family were killed in Israeli bombing in North Gaza (Jabalya) today 2 December 2023. On 12 November 2023, Professor Mohammad Eid Shubair, his wife Rehab, their daughter-in-law Najat Ayoub Alhelo, and their eldest son, Muhammad Malik Shubair in an Israeli airstrike on their home in the vicinity of the Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Thousands of academics are injured and most are unable to receive treatments with open wounds due to the collapse of the health care system. 555 students from the Gaza strip were unable to take up scholarships they had to attend HE abroad. Over 5000 Gazan students are abroad and suffering due to inability to contact or receive support from their families.

These violations of HE in the occupied Palestinian territories are violations of the Fourth Geneva Conventions pertaining to protection of civilians. They are also contrary to the Lahai treaty of 1907 (article 3) which prohibit attacks at public buildings including those dedicated to worship, education, art etc. Collective punishment is contrary to international law. Human rights organization and the UN have described the situation as war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are basic violations of International law and considered war crimes and crimes against humanity (see also

For more background on Gaza see

We urge you to act as follows in compliance with local and international law in your country:

1) Insist that students, faculty, and staff at all institutions of higher education globally are protected from harassment especially as they demonstrate and speak out for human rights and against the apartheid system, against colonialism, and against ongoing genocide. Israeli university leaders have supported their extreme right wing government in comiitting the crimes and went further by curtailing academic freedom, dismissing dozens of students who expressed solidarity with Gaza civilians and even fired or harassed faculty who spoke out. Students and faculty at Israeli and Western Universities should be ensured a safe atmosphere to express their opinion including in advocating for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) like we did during apartheid era in South Africa. Opposition to Israel and racist Zionist ideas should not be defamed by being labeled anti-Semitism of “Jewish self-hatred). In fact at most universities, leaders of the Palestine Solidarity groups have been Jews of conscience.

2) Write to your government and to the Israeli government demanding an end to the persecution of universities both in the West Bank and in Gaza. Freedom of movement and freedom of education must be respected per international law. Attacks on universities, their students, faculty and staff must cease. There should not be collective punishment of our educational system.

3) When these hostilities subside, we will need significant technical and financial support to repair and rebuild the HE system and we could use your support
A Unified Call for Justice and Freedom in Palestine
A call from Palestinian Higher Education institutions 
Do not be Silent during Israel’s Unfolding Genocide

We, the undersigned Palestinian higher education institutions from occupied Palestine unite in a call for justice, humanity, and an end to 75 years of Israel’s regime of settler-colonial oppression and apartheid. We stand resolute, determined to stop and overcome the relentless brutality that has deeply scarred our homeland during the ongoing Israeli bombings on Gaza and the military-settler attacks on our people, our homes, and our institutions across all of occupied Palestine.

Israel's indiscriminate bombardment of our 2.3 million Palestinian civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip, which has been besieged by Israel for the past 16 years, coupled with its ban on the entry of water, food, medicine and fuel, has caused immeasurable suffering, with thousands of lives lost, one third of whom are children.

Israel’s deliberate targeting of entire neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, UN  shelters, and universities constitutes a grave violation of international law. As of 25 October, According to UNOCHA, Israeli bombardment has struck 219 educational facilities, including at least 29 UNRWA schools.

Moreover, under international humanitarian law, ‘civilian objects’ such as educational sites cannot be targeted for attack. The Islamic University of Gaza was attacked along Al-Azhar University and other Universities by Israeli airstrikes. In view of the continuing and escalating occupation violations in the West Bank, and due to fear of Israeli settlers’ assaults with more restrictions to Palestinians movement most Palestinian Universities switched to distance education starting 9 October. The universities in Gaza Strip, however, have  been totally paralyzed, as a result of no electricity, no stable internet connection and the priority of all staff members and students to care for survival.

The cumulative effect of the bombardment has resulted in massive and ongoing killing of people many of whom are students, faculty and staff. It also caused displacement, and destruction, imperiling, even the possibility of access to education for generations of Gazan children and students into the indefinite future.  Israel is waging a genocidal war on our people, as described by leading  Palestinian human rights organizations, more than 800 international  scholars, the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish civil society  groups, Holocaust and genocide studies scholars and others who have by now warned of an imminent genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza.

While the Israeli army is committing several crimes against Palestinians that fall within the purview of "war crimes," "genocide," "apartheid”, to name a few, we reiterate that it is crucial to place these measures within the wider framework of the occupation of Palestine and blockade on Gaza. As Palestinian national and political rights are denied, including the right to exist, resist, return, and most importantly the right to self-determination.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has explicitly affirmed the right of Palestinians to resist Israel’s military occupation, in harmony with international law. This right was affirmed in the context of the right to self- determination of all peoples under foreign and colonial rule. Some of the most relevant UN resolutions on this matter include UNGA Resolution 3314  (1974) and UNGA Resolution 37/43 (1982).

We also hold Israeli universities responsible, as they have been indispensable to the regime of settler colonial oppression and apartheid,  complicit in grave violations of human rights including developing  weaponry, military doctrines, and legal justification for the indiscriminate, mass targeting of Palestinians.

In light of the latest assault on Gaza, we call upon international academic institutions to take the following concrete actions immediately to end the genocidal war and Israeli settler colonialism.

1. Call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, guaranteed by the UN
2. Urge immediate entry into Gaza of sufficient amounts of life-saving humanitarian needs (incl. water, food, fuel, medicine), equitably distributed throughout the whole territory of Gaza Strip.
3. Demand UN protection for the 2.3 million Palestinian civilians trapped under siege in Gaza
4. Issue clear positions rejecting any ethnic cleansing
5. To support in dismantling the settler colonial and apartheid system and to achieve and a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace.

We urge the international academic community to fulfill its intellectual and academic duty to seek the truth and hold perpetrators of genocide accountable. Israeli universities, complicit in human rights violations, should face international isolation.

In unity and with unwavering determination, we declare that justice will prevail. We will not be silence; we will resist, remember, and record. The world must recognize Zionism for what it is: a genocidal settler project built on false mythology and sustained through perpetual violence against Indigenous Palestinians.