Monthly Archives: December 2008

Mazin Qumsiyeh: Telling It Like It Is

In traveling around the world, I am always nagged by something or another and inspired by hundreds of things.  On aggregate, I thus stay optimistic.

In the past two weeks, I have traveled from Palestine to Jordan to Cyprus and then to the US and back to the Palestine ghettos.  In Jordan, I spent time with a friend who is a professor at The University of Science and Technology.  He had just won the highest award for basic science research in Jordan.  He published over 125 scientific papers.  His family originates from AlKhalil (Hebron) in the West Bank, so we also talked to his family members who still live there (and were visiting Jordan) about what is going on in Hebron (continued settler attacks on Palestinian civilians, 170,000 natives held hostage to the whims of a few hundred fanatical colonial settlers).

We reminisced about our days as undergraduate students at Jordan University.  In Jordan, the building boom is endless.  People are everywhere.  There are few remaining undeveloped areas in the “Desert Kingdom” and those fortunately include the vast desert which is teeming with life (plants and animals).  The Bedouins lived in harmony with it for thousands of years, and continue to do so.  We talked about how the Negev Desert is being stripped of its native Bedouins, who are being herded into shrinking “concentration encampments” by Israel.  We planned to do joint research and joint trips (maybe a field trip in the summer to Syria to study its flora and fauna).

In Cyprus, I was a bit surprised at the depth of the ethnic and religious hatred on the doorsteps to Europe.  A divided island and a divided city of Lefkosa (Nikosia), like Palestine, could be prosperous and could be shared if people learn to put away those tribalistic notions and think of our common humanity.  Cyprus has about 800,000 people and all could benefit whether they speak Greek or Turkish.  It emphasized to me the ideas I wrote in my book ‘Sharing the Land of Canaan’, because places where people learn to share rather then divide (“us here them there” as Rabin put it) are places that avoid bloodshed and prosper.

In Cyprus at our conference, and in the streets, we talked with many Europeans.  I asked why Europeans are silent about the slow genocide in Gaza.

And if they do not care about the 1.5 million people of Gaza, are they not concerned about their own environment?  The Sewage of 1.5 million people is being dumped into the Mediterranean (because of the Israeli blockade/siege of Gaza that cuts of electricity to the pumps, and prevents importation of needed supplies).  That untreated sewage of 1.5 million people (many sick and malnourished) is pushed by the currents of the Suez and the Nile Delta north to coast of Europe (in addition to Tel Aviv!).

Why *are* they silent?

On the positive side, all are mobilized when informed, so it tells us that we need to do a better job of informing/educating.  And indeed, Europeans are mobilizing, and Cyprus is a center of that activity.  There, I was privileged to meet with two individuals involved in the free Gaza movement, which now regularly takes boats challenging the Israeli blockade of Gaza (their last boat, the Dignity, arrived to Gaza with a ton of medical supplies Tuesday).  Activists also joined ships doing fishing off the coast of Gaza (Israel confiscated three of the five Gaza fishing trollies thus cutting the 1.5 ton of fish caught to 0.5 ton!).

The inspiring struggle continues.  Recently, thanks to activist letters, the European Parliament postponed a vote on upgrade of Israel relationship with the EU.  But the foreign ministers of Europe, more beholden to imperial and special interests, just voted to go ahead and upgrade ties anyway.  We must not let them get away with supporting apartheid.  Write to them if you are a European.

In the US, I was greeted with the release of data that shows over half a million jobs were lost in the month of November alone!  The war economy is getting into the worst shape since the great depression of the 1930s.  Yet, many people do not understand the link between the endless wars pushed on by AIPAC (the Israel lobby) and extremists in both major parties and the sagging economy.

So incoming President Obama (who has already nominated extremist Zionists to key positions) is talking about borrowing from future generations to keep the imperial system going for a few more years instead of delivering on a promise of “change” repeatedly made.

I gave three talks and four interviews in the week I was in the US (and also took an exam to renew my medical genetics boards).  In all these interactions, I sensed an imminent revolution in America.  It is a revolution of understanding how the world works.  People are really ready.  They have most of the information.  They know they are being lied to by their governments and elected officials.  Our job/their job is to continue to connect the dots AND to intensify our collective work (challenge media, politicians etc).

Please write a letter a day, as I do (it is the best form of pick-me up medicine to do one good deed a day).  You can also still donate to those groups on the ground in Palestine doing the work (write to me for a  list).

Below is a press release “Gaza: Silence is not an option”

December 9, 2008

Gaza: Silence is not an option

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, has issued the following statement:

Geneva — In recent days, the desperate plight of the civilian population of Gaza has been acknowledged by such respected international figures as the Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the General Assembly, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Last week, Karen AbyZayd, who heads the UN relief effort in Gaza, offered first-hand confirmation of the desperate urgency and unacceptable conditions facing the civilian population of Gaza.  Although many leaders have commented on the cruelty and unlawfulness of the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel, such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials has not occurred on a global level since the heyday of South African apartheid.

And still Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease.

Such a policy of collective punishment, initiated by Israel to punish Gazans for political developments within the Gaza strip, constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It is long past the time when talk suffices.  As AbuZayd has written, “the chasm between word and deed” with respect to upholding human rights in occupied Palestine creates a situation where “radicalism and extremism easily take root.”

The UN is obligated to respond under these conditions.  Some governments of the world are complicit by continuing their support politically and economically for Israel’s punitive approach.

Protective action must be taken immediately to offset the persisting and wide-ranging violations of the fundamental human right to life, and in view of the emergency situation that is producing a humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding day by day.  However difficult politically, it is time to act.

At the very least, an urgent effort should be made at the United Nations to implement the agreed norm of a ‘responsibility to protect’ a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a Crime Against Humanity.

In a similar vein, it would seem mandatory for the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.

As AbuZayd has declared, “This is a humanitarian crisis deliberately imposed by political actors.”

It should be noted that the situation worsened in recent days, due to the breakdown of a truce between Hamas and Israel that had been observed for several months by both sides.  The truce was maintained by Hamas despite the failure of Israel to fulfill its obligation under the agreement to improve the living conditions of the people of Gaza.

The recent upsurge of violence occurred after an Israeli incursion that killed several alleged Palestinian militants within Gaza.  It is a criminal violation of international law for elements of Hamas or anyone else to fire rockets at Israeli towns regardless of provocation, but such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel’s imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the UN or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people.

For further information on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and work and mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, visit the following web site:

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights-Media Unit
Rupert Colville, Spokesperson
Xabier Celaya, Information Officer
+ 41 22.917.9383/ +41.79.444.7578
For inquiries and media requests:

Finally, a quote of the day from Prof. Rashid Khalidi, the Palestinian-American friend of Obama who was sidelined to mollify the elite power structures in the US:

“The current situation is inherently unstable, with intolerable pressure being put on the Palestinians.  This pressure will sooner or later produce a reaction, unless it is relieved.  The Palestinian national movement is currently in eclipse, as has happened before.  Who can say what will come next, but the past 60 years have shown that Palestinian society, whether the part that remained behind in the Jewish state in 1948, or that currently under occupation, or that in the diaspora, has shown enormous vitality and a remarkable capacity to re-knit itself and resist enormous pressure.

“Look at the Palestinians in Lebanon, who have suffered and suffer more than any segment of Palestinian society, except the people of Gaza.  In spite of the serial atrocities committed against them, the multiple external foes they have faced, and the many terrible mistakes and failures of the political leadership, like the Gazans they manage to maintain their social cohesion in conditions of indescribable difficulty.”

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD, FABMG
Professor, Bethlehem University