“Palestine is not a local issue, it is a global issue with global ramifications”
ProMosaik e.V. interviews Mazin Qumsiyeh
By Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik e.V.
An important interview with the Palestinian writer and scientist Mazin Qumsiyeh, born in Beit Sahour in 1957, director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History. You can find a lot of interesting material on his website for further reading: http://qumsiyeh.org/ He is famous for his brave words. There is only a one-state-solution, he says in his books about the liberation of Palestine from Zionist occupation because resources and people cannot be split. So we have to start living together in peace and justice. He focusses on the importance of resistance against injustice, militarism, colonialism, apartheid. There is no peace without justice. And Israel as a Zionist State must be dismantled.
And, Palestine is not a local problem. It is a problem for us all together. So the solution can only be a cooperative one. But resistance is the key. And BDS the second key. We can all help Palestine. Mazin gives us a list of 67 ways to be an activist for Palestine, even by doing street theater. So be active! Free Palestine!
Milena Rampoldi: ProMosaik e.V. is an intercultural and interreligious portal for peace and human rights. We are firmly convinced that Zionism means occupation and oppression. How would you define Zionism?
Mazin Qumsiyeh: Zionists define Zionism which was coined as a term in the mid to late 19th century and then focused on creating a Jewish state (run by Jews for all Jews of the world). The set goals were refined in the Zionist congress in Jerusalem 1966 and it included revival of the Hebrew language and “culture” and strengthening Israel as a Jewish state and world wide Jewish migration and identification with the state. For more see this chapter I wrote in my book “Sharing the land of Canaan’. A quotation could be this one:
Zionism believes that a rebirth of national life, such as is occurring in German life through adhesion to Christian and national values, but must also take place in the Jewish national group. Both Zionists and Nazis believed that Jews couldn’t be Germans. They both believed that Jews could not function normally in other societies as equal citizens. Zionists in fact were clearly putting a primary goal of colonial Jewish presence in a majority in Palestine ahead of any other issues even when this goal contradicted the welfare of Jews. This is why they collaborated with the Nazis and thwarted some efforts to rescue Jews.
MR: What are the main subjects of your books about Palestine?
MQ: About my book “Sharing the Land of Canaan” I can give you this brief description:
There is no more compelling and dramatic unfolding story with more profound international ramifications than the conflict in the Middle East. Over five million Palestinian refugees were created and almost an equal number of new immigrants and settlers came under the banner of Zionism. The unrest and injustices created have ramifications for all humanity as seen in recent events. The book brings out a critical documentation of these events and the core issues of the conflict with the view that human rights are key to any plans for a lasting peace. There is a growing interest in a vision and a roadmap for peace based on Human Rights among Israelis, Palestinians, and human rights activists around the world. A shared future is increasingly recognized as far more realistic than separation and continued injustice. This book examines facts on the ground and articulates future directions based on the logic of equality and human rights rather than apartheid. The advocated solutions are not only moral, ethical, and humane but can actually achieve a lasting and just peace. People who now live in this land of Canaan and those dispossessed from it will find the roadmap presented here compelling. The advocated moral, ethical, and humane solutions can achieve a lasting and just peace. People who now live in this land of Canaan and those dispossessed from it will find the text compelling. Another issue addressed in the book is such things as sustainable development and impossibility of separating resources for two countries in the same area. Recent plans confirm this as shown in this report: Water in Palestine.
For my second book entitled “Popular Resistance” I would like to make reference to the following description:
The book summarizes and analyzes the rich 130 plus year history of civil resistance in Palestine discussing the challenges and opportunities faced in different historical periods with emphasis on trends, directions and lessons learnt. The aim is to put before the reader the most concise, yet most comprehensive and accurate treatment, of a subject that has captured the imagination and interests of the global community. Looking at the successes, failures, missed opportunities and challenges in this period allows people to chart a better direction for the future.
There is a litany of writings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that cover issues like wars, economic deprivation, terrorism (state and individual), human rights, religious beliefs, land, and governance. There are hardly any books and writings about civil resistance (see section below on competitive titles). Further, we can learn from any setback of collective grass-roots efforts to chart a more informed path to a future of peace with justice. I reviewed over 800 sources (more than half of them in Arabic) and included over 300 as key citations from newspapers, interviews, press releases, articles, and books in different languages. This allowed me to bring together something not attempted before: a compilation of issues of civil resistance in Palestine over 130 years with a well-informed analysis on the history, status and prospects of civil resistance in Palestine going forward.
Over two-thirds of the 10 million native Palestinians in the world are refugees or displaced people. This outcome, like all other similar situations in history such as in South Africa, could not have come about without resistance to the violence of colonialism. But most of this resistance has been in the form of civil/nonviolent resistance that is little discussed elsewhere. This book will answer an acute need in the literature on this neglected area. Because there has been key transformative events that bookmark chapters of our history, we use the intervening periods as indeed chapters to discuss what acts of civil resistance transpired and what lessons are drwan from them.
These period: the resistance to Zionism during the Ottoman rule (from the first colonies in 1878 til 1917); the British era from 1917 (Balfour Declaration) to 1935; the 1936-1939 uprising; the period between the start of WWII and the Nakba of destruction of hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages between 1947-1949; the period of fragmentation of the Palestinian population into exile and divided among the rule of Israel, Jordan and Egypt (to 1967); the unification under one ethnocentric Jewish state after 1967 to 1987; the uprising of 1987-1991; the Oslo years 1992-2000; and the Al-Aqsa Intifada starting in 2000.
Various UN resolutions and customary international law affirmed the legitimacy of armed resistance. For example, UNGA A/RES/33/24 of 29 November 1978 “Reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle”. The principle of self-determination itself provides that where forcible action has been taken to suppress the rights, force may be used in order to counter this and achieve self-determination. Considering decades of ethnic cleansing, violence, destruction, it is actually surprising how few Palestinians engaged in violent resistance as a whole (whether internationally sanctioned or not). In fact, from the first Zionist colony in 1878 until the 1920s, we show in this book that nearly 50 years had elapsed since the start of popular nonviolent resistance.
This work is timely and will be highly readable for the following reasons:
A) the depth of data mining done to achieve a concise and highly readable yet comprehensive study based on original sources (over half from Arabic sources) on a subject that has received little attention,
B) the uniqueness of the approach in looking at success of civil resistance as an empowering history with lessons for the future, C) the growth of interest in civil resistance in Palestine concomitant with failure of traditional political structures to address societal needs, and
D) the international community’s growing active involvement in this struggle.
The book makes the following arguments/generalization from analysing the history of civil resistance:
a) Colonial situations (especially those that strip people of their lands and homes) by nature involve the use of violence against the native population. Such colonial situations generate resistance that is recognized as legitimate by international law. That native resistance is a Bell shaped curve: a small portion is collaborative (asking nicely and accepting whatever is given), most of it nonviolent, some of it violent and even a smaller portion extremely violent. As any statistician would tell you eliminating a portion of the curve would cause it to renormalize in short order (whether what you eliminate is those who engage in violence or nonviolence).
b) The violence of the occupiers/colonizers always kills many times more natives than colonial settler populations. For example the ratio of civilians killed was 10:1 (Palestinian: Israeli) and over >100:1 (European settlers: Native Americans).
c) Palestinians resist by simply living in their homes, going to school, eating and living. That is because this colonial occupation wants all Palestinians to give up and leave the country (to give Israel maximum geography with minimum native demography). When the Palestinian Shepherds in Atwani village continued to go to their fields despite repeated attacks by settlers and even the attempted poisoning of their sheep, that is non-violent resistance. When Palestinians walk to school while being spat on, kicked and beaten by settlers and soldiers, that is non-violent resistance. When Palestinians spend hours at check points to get to hospital, their farm land, their work, their schools, or to visit their friends, that is non-violent resistance. Palestinians have resisted by countless other ways as detailed in this book.
d) The vast majority of the civil resistance detailed in this book originate bottom up from the grassroots. Political parties and leadership are usually taken off-guard by the start of new uprisings and the inventions of new resistance methods. Occasionally movements may evolve into political initiatives as The Palestine National Initiative and the One Democratic State Group www.odsg.org but most of the time they simply influence existing political formulations to perform differently.
e) Locals ask what will we do: engage in personal struggle by violent or nonviolent resistance or a mix? But it is useless for armchair theorists to lecture people thousands of miles away about tactics and strategies. It is better for people in Europe and North America to work to effect change in their own governments and media (entities that are directly involved in perpetuating the injustices) to bring a just resolution to this conflict.
f) Individuals can change and adopt a nonviolent lifestyle even after spending years with violence. That is the power of human intellect and strength of spirituality. The Seville Statement on Violence was adopted by UNESCO at the 25th session of the UN general assembly on 16 November 1986. Drafted by eminent scientists, it lays out facts and debunks mythologies including myths that the human species which invented war cannot eliminate war.
This document lays out the foundations for a world without war and injustice. The few hundred examples of Palestinian civil resistance (among many more) inspire and mobilize us to seek a world without war and injustice.
g) The evolution of human societies is moving in a direction that make military confrontation less acceptable. As the UN was established, more and more people have come to recognize that force cannot be used to bring domination and control. But the cost of war has also become rather unacceptable in the era of 2 ton bombs, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Further, having military superiority has become less likely to produce the results desired by political leaders. Take the quagmire of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan as examples or the failure of the Israeli massive attack on Lebanon in Summer 2006 and on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009. In older days, combat could be done far away from civilian populations and ruling elites who get insulated from the conflicts. Today, citizens cannot be safe when their country goes to war even when they are not combatants.
MR: Which are the best strategies for you to build peace in Palestine?
MQ: Justice, human rights, and international law must be vigorously advocated and fought for. Resistance is the key. Outside support can accelerate the process especially by using boycotts, divestment, and sanctions.
MR: What are the main aspects of Israeli Apartheid?
MQ: Apartheid means Institutionalized Discrimination. As I wrote in my book:
Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians who remained within its borders following the ethnic cleansing of 1947-1949 (detailed in Chapter 4) is particularly telling. Palestinians were placed under Martial law from 1948-1966 while Jewish immigrants consolidated their control, built settlements on confiscated Palestinian lands, built an infrastructure and a working country from the infrastructure of Palestine. In 1966, the martial law was lifted and Palestinians were supposed to be “equal citizens.” The reality was far from equal, as the discussion of Israeli laws above illustrate. While Palestinians were now a minority with voting rights, they were also excluded from all aspects of the society that defined itself as a Jewish culture and state. Details of these issues can be found on Web pages of Israeli Palestinians and the human rights organizations in Israel that are trying to preserve some semblance of human rights.
MR: What can we do as writers, teachers, and journalists to help Palestine from inside and from outside?
MQ: Find out the truth and tell it. But see here: http://qumsiyeh.org/whatyoucando/
67 Ways to act for peace with justice (what YOU can do)
1) Educate yourself via reliable books (or at least videotapes) on the subjects you are interested in and expand your interest into other areas. See Suggested books and videos and Recommended Books and Links
2) Educate yourself and track current information and key historical data via websites (and disseminate it). For example look into http://www.imemc.org/, http://electronicintifada.net/, Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem, Palestine Remembered, and similar websites.
3) Educate yourself by visiting areas of conflict and friction and where you can make a difference and writing about it. There are many organizations doing tours that inspire us in many parts of the world including Palestine.
4) Practice using clear and unambiguous vocabulary including language to protest apartheid and colonization. See for example Developing anti-partheid framework for the struggle (PDF File)
5) Challenge media bias by first educating yourself and others about its existence and the extent of the bias. See for example http://ifamericansknew.org/
6) Write to the mainstream media. You can write letters to the editor (usually 200 words) and/or opinion pieces (700-900 words).
7) Start your own group or join an existing organization that works for justice. Simply search/Google your city with the word activism plus Palestine or any other subject that interests you to identify candidates.
8) Join the International Solidarity Movement, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program (EAPPI), Christian Peace Maker Team, PeaceCorps, or other groups doing work in the areas of need
9) Develop close working relationship with progressive parties and groups in your country.
10) Network and enhance groups working on sanctions and suspension of aid (especially military) to oppressive regimes such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
11) Lobby. This is done individually or by supporting/joining one or more od the many groups doing it, e.g. Council for the National Interest, Citizens For Fair Legislation, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, and American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights (http://www.aaper.org/).
12) Hold a teach-in, seminar, or public dialogue. This is straightforward: you need to decide venue, speakers, and do publicity. This can be facilitated through such groups as Palestine Media Watch which have speakers bureaus.
13) Send direct aid and support for people on the ground through transparent and trustworthy groups.
14) Use Youtube and Google video to disseminate information
15) Challenge Israel and other oppressive regimes in local and international courts. If you are a lawyer, donate your time and start some networking and initiate cases (e.g. US congress is violating US laws by sending money to Israel, US Citizens can bring cases against foreign governments that harmed them). Groups with great interest and activism on behalf of Palestinians includes Lawyers Without Border, National Lawyers Guild, Al-Haq, Yesh Din, and Adalah – Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.
16) Help local groups that are shy to take on controversial subjects (insist that courage and honesty demand taking strong positions).
17) If you work in a group, suggest formation of local or national coalitions to increase the power by association.
18) Join the campaigns for economic boycotts. For example see successful examples here http://www.bdsmovement.net and http://www.qumsiyeh.org/boycottsanddivestment/
19) Join or initiate a campaign for cultural and academic boycott; see http://pacbi.org/.
20) Host an art exhibit or other art performance (music, dabka etc) that highlight the rich Palestinian culture.
21) Engage in civil disobedience actions to draw attention and change policies.
22) Develop campaigns to support the right to enter: see www.righttoenter.ps
Israel Takes Aim At Palestinian Families By Ida Audeh http://www.countercurrents.org/audeh110907.htm
23) Facilitate a visit by the Wheels of Justice bus tour to your area (in the US) or create a bus like that (e.g. in Europe). See justicewheels.org
24) Donate to aid needy families and worthy projects
25) Develop campaigns to ban Political Junkets to Israel.
Here is an example “In a challenge to one of the most powerful lobbying tactics used by the Jewish community, a county in Maryland decided last week that local legislators could no longer go on sponsored trips to Israel. http://www.forward.com/articles/11553/
26) Support the campaigns to end the siege on Gaza. See http://www.freegaza.org/, http://www.witnessgaza.com/
27) Work in your country against discrimination. For example
Arabs Against Discrimination: http://www.aad-online.org/
American Arabs Anti-Discrimination Committee
28) Support Human Rights: Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org, Human Rights Watch: http://hrw.org B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories http://www.btselem.org
29) Support the Right to Education Campaign: http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/
30) Promote education especially in younger generation
31) Work against home demolitions and other destructive actions. e.g. Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions: http://www.icahd.org/eng
32) Support empowering Youth from Palestine e.g. see http://www.yfppal.com/ and http://www.alrowwad-acts.ps
33) Write to and work with alternative mass media (like DemocracyNow, Public Access TV).
34) Create your own content and post it to the web
35) Utilize social networking sites to reach a mass audience (e.g. Facebook)
36) Go into chat rooms, email discussions etc and spread the word.
37) Buy Palestinian Products, for example from www.palestineonlinestore.com, www.canaanfairtrade.com, www.palestinefairtrade.org.
38) Pray for Peace and Justice or if you are not religious, take time out to think and meditate on what can be done to achieve Peace with Justice
39) Make a podcast or public service announcement and spread it
40) Drop a banner from a traffic bridge or any other publicly visible location
41) Put out an information table in a university student center, public gathering, festivals, or other places where people congregate.
42) Host a fund raising party or dinner at your home.
43) Show a documentary in a public setting and then have a discussion about it.
44) Organize a public debate between those who support Zionism and those who support equality and justice
45) Learn Arabic or if you are an Arab learn another language (including Hebrew) so that you can communicate better
46) Make a street theater
47) Engage in Civil disobedience acts (this may entail getting arrested).
48) Reach out to Christian religious leaders and ask them to act based on the Kairos Palestine document www.kairospalestine.ps
49) Challenge the Zionist attempts to doctor Wikipedia (ie. imposing a Zionist distorted version on this free Web encyclopedia). Become a wikepedia editor/writer.
50) Start a genuine interfaith dialogue based on acting for justice rather than chatting to hide injustice.
51) Find a way not to pay taxes to governments that violate human rights and use your taxes for war and oppression.
52) Host a dinner with Arabic food and show people the rich cultural traditions like embroidered dresses that go back to Canaanitic times.
Write to us to remind us of other ways to act.
53) Run for public office.
54) Put-up a billboard in your community that highlight a certain aspect of the struggle.
55) Develop partnerships/twinning between universities, schools, colleges, churches etc with similar Palestinian entities.
56) Introduce a divestment resolution from Israel at your city or town council.
57) Pass-out flyers or stickers at a public event.
58) Host a speaker from your community who was in Palestine to tell personal stories and experiences
59) Ask your Church or University or other appropriate group to invite a Palestinian speaker.
60) What ever your field of work, you can find a way to network people in it with Palestinians in that work: librarians, professors, pediatricians, naturalists, journalists, farmers, small shop owners, workers etc.
61) Wear an armband on particular days to start conversations about Palestine. For example a black arm band on Nakba day (15 May) or a green armband on Land Day (30 March). It allows you to tell a story to those who ask.
62) Hold a sign that says boycott apartheid in front of every visiting Israeli official in your country including artists or university faculty or others that represent Israeli institutions.
63) Do a flash mob at facilities that support Israel (like Starbucks).
64) Organize programs to support Palestinian political prisoners (more than 750,000 Palestinains were imprisoned since 1967).
65) Support sustainability projects in Palestine like the Palestine Museum of Natural History and its Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability (see http://palestinenature.org)
66) Help lift the spirits of a Palestinian child
67) Help pay tuition for Palestinian students in Palestinian universities
MR: How important is it to work all together as activists to make people understand what is going on in Palestine?
MQ: Palestine is not a local issue, it is a global issue with global ramifications. The conflict was created in Europe and it has predictable trajectories which I discussed in my books. It is important indeed to work together to bring peace which can only be based on justice.
MR: How important is the cooperation with Anti-Zionist Jews today?
MQ: In South Africa under apartheid it was important that there were privilaged whites who joined the struggle. Even if numbers were and are small, it is very important. For one thing it showed the struggle is not a tribal conflict as the racist apartheid supporters claimed and advocated but a struggle between those who support apartheid/racism and those who oppose it.
See interview with photos at: http://www.promosaik.blogspot.de/2015/10/promosaik-ev-interviews-mazin-qumsiyeh.html#sthash.fdfj5mz0.dpuf