Aug 25, 2014

A meaningful life?

We lost three good and famous people this week: Holocaust survivor and humanist Hajo Meyer, Environmentalist broadcaster David Attenborough, and Palestinian Poet Samih AlQasim. I first met Hajo (born 1924 and died 23 August 2014) over 10 years ago and communicated with him frequently via email. And he wrote me 7 years ago when I wrote about the transfer agreement signed between Nazi Germany and the Zionist leaders "Are you aware that besides the Ha'avarah agreement the terrorist and murderer Avraham Stern had written to the Nazis on January 11th 1941 to fight with his Irgun forces together with the Nazis against the British! That is, I think, still stronger stuff." Here is Hajo as I remember him speaking his mind

David Attenborough deep and resonating voice narrating spectacular nature videos impacted many of us. These videos will have a special place in our nascent Palestine Museum of Natural History. I especially liked his series "Wonderful World" on BBC:

We also lost a great Palestinian poet Samih Al-Qasem this week. He was born from a Druze family in 1939 but considered his own date of birth as 1948 because that is when he said he awoke to what was happening to our people. He had a great career contributing words to many now famous Palestinian national songs like this one in Arabic followed by the English translation

منتصب القامة أمشي
مرفوع الهامة أمشي
في كفي غصن زيتون
وعلى كتفي نعشي
وأنا أمشي

Standing upright i walk
Elevated forehead I walk
In my palm a bunch of olives
and on my shoulder my own coffin
and I walk

Here is another poignant poem
تذاكر سفر
وعندما أٌقتَل في يومٍ من الأيام
سيَعثُر القاتل في جيبي
على تذاكِرِ السفر:
واحدة الى السلام
واحدة الى الحقول والمطر
الى ضمائر البشر
ارجوك الّا تُهمِل التذاكر
يا قاتلي العزيز
ارجوك ان تسافر

The day I'm killed,
my killer, rifling through my pockets,
will find travel tickets:
One to peace,
one to the fields and the rain,
and one
to the conscience of humankind.
Dear killer of mine, I beg you:
Do not waste the tickets.
Take them, use them.
I beg you to travel.

We also lost many other good people including a mother (Tasnim Isam Judeh) and her four Children in the ongoing Israeli genocidal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza. These simple people trying to live in
the world's largest open air prison are equally important to remember, to mourn, and to celebrate their lives. I most grieve for children lost who could have had so much future potential. Yet, while we lost good people this week we also gained much and are enriched by life. As David Attenborough reminds us life goes on in all its glory and beauty and death and regrowth. For example Gaza displaced residents in temporary shelters delivered dozens of babies and even held weddings. And some friends here and in Gaza are bringing art, music, culture, beauty to this otherwise mad world. Friends whose homes are demolished promise to rebuild and those injured are heeling. Life goes on in all its pluses and minuses. We have so far studied over 40 species of butterflies in Bethlehem University! We adopted a stray dog at the museum and planted seeds (literal and metaphysical). We note that all life is exquisitely beautiful as it blossoms. Without change and growth and interacting with our environment, we have stagnation. We must all be part of this in a positive way adding to building and wonder and growth. Hence activism and growth are the epitome of living a meaningful life exemplified by those who left us. When it is our time to go, will we have lived this meaningful life?

Please support advertisements against apartheid

Over 200 Israelis living in the US wrote this letter to Jewish community leaders. Worth reading

Holocaust survivors speak out:

Miko Peled tells it like it is on Gaza

Visit us in occupied Bethlehem, Palestine

Aug 21, 2014

to live now

Some of the volunteers for the Palestine Museum of Natural History, Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine

I have not written much lately and this email maybe personal and hard. Our days start early and end very late. Our nights are also occasionally interrupted by calls from friends in Gaza or others who need some support. In the past 48 hours, over 100 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli occupation forces. Many of those are in Rafah. Sometimes I feel guilty that I am affected more by those I know than those who die that I did not know. For example, I cried after I hung-up the phone with Islam, a friend in Rafah who has four children and they can't sleep and their house shook and windows shattered as missiles rained on homes nearby. I cried because I know him and his handicapped son and his dilemma at whether to try to carry his son and run to the street or not. But then I cried some more thinking of the many innocents who got killed and injured and who I dd not personally know and did not cry for them earlier. Islam and his family will be traumatized for life. Hundreds of thousands will be even more traumatized. I can't even imagine a life of a girl who lost all her family members and carries emotional and physical scars for life.

Sometimes I think I carry scars too. Perhaps I cope because I am so lucky to have positive things to do daily to keep me from thinking too much. I am lucky because I can help others. I am lucky that I am surrounded by dozens of young volunteers that show us what life could be like in the future. Volunteers passing out fliers about boycotts, volunteers reclaiming agricultural lands, volunteers helping us build a natural history museum in Palestine, volunteers helping other volunteers cope with a difficult life, volunteers giving time and money to needy children, and volunteers doing media work (that should have been done by paid professionals). Aida refugee camp where some of those volunteers live is really unlivable because of daily dumping of toxic gas and toxic stink water by the Israeli occupation forces. Its health impact is dramatic and far worse than respiratory illnesses.

People ask me about politics and claim it is too complex. I say it is simple and predictable. For thousands of years we had a struggle between wealthy greedy people who employ others to shoot and injure poor people so that they wealthy people get richer. It was like that at the time of Jesus and it is like that today. Some (minority) who get offered a chance will join forces of repression and go with the flow of power. Others (also a minority) lead an active life that helps change things for the better for a lot of people. The majority in the middle remain apathetic. More people need to see the truth and act on it. It is not too difficult even for those who were on the side of repression to change. Yonatan Shapira former Israeli Air Force captain became a refusnik and BDS activist and once wrote: "Most of my family came from Poland and many of my relatives were killed in the death camps during the Holocaust. When I walk in what was left from the Warsaw Ghetto I can’t stop thinking about the people of Gaza who are not only locked in an open air prison but are also being bombarded by fighter jets, attack helicopters and drones, flown by people whom I used to serve with. I am also thinking about the delegations of young Israelis that are coming to see the history of our people but also are subjected to militaristic and nationalistic brainwashing on a daily basis. Maybe if they see what we wrote here today they will remember that oppression is oppression, occupation is occupation, and crimes against humanity are crimes against humanity, whether they have been committed here in Warsaw or in Gaza". I only add resistance is resistance' Warsaw ghetto residents also dug tunnels and were also called terrorists by their tormentors.

In my 2004 book “Sharing the land of Canaan” I wrote:
“Palestinians were subjected to cruel and unreasonable treatment over so many years that many begin to doubt that justice is possible and many certainly believe coexistence impossible. Similarly, since many Israelis have been feeling embattled and attacked that many also feel that coexistence is impossible. A defeatist attitude develops and envelops not only Palestinians and Israelis but also may of their supporters. But either the societies coexist as peaceful human beings or they will perish as rival primate societies.…..A sense of hopelessness and desperation leaves many looking for “crumbs” of both material and psychological “food”. This is especially stressful when combined with the deep commitment by many to historical myths of grandeur or glory. I am not going to spend much time on the history of the Jewish, Arabic and Islamic civilizations (volumes have been written on these). Suffice it to say that our psychological profile is one that contrasts our existing condition with the perceived greatness of our ancestors and our prophets. We thus assume ourselves as a privileged group but this immediately contrasts with what we observe to be the destitute present situation as described throughout this book. This is especially true for the Palestinian people who are dispossessed. We can address the bigger issues of why 1.3 billion Muslims or 300 million Arabs (Muslims and Christians) have so little to say in the direction of world economies and social and cultural developments so dominated now by the US as a sole remaining power. But perhaps this too can be resolved slowly once the knot of friction in Israel/Palestine is resolved. Imagine the example set if this one place in the world, previously an example of violence, endemic hatred and tribalism, can transcend all this to build a truly shining example of coexistence and non-violence. Imagine the billions of dollars spent on armaments going to desalinate seawater, to build high tech industries, and truly harness the great minds of the inhabitants (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) for positive developments.…....Perhaps we need to teach children to value themselves, value teamwork, respect others and defend the rights of minorities. This is not as simple as it seems. Adults perhaps need to learn to accept, in a very positive fashion, views that are foreign to them. In other words, someone who speaks his views regarding issues should be listened to and respected regardless of how sacred the holy “cows” may be.”

I end with a quote from Howard Zinn (You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A personal history of our times, p. 208): "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 of 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 have 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."

New Facebook page


Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Bethlehem University
Director, Palestine Museum of Natural History

Aug 10, 2014

Act For Gaza

Child lost his eyesight after Israeli shelling. The father was killed a week later!

A rocket fell near us Tuesday in Beit Sahour. From the way it broke-up, we think it was one of the "iron dome" missiles that missed its mark (this happens to some 70-80% of missiles that are supposed to intercept Palestinian  home-made rockets from Gaza).  The owner of the house said of the significant damage: "we are with Gaza and continue to be".  Wars bring out the worse in people and the best in people. Israeli devastation of Gaza is facing against heroism of resilience and resistance of Palestinians and an awakening of conscience of millions. Every hour we hear stories and listen to dignified resilient voices from Gaza in the face of incredible devastation. Medics who continue to operate even as their colleagues and relatives are killed. Remaining family members who lost everything but promise to rebuild and fight back until freedom. Municipal workers trying to avert a catastrophe and keep bombed sewage and water lines open and separate. Neighbors helping each other. Resistance fighters coming back from the front lines to help dig for civilian corpses buried under the rubble. A child consoling her little brother after all their family has been wiped out. People taking care of each other and giving all of us lessons in how we can keep our humanity. Messages from Gaza say to us "we survive, we are fine, how about you? How are you?" Gaza has become like the pH meter in my lab, a good barometer of change in the medium. How are we, the medium of humanity doing and where are we heading? 

Palestinian Civil society organizations and public figures are calling on the world to demand the opening of the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Israel has developed a doctrine of slowly increasing attacks on civilians to give them a chance to supposedly stop the resistance (an impossible task). The three stages used in the past four weeks included: first stage) used in the first week of the shelling of Gaza included  Israeli forces giving warning to some of the people to leave their houses before they flattened them with shells (a form of ethnic cleansing never-the-less).  Second stage) clearing neighborhoods with a blanket statement in media to evacuate whole neighborhoods, then flattening them (also ethnic cleansing), third stage) no warning just blanket and random shelling increasing civilian deaths.  Overlapping stage two and three was also the shelling of hospitals and schools and the power station (targeting infrastructure, mostly without notice given). Having exhausted these three stages which obviously were well planned, Israeli leaders announced victory and moved on. The only gain was to bank account of those who profit from wars (companies like Elbit Systems). This helps sales of weapons (depleting stocks which have to be bought back and the US taxpayers pay for these). People die but some people get to be even more rich.

On the bright side (if there is any), this adventure accelerated the inevitable decline of the racist genocidal state of Israel. The resistance is strengthened because people saw that Israel could not advance one or two kilometers into Gaza without casualties of its soldiers who are paranoid about being captured or killed (even killed by Israeli forces to prevent them from being captured. Many committed suicide or injured themselves to leave the battle field. In 1967, Israeli armies advanced and conquered hundreds of kilometers without any opposition from supposed "Arab armies". The land conquered per hour was literally the time it took infantry to walk across the landscape (no opposition). Israel, Jordan and Egypt did not fight or even plan to fight. And they had supplies and open borders. Here a concentration camp (the enclave of Gaza) giving Israel a real fight and Israeli mighty army is bloodied and confused and wining about tunnels (well yes, the Vietcong also used tunnels because everything above ground was instantly scorched by imperial US forces). So many lies were uncovered that many observers have started to believe Hamas and other resistance groups more than they believe anything that the Western Mainstream Media and Netanyahu and his puppets have to say. Mr. Netanyahu came in front of the Israeli public and lied yet again. Israel acknowledged some 50 soldiers killed but most Israelis know the number is at least three times as high. Many Israeli families acknowledge money is being given to them to refrain from mentioning the killing of their children at the borders of Gaza. One Israeli leak suggested some 130-150 Israeli soldiers killed (closer to a number released by Hamas resistance). But the ceasefire declared by the UN (the only one declared by the UN and agreed to by the two parties) was broken by Israeli forces after they encountered some resistance fighters in their advance to Rafa and two Israeli soldiers were killed and the area was bombed burying a third soldier with the resistance fighters on spot. The Israeli government version of this was a fabrication (soldiers were attacked, one was kidnapped etc). Hamas's version of what might have happened was more believable (they lost contact with soldiers defending the field East of Rafah and they presume them dead). Belatedly the Israeli version changed and they were forced t accept a version closer to what the Palestinians said. But this is of little consolation to Palestinians including children massacred with the excuse that Hamas broke the cease fire. Now there is talk in Cairo to give Israel what it could not achieve by military means: impunity from crimes, pacification of the natives while maintaining colonization and injustice.

But people are moving. The above call and other like it are followed by actions. There si widening boycotts of everything Israeli and people are mobilizing aid convoys to Gaza (three trucks from my own town of Beit Sahour will leave in the next two days and this is just one of hundreds of such efforts).  Yet this is still not enough. 400,000 Palestinians are now dislocated and for nearly half of them, their homes have been destroyed. Billions of dollars are needed to rebuild. Every bit helps though and actions speak louder than words. As we help Gaza Palestinians on a humanitarian level, we must also ensure accountability and to prevent more Israeli crimes. To do that we need BDS, we need ICC, we need coordination and joint action.

Names of Palestinians murdered by the colonial fascist Israeli forces (they are not numbers or even names, they are people with their stories and their rights violated and robbed of their lives by a war machine empowered by human silence)

I have many friends/colleagues in Gaza and all where affected by the ongoing horrors, more than half of them had family members killed (see for example story of family members of our colleague Dr Mona El Farra below), and one was killed herself with two of her children.

Being calmly rational about dead children feels like a very particular form of madness. Whatever else journalistic objectivity is, it surely cannot be the elimination of human emotion

Israeli Vets Speak Out: What Really Goes On In Gaza
Starvation, shooting at kids, casual violence—former IDF soldiers reveal the abuses by the Israeli military in Gaza

Photographer is killed as he videotapes attacks on ambulances
here is the same incident from another photographer who survived this war crime

A very excellent example of an article putting the context out that is ignored by Zionist dominated western media. We should all learn to write like that and to focus our energy on media.

Who profits from the war on Gaza

Over 100 Middle East Studies Scholars and Librarians Call for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Boycott Israel: here is research on 60 companies to boycott/picket etc.

Dr. Mads Gilbert makes a moving speech upon his return to Norway from Gaza

Norman Finkelstein" The word is out, Israel is a lunatic state

Aug 1, 2014

Free Gaza

Call from Palestine: Free Gaza, Hold Israel Accountable

To those who understand the interconnectedness of our many human struggles for justice and dignity, we in the Palestinian Civil Society implore you to act in solidarity as Gaza burns and bleeds, gathers and buries the lifeless bodies of her children, and contends with carnage and loss for which there is no language. The Gaza Strip is 139 square mile packed with 1.8 million people (1.2 million of whom are refugees ethnically cleansed by Israel between 1947-1950). This open-air prison has been suffocating under a deadly siege imposed by Israel for years and accommodated by the Egyptian government under pressure from the USA. A UN report before the latest assault said the Strip will be unlivable by 2020 but this attacks may bring that date sooner. Further, Gaza has been subjected to repeated massacres as Israel uses the small strip as testing grounds for its latest weaponry (funded by US taxpayers).  According to the ministry of health, in its latest assault on the people of Gaza, Israeli occupation forces murdered 1283 and injured 7170 human beings (80% of them civilians, >200 children). Entire families are wiped out almost every day by Israel’s relentless bombing of civilian areas. Even before this latest assault, Israel has declared 20% of Gaza off-limits to human habitation and has demolished homes and agricultural fields in those areas. Now Israel has doubled this scorched earth area to be 40% of Gaza (182,000 displaced). We watch in horror as Israeli occupation forces destroyed mosques, schools, hospitals, agricultural areas, industries, and even the only power station in Gaza. We ask people of conscience to contact media and politicians to ensure that Israel is not immune from compliance with International Humanitarian Law. We also ask for expansion of campaigns of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Hundreds of thousands around the world demonstrated for Gaza and we are grateful. But more actions at this stage are needed to prevent large-scale genocide and human catastrophe in Gaza. As Gaza is forced into darkness and devastation, we must speak on her behalf. Our friends and family members in Gaza call on you to demand the lifting of the siege on Gaza, the immediate provision of medical and humanitarian aid, and holding Israel accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Key websites for information on current events in Gaza
Gaza:; pictures/stories of martyrs; UN Office of  Coordinator for Humanitarian; UNRWA; Palestinain Center for Human Rights
International Middle East Media Center

UN releases Satellite images showing Gaza destruction about livelihood
 "The third segment of the show, Gorilla Radio interview with Prof. Qumsiyeh

A child is thought dead, his family receives the bad news, touching and crying over him then he comes back to life and is rushed back to the operating room

Targeting ambulances (now how is this video but evidence of crimes against humanity not war crimes since there is no war on Gaza, there is genocide)

IDF Confirms Nahal Oz Video, Deif Shocks Israel

Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Pedro Almodovar denounce Israel's 'genocide' in Gaza

64 public figures, 7 Nobel laureates, call for arms embargo on Israel
Tutu, Chomsky, Waters, Pappe, others accuse country of 'war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.'

The UN spokesperson Christopher Gunness cried as he tried to describe recent bombing of a United Nations school in Gaza.

People all over the world are stepping up - many for the first time - to send a clear, urgent message: We Choose Freedom for All.
Palestinians will not 'raise a white flag (including statement from Prof. Qumsiyeh)

Henry Siegman, Leading Voice of U.S. Jewry, on Gaza: "A Slaughter of Innocents"