Friday, April 29, 2016

Shaking Off the End of Time

End of Time?

by Mazin Qumsiyeh - Palestine Museum of Natural History

Basil Al-Araj is in a Palestinian jail. He is a young Palestinian pharmacist who had worked at a pharmacy in Shufat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem. I knew him because he is from Al-Walaja, a village that was struggling as “Israel” builds a wall around the remaining houses of the village (already 90% of the residents are refugees elsewhere).

Village wells and lands were stolen by the Israeli colonizers starting in 1948 and continuing till today.

Basil had a love of Palestine and a hatred of injustice. Like most young people they searched for ways to act on their convictions. He participated in nonviolent demonstrations at his village but was not satisfied with their outcome. He read my book on “Popular Resistance in Palestine” in Arabic and gave me his feedback. He said he learned much about history of the Palestinian struggle. He said the book’s Arabic could use some editing. He worked briefly as a researcher for the Palestinian museum after he lost his job in Shufat.

He tried other methods of action. He and a few others tried to block the main road near the colony of Maale Adumim. He and I and four others were the six Palestinian Freedom riders arrested in 2011 while demonstrating Israeli apartheid policies [1].
These demonstrative actions were born of good intentions to help bring us closer to freedom. I always lamented even as I participated in such actions how the Palestinian leadership betrayed its people leaving young and old a sense “orphaned of leadership”. I worried not that the Palestinian cause will die (I am by nature optimistic) but that the selfishness, ego, and incompetence of self-declared leaders can only delay the inevitable freedom and dispirit a population otherwise willing and able to liberate itself.
Now Basil and two friends of his have been arrested by the Palestinian Authority and the news is buzzing that they had planned/plotted for an armed attack against the Israeli occupation. If this is true (and I have my doubts), it would add to our conviction that the policies of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (acting as sub-contractor for the occupation) are failing and the choices faced by a whole new disenfranchised young
generation will be difficult.

Israeli colonial invaders bombed, injured and killed many Palestinians including attacks on the mayors of Nablus and Hebron during the 1987-1992 uprising. After the Oslo process the Israeli security service did detain a very large Jewish terrorist group that had caused much deaths and injuries. They even caught them red-handed as they tried to plant bombs on Palestinian buses. However, an amnesty bill was passed in the Knesset, signed by the Israeli prime minister and the Jewish terrorists released just before the assassination of Yizhak Rabin.

The assassin did change history as now it is impossible for any Israeli leader to show any courage or dignity to go against the racist colonial settler mentality [2].

Basil and his colleagues are doomed to suffer since we are told that the Palestinian authority is bound by its pledges of service to Israeli security even though Israel is not bound by any agreements it signed.[3]

Israel benefited tremendously from Oslo process and completely ignores its obligations (meager as they are under the agreement). Its profits from the occupation rose sharply (400-500%) after Oslo. Now Israel makes at least $12 billions a year from the occupation and that is not counting the land and water it steals. Meanwhile Israeli terrorists with blood on their hands roam freely in the colonial apartheid system.

That system gets support from selfish western leaders who Israeli intelligence learned how to “domesticate” with carrot and stick approach. Money and media coverage can be used both to help elect a candidate and help demolish a candidate especially when combined with “skeletons hiding in their closets”.

But I always come back to what WE can do. It sometimes feels frustrating to be running against corrupt systems that are ruthless and inhumane [4]. But we are heartened by growth of solidarity (and BDS) around the world [5].

I am finishing a visit to Siena, Italy where I gave several talks. The reception and interest in helping is great. In fact only one Jewish Zionist was encountered and she merely reiterated long discredited “talking points” that only harmed her own cause (of support for an apartheid racist regime). What I find amazing is that there is indeed “civility” still widespread even as neoliberal/neocolonial world order dominates politics (in Italy, US, Palestine etc).

I am reading this book I received as a gift from a chair at the University of Siena. The book by Enzo Tiezzi is called “The End of Time” and it is remarkable in its diagnosis of what ails planet earth today. It does have an optimistic leaning in that we humans can and will (hopefully) make the right choices to save our planet. Time is not on our side; there is urgency to the matter. We must act NOW on issues like global climate change and global inequality and poverty. Tomorrow it will be harder than today which is already more difficult than yesterday!

That is why some of us are focused not just on political revolution (needed as that is) but on cultural and educational and an environmental revolution (basically a change in human behavior). Our own small contribution in the latter part is now channeled via the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability, both at Bethlehem University (see

Our challenge remains to get more people out of apathy and to get more energy out of already active people towards what I called 15 years ago “a global intifada” (intifada literally means shaking off but most commonly translated as “uprising”). Our challenge is to organize and act better in our own small spheres which coalesce together to effect the needed (existential) change.

[1] see
[2] See this excellent documentary on how Israeli “security forces” work in a colonial system: The Gatekeeper
[3] At 80, Failed Abbas is Probed, Derided and Scapegoated
[4] see this video of Israeli ministers threatening BDS Activists
and here is a good analysis of what this means:
[5] if you simply google Palestine Solidarity, you get 4.7 MILLION website hits! For example here is the most listened to Radio show in Luxemberg covering a recent visit to Palestine by some colleagues from that small state (with pictures) Wéi gesäit et mam Fridden am Noen Osten aus?

 Stay Human and do come visit us in Palestine

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine

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