It has been 8 years since I moved back from the USA to occupied Palestine and it may be worth a brief reflection. I accomplished much since then (of course I am surrounded by good people starting with my wife and immediate family members to students and volunteers who believed in what we were doing and to hundreds of supporters around the world).
My ‘official welcome back’ by the occupation police
By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
It has been 8 years since I moved back from the USA to occupied Palestine and it may be worth a brief reflection. I accomplished much since then (of course I am surrounded by good people starting with my wife and immediate family members to students and volunteers who believed in what we were doing and to hundreds of supporters around the world). Briefly, under difficult circumstances in 2008-2016, I (with support)
1- Published many scientific research articles including critical ones on environment and genetics
2- Wrote books (one published in 2012 on Popular Resistance in Palestine and two on the way)
3- Founded and directed a clinical cytogenetics laboratory
4- Mentored dozens of graduate and undergraduate students
5- Taught over 8 different courses ranging from molecular biology to anthropology to biodiversity at four colleges and universities
6- Founded and directed the Palestine Museum (PMNH) of Natural History and Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) including its nascent botanical garden. http://www.palestinenature.org
7- Traveled throughout occupied Palestine and collected over 8000 specimens and over 10,000 photos that are a basis of current and future research
8- Traveled and represented Palestine in over 20 countries
9- Wrote over 200 articles on issues ranging from popular resistance to the one state solution to BDS.
10- Spoke to over 5000 visiting internationals about the situation
11- Spoke to thousands of locals on issues ranging from environment to human rights
12- Created jobs and helped some students manage their financial burden with some scholarships and work-study programs
13- Organized dozens of workshops that built human capacity
14- Built working relationships with dozens of local and international groups
15- Performed a number of consultancies to local and international agencies that made a direct impact on course of human development and the environment
16- Read over 500 books and hundreds of articles that helped me change and grow as an individual
17- Built friendships with hundreds (and met thousands)
18- Challenged oppression wherever it was found (via demonstrations, media work, etc) and got arrested a few times and questioned by intelligence services of three countries😉
All of this was done while struggling against not just Israeli occupation with its repression (e.g. inability to import things normally, lack of freedom of movement) but some Palestinian societal backward culture including nepotism, patriarchy, bureaucracy, and corruption. We were learning as we go how to deal with people (including the “mental occupation”). We gave chances to some who abused them and some who benefited from the chances to improve themselves and serve Palestine. But what sustained me/us was good honest people who I met and worked with everywhere. Hundreds of individuals like you on this list who helped us in so many ways by donations, volunteerism, actions, and other kinds of support. Of course what we have done is miniscule compared to what needs to be done. And there are many millions of candles in this darkness. We are humble enough to realize that we can only continue to achieve with collective work towards a peaceful., just, and SUSTAINABLE world.
Staying in the US would have been much less demanding on my physical and psychological health (and with a six figure income would have been financially “logical”). And there was lots of activities we were doing in the US for Palestine, for global peace, and for the environment. Much remains to be done within the US as it continues to be the country that is in the words of Martin Luther King Jr “the biggest purveyor of violence”. It certainly is the most enabling and the major sponsor of apartheid Israel and the endless wars in neighboring countries (conflicts thought to serve Israeli interests). Without the US support “Israel” would fold in two weeks and would have to become a democratic country for all its people and allow the Palestinian refugees to return. However and having said all of that, the decision to return to Palestine was the best decision I made in my life and this feeling grows stronger every day. The most important accomplishment I feel will last generations is my mentoring of young people. I would like to spend more time with young people (this is part of the reason we built PMNH/PIBS) and work harder at helping people help themselves. As I look forward with optimism to the next eight years here (If I live that long), I want to sincerely thank all of you who contributed and continue to contribute your time and energy.
END OF REFLECTION. Now for other good news
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America voted overwhelmingly in the annual convention to set up a screen and not invest in any company that profits from Israel’s occupation. They also called to end US unconditioonal aid to Israel. The Green party of the US developed a great latform on the question of Palestine (see below) that is based on human rights and justice. Social media are abuzz after the disastrous choice of Clinton and Trump to be nominees of the “democratic” and “republican” parties. Many argue that this continuing deterioration was a predictable outcome of the permission of lobbies (like the Zionist lobby to shape elections) and/or an expected outcome of several elections where people vote for the lesser of two evils rather than vote their conscience.
Following the diminishing water supply to Palestinians in the West Bank and the severe water shortage and pollution in the Gaza Strip, a light installation was held simultaneously in eight locations: Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Boston, New York, Houston, Johannesburg, Melbourne and Perth, Australia. In an illuminating display of lights reflected in water, activists from four continents stood near lakes and beaches creating the message “WATER IS A RIGHT” in various languages.
Green Party Statement on The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Our Green values oblige us to support popular movements for peace and demilitarization in Israel-Palestine, especially those that reach across the lines of conflict to engage both Palestinians and Israelis of good will.
We reaffirm the right of self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis, which precludes the self-determination of one at the expense of the other. We recognize the historical and contemporary cultural diversity of Israeli-Palestinian society, including the religious heritage of Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. This is a significant part of the rich cultural legacy of all these peoples and it must be respected. To ensure this, we support equality before international law rather than appeals to religious faith as the fair basis on which claims to the land of Palestine-Israel are resolved.
We recognize that Jewish insecurity and fear of non-Jews is understandable in light of Jewish history of horrific oppression in Europe. However, we oppose as both discriminatory and ultimately self-defeating the position that Jews would be fundamentally threatened by the implementation of full rights to Palestinian-Israelis and Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their homes. As U.S. Greens, we refuse to impose our views on the people of the region. Still, we would turn the U.S. government towards a new policy, which itself recognizes the equality, humanity, and civil rights of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and all others who live in the region, and which seeks to build confidence in prospects for secular democracy.
We reaffirm the right and feasibility of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel. We acknowledge the significant challenges of equity and restitution this policy would encounter and call on the U.S. government to make resolution of these challenges a central goal of our diplomacy in the region.
We reject U.S. unbalanced financial and military support of Israel while Israel occupies Palestinian lands and maintains an apartheid-like system in both the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens. Therefore, we call on the U.S. President and Congress to suspend all military and foreign aid, including loans and grants, to Israel until Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories, dismantles the separation wall in the Occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, ends its siege of Gaza and its apartheid-like system both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens.
We also reject U.S. political support for Israel and demand that the U.S. government end its veto of Security Council resolutions pertaining to Israel. We urge our government to join with the U.N. to secure Israel’s complete withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries and its compliance with international law.
We support a much stronger and supportive U.S. position with respect to all United Nations, European Union, and Arab League initiatives that seek a negotiated peace. We call for an immediate U.N.-sponsored, multinational peacekeeping and protection force in the Palestinian territories with the mandate to initiate a conflict-resolution commission.
We call on the foreign and military affairs committees of the U.S. House and Senate to conduct full hearings on the status of human rights and war crimes in Palestine-Israel, especially violations committed during Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”) as documented in the 2009 “UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict”(“The Goldstone Report”) authorized by the UN Commission on Human Rights.
We recognize that despite decades of continuous diplomatic attempts by the international community, it has failed to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law or respect for basic Palestinian human rights; and that, despite abundant condemnation of Israel’s policies by the UN, International Court of Justice, and all relevant international conventions, the international community of nations has failed to stop Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights in Israel and the OPT, while Israeli crimes continue with impunity. We recall that ending institutionalized racism (apartheid) in South Africa demanded an unusual, cooperative action by the entire international community in the form of a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid South Africa, and that BDS can become the most effective nonviolent means for achieving justice and genuine peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and for the region, through concerted international pressure as applied to apartheid South Africa; and that Palestinian resistance to ongoing dispossession has mainly been nonviolent, including its most basic form—remaining in their homes, on their land; and that while Palestinian armed resistance is legitimate under international law when directed at non-civilian targets, we believe that only nonviolent resistance will maintain the humanity of Palestinian society, elicit the greatest solidarity from others, and maximize the chance for future reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. However, we also recognize that our appeal to Palestinians to continue to resist nonviolently in the face of ongoing existential threats from Israel is hypocritical unless accompanied by substantial acts of international support. We recall that in 2005, Palestinian Civil Society appealed to the international community to support a BDS campaign against Israel, and that in response the Green Party of the US endorsed this BDS campaign in 2005. Therefore, we support the implementation of boycott and divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era, which includes pressuring our government to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel; and we support maintaining these nonviolent punitive measures until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by
-Ending its occupation and colonization of all Palestinian lands and dismantling the Wall in the West Bank
-Recognizing the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
-Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
We recognize that international opinion has been committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, we view the two-state solution as neither democratic nor viable in the face of international law, material conditions and “facts on the ground” that now exist in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Given this reality, we support a U.S. foreign policy that promotes the creation of one secular, democratic state for Palestinians and Israelis on the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan as the national home of both peoples, with Jerusalem as its capital. We encourage a new U.S. diplomatic initiative to begin the long process of negotiation, laying the groundwork for such a single-state constitution.
We recognize that such a state might take many forms and that the eventual model chosen must be decided by the peoples themselves. We also acknowledge the enormous hostilities that now exist between the two peoples, but history tells us that these are not insurmountable among people genuinely seeking peace.
As an integral part of peace negotiations and the transition to peaceful democracy, we call for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose inaugurating action would be mutual acknowledgement by Israelis and Palestinians that they have the same basic rights, including the right to exist in the same, secure place.