political writings
English    Français    Italiano    Español    Deutsch    العربية    русский    Português
Palestine
Mazin Qumsiyeh : Time for a change!
Palestinian political prisoners illegally held in Israeli jails are on hunger strike and some are near death. The population of strikers includes 200 child prisoners, 27 Palestinian legislative council members, and 456 prisoners from Gaza who have not been allowed family visits since 2007.
11 May 2012

Meanwhile, colonization continued a relentless pace. Ramzy Baroud and Jeff Halper argue that Israel is “fixing” the outcome and is an “end-game” scenario to take over most of the West Bank and leave us in small cantons [1]. Yet, judging from my research into the carefully planned Zionist project, such plans are not end games but mileposts to give the Zionists time to consolidate gains in preparation for the next round of expansion in precisely the way Ben Gurion described it to his son in 1937. Ben Gurion explained lucidly how the new state of Israel when established on part of the coveted land would be a base of steady expansion and growth in the future with or without agreement from “Arabs” [2]. I pondered how little has changed in the intervening 75 years. Colonial Israel continues to push the envelope and expand with or without agreement from compliant “Arabs”. Compliant Arabs existed in 1937 (headed by Ragheb Al-Nashashibi) and existed in 1967 and in 2012. There also existed intellectual and honest Arabs throughout our history.

Zionist colonization is not driven by emotion or haphazard action. It is done as instructed by the founding father of Political Zionism Theodore Herzl in 1897: "we must investigate and take possession of the new Jewish country by means of every modern expedient." Modern expedients advocated by Herzl include planned methodical structure to remove the native people (with or without agreement of some Arabs) and create a large Jewish state. Herzl was not specific on size of the "required estate" but Ben Gurion and people of his era thought it possible to go as far as between the Nile and the Euphrates.

The plans of colonizers are remarkably similar and known from the diaries of Herzl in 1897, from the letter from Ben Gurion to his son in 1937, the Allon plan of 1967, and from the Hebron accords of 1997. It is a plan of expansion without some Arabs consenting or occasionally with agreement from some Arabs. These agreements, like the treaties that some Native Americans signed with the government of the United States in its expansionary phase, were and are violated because they are merely consolidation tools [3]. I think like these Native American chiefs some Palestinians thought that they are doing the best they could under difficult circumstances. Most of the Native American “leaders” had no concept or understanding of the true nature of the notions and emotions driving the Westward expansion of the white colonialists in the USA. They did not delve deeply into notions of manifest destiny, choseness, and racism that characterize their oppressors. One could say the ideology of Native Americans exhibited the exact opposite of their colonizers and thus they presumed that whites are ultimately human and could be dealt with as equals.

Peace for natives is to get their freedom, to live in dignity, and most of all to get the boot of colonization off our necks. Peace for the colonizers is to have the victim stop wiggling under their boots. Towards this they devised ingenious plans including a Palestinian Preventive Security force. Any rational human being can see this dictation and imbalance of power in daily news. Thus the people are left out of decisions whether on “negotiations”, on "national reconciliation", ongoing and not going to the UN, or on how they may eventually be liberated. Despairing and riding a ship without compass or rudder, the people grumble and boil underneath and later erupt in revolt.

Needs and desires of the colonizers and the colonized are not the same. Occupiers and colonizers want more opportunities to progress via consolidation and strengthening of the status quo and allowing them to expand further. We, the occupied and colonized people, want to halt and eventually reverse the process of injustice. Palestinians want to return to our homes and lands and live peacefully as we did for millennia. We insist on return and self-determination. We insist that the country must remain multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural. This is not a border dispute nor is it a quibble over the Israeli illegal control of the religious sites. Like in the struggle in South Africa under apartheid, it is a struggle that pits two very different visions of the area: one of racism and apartheid and the other of justice and equality.

Sporadic acts of heroic popular resistance are not enough to reach peace with justice. Coordination and joint action must take place. What hinders it is a system developed by the occupiers and agreed to by some of the occupied people. Personal economic benefit maintains the status quo. What is done with support from a Palestinian authority is nothing short of making this occupation the most profitable in history (several billion dollars flow annually to Israeli coffers as a result of this occupation). Already Israeli and Palestinian business deals are being executed for example in area C. This is the “economic peace plan” of Netanyahu and others. Those who may think of disrupting the status quo are investigated and punished. Most Palestinians are excellent diagnosticians and have figured this out. But I think many have not started to articulate solutions or ideas to get out of this mud hole that the Oslo Process (actually started with the 10 point program in 1974) put us into. It is not going to be easy and it does require sacrifice. But those delusional individuals who think that they have a salary or a position and they do not want to risk rocking the boat should think again. They should think of how their children or grandchildren would live under a system of racism and oppression. This is as true of Israelis as it is true of Palestinians.

Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) give us hope. Shimon Peres, the architect of Israel’s arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction and a war criminal once explained: "In order to export you need good products, but you also need good relations....[If] Israel’s image gets worse, it will begin to suffer boycotts. There is already an artistic boycott against us and signs of an undeclared financial boycott are beginning to emerge." International figures who worked against apartheid in South Africa argued convincingly of why this can help here in Apartheid Israel [4]. But BDS is only a tool and certainly not sufficient to effect the needed change. There has to be a structured program from the people which includes an articulation of a vision with concrete goals for the future. In my book “Sharing the Land of Canaan” in 2004 I argued for precisely such a program to move from apartheid to a state of all its citizens. These notions have gained widespread acceptance among intellectuals and activists of various religious and political backgrounds. To arrive to this vision, we need organization.

Organization requires visionary leadership arising organically from a maturing rising population. We should not be reluctant to push our existing leaders and if they are not willing to move then to create alternative leadership. ALL Factions have aging and non-innovative leadership and ALL factions have younger energetic and dedicated (but marginalized) individuals. Clearly the status quo is devastating for us and cannot last. We know from history that people will rise-up and DEMAND change.

Is it time for varied voices to coalesce into a thunderous uproar that cannot be ignored? May we organize meetings and discuss publicly the path forward? While many for example discussed the failure of the "two state solution" and some articulated future visions, we need more than that. Can we as a people in 1948 areas, in the West Bank and Gaza and in exile create mechanisms and structures that take us to where we decide to go? Can we convince the world and even Israelis that we are serious about working for a future of peace with justice and prosperity for everyone? Voices of negativism must not dominate this critical stage. This conversation must be open to people of goodwill from all factions and from independents. While it must start among Palestinians, we must later involve our trusted supporters from around the world. We do have the resources: financial, intellectual, emotional, and physical. Let those who have skills in organizing organize and those who have skills in media work do media work. Let those who have skills in social networking do that. Those who have skills in music write songs for the revolution. Imagine if we can get even 5% or even 1% of the Palestinians around the world as participants in an organized effort. The change that could happen can be monumental.

The world today only respects those who respect themselves and struggle for their own rights. We have nothing to be ashamed of as Palestinians even though 7 million of us are refugees or displaced people. We have a lot to be proud of from our history [5]. We cannot give up now that the crisis of Palestine weighed on the world conscience and when the Arab spring could change the whole geopolitical reality of the Middle East. Even if we fail at our goal this time, the positive spirit that results would enrich all our lives. It would unleash the creativity and the energy that we know is in us. Change can and must happen because it ours is an existential struggle for 11.5 million Palestinians in the world and for our children and grandchildren born and unborn. Each of us has a role to play and has skills and other resources to contribute. Even if we start slow and among a few individuals, it will grow because we have no other choice. Let us get on with it.

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Popular Resistance, 5 mai 2012.


Mazin Qumsiyeh is a tireless activist for Palestinian human rights who returned to his hometown of Beit Sahour in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and now teaches at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. He previously served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke and Yale Universities. He is now president of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People in Beit Sahour, a suburb of Bethlehem. The author of “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle” (2004), Qumsiyeh is both a human rights activist and a scientist who has a lengthy list of publications on genetics to his credit.
See his website: http://qumsiyeh.org/



[1] Ramzy Baroud- Israel plots an end-game
http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/05/03/illegal-settlements-bonanza-israel-plots-an-endgame/,
Jeff Halper
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/04/2012428124445821996.html but see also Susan Abulhawa’s reply to Jeff Halper http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=19274#.T6RigYJSHIA.twitter

[2] Ben Gurion letter to his son, sent October 5, 1937 Translation here
http://www.palestine-studies.org/files/B-G%20Letter%20translation.pdf

[3] The Oslo accords were an excellent tool by Israel to consolidate its hold and in violations of the Geneva conventions allowed Israel “civil control” in >60% of the West Bank called area C. In further negotiations it was leaked how much people like Saeb Erekat were willing to keep going in handing over these areas to Israel
http://www.aljazeera.com/palestinepapers/

[4] Desmond Tutu on the need for Divestment from Israeli apartheid
http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/justice-requires-action-to-stop-subjugation-of-palestinians/1227722

[5] Mazin Qumsiyeh: “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment”
http://www.qumsiyeh.org/popularresistanceinpalestine/


All the versions of this article:
- Mazin Qumsiyeh : C’est le moment d’un changement !