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Oct-14-2009 01:48printcomments

Human Rights: We Shall Overcome

Palestinian people continue to dream and hope and yearn for freedom, and acts of heroism and resistance continue.


(NEW HAVEN, Ct.) - Netanyahu looked old, tired, and angry as he delivered his “speech” in front of the Knesset. He had nothing new to say so he regurgitated the old myths about protecting Israelis from being charged with war crimes, lectured his audience (who also looked tired and bored) that the Goldstone report was a lie, that Israel will defend itself, that the world better “deal with Iran”, and that Palestinians better recognize Israel as a Jewish state in order to have peace on the occupier’s terms.

A little bit earlier, Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech in which he stated that Hamas leaders are using the Goldstone issue to escape from signing reconciliation agreements.

He reiterated his other positions that are now well known. He also looked tired, angry, and old. Then the leader of Hamas in Damascus, standing in front of a picture of the Syrian president, gave a speech that reiterated Hamas’s known positions. He too looked angry and tired.

George Mitchell came and went on another trip with no results (I lost count of how many times he had met with the “leaders” on all sides here). He too smiles for cameras but when giving his remarks appeared frustrated and angry.

The US administration said it is likely to “ramp-down” the peace efforts (thanks for the Nobel Peace prize anyway). Israel simply refuses to abide by its signed agreements especially by the requirements of the road map to freeze its colonial settler activities and return things to what they were before 2000 (a rather minimum and mild request I might add).

Other parties issued tired statements and declaration for against this or that position. On the ground, things look rather poor.

West Bank border crossing into Palestine.
Photo by Dexter Phoenix

We now have a situation in which every Palestinian town or city has gates that can be locked or opened at the whim of the Israeli army. That Israeli occupation army kidnapped 12 more Palestinians in the West Bank in the past 24 hours. Doctors in Gaza report an increased incidence of birth defects (likely related to use of illegal weapons by Israel, polluted water, maternal malnutrition or all of these).

In the West Bank, we learn to bathe with a bucket of water (and save it for other uses and do it less frequently!). Farmers are fending off increased settler attacks during the traditional olive harvesting season. Some are denied access to their lands. Homes continue to be demolished.

Surveying this obscene scene, one is tempted to feel discouraged. I know some Palestinians even give up. We were thinking of these things as we visited the Biotechnology Center at the Polytechnic University. Coincidentally, Western-Backed Mohammed Dahlan was to give a speech there.

His public appearances have intensified as he is being groomed to replace Abbas as “president” of the “Palestinian Authority” (the quotes are deserved since we have no real authority other than the Israeli occupation). But we were not there to see Dahlan. We met with some faculty and students who are doing some real science. Practical, decent, hard-working people.

This got me thinking about hope. No I have no hope that politicians will suddenly wake-up to reality! But hope because of deep belief in the goodness and decency of common people. Here, we mean the 11 year old amateur photographer in Aida refugee camp who has more wisdom and certainly more practical energy than many adults I know. The 70-year-old gentle man who smiles as he tells me that he still goes to his land even though checkpoints and walls are in the way.

The old woman who was offered millions for her home in Jerusalem but refuses to sell it to colonizers and occupiers. The university professor and dear friend who lost his wife to an illness and keeps on pouring his heart and soul to educate a new generation. The blind girl who keeps up with her classmates.

The unemployed man who keeps his dignity and asks for no help and keeps trying and hoping for work. The farmer who treats her vegetables as if they are her children. The Imam in the mosque and the priest in the church who listen to the people’s problems with uncommon decency and compassion. Millions upon millions of those who by their mere presence and steadfastness inspire us.

Every morning when we drive to the University (my wife teaches classes at 8:00 a.m. so we drive together), we see school children laughing, holding hands, running, and in their eyes, we see hope.

In their olive skins, jet-black hair, strong features, we see our Canaantitic ancestors egging us on. The difficulties of the present take their natural role as bumps along the road between our past and our future.

The Tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron
Photo by Dexter Phoenix

Thus even a visit to a cemetery which we do just about every week as people die, becomes strangely connecting and empowering. The old died content in their homeland.

The martyrs are remembered and praised for their sacrifice. Past, present, and future become only meaningful in the love of the land.

In the past two weeks, I was doing some investigative work on a group of old pictures of Palestine that have just been digitized in the library of congress. Some of the pictures were of my hometown in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. I was thrilled to find one of my great-great-grandparent’s home.

The image (likely taken in the early 1920s) shows the only image of my great-grandmother in existence (an old relatives recognized her). Other pictures show the bountiful harvest of wheat. We have been farmers, shepherds, and artisans for hundreds of years and despite all the difficulties, WE still are.

I smile as we begin preparation for the olive harvest (even though this year looks like it may not be as good as last year). I smile as I stop my car in a main road in Bethlehem to let a flock of sheep cross the street led by a guy who looks exactly like those individuals in those ancient images. Yes, the Zionist movement destroyed 530 villages and built a European style metropolis of connected colonial settlements everywhere here filling them with imported people brainwashed to believe that the only way to ensure power is to destroy others.

Graffiti sprayed on a fence in the West Bank.
Photo by Dexter Phoenix

But they will never feel at home until they recognize the injustice done to the native people and ask in humility for the return of those they expelled/forced out. That is part of the reason 700,000 naturalized Israeli now live outside the country.

Time is not kind to murderers and thieves. Palestine can never change as a land and its people are far from being defeated even if we are forced to live in these ghettos and in these refugee camps for another 10 or 30 years. The land is potmarked with ugly edifices of the occupation including the apartheid wall. But the land is red and soft and productive and patient.

After all, it is all mixed with ashes of sweat of our ancestors.

History is not static. We have more love and community than the amalgam of different people living in fancy homes in settlements with unlimited supplies.

I smile when I see young teenagers do the traditional dabka dance (I am amazed at their energy as their feet seem to touch the ground rarely). The people continue to dream and hope and yearn for freedom. Acts of heroism and resistance continue. Despite difficulties, most Palestinians live comfortable psychologically and content in their lot in life certainly more so than the aloof usurpers or those few who have given up among our own people.

Many Israelis and Internationals who come here every day to support us become part of this wonderful living healthy mosaic. That spirit is the spirit that moved African Americans to sing together while holding hands with decent white people “we shall overcome someday”.

That is the spirit of Jaffa, Haifa, AnNasra, Nablus, Jenin, Bil’in, Ni’lin, Al-Quds, Rafah, Gaza, Khan Younis, and the 1400 other towns and villages that we live in or those villages that still live in the heart of their owners who vow: we shall return someday—we shall be free someday—we shall overcome someday.

ACTION: Israeli leaders are squirming to not be charged with war crimes and to contain the growth of the Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. We are upping the pressure. Join the first marathon of BDS October 16-17 around the world.

1) Organize an event activity during Friday and Saturday 16/17 October 2009 and let us know at:

2) Stop the Wall will publish a time table with all planned activities.

3) We will put you in touch with the activists mobilizing before and after you. If your activity and access to internet/phone allows, you will be able to directly take over from the previous activity and hand over to the next action.

You may organize activities such as protests, leaflets handouts, street actions, speaking events, video screenings, book readings, powerpoint presentations, radio/TV programs, internet actions, a twitter campaign, a fax blitz…Be creative!

For activist material to make your event a success, contact

Special thanks to Mazin Qumsiyeh - "A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home. Mazin has been an Associate Professor of Genetics; Director, Cytogenetics Laboratory at Yale University School of Medicine since 1999. He previously held a similar position at Duke University. Professor Qumsiyeh has authored over 110 scientific papers in areas of mammalogy, biology, and medicine including mammalian biology and evolution, clinical genetics, and cancer research. He has published over 100 letters to the editor and 30 op-ed pieces in International, national, regional and local papers on issues ranging from politics to environmental issues. His appearances in national media included the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe, CNBC, C-Span, and ABC, among others. He is the founder and president of the Holy Land Conservation Foundation and ex-President of the Middle East Genetics Association, and Prof. Qumsiyeh won the Jallow activism award from the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee in 1998. Those are just a small list, visit Mazin Qumsiyeh's amazing and informative Website to learn more:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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MUST SEE! October 15, 2009 10:53 am (Pacific time)

MUST SEE pictures... This should be spread around the world. In fact, it already is, but hoping more see the truth.

Sawabini October 14, 2009 3:29 am (Pacific time)

My grandfather was born in Ramalah, and though I was born and live in the US, I despise my country for aiding Israel. Politicians today are not human if they side with Israel on this matter. God, where are all the decent people!!!!!!!

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