Silence and Complicity
by Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh
I am Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian American citizen who lived in the US for 29 years before deciding to move to Palestine nearly two years ago. I received my higher education (Masters, PhD, medical genetics board certification) in the US and served as a faculty member in schools of medicine at the Universities of Tennessee (2.5 years), Duke (6 years), and Yale (5 years). I also helped start a private laboratory in New Jersey that now employs 20 people. I wrote several books and the last one to be published this year is titled “Hope and Empowerment: A History of Popular Resistance in Palestine”.
What attracted me to the US was the openness and welcoming attitude that allowed me to work not only in my profession as an academic, clinician, and researcher but also to advocate and speak out for human rights. I gave hundreds of talks and participated in many vigils and protests for example against the war on Iraq and for justice and equality in Israel/Palestine. There was of course always a tiny vocal and rather aggressive minority of Jewish Americans who were attempting to suppress the truth and defend the indefensible. But as time passed by, more and more people of all backgrounds (Jews, Chrsitians, Muslims, etc.) got involved in the struggle for freedom. This is because they knew that freedom for Palestinians and challenging the delusional Zionist agenda is good for all people. This is true for US citizens who already paid a heavy price in blood and treasure in places like Iraq because of a special interest lobby in Washington that is now pushing for conflict with Iran. Iran will certainly cost us far more than the cost of Iraq (so far $3 trillion, few thousand dead Americans, tens of thousands injured for life).
Once I relocated to Palestine, I proceeded to do the same activities I was engaged in here in the US. I teach at two universities (Bethlehem and Birzeit) and helped establish a master’s program in biotechnology. I also pursue my passion of educating others on human rights and engaging in other civil resistance actions such as protests and vigils. Being a believer in civil nonviolent resistance is not easy in an area where there is an occupation and military rule. Recently, the situation deteriorated in my home town and we became more active in our nonviolent struggle. Concomitantly, the Israeli army decided to increase the repression.
The Bethlehem district is surrounded by Israeli settlements and military installations on three sides. The 130,000 Bethlehem residents now have access to only 20% of the original land of the district. And more than half of those residents are refugees from the ethnic cleansing of 1948, or displaced people from post 1967 settlement activities. Now the settlers, protected by the Israeli military, want to build a settlement in the only remaining area of Bethlehem (to the east). The town people of Beit Sahour (the Shepherds Field) is known for a history of nonviolent resistance (including tax revolt in 1988-1989). We are 70% Christian and 30% Muslim town with limited resources but highly educated middle class (there are over 300 PhD holders among the population of 12,000).
It was thus not a surprise that the town people decided to resist nonviolently the additional Israeli encroachment on our town. We have already lost a lot of land. The Israeli response was rather brutal. Our first prayer vigil was attacked while the Lutheran priest was leading us in prayer (see video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4he1vayLrfo). Being a member of the committee that organized that vigil and another peaceful event a week later, I was targeted. An Israeli officer warned me not to participate and threatened me saying he knew I was leaving to the US for a lecture tour. the day after I left to the US, they invaded our neighborhood at 1:30 AM (Tuesday morning) and demanded to see me. My mother, sister and wife were terrorized for no reason. They told the military I was already out of the country but would be happy to go talk to them when I return if need be. The military left a paper that demands I show up at their offices. I came back here to deal with this through my lawyer but it looks like these were acts of intimidation and to scare others. Mine is the mild case. There are far worst cases from holding activists in administrative detention to shooting and killing them. We now commemorate the seventh anniversary of the murder of peace activist Rachel Corrie (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHCJ-wUIPV0). Justice must be served and the oppression must end.
Being that Israel receives billions in our tax money, I as a US citizen ask our government to defend those of us (Americans, Palestinians, others) who engage in nonviolent resistance. I ask the US to finally put a stop to the Israeli colonial activities. The spit in the face of Vice President Biden by announcing new housing units in occupied Jerusalem cannot pass with no sincere apology and only about “timing”. The US can demand an end to settlement activity and even a removal of the settlements. We saw that US power when President Eisenhower demanded Israel end its occupation of Gaza and the Sinai in 1956 and Israel was forced to comply. The media editors can begin to cover reality of oppression here and how taxpayers contribute to it. People must declare where they stand for the tide is shifting and the day of reckoning is upon us just like in the civil rights movement or the anti-apartheid struggle. History will not be kind to those who stand and watch from the sidelines. Silence in this case is clearly complicity.
Visit Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh’s site at http://qumsiyeh.org