Spring in Palestine

Tom Hurndall, the British peace activist shot by the Israeli army, died after 9 months in coma. Meanwhile here in New England, temperature hover around zero Fahrenheit and we are told to stay warm and go about our lives. Yet we work and pay taxes that fund the ongoing violence claiming thousands of lives and keeping hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in cold tents or shacks with no heating.

The reason there are Palestinian refugees is rather quite simple: a Zionist movement supported by our government wanted to transform a multicultural, multireligious Palestine into a Jewish state. The Zionist movement responsible for this project proudly proclaims it is a movement to ingather Jews around the world to a land intended to have a Jewish majority state. The Zionist project and its outcome state (Israel) were intended to be run by and for “Jewish people everywhere.” Hence there are basic laws (Israel has no constitution) to ensure land is transferred from non-Jewish to Jewish hands and that any person who is defined as Jewish would be considered a national of this state (part of the “People of Israel”). All this person has to do (whether he is Jewish American or Jewish Russian) is show up to claim automatic citizenship. Meanwhile, other basic laws deny 5-6 million Palestinians the right to return to their homes and lands.

Palestinians remaining inside the land coveted by the Zionist movement pay a heavy price. Some 3 million of them suffer poverty, unemployment, and hunger as they are herded into smaller and smaller enclaves (reservations, ghettos). Now, and using our tax money, Israel is building a segregation/apartheid wall around these large open-air prison (see http://www.stopthewall.org/).

The Israeli army and Israeli agents killed countless civilians in Lebanon in the 1980s; some independent estimates put the number at 50,000. Instead of rethinking their violence, Israeli leaders and their network of supporters developed a well-funded and organized PR campaign (called hasbara in Hebrew). The idea is to ensure that resources and personnel are in place to provide the needed spin in popular mass media (broadcast and print). Turn on TV and read major newspapers today and you might hear things like “renewal of violence after a lull”, “Palestinians attacks”, and “Israel retaliated.”

You will not hear much about the daily violence against the Palestinians. You will not hear much about the ethnic cleansing or the home demolitions. You will see biased glimpses of the apartheid wall as a “security fence”. You will see no maps of the sprawling colonies/ settlements and shrinking native lands. You will see hardly any footage of real life in the Palestinian refugee camps or of the daily non-violent resistance to brutal Israeli colonization. You will hear little about Israel’s apartheid and racist basic laws (on land ownership, “absentee” laws, automatic citizenship laws, etc).

The 3000 Palestinians killed and 40,000 injured in the last three years will be at best statistics not real human beings. According to human rights and medical organizations, most of those killed and injured were civilians and about 20-25% of them were children. You will instead hear many flavors of Zionist talking heads like Thomas Friedman, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Mort Zuckerman. On mainstream media, you will not hear from the thousands of intellectual (hundreds of Jews among them) who oppose the Zionist onslaught (people like Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Rabbi Yisroel Weiss etc). You will hear much about the “peace offers” and Geneva accords (pipe dreams to perpetuate colonization). Those who watch CNN and Fox or read the Wall Street Journal come to believe (as do some 60% of Americans) that more Israelis are killed than Palestinians (the actual ratio is 1 to 4). Native Americans and black South Africans were similarly maligned to hide the facts of massacring them and taking their lands.

But, despite all odds, some information filters through and few come to aid the Palestinians. A budding International Solidarity Movement was initiated by Palestinians and attempts to ameliorate the brutal effects of the occupation and colonization on the native people of Palestine. This non-violent movement includes hundreds of individuals of all ages. Israeli occupation forces sometimes show restraint when Americans or Europeans are around (especially if they bring the media along).

Yet American Rachel Corrie and a British Tom Hurndall and countless others lost their lives to Israeli occupation forces. These brave human beings give all of us hope that despite all the propaganda, information is getting through. Speaking truth to power is never easy, and certainly not risk free. But those who do it consider it a patriotic duty and a responsibility to care for our fellow human beings (especially when $5 billion/year of our taxes are used to cause the pain of others). The good deeds do multiply and the work of people like Rachel and Tom provide seeds that will generate growth after the think blanket of propaganda has melted.

MAZIN QUMSIYEH is co-founder, Palestine Right to Return Coalition and author of forthcoming book “Sharing the Land of Canaan” (Pluto Press). He can be reached at: mazin.qumsiyeh@yale.edu


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