Kidnapped Kids / Kidnapped Society: A Legal Response or Collective Punishment?

Violence is NOT our solution! Violent acts are not heroic, brave, or honorable.

When will this insanity ends? asked Prof Mazin Qumsiyeh.  I share his anguish. Violence creates violence! It destroys us!

On finding the bodies of the three Israeli settler teenagers, Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel said:

“Deep grief. The people of Israel were unified in prayer, unity that should remain at all times. In war, as in war, the terrorists should be hit mercilessly on one hand and provide a proper Zionist response on the other. The eternal nation is not afraid of a long journey.” (Source: BBC).

There is outrage in Israel and in the world about these deaths, and a deafening silence on the multiple murders and destruction in Palestine. Said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“We will bring the boys to be buried in Israel. Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay. May the memory of the three boys be blessed.”

The murder of the teens is deplorable and my heart goes out to their families and friends. But let us remember that neither the person(s) responsible for these killings nor the motivation (criminal or political) for it have yet been identified. And even if it is clear who did it and for what reasons, it can never justify Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians or any other kind of violence against civilians.

Hamas has strongly denied any involvement in the abductions. Yet for the last two weeks, Israeli occupation forces have been striking different areas of the Gaza Strip, claiming that they are targeting Hamas’ infrastructure. Scores of causalities, including another death on Friday, have been reported as a result of the Israeli attacks. (source: Middle East Monitor 30 June 2014).

Yifrah_2959998bA ball of fire is seen following an Israel airstrike in Rafah, Gaza. Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Israeli planes struck 34 sites in Gaza early on 1 July 2014 hours after the bodies of three teenagers were found in the West Bank. The airstrike killed a Palestinian from Khan Younis and wounded three others, including one with critical injuries.

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Since the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers on Thursday 12th June Israel has meted out brutal violence against Palestinians not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank where five Palestinians have been killed:

  • Mustafa Husni Aslan (22 years) died Wednesday 25th June after five days in intensive care. He was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers at Qalandia refugee camp on 20 June.
  • Ahmad Sabarin (20 years) was shot in Al-Jalazun refugee camp (17 June).
  • Mohammad Dudeen (15 years): was shot in Dura (20 June).
  • Ahmad Said Suod Khalid (27 years) was shot Al-Ein refugee camp (22 June).
  • Mahmoud Tarifi, (30 years) was shot in Ramallah (22 June).
  • Two more people have died of heart attacks following Israeli Forces raids.

Former political prisoners have been particularly targeted, and at least 52 of those released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit exchange have now been re-arrested.

Says Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh from Bethlehem, West Bank:

Dozens of Palestinian homes were demolished in the past two weeks. Over 570 more Palestinians were kidnapped in these two weeks making more than 6000 abductees languishing in Israeli gulags/prisons. 1500 Palestinian homes invaded without due process. 12 million native Palestinians still await their freedom from colonial occupation and displacement. And Israeli leaders are promising to “do more” (genocidal mayhem?). When will this insanity end?

Can it end by negotiations between occupied and occupier; negotiations that have been going on for 22 years while Israel gets $12 billion profit every year from its occupation? (that is not counting the billions from US taxpayers).

When will Israel be led by people like the previous speaker of the Israeli Knesset Avraham Berg.

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Listen to his wise words:

“Here are Israel’s shallow prime minister and the bumbling police, the masses who cling to futile prayers and not to a moment of human peace. Here are the country’s hypocritical chief rabbis, who just a month ago demanded promises from the pope regarding the future of the Jewish people, but in their daily lives remain silent about the fate of the people who are our neighbors, trampled beneath the pressure of occupation and racism under the leadership of rabbis who receive exorbitant salaries and benefits….Despite the enormous and inspiring success of Breaking the Silence (an NGO that collects testimony from soldiers who’ve served in the West Bank), our own total silence is still the loudest thing around us. We are willing to go out of our minds over one odd and troublesome Pollard, a lone kidnap victim or three kidnap victims, but we are incapable of understanding the suffering of a whole society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us. This, too, needs to be said and heard during this moment of clarity — and as loudly as possible.” (“The Palestinians: A kidnapped society: We are incapable of understanding the suffering of a society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us” by Avraham Berg in Haaretz.)

And how about the inspiring, wise words of Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah writing from Jerusalem congratulating Muslims on the start of Ramadan:
“We all are sectarian, Christians or Muslims. We all need to continuously purify the faith in us to overcome the sectarian. The believer is one who remembers God and sees all as his creation… He sees any other as a brother or sister… I hope that we all become believers, and our faith overcomes all sectarian tendency.”

Peace in Jerusalem = peace on earth.

Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim Brothers and Sisters

And to all: Stay human!

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine

What makes a nation better and stronger: dealing with the issue, burying it in the sand, or using it as a pretext to suppress others? According to AMEC the Israeli government announced ‘Operation Brother’s Keeper’ – the most extensive military deployment on the West Bank since the second intifada:

Israeli officials said the operation had two objectives: to find the missing settlers; and to crack down on Hamas. Thus, the operation must be understood in the context of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace initiative, and the decision by Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government. The operation has substantially targeted Hamas: 500 abductions/arrests have already occurred; 354 of these are Hamas members and twelve are parliamentarians who could have served in a unity government.

The Israeli government has always opposed an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. For Israel, the prospect of a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, which has financial backing from the EU, moral support from the Arab world, and political acceptance from the USA, poses a huge threat. The agreement between Fatah and Hamas, fragile though it is, has the potential to shift the status quo towards a settlement favouring Palestinian statehood. A unity government would imply the inclusion of Hamas under the PLO umbrella, thus politically unifying all parties representing the Palestinian people.

In this context, Israel’s policies of occupation and expansion in the West Bank would be impossible to implement. Moreover, with Islamic militancy growing in the region, a West Bank government that includes Hamas would be seen as doubly threatening by Israel. It was therefore strategically necessary for Israel to crack down on Hamas before a unity government was formed. Operation Brother’s Keeper allowed Israel to deal a military blow to Hamas while the movement is being strangled by Egypt’s new border policy, the closure of its offices in Syria, and by the limited support it now received from Iran and Hizbullah.

The Israeli military operation has been condemned by the United Nations as alarming. If Israel truly wants peace, why then should they object to peace amongst Fatah and Hamas?

israel 2Peace for the “self” only is not true peace.  (Photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

All lives, irrespective of a person’s nationality, carries the same value. Let us not honour these lives by destroying others.

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Press statement: SABC/SAFM cancellation of programme with Prof Qumisyeh

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13 March 2013

PRESS STATEMENT:

 The Palestine Solidarity Campaign notes that the SABC and SAFM arranged to present a phone-in programme and debate between a distinguished visiting Palestinian activist, Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh, and a representative from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), who undertook to present the Zionist perspective on Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. This was to have taken place just after the 9h00 news on SAfm on Tuesday 12 March 2013.

At the last minute, after having originally agreed to take part, the SAJBD withdrew its agreement and refused to participate. The programme was immediately cancelled by the SABC on the grounds that the SAJBD had been invited to ensure “balance” and that, following the withdrawal of those who would put the Zionist perspective, this “balance” no longer existed.

This is not the first time that Zionists have used this tactical ploy to silence those who disagree with them. In order to do this, it is of course necessary that the public platform would be provided by someone who sympathised with the Zionists and who thus could be trusted to play their shabby game with them. The obvious intention is to violate the constitutional right to the freedom of expression, freedom of the press and other media, and the freedom to receive or impart information or ideas while at the same time claiming to be seeking “balance”.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is completely unafraid to confront Zionists in any public debate – a debate which the SAJBD is clearly desperate to avoid. We believe that their evasive tactics further highlight the parallels between apartheid and Zionism. These are apparent at every turn and stone.

On its part, the SAJBD reveals itself – yet again – to be too craven to face in public, in front of an open microphone, or in any other form or venue those who wish to present the reasons why Zionism and the Zionist policies of Israel are racist, oppressive, and a violation of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinians.

Moreover, the action of withdrawing from a programme it agreed to take part in is itself a clear political statement. The SAJBD has had to rely on the SABC to provide it with cover to skulk behind, even though by its own act the SAJBD has itself forfeited any right to a claim of “balance”.

Further, the SABC is revealed as having not yet freed itself from its squalid role as the apologist for, and would-be sanitiser of, apartheid. It used to make the same bogus claim to “balance” when silencing those who opposed what the whole world condemned as a crime against humanity – just as it has now done in the case of Zionism.

None of this is surprising. In 2007 the SABC and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies entered into a formal ageement which – in summary – empowered the SAJBD to censor how the SABC presented affairs concerning the Middle East.

Racism in general, and Zionism in particular, cannot cope with the searchlight of democracy. The SAJBD is seeking to protect itself from being exposed by its critics, and thereby to sanitise Israel by attempting to subvert rights protected by the South African constitution. One of the most visible victims is the SABC itself, which is content to render meaningless in practice what it claims to be its editorial policies in its published Editorial Code. We point to statements it makes to the effect that it avoids promoting discrimination in its programmes on the grounds of political persuasion, and that it seeks balance by presenting relevant views on matters of importance.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign condemns the cancellation of the interview with Proof. Mazin, and demands that the SABC honour the obligations and duties it boasts of.

ISSUED BY THE PALESTINE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN, SOUTH AFRICA

Contacts for further comment:

 Martin Jansen 0828702025 or Mercia Andrews 0823683429

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Qumisyeh’s Peace Plan/ South African public broadcaster cancels interview

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“What is your Peace Plan?” they asked Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh.  His answer consisted of four words.

On Monday 11 March 2013 Qumsiyeh’s public talk in Stellenbosch started by mentioning his own interwoven family history with ties to people in various cultures and religious groups – including Jewish links.

MaasaraQumsiyeh

Mazin is an American citizen. Five years ago he returned to Palestine where he now plays an active role in civil society in addition to his academic career in genetics and zoology.

When asked what his “Peace Plan” is, he said it consists of four words:

HUMAN RIGHTS and INTERNATIONAL LAW.

I couldn’t agree more.

In the end one would hope for HUMAN DIGNITY too.

After his talk at the Faculty of Theology (and the great introductory talk by Bonga Mbenenge and his remarks on human dignity), a few of us accompanied Prof Qumsiyeh to the nearby lush green botanical gardens.  What a gift it was to share this day in such great company!

Public broadcaster cancels radio talk:

The next morning Qumsiyeh had an appointment for an interview on SAFM (a  South African public radio station that broadcasts nationally), but it was cancelled at the very last minute.

Why? As stated in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s letter (PSC letter to SABC station manager the Jewish Board of Deputies who first insisted to be part of the discussion in the name of “balance in a sensitive issue” withdrew the evening before the show – and so South Africa’s public broadcaster cancelled the show.

The next morning, Terry Crawford-Browne  took Prof Qumsiyeh to the studio.  Says Crawford-Browne:

The SABC’s security record for the day will confirm that Mazin Qumsiyeh and I signed in at 08:45. The receptionist’s computer monitor confirmed that Mazin was expected.   The sound engineer on duty can confirm that he took us into a studio, and contacted Johannesburg to advise that Mazin was in the studio.  He was then hugely embarrassed to tell Mazin that the programme had been cancelled.

To call the matter between Israel and Palestine in need of “balance on a sensitive matter” displays in my opinion either ignorance or a disregard of international law, human rights and the gross violations thereof by Israel in its occupation of Palestine.

Why not give someone from Palestine a voice? Surely the public can phone in and ask any questions they want?  I think this was an attempt to silence a strong voice who speaks the reason of inclusion and dignity for all in the Middle East. I am deeply ashamed that my country’s public broadcaster’s decision.  In fact, the South African Palestinian Solidarity Campaign called this censorship by the SABC/SAFM:

“unlawful and unconstitutional, violating South Africans’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”

See also the PSC Media Statement

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Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh (http://qumsiyeh.org/aboutqumsiyeh) is a Palestinian American of Christian background and was raised in Beit Sahour, the biblical Shepherd’s field just outside of Bethlehem, where he continues to live and work.

Mazin now teaches at Bethlehem University and Birzeit University in molecular genetics and other biology related courses. His worthy blog: http://popular-resistance.blogspot.com/ is informative and analytical regarding the Palestine/Israel conflict.

His academic career started with his Ph.D. in Zoology from Texas Tech University. His later training was in genetics and he served as Associate Professor of Genetics and director of cytogenetic services both at Duke University and Yale University. During his 24 years in USA, he served on the faculties of these Universities.

He has traveled extensively in Jordan, Israel/Palestine, North Africa, East Africa, Europe, and America conducting scientific work and research, and has published over 120 scientific papers in areas ranging from Zoology to Genetics and two books: Mammals of the Holy Land and Bats of Egypt.

As an activist with Palestinian liberation movements, Mazin has served on several organizations’ Boards, authored books and published views and commentaries via the Internet and on websites.

mazinQumsiyeh being arrested in Al-Walaja 6 May 2010*

*The illegal Israeli Wall confiscates fertile Palestinian land (and the livelihood of families) in Al Walaja, a village in the district of Bethlehem. Most Palestinian men have been detained at least once – often for acts such as protests or stone throwing and often without a formal complaint.