Thursday, February 14

Lessons for the next uprising from Mazin Qumsiyeh

My book on Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and
Empowerment” was intended to let readers draw on lessons of 130 years of our resistance.  Yet, even that 300 page book was a small token of the kind of lessons drawn by locals here on the ground every day of our lives.  The fifth attempt to VISIBLY increase our presence on threatened Palestinian lands was met with even more brutal force in Yatta area of South Hebron hills (videos, pictures, stories below).  I say “visibly” because of course local farmers are doing this and successfully hanging on to a lot of their lands by sheer persistence and resilians every day 24 hours a day and for several decades of Israeli occupation/colonization.  Palestinians learn lessons from these activities towards the upcoming 14th or 15th wave of resistance (uprising).  Some of these more common lessons include: (other lessons are not be discussed in public and are shared only between activists)

1) We do not need a lot of money: much was spent on Bab Al-Shams with many tents, bedding, food etc that was all taken (stolen) by the Israeli authorities.  In the last attempt one tent was used and people started to build a stone hut but it was just as effective.  Imagine if we all build stone homes or dig bunkers/caves in the hillside.  This only needs few resources (mostly volunteer effort).  In the process fixing the land and living on it.  It will be possible now that Spring is here and our land is very productive and more areas can be reclaimed to be even more productive.

2) We need mechanisms to educate participants about their rights and what to expect.  This is especially the case for their legal rights
(including under International law).  If the Palestinian leadership is
unwilling and/or unable to help with legal costs, then we must find a
mechanism to do this. Proper medical care must also be provided to
those injured.

3) Palestinian politicians invariably try to attach themselves to any
activity to advance their personal political agenda.  This is natural
but activists must be aware of it and try to manage it politely but
firmly (everyone of course should be welcome to participate but not
hijack the message). Further, a “leadership” that is only interested
in maintaining privileges and positions must be challenged to either
reform or get out of the way.

4) We must learn from mistakes.  For example in the first press
release sent by the organizers of the Bab AlShams event, we were told:
“For decades, Israel has established facts on the ground as the
International community remained silent in response to these
violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the game, for us to establish facts on the ground - our own land.”  In my opinion this was not a good statement. [Just for the record, I was a media activist for 25 years in the US and I organized media teams that for example were able to place hundreds of stories in mainstream US media and that is not an easy task considering its Zionist tilt]. But this area is already inhabited and we are certainly not mimicking colonizers with their “facts on the ground”.  We are Palesinians who are trying to help other Palestinians (of Al-Zaiem,
Al-Eizeriya/Bethany, and Eisawia) hang on to this land.  Israel
already cut down hundreds of fruiting olive trees, removed people,
confiscated their lands etc. These facts were not articulated simply
and effectively in the media messaging.  It was also disappointing
that with media swarming around the even, the organizers did not pass a press kit that at least included a map and basic facts on the site (these are readily available including from a nice Palestinian source like Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, see for example this
Our subsequent events had clearer messaging/better media approach.

5) We must increase use of social media in recruitment and education of activists. Activists must undergo some training.

6) We must undermine the Israeli policies of control.  Israeli
planners via the Oslo mechanisms developed a system to ensure control of the Palestinians (the prison inmates!) by systematically removing our rights and returning tiny portions of them to us only when we “behave”.  For example the use of permits to enter our own cities like Jerusalem and the withholding of our own tax money (stealing). While difficult to reverse some of this (it would have been easier to simply refuse to comply in the beginning), it is not impossible to change the whole dynamic.  When there is a will there is a way. But more importantly, it is not possible to maintain the status quo.

7) We must make sure the occupation is costly to the occupiers (today it is profitable to the tune of billions of dollars).  Towards this we can learn lessons from other countries where local people where able to challenge and render impossible the continuation of
occupations/colonizations: South Africa, Algeria, Vietnam etc.

For more on strategies and techniques of activism, see (a work in progress, your ideas
can help expand these things).

Other police states use water cannons to disperse crowds.  But to my knowledge only the apartheid state of Israel invented stinking
chemical weaponry to use on peaceful farmers trying to tend their
lands. The  mix of noxious substances and extracts from fecal matter sticks to skin and clothes and is hard to remove even if one is not knocked out and injured by the high power spray.   That was the fate of farmers from Yatta today as well as as us who came to show solidarity (see pictures below).  Israeli soldiers actually began
their attack by simply kidnapping four journalists (I guess that was
to reduce coverage and intimidate other Journalists present).  This
was rather shocking especially to the many Internationals who have
never seen actions of such brutality.  Our collective message for the
fifth direct action to support local farmers stay on their land was
"It is our natural right to develop, reclaim, improve, use, and live
on all our lands, free and without threats from the occupiers".  The
initial three tents were removed (stolen) by the occupation army very early at 6 AM.  We then went back to a somewhat different location and commenced building/developing the area (with a tent, a beginning of a simple stone hut etc).  But the 70 or so heavily armed apartheid racist troopers would have none of that.  They proceeded to kidnap people and then used that stink water cannon on peaceful civilians.

Against Israeli attempts to prevent us, we  made lots of pictures and

On Friday there was a prayer vigil attended by over 100 Christians
from the Bethlehem area to save the land near Cremisan from being
overtaken by colonial settlements.  Already Bethlehem lost most of its lands to the growing colonial Jewish-only settlements.  One person at the event complained loudly about the presence of the British consul (after all Britain was instrumental in helping establish Zionism on top of Palestine.

Silence is complicity.  But I would go further and agree with a great
thinker who once said that standing neutral in situations of injustice
is taking the side of the oppression.  We are reminded of every day
when we travel around the occupied areas and see the suffering but
also the inspiring persistence and resilience of local farmers to hang
on to their lands, of children to gop to school, of teachesr to teach,
of healthcare professionals to take care of their patients, of artists
to do their art, etc.  In short when we see Palestinians living in
Palestine in dignity and (for the vast majority) refusing to succumb
to the dictats of the racist regime.

Photos of events at Cana’an village

Video from Reuters

Article from Haaretz

Interview I did about the subject

Silence is complicity


Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

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