Thursday, February 20

Another world is coming

A visit to the Galilee just 

emphasized to me that we are on 

the right track to one democratic 

state where we live 

together in equality, peace, and 

harmony.  Another world is 

coming.  As you will see below, there is no difference in 

colonial settlement activity inside 1948 or 1967 occupied 

areas but that is all temporary phenomenon. Since my trip 

was focused on environmental issues and science 

(biodiversity), I was more concerned about time passage that 

makes the environmental destruction in the Galilee 


Haifa was the first planned Palestinian city built in 1761 by 

Daher Al-Omar (Zedani) who is credited by many as the first 

Palestinian ruler who managed to develop an independent 

modern government inclusive of all religions that covered 

much of what is now northern Palestine 

the citizens of Haifa were removed in 1948 and the 3000 

remaining were squeezed into Halsa and Wadi Nisnas 

against their will (now they number some 35,000 due to 

natural increase).  Today the highest Israeli court in the 

north is built on top of ruined buildings but also overlooks 

abandoned Arab homes and businesses.  It must be some 

sight from the windows of that glittery building looking 

down on to what is left of Arab Haifa.  The historic train 

station built in 1905 to take pilgrims to Macca through 

Jordan is slated for demolition.  Next to Al-Istiqlal mosque, 

there is a monument with a faded inscription: "Faisal (emir 

Faisal who dreamt of Arab Unity) said that no freedom is 

given but it is to be taken by struggle.."  More on Haifa


While I was in the north, a three story building in Akka 

collapsed killing 5 Palestinians including one child. There 

are various stories about the causes but it is clear that Israeli 

authorities prevent the remaining Palestinians from 

repairing or rebuilding their houses in the old city in an 

attempt to further impoverish them.  We cried for the 

victims but we were also impressed by the generous and 

resilient spirit of those remaining family members.

Sakhnin is 30,000 people reduced to use of only 9,700 

dunums.  The 16,000 colonial settlers of Misgav which took 

the land of Sakhnin and other nearby Palestinian villages in 

the Galilee control 183,000 dunums (population access to 

land of 39 fold more given to new settlers from the land of 

the natives). The settlement of Karmiel is billed as a model 

of tolerance even though it was built to increase Jewish 

presence in the Galilee because Israel is not happy with 

natives who remain in a “Jewish state.” When we visited, we 

noted Bedouins who are going to be kicked out of the land 

now allocated to “Karmiel” even though those Palestinians 

have lived there since before the Zionist state was 


The house we stayed in has a demolition order just like tens 

of thousands of houses throughout historic Palestine built on 

private Palestinian land that Israel covets and does not allow 

building on.  Palestinians in historic Palestine are now 6 

million people living on 8.3% of our historic lands (these are 

also in disjointed enclaves in the Galilee, the Triangle, the 

WB, Naqab, and Gaza) while 91.7% of historic Palestine is off-

limits to us and dedicated for the use of the 6 million Jewish 

Israelis (most of them immigrants from other countries).  

Why not justice and equality where we all prosper together?

But let me move to environment.  If you want more on 

politics you can see my report and video from my 2010 trip 

to the Galilee here

This time I was studying biodiversity and the preliminary 

scientific observations I made were extremely worrying.  The 

Jewish National Fund recruited hundreds of millions of 

dollars from Jews around the world in the 1950's and 1960's 

to “plant trees in Eretz Yisrael.”  This was simply an attempt 

to hide the destroyed Palestinian villages via large scale 

planting of pine trees.  Even Israeli environmentalists 

recognized this as an environmental catastrophe.  The pine 

forests that now cover much of the Galilee destroyed the 

natural plant cover (primary oak and scrub forests and green 

fertile valleys) used for thousands of years by native 

Palestinians as rangeland as well as agricultural lands. 

 Conifer trees do not allow much to grow under or around 

them since their needles increase soil acidity and impoverish 

the soil.  So even species of snails I noted in the Galilee were 

so much fewer than I expected.  There are no good scientific 

studies to predict if such damage can be reversed when done 

on such a large scale.  There are pockets of natural habitats 

still existing and they could be used to reclaim the artificially 

forested areas.  But time is not on our side in this situation.  

The problem is compounded with Israel building massive 

infrastructure like expanding roads, drying up more springs 

(to control the water and prevent Palestinian access), 

schemes like the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal and more to 

destroy this ancient land.

For a detail history of what transpired and continues to 

transpire in the Galilee and the rest of Palestine in terms of 

populations, see Ilan Pappe’s book “The Ethnic Cleansing of 

Palestine.”  If you are interested in environmental issues, 

write to me and I will send you material.  Politicians on all 

sides do not address these issues. 

But we have positive signs all around us: 1) more and more 

Israelis are joining the struggle for environmental and 

political justice, 2) more and more global civil societies are 

adopting the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions movement, 

3) the Palestinian generation of Oslo is passing on and a new 

generation is coming up that is taking matters into their own 

hands.  Examples are many: from the bus freedom riders to 

successful challenge to the Prawer-Begin plan designed to 

finish ethnically cleansing the Naqab (Negev) to Kufr 

Qaddoum to Majd el Krooum to Sakhnin.  An example of 

resistance in the footsteps of Land Day of 1976 is the return 

to the two villages of Iqrit and Biram.  These were Christian 

villages which were ethnically cleansed and the houses 

destroyed leaving only the village churches.  This did not 

happen in war but by a process long after the ceasefire lines 

were declared in the relentless effort to “Judaicize” the 


We were gratified to visit some young people from Iqrit and 

Biram who returned to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. 

 Even Zionist leaders like Moshe Arens struggle to twist 

things to explain Israeli policy with respect to these two 

1.545977).  While we were in Iqrit, a group of elderly Jews 

from Tel Aviv showed up with a guide.  They were “left 

Zionists” who get a distorted but still better version of 

history than that taught at Israeli schools and universities).  I 

saw the puzzled looks on their faces and lack of answers to 

basic questions that came as a challenge from the 

Palestinians around who technically hold Israeli citizenship 

but who are treated as unwanted non-citizens.  These 1.6 

million represent 25% of population inside the Green Line. 

 They were everywhere we looked:  from the bus station in 

Jerusalem to the University in Haifa to the gas-station 

attendant at the road to “Karmiel.”  I wondered why I could 

see and interact with them everywhere as a visitor but most 

of those Jews who walk pass them daily either ignore them 

or do not know they exist (many “Palestinian-Israelis” speak 

Hebrew more fluently and without an accent).  Why couldn’t 

we all intermarry, live in one country without 

discrimination, with justice and human rights to all?  We saw 

a glimpse of that future in a demonstration of 150+ people of 

all faiths including many youths in front of Haifa 

municipality.  They were objecting to the deputy mayor who 

called the sound of the Muslim call to prayer as “squealing 

like the sound of a pig!”  We saw it in a young and kind 

Jewish waitress working in a Palestinian owned restaurant 

in Haifa.  We saw this future.  As Arundhati Roy said: 

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a 

quiet day, I can hear her breathing."

For tours in the Galilee including Palestinian villages present 

or ethnically cleansed, I recommend Galilee Today 

Alternative Tours (galileetoday on 


Note: Israeli policies forbid people like me to visit the 

Galilee even though my grandmother is from Nazareth and it 

is still our country; these restrictions apply to me and 

millions of Palestinians similar to the restrictions on blacks 

under apartheid in South Africa.

Haifa video from a refugee

(we salute resilience in Akka, Haifa, Sakhnin, Biram, Iqrit and more Places forgotten by Mahmoud Abbas but in the hearts of millions of Palestinians) 

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor, author, activist

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