Christ at Checkpoint

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Israel has been paranoid about people finding out the truth of what it is doing. In an example of this, 55 Harvard students were expelled from Al-Walaja earlier this week (see 1 below). On several occasions when we took delegations to visit Al-Walaja we were harassed. This included the times when I took a group of Israeli Jews, evangelical Christians, and even diplomatic staff to Al-Walaja. Some who were sympathetic to Israel did change their views and started to see this as the apartheid system h it is (by International legal definition). Just today I took some of my Palestinian students to see Al-Walaja and talk to villagers and even do their research projects on the village. More Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals should come to these struggling villages and see reality. We are happy to show people around and/or put them in touch with the right people and not those who are profiteering from claiming they represent popular resistance.
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Optimism and Change

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Mazin Qumsiyeh, 14 April 2011

According the latest survey of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, some 26.2% of families live in poverty and 14.1% live in deep poverty for a total of 40.3% living in poverty or deep poverty in the WB and Gaza. The situation in Gaza is worse than in the WB. By contrast, any casual visitor to Ramallah is struck by 5 star hotels, fancy banquets, hummers and SUVs, and the latest models of Mercedes cars. And throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, over 200 thousand employees draw salaries from foreign aid channeled through the “Palestinian authority” with lots of strings attached (to support the status quo). De facto one party rules function in the WB and in Gaza with economic incentives against radical change in toe. Even a simple thing like university student union elections, parties were excluded. With so many people benefitting from a continuation of the status quo, some find it hard to envisage meaningful change. But wasn’t that the situation in Egypt for decades and that is now dramatically changing? Now the Egyptian ex-President (a lackey of Israeli and US foreign policies) and his two wealthy sons are under detention and will be indicted soon. The Egyptian airline canceled its regular flights to Tel Aviv. The Egyptian government just ordered a review of the sale of natural gas to Israel (where it was sold below value with some benefits to the wealthy Egyptian elites); this was costing the Egyptian people 3-4 billion annually. And the demonstrators in Cairo marched to and surrounded the Israeli embassy demanding its ouster.*

In my talks in the US, I predicted that the President of Yemen will be next (he is the most subservient to Israeli and US governments). A million marched in Yemen last Friday. Syrian President (good on rhetoric but also serving status quo) is besieged. The list goes on. Youth in many Palestinian cities including in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Gaza are mobilizing. There are ongoing hunger strikes, protest tents, and conventions (one in Bethlehem Saturday will have over 1000 attendees). The winds of change are blowing. Israeli elites are shaken and have begun to debate among themselves what to do (maybe even accept a larger Bantustan and call it a Palestinian state without the refugees allowed to return). But it is too little, too late. A global intifada is ongoing. We the people, insist on justice (which brings a durable peace). On the ground here in Palestine, our struggle is one person at a time, one village at a time. In my talks abroad, I gave the example of Al-Walaja village. To really understand the Palestinian struggle come visit us and work with us. If you can’t do that, watch this excellent documentary:
Al-Walaja story
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Gaza war crimes investigation: Israeli drones (with Arabic subtitles)

*Israeli Embassy in Cairo under siege

Action: On Tuesday, some people from the Jenin Freedom Theater (founded by Juliano Mer-Khamis) came to our village and presented the film Arna’s children (which everyone should see). On Saturday at noon in front of the Muqata’ there will be a demonstration by artists and friends of art demanding the Palestinian authority bring the killers to justice. I recalled this paragraph from my 2004 book “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli Palestinian Struggle” ( that was put in practice by the Freedom Theater thanks to Jule’s work: “Perhaps we need to teach children to value themselves, value teamwork, respect others, and defend the rights of minorities. This is not as simple as it seems. Adults need to learn to accept, in a very positive fashion, views that are foreign to them. In other words, someone who expresses his views should be listened to and respected regardless of how sacred the ‘holy cows’ are. Would you be willing to listen rationally to a view radically different from your own on your religion or your way of doing things? Would you be willing to defend wholeheartedly the right of that person to present his view?”

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He serves as chairman of the board of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour He is author of  “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle” and the forthcoming book Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment.

A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home

Articles by Dr. Qumsiyeh on

Land Day and attacks on my talks

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Mazin Qumsiyeh, 29 March 2011

Tomorrow, we commemorate Land Day throughout Palestine and around the world. Below is a small section from my book “Popular Resistance in Palestine
about the history of Land Day. In Palestine, the uprising is building momentum despite efforts by Israeli officials and some Palestinian officials to suppress it and/or distort its message (which is about a reconstitution of a Palestinian National Council to represent all 12 million Palestinians).

For us, missing these events at home while on the speaking tour is hard. Just in the last two weeks, the Israeli regime passed two more apartheid laws
(banning Nakba commemorations and punishing activists who speak about BDS), the occupation forces murdered over 20 Palestinains, confiscated tractors of
four farmers in Jiftlick, arrested scores of Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals engaged in nonviolent resistance, others were beaten, and we missed several peaceful events including the one tomorrow a march for Rachel Corrie (Wednesday at 1 PM in Babzqaq, Bethlehem).

But this tour is important: three countries, 16 USA states, over 80 events in 5 weeks (for the remaining schedule, see

To show you just a sample of how it is making a difference, please see these two stories one before my appearance and one after it and also on the
comments posted below the articles. It is instructive:

Article before: Litchfield Chabad rabbi leads protest against library’s
hosting of Arab speaker

Article after: Human rights author presents book talk at Oliver Wolcott
Library in Litchfield (with video)

We are still looking for more organizations and individuals in different countries to help with the summer project to bring Internationals to Palestine (email me and see for details)

Pages from Qumsiyeh’s book about Land Day March 30:

“Away from politics, grassroots efforts were functioning. The increased
mobilization among Palestinians inside the Green Line took a dramatic and
bold step forward with a large meeting in August 1975 in Nazareth attended
by 110 individuals to defend the land. At this meeting, a committee was
selected, headed by Anees Kardoush, to prepare for an even larger meeting.
This meeting, held in October 1975, included about 5,000 activists from many
factions and created the Committee for Defense of the Land (Lajnat Al-Difa’
’An Al-Aradi) with 100 members and an eleven-member secretariat. It began by
protesting against the confiscation of 22,000 dunums in the Galilee and the
declaration of an even larger parcel of land belonging to three villages (in
the Al-Mil area) as closed military zones, with the intention of building
nine Jewish settlements in this closed zone. A meeting was held in Nazareth
on March 6, 1976. This included 48 heads of municipalities and local village
councils and called for a day of protests and strikes on March 30, 1976
should Israel go ahead with its land confiscation policies. When it appeared
the strike would take place, many areas outside of the Galilee joined it,
including in the West Bank.11 This became known as ‘Land Day’ throughout
Palestine. The events actually started on March 29, when a demonstration
against the Israeli army’s provocative mobilizations in the village of Deir
Hanna. Later that evening, the village of Araba Al-Batoof demonstrated in
solidarity and a young man, Khair Muhammad Yassin, was killed by Israeli
soldiers. He was the first martyr of the 1976 Land Day. More martyrs fell
over the next 24 hours. The events were well organized and participation was
high. The Israeli authorities reacted violently. Many were injured, six
nonviolent protesters killed and hundreds arrested. The events coincided
with the secret Koening Memorandum which laid out plans for further
discrimination and ethnic cleansing to ‘make the Galilee more Jewish’. The
Israeli government condemned the leaking of the memorandum, but no
government official repudiated its racist content.12 After this successful
popular event, differences arose that weakened the organizing committee and
yet, the movement continues strongly to this day.13”

ACTION in Britain through PSC: ask supermarkets not to aid companies profiting from colonial occupation

Breaking the Silence: One of hundreds of testimonies; this one about shooting at anyone on roofs

Liberated Libya Rejects US Intervention



Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He serves as chairman of the board of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour He is author of “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle” and the forthcoming book Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment.

A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home

Articles by Dr. Qumsiyeh on

Conditions Critical in Refugee Camps as Strikes Continue

(Dheisheh Refugee camp, Palestine, Photo: Adam Bernstein)

Palestine Monitor, 13 November 2010

Outside the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, trash that has accumulated over the past month lies unattended, while schools and health clinics remain shut. The UNRWA workers have been on strike for nearly one month, demanding what they believe has become their right to strike.

Written by Charlotte Silver. Photographs by Adam Bernstein.

(Dheisheh Refugee camp, Palestine, Photo:  Adam Bernstein)

(Dheisheh Refugee camp, Palestine, Photo: Adam Bernstein)

Today, workers of the United Nations Relief and Workers Agency in the West Bank will continue their strike that began on October 14. The area staff workers of UNRWA, who provide most of the daily services to refugee camps throughout the West Bank, are demanding that they are compensated for six-days of missed work during a strike last July. While UNRWA workers are on strike, UNRWA services such as, schools, clinics, trash pick-up, and food distribution have come to a halt.

This issue dates back to July. After the strike the union and the UNRWA administration entered into an agreement that stipulated several issues that awaited negotiation, including a pay raise that would compensate for the depreciated value of the Jordanian Dinar (the currency of the wages) and whether or not the workers would be paid for the strike.

However, despite the fact that the issue of paid strike days was tabled for future discussions, their pay was nevertheless revoked, in what the union characterises as unilateral. “We were surprised when our salaries came at the end of the month and UNRWA (had) deducted three days of salaries. They had taken the decision alone, without negotiating, without returning to the area staff union,” Yacoub Abu Khiran, a member of the area staff union and the Area Finance Officer for Hebron, explained to me while sitting under the strike-tent at the main entrance of Dheisheh Refugee Camp.

(Inside the strike tent, Photo:  Adam Bernstein)

(Inside the strike tent, Photo: Adam Bernstein)

According to Abu Khiran, the union is most concerned about receiving payment for strike days because it will make striking more difficult in the future, “They say ‘no work, no pay’, which means strikes are forbidden.

“What UNRWA aims is to prevent any future strike. Which is actually legal, which is our last weapon. Because we cannot afford to deduct even one dinar from our salaries, it means that in the future, we can’t use this weapon.”

According to Abu Khiran, this is the first case that Barbara Shenstone, current director of the UNRWA in Palestine has refused to pay the workers after a strike has ended.

Negotiations over this issue began at the beginning of August, during which time the union offered a concession to work longer hours or on days off to earn back the missed days’ wages. The workers have lost three days of pay and three days of annual work leaves.

The Palestine Authority’s Ministry of Labor has supported the union in their demand for paid strike days. Abu Khiran stated, “The Ministry of Labor says our strike was legal, and there should be no deduction. From the point of view of the Ministry even our offers to make up time is illegal. Because strikes are legal and should be paid in full.”

Due to the current strike, basic services that are normally provided to the camps have ceased to operate. Even families qualifying as ‘Special Hardship Cases’- those without any source of income, are not receiving food subsidies. “Nothing is provided now: education, relief services and health services are fully stopped now,” Abu Khiran said.

Despite these hardships that residents of Dheisheh Refugee Camp face, they are nonetheless supportive of the strike. Member of the Popular Committee in Dheisheh, Naji Odah, explained that when he walks through the camps, residents ask him many questions, but they also want to help the strikers. “The institutions, the residents, although they are affected and harmed from the strike, they support us. The majority of us feel they are a part of them,” Odah said.

Read our first report on the strike…

Watch and be angry and inspired

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Today (Wednesday) was another honorable and painful chapter in the struggle of the village of Al-Walaja.  Apartheid soldiers assaulted children and adults protesting peacefully, injured many, and arrested six Palestinians.  The destruction of the beautiful ancient village land was stopped for over 1.5 hours.  I was especially touched by the courage of Omar and his two children, one of them was hit by a soldier with his gun on top of his head.  Please see this video and be both angered and inspired by the courage of the Walajans.  The villagers need our support in many ways especially to demand Israel release those they abducted.  Come join us PLEASE and act.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home

Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities

Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People,

Direct action around Palestine

Member of Al-Ma'asara Popular Committee confronts soldiers (ISM)

International Solidarity Movement, 1 July 2010

Member of Al-Ma'asara Popular Committee confronts soldiers (ISM)

Member of Al-Ma'asara Popular Committee confronts soldiers (ISM)

Al Ma’asara

The people of Al-Ma’asara’s again demonstrated peacefully last Friday, protesting against land seizures and settler harassment. Twenty villagers were joined by a handful of Israelis and internationals, marching from the village out towards the confiscated fields.

For the second week running, the group was allowed to reach the fields; Israeli army jeeps appeared as always, but this week the soldiers escorted the protest group to the fields, rather than attempting to stop them. Protestors were pushed and shouted at if they tried to move away from the main group, but otherwise there was no incident.

Perhaps the Israeli Army has finally recognised that the Al-Ma’asara protest is 100% peaceful, and the soldiers have no reason to break it up. Or this may turn out to be a temporary respite from roadblocks and harsher treatment. In any case the people of Al-Ma’asara are still not able to cultivate their land in peace, as the farmer’s have no protection from settler violence.

An Nabi Saleh

Residents of An Nabi Saleh gathered on Friday to honour the men of their village who remain as political prisoners inside Israeli jails. As one man enters his 33rd year in captivity, the village congregated for speeches, songs, and presentations to the families of those imprisoned.

After this event, villagers, joined by Israeli and international supporters, marched towards village land which has been illegally taken from them by the nearby Israeli settlement of Halamish. Soldiers blocked their route, allowing them to stand and chant for only a short period before starting to shoot tear gas. Many of the tear gas canisters shot were fired at body height, seemingly deliberately aimed at demonstrators. Several participants were injured, by canisters or by rubber-coated steel bullets, which were also fired in large numbers.

Military jeeps then came into the village, and soldiers occupied the main square. After approximately an hour, they retreated again, pursued by a large group of young children, one of whom had successfully planted a Palestinian flag on the back of a jeep. Soldiers halted the jeeps, and got out to throw sound grenades and fire tear gas at the children. Fortunately, none were hurt.

The demonstration went on until after sunset, when soldiers finally moved out of the village.

Iraq Burin

At the weekly demonstration against the illegal Israeli occupation in Iraq Burin, stone throwing protesters and international observers were teargassed by the Israeli army while trying to access their own land.

Leaving the village after the protest, two villagers and six internationals were stopped by an army jeep, had their passports confiscated and were then detained, with the soldiers claiming that it was “illegal” to be in the village. The internationals and Palestinians were taken to separate Israeli checkpoints, before being brought together again at Huwarra checkpoint 40 minutes later, where the Palestinians had been kneeling in the hot sun with their hands behind their heads.

All prisoners were then taken to a police station, where one of the Palestinians was severely beaten, first in the jeep, then in a closed room in the police station. All prisoners were later released without charge, 4 1/2 hours after their detention. The beaten Palestinian was taken to hospital in Nablus, where the doctor noted heavy bruising on his chest, back and stomach.


Dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation in Bil’ins weekly demonstration this Friday.

This week’s protest focused particularly on the boycott of Israeli blood diamonds. Every year, consumers the world over unwittingly spend billions of dollars on diamonds extracted by violent militias in West Africa and later processed and sold on from Tel Aviv. Protestors also carried a message of solidarity with the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, who are currently subject to a particularly violent wave of evictions, demolitions and harassment.

About 100 Palestinians, Israelis and internationals marched together this week to the gate of the Annexation Wall, facing large amounts of tear gas before the soldiers charged through the gate and chased the protesters towards the village. The solders continued firing teargas on the fleeing crowd, leaving dozens of protestors affected by gas inhalation. Hot teargas cannitsters set fire to fields on either side of the road, with Palestinian youths struggling to put out the flames while avoiding the Isralie assault. The demonstration ended after about 45 minutes.


Around 20 international activists and journalists joined a group of 80-90 local villagers for the weekly protest against the Annexation Wall, continuing a tradition that has been going for over 4 years now. Starting from the olive fields, the protesters marched down the hill towards the wall, chanting slogans and waving flags. Having arrived at the wall, which annexes farmland and property from the locals and gives it to illegal settlers, there was an interlude of around 5 minutes, after which time the Israeli Army, from the other side of the wall, launched volleys of tear gas canisters at the peaceful protesters, continuing another integral part of the demonstration since its inception- unprovoked violence against peaceful demonstrators.

Following the volleys, most of the activists positioned themselves out of the direction of the wind, in order to minimize the poisonous effects of the gas. Some of the canisters were conventional rubber canisters, and others were higher velocity metal canisters, and thus the protesters had to be careful to avoid the projectiles, which have in the past caused serious and even fatal injuries to several activists. Some of the Palestinians then started throwing rocks over the wall at their aggressors, as well as using slingshots to hurl the empty gas canisters back at the soldiers.

After around 45 minutes events petered out. The protesters moved to the edge of the wall, and some of the journalists conducted interviews, while some Palestinians continued using slingshots to hurl the empty rubber gas canisters back over the wall. Suddenly, the Army burst through the gate in the wall in their jeeps, and started pursuing the peace protestors, who fled on foot over the hills, out of the reach of the jeeps. After a roughly 10 minute chase, the activists had managed to distance themselves safely from the army, who had given up the pursuit; they returned to the village in peace.


Demonstrators gathered in Hebron on Saturday to demand an end to the illegal theft of water from the region for use in Israel and in Israeli settlements.

Protesters carried a large banner which read ‘Stop Stealing Our Water’, a reference to the theft of Palestinian water supplies by Israel. According to the Middle East Monitor, ‘The rate of water consumption of Israel citizens is 344 million cubic metres per year, while the consumption of Palestinians stands at 93 million cubic metres per year’. Israel’s disproportionately high usage and wastage of water is in large part fed by water stolen from the occupied West Bank. The Middle East Monitor goes on to write of ‘3 reserves within the West Bank area producing about 679 million cubic metres of water. According to international law, this water belongs to the Palestinians but they only get 118 million cubic metres. In other words, Palestinians get just 15% of their own water while the rest is consumed by Israelis’ [1]. Much of this stolen water comes from the Hebron region.

Local residents were joined for the protest by a large group of Israeli and international activists. After chanting and making speeches in front of one of Hebron’s many military watch-towers, the protest then moved up a nearby street, which was blocked by Israeli soldiers who violently pushed demonstrators back down the road. Protesters refused to give up, and went instead into the Old City’s covered market. Above this market is one of the illegal settlements that exist within Hebron itself, and settlers from here threw glass bottles, eggs and water down onto the protesters below.

The settlements in Hebron are, like all settlements within the West Bank and East Jerusalem, illegal under international law. Palestinian residents of the Old City and the district of Tel Rumeida suffer severe restriction of movement, frequent harassment and occasional violence at the hands of both soldiers and settlers.


Beit Jala

Midday Sunday, a group of Palestinians and internationals gathered in the village of Beit Jala outside Bethlehem to protest against the construction of the wall cutting off the village from its land. The protesters divided into two groups, one facing a roadblock set up by the soldiers and while another smaller group went down trough the olive groves to reach the construction site.

Israeli soldiers responded violently towards the larger group, using sound bombs and tear gas. When the smaller group reached the road leading to the construction site, soldiers quickly formed a line to stop them. After some time border police arrived and arrested three of the protesters: one Palestinian, one Israeli and one international. As a result of the ferocious violence from the soldiers, the demonstration dissipated.

Activists working with local farmer to dredge the well (ISM)

Activists working with local farmer to dredge the well (ISM)

Bir el-Eid

Early Saturday morning, 10 volunteers from Tayoush and ISM travelled to Bir el-Eid in the South Hebron Hills, where we met with the local farmers, and were joined also by renouned activist Ezra Nawi. Activists gathered here to help the locals dredge out their well. The people Bir el-Eid only just have enough water to drink, but nothing for crops or animals. Water must be expensively brought in tanks from outside, negotiating whatever the current military conditions may be.

The more permanent and sustainable water supply here comes from two wells that capture a good part of the yearly rain, which soaks down through the chalk rocks. The people of Bir el-Eid were evicted from their land for a number of years, and when they recently returned, they found their wells in disrepair. Without anyone here to maintain the wells they filled with silt, and the problem may have been compounded by settler vandalism.

Restoring the well to usefulness is a crucial part of re-establishing a sustainable community here. Activists spent about five hours working with the farmers; one Palestinian and three Israelis went down into the cistern at the bottom of the well, and five of us at the top hauled up the bucket-loads of muck with a pulley. This was filthy, heavy work, but seeing Palestinians and Israelis working together against the Apartheid provided powerful inspiration.

The Battle For Al-Walaja

The Battle For Al-Walaja (Palestine Monitor 2010)

Palestine Monitor, Aaron Dearborn, 1 July 2010

Hidden between the ancient cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, lies the village of Al-Walaja. Home to around 2,000 people, mainly agricultural workers, the land is rich in olive trees, summer crops and other natural resources. But the village is at a crossroads.

between the ancient cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, lies the village of Al-Walaja

between the ancient cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, lies the village of Al-Walaja

This year has witnessed a surge in Israeli military crackdowns, as Al-Walaja joins Bili’n, Ni’lin and Beit Jala, as the scene of heated weekly anti-wall demonstrations and popular resistance.

Since the first construction workers and soldiers arrived to begin clearing land for the Wall almost four years ago, locals say they have received an increasing number of eviction orders, arrests, threats and intimidation from IDF soldiers.

The current plan for Al-Walaja will see the town surrounded on all sides by the wall. Only one entry and exit point, under complete military control, will remain. The position of nearby settlements mean the Wall will encroach further onto village land, shrinking Al-Walaja before surrounding it.

However the bulldozers have not been allowed to move in unchallenged. Every Friday villagers gather at the construction sites in the fields of Al-Walaja to demonstrate against the seizure of their land.

 Activists occupy a bulldozer during a recent demonstration that saw Mazin Qumsiyeh arrested. (Photo: Kara Newhouse)

Activists occupy a bulldozer during a recent demonstration that saw Mazin Qumsiyeh arrested. (Photo: Kara Newhouse)

Local organiser Mahmoud Al-Araj says these areas are considered ’closed military zones’ by the Israeli government, and army patrols move in quickly to stop the demonstrations.

“When Israel started building the wall, we started demonstrating against the confiscation of our land. We started on Fridays and one or two days during the week to bring people to stop the bulldozers,” he says. “So we had many peaceful demonstrations, and we get much beating and arrests from the Israeli soldiers who use weapons against us.”

Earlier this year, human rights groups were outraged by footage of villager Nabeel Hajajala, 14, being pepper sprayed, kicked and beaten by several soldiers during a demonstration.

“I saw the soldier videoing, I went down and took the mobile from him. The soldiers attacked me and pepper sprayed me. They tied my hands and put me in the jeep and started to hit me and spray me again. They took me to the checkpoint and after that to the police station”, Hajajala told me.

“In the jeep they punched me, and from the top of my head I was bleeding. Still they sprayed in my mouth and eyes and hit me with the back of a gun and kicked me until we reached the checkpoint.”

Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh is a Palestinian peace activist and former Yale professor who has twice been arrested at Al-Walaja rallies. He says the risk of arrest and injury is something protesters are prepared to face. “In any kind of popular resistance there is a price to be paid and we are willing to pay that price. That price can range from mild harassment, intimidation, tear gas-which we smell of every week at demonstrations, all the way to being shot and killed. That’s what happened to my friend Bassam Abu Rahmah in Bili’n who was not doing any more than I do regularly. That’s just the risk you take in popular resistance.”

Since 2007, the people of Al-Walaja have received four different maps outlining the proposed route of the wall. The first official proposal threatened to divide the town in two parts, completely cutting off one part of the village from the other. The village formally complained to the Israeli high court and the plan was eventually overturned. However the three most recent plans have shown the wall being built in a way that completely surrounds the village on all sides with only one exit and entry point manned by IDF soldiers.

Village Council President Saleh Hilmi Khalifa rejects Israel’s claim that the separation wall is necessary to protect its citizens.

“If you take a photo of the region, you discover that these sayings are lies. The distance between the citizens and any Israeli units is too far, we are too far from the Israeli regions. If there is any problem with the Israelis’ security, why are they building the wall in our lands? Why don’t they build it on their lands?” he says.

Dr Qumsiyeh agrees, believing Israel is only interested in expanding the current expanse of Jerusalem to what is referred to as ‘Greater Jerusalem’.

“Al-Walaja has never had any conflict with the Israelis and if Israel is worried about the people of Al-Walaja coming into Israeli areas they could build the wall on the green line. But they choose instead to encircle the village with the wall and this tells me that it is not about security for the Israeli communities”.

“Israel has actually divided Al-Walaja into two areas. One of them is actually apart from the expanded boundaries of Jerusalem. Nobody recognises (these boundaries) except Israel, which says East Jerusalem is part of its capital. They expanded its borders so that nearly half the land of Al-Walaja is part of Jerusalem municipality. But not the people of Al-Walaja. They want the land but they don’t want the people that come with it.”

One villager, Ahmed Barwoud, has already had to stand back and watch as his farmland. was torn up to make way for the wall. Barwoud has lived here for over sixty years, since before Israel was created.

“This is something to remind me of the lands that were taken from us in 1948. This is another Nakba. The Israelis came and marked the lands and they brought the bulldozers and started to work,” he says.

Barwoud’s home is also the final resting place of his parents and grandparents. Israel’s current plans will place the graves of his ancestors on the other side of the wall in a Jerusalem municipality far exceeding the green line.

Ahmed Barwoud has been living in Al-Walaja for longer than Israel has existed. (Photo: Nicky Elliott)

Ahmed Barwoud has been living in Al-Walaja for longer than Israel has existed. (Photo: Nicky Elliott)

His farm has become a meeting point for demonstrators in Al-Walaja, where both Palestinians and internationals gather before a protest.

“They are standing with me because this is our issue, maybe today its my disaster and tomorrow it will be their disaster. The disaster includes all of us.”

But while Barwoud appreciates the support from internationals, he says his lands will not be saved unless foreign governments make a determined effort to confront Israel’s expansion.

“There are some people who stand significantly with us and that’s good, they demonstrate with us, its a really good stance. But what I say is they have to stand against their governments which support Israel, that is better than them coming here. They have to stand against Europe because it supports Israel and America is the biggest supporter of Israel.”

If they don’t, Barwoud says the struggle will be carried forward by his children.

“In the future, when they take my land, I will only hate the occupation more and more, and I will hate the supporters of Israel more and more. I will teach my children to be strong and how to take their lands back.”

Learn more about the popular struggle here

Popular resistance continues at home and abroad

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Mazin Qumsiyeh, 19 June 2010

Today we managed to attend two demonstrations organized by residents of Wad Rahhal and Al-Ma’sara.  In the former, the military ‘intelligence” officer named ‘Fadi’ came to check things out.  This is the same guy who told me before my trip to the US last March that I should not leave.  The morning after I left, Israeli army came in the middle of the night and surrounded my house ostensibly looking to arrest me.   In today’s demonstration he first tried to discredit me by claiming ‘friendship’ and ‘closeness’ (those in attendance knew this tactic).  Then he tried verbal threats and intimidation.  While his soldiers prevented us from getting to where my car was parked, he made a point of driving to it within view of us and “checking it out” (we have video).  When the demonstration was finished, we saw that what he scribbled was the world ‘Hamas’ on the car (I guess he did not realize I am not Muslim).  As we drove to the other demonstration he followed.

Unlike in Wad Rahhal, the people of Al-Ma’sara were allowed to march to their lands on this day.  ‘Fadi’ kept a close watch on us.  He pulled his jeep in front of my car as soon as we got in and were ready to leave at the end of this second demonstration.  I backed up and got on the road and he then followed us in an intimidating fashion for two miles.  Never-the-less, we were thrilled with the success of both demonstrations and that no one was arrested.  They are still holding our friend Hassan Breijiya and likely to charge him with serious charges from last week.  There is no ‘justice’ system here.  There are Israeli military courts with Israeli military judges  who always choose the Israeli soldier’s version and apply random ‘sentences’ on us (for being Palestinians in Palestine).  Even Israeli activists like our friend Yotam face tough ‘sentencing’ for merely engaging in nonviolent protest of Israeli colonial land theft and land destruction.

In this land of apartheid, there are still some surreal moments.  Today, I witnessed no less than 6 acts of kindness and generosity.  I also stopped by Talitha Kumi school to visit with a  friend (who donated a box of books to us) and we saw their groups of Israelis  and Palestinians engaged in singing for peace and eating together.  The normalization activity was happening less than a kilometer away from Al-Walaja, the village which is slated to join hundreds of other villages ethnically cleansed since 1947. The remaining 2000 residents watch (and occasionally demonstrate and get arrested and jailed) as the apartheid wall is being built around their houses and separating them from their lands. Just two days earlier, I was with eth lawyer for the village as we say that the destruction of agricultural lands even extended beyond the areas mapped by the Israeli authorities for ‘closed military zones’ around the projected wall.  The contractor took the lawyer (and I tagged along) to the ‘operations room’ to show him the map.  The room was an amazing record of planned destruction in the Bethlehem district.  On all four sides of the walls, there were maps showing the projected stages of the apartheid wall completion.   I was not allowed to bring my camera but it was a horrific scene.  Some 20 minutes into this, the contractor talks to the Israeli military command who tell him to get us out of their and not show us any maps (too late though!).

If all goes according to Israeli plans, Al-Walaja will be a small version of Gaza: an open-air prison with one gate out controlled by Israel.  The wall comes very close to Palestinian homes to separate them from their front or back yard and all their agricultural lands.  In 1948 Alwalaja lost 63,000 of its 70,000 dunums of land.  The remaining 7000 while now shrink to about 1000 and eventually to nothing.  Palestinians were once 95% of the population and in control of 95% of the land and now mostly refugees and displaced people while the five million who remain in Palestine have access to 2.9% of the land.

Israeli army destroys children’s playground in Beit Jala and drag children away

Jewish challenges to Zionism on the rise in the US; Gabriel Ash, Emily Katz Kashawi, Mich Levy, Sara Kershnar, The Electronic Intifada, 14 June 2010

Shooting and sobbing, by Gilad Atzmon

Volvo Equipment: Effective tools of the Israeli occupation

Standing Up to the Bulldozers in Palestine

And here is a brave Australian member of Parliament speaking out for human rights (if only more parliamentarians would speak the truth)

I wrote to her with this brief thanks

I am a professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit universities and have just finished my fourth book (this one on the 130 year- history of popular nonviolent resistance in Palestine).  Every week here, we have new atrocities on the ground.  Today we had demonstrations in Bilin, Nilin, Al-Masara, Al-Walaja, Wad Rahhal and other places.  It is thus very good to read your speech in the Australian parliament.  We in Palestine thank you for your solidarity.. for reminding us of who we are as fellow human beings.  What Margaret Mead once wrote comes to mind “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The Committee to Resist the Wall in Beit Jala invites you to the weekly demonstration this Sunday 20 June 2010 at 11:30 AM and this one in honor of our friend and popular committee leader the martyr Abu Alwaleed AlAzza. Please spread the word and come join us to protest the destruction of Palestinian lands.  Your presence supports the struggle for peace and justice.

And while the Israeli government issued a press release in English that claims they will ‘ease’ the medieval siege on Gaza (the release in Hebrew made no such mention), the International civil society is not fooled: we demand an end to this siege not media gestures.  More boat flotillas are being planned and lawsuits are demanding Israel release the belongings (especially video cameras and tapes) stolen from the passengers and that a real independent investigation is allowed.  We will not let the Israeli criminals get away with murder.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities
Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People,

Adventures In Wild Palestine


Palestine Monitor, 14 June 2010

“To go on a sarha was to roam freely, at will, without restraint. The verb form of the word means to let the cattle out to pasture early in the morning, leaving them to wander and graze in liberty. The commonly used noun sarha is a colloquial corruption of the classical word. A man going on a sarha wanders aimlessly, not restricted by time and place, going where his spirit takes him to nourish his soul and rejuvenate himself. But not any excursion would qualify as a sarha. Going on a sarha implies letting go. It is a drug-free high, Palestinian-style.” Raja Shehadeh ’Palestinian Walk – Notes on a Vanishing Landscape’

Julien S. got his feet dirty.

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Early this February, having lived in the Holy Land for nearly a year I saw a photo-reportage from 1999 showing the wonderful winter landscapes of the northern West Bank. I was transfixed, having never associated the troubled region with these wild, romantic scenes. The most striking were from Jenin, a city I had never entered. As soon as I heard that a guesthouse had opened there I embarked on a series of lonely walking voyages into the open country, cutting through the hills, mountains and fields. Travelling at random I found tiny paradises where I could rest and enjoy their beauty and serenity, places to stop and admire the perfectly preserved secrets of the north. My first walk from Jenin to Nazlat ‘Isa during the first day of heavy rains last winter made me an addict of this natural pleasure, of this “Drug-free high, Palestinian Style”.

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Of course not everything is as beautiful here as these pictures let us think, but despite the ongoing turmoil and suffering of this country, the unique energy of the sarha is here to be discovered.

The pictures were mostly taken in the Northern West Bank (Ramallah, Salfit, Jenin, Tubas, Nablus) and in the districts of Bethlehem during my trips in February. I would like to thank all the Palestinians whose spontaneous help, hospitality and enthusiasm made exploring their country such a pleasure.

Read a synopsis or buy Shehadeh’s book here…