Sunday, September 6, 2015

And they searched his chest But could only find his heart And they searched his heart And could only find his people

September Reflections by Mazin Qumsiyeh


Marwa and her mother at the mosque after 11 Sept 2001

And they searched his chest

But could only find his heart

And they searched his heart

And could only find his people

(Palestinian Poet Mahmud Darwish)

My political awareness started out in September 1970 when I was 13 years
old. That is the first time I saw my late father cry. My parents had tried
t isolate us from the miseries of the world but in this case he could not
help it as he watched how politics results in innocent people massacred.
The quarrel between the PLO and the Jordanian monarchy had peaked into a
war. Jordanian troops with tanks entered refugee camps killing perhaps
thousands (no one knows the number) of Palestinian refugees as they
uprooted the PLO armed factions from Jordan. My father still would not talk
much politics so I turned to my mother who gave me a brief history lesson
much of it personal. For example she told me about her school friend Hayah
Balbisi who was murdered with her students in Deir Yassin. The images on TV
of flattened shaggy shantytowns over dead bodies still haunts me. I began
to educate myself of things they do not teach us in school about our own
history: that British invasion of Palestine September 1918 was a direct
result of Zionist lobbies that gave the Balfour and the Jules Cambon
declarations 1917 and learned of the British imposition of apartheid
through the first Zionist ruler here Herbert Samuels.

In September 1982, it was my turn to cry uncontrollably as I saw images of
the massacres at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila (Israeli paid proxy
militias). By September 2001, I had been living and working at Yale
University for 1.5 years and I had been in the US for 22 years. In those
1.5 years in Connecticut, we had held over 20 events for Palestine and I
had published dozens of letters and opinion articles on Palestine. We were
happy we succeeded in pressuring Yasser Arafat not to sign onto the
humiliating agreement offered him at Camp David that abrogated the right of
Palestinians to return to their homes and lands (I cofounded a group that
managed to collect over 800,000 signatures for refugee rights between 1997
to 1999). We were planning moe actions and more events especially in
protest of the ongoing massacres committed by the war criminal Ariel Sharon
in the occupied Palestinian territories. That was what some people had
called the second Intifada 2000-2005 (my book on Popular resistance
actually shows it is number 14 or 15). We planned events, held rallies,
organized protest and also cared for the injured. We had already brought a
girl who was 8 years old who lost her eye to an Israeli rubber-coated steel
bullet and gave her a prosthetic eye (Hiam was one of hundreds of children
to lose eyes and limbs in 2000-2003). Another girl Marwa Alsharif was
coincidentally with us in September 2001. Marwa Al-Sharif had a bullet in
her head which was just removed by neurosurgeon in Hartford and she was
recovering (I acted as translater for her and her mother). On 10 September
2001 I was dealing with Zionist back lash and media distortions about the
Israeli targeting of these children. On September 4, 2001, the Zionist
group CAMERA posted to their members one of our media alerts and added "As
you will see, pro-Palestinian activists are very focused and energetic and
are using sophisticated and diverse methods to press their case. We can do
no less!" An article by Rhonda L Maacarty and me appeared in Q magazine
about the growing role of international solidarity in the struggle for
freedom in Palestine. The struggle was plodding along but then it came to
the USA in a big way on 11 September 2001. My first message after I
recovered from the shock of the news was this sent at 11:30 AM on Tuesday
11 September 2001:

Talking points on the catastrophe

Many have already been contacted by the media for commentary on the attacks
in NYC and Washington. Here are possible talking points:

1) This is an awful catstrophe

2) Our first thoughts must be with the victims.

3) We condemn acts of terror in the strongest possible ways.

4) It is important not to jump to conclusions about who or how this was
caused and to wait for the situation to be clear.

No need to say anything else.

Mazin Qumsiyeh

I checked on my friends in New York (an area only 40 minutes from our home
in Orange, CT) and we held vigils for the victims at Yale (hundreds of
victims were also Arab and/or Muslim Americans). I was interviewed at least
10 times in the next few hours. That night was sleepless night as we
addressed emails and made phone calls etc. Marwa Al-Sharif and her moher
were at the Friday prayers called for by all the mosques in the US after
this catastrophic event to pray for the victims and pray for peace.

In the next few weeks I gave over 50 talks dealing with this issue. In
these talks and in my writings (including a book I published soon after) I
warned that unless the west changes its foreign policy in the Arab world
(stop supporting dictatorships like "Saudi Arabia" and the apartheid
colonial system in Palestine "the Jewish state of Israel", that we will
have many more black Septembers. I warned of a potential refugee flood much
worse. We even mobilized a roving bus called the "Wheels of Justice Bus
Tour" which talked about Palestine and Iraq and the importance of changing
policies. We spoke at in 4 years in 48 states of the USA. We protested, we
marched, we did civil disobedience etc. My contract at Yale was not renewed
in September 2005 and I left the USA in September 2008 to try and make a
bigger difference in Palestine. September 2015, we see more suffering, more
refugees, children washing ashore in the Mediterranean. We still cry, we
still mourn, but we must still act. It is not enough to tell the callous
western leaders "we told you so". They still make horrible catastrophes.
Please act to stop them (e.g. the USA/Saudi collusion to attack Yemen is
creating another catastrophe).

Here in Palestine in the past 7 years, I adapted methodologies and changed
directions to push for change. I donated much of what I made working at
Duke and Yale to Palestine. I was detained, arrested, and harassed but
luckily much better off than 95% of other Palestinians with a conscience.
Now I spend a majority of my time "lighting candle better than cursing the
darkness" and "having joyful participation in the sorrows of this world". I
am blessed to be surrounded by good active people, volunteers of all
backgrounds and from many countries. Our email colleagues are in the tens
of thousands. A luta continua – the struggle continues. I want to take this
opportunity to thank those thousands of you who act for peace and justice.
You donate of your time and money but most important you give of yourself.
As the great Kahlil Jubran once wrote:

*"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you
give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your possessions but
things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? And
tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in
the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city? And what is
fear of need but need itself? Is not dread of thirst when your well is
full, the thirst that is unquenchable?*

*There are those who give little of the much which they have--and they give
it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the
believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. And there
are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism. And there are
those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give
with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle
breathes its fragrance into space. Through the hands of such as these God
speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.It is well to
give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater
than giving. And is there aught you would withhold? All you have shall
someday be given; Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be
yours and not your inheritors'.*

*You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving." The trees in
your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that
they may live, for to withhold is to perish. Surely he who is worthy to
receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you. And he who
has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from
your little stream. And what desert greater shall there be, than that which
lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving? And
who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that
you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed? See first that you
yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.For in truth it
is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but
a witness.*

*And you receivers... and you are all receivers... assume no weight of
gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives. Rather
rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings; For to be over
mindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted
earth for mother, and God for father."*
Pl see my blogs;

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