Speaking first was Pastor Jeanne Loveless, Interim Senior Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Oakland. Pastor Loveless introduces Emily Wheeler (pictured above) of Friends of Sabeel North America. Emily Wheeler explains that Sabeel is Arabic for ‘the way’.
She says Sabeel is the voice of the Palestinian Christians, working for justice for all Palestinians within the framework of liberation theology. Sabeel’s patron is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The group works toward justice through education, advocacy, and prayer. They sponsor youth programs and witness trips to Palestine. The NorCal Sabeel group recently returned from Palestine.
Mazin Qumsiyeh is a geneticist who lives in Palestine. He is the founder and president of The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, coordinates for the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour, and teaches at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. He is author of ‘Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle’ and the newly-released book ‘Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment.’
Dr. Qumsiyeh centers his talk around the positive energy and inspiration that can be found in the stories of people’s resistance to injustice and their inevitable triumphs over the power of the state.
There is undoubtedly great misery that has been and continues to be inflicted on the Palestinian people since the creation of the state of Israel — and Dr. Qumsiyeh enumerates many of the historical and ongoing injustices carried out against Palestinians, including false flag operations — but what lessons can be learned from examining the stories of various individuals and groups who have risen above seemingly insurmountable obstacles?
In his new book, Popular Resistance in Palestine, Dr. Qumsiyeh tells several such stories. In his talk, he speaks about resistance movements worldwide and historically noteworthy achievements in Palestine. Mazin Qumsiyeh describes his own personal experiences with the occupation and gives examples of nonviolent resistance and the struggle for freedom, equality, justice, and truth in Palestine today.
Creative defiance in Palestine has included people hanging the colors of the Palestinian flag outside with their laundry, when public display of the actual flag was punishable by nine months in jail during the First Intifada.
Many Palestinians have gone to school in basements, churches, and mosques during times when Israel ordered all Palestinian schools closed, punishable by six months in jail. He shows a photo of himself and others riding donkeys and mules to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday last year, a tradition that dates back approximately 1800 years, only to be arrested by the Israeli military for attempting to enter Jerusalem without a permit — yet they will not give up trying to honor their Christian tradition with this trip to Jerusalem.
Dr. Qumsiyeh stresses that a glass can always be seen as half full, and that positive can be seen in everything, even during horrific events like Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008-2009 when 1,400 Palestinians were massacred. What are the stories of individuals who suffered through and survived the attack? There are many stories of the courage, persistence, and resilience of the Palestinian people. Dr. Qumsiyeh attests that he is 100% certain that Palestinians will never fail in their quest for freedom and justice.
Dr. Qumsiyeh notes that The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement has long been involved in nonviolent resistance and pioneered bringing internationals to join in the struggle in Palestine. This year the Center is calling for 1000 internationals to come to Palestine from July 8th-16th. Already, 200 French citizens have booked tickets to be there.
The reason for this is that Israel is more careful when internationals are present, witnessing life under occupation. For instance, the 2002 Israeli shelling of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem stopped when internationals entered the building. This summer, the Center will be focusing the work of the international community on land reclamation and peace-building efforts, but internationals are welcome to do more if they choose.
Dr. Qumsiyeh takes questions from the audience for about 30 minutes at the conclusion of his talk, after Emily Wheeler seeks support for expanding Sabeel’s ‘Just Peace’ campaign to end U.S. military aid to Israel by placing more advertisements in local transit systems.
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