Even as Shepherds got displaced, Santa attacked, Christmas pilgrims denied, Bethlehem land stolen; yet HOPE GROWS
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
My uncle's family managed to visit their hometown (the Shepherd's field in Palestine) but only for one week over the holidays (my wife last summer was luckier and they gave her one month while others get no entry permit by the Israeli authorities). Like my uncle's family, thousands of other people who are born in Palestine are being denied the right to visit their homeland and when permitted are given very short periods (and the majority simply refused entry, see (1)). But then again, it seems almost surreal how many atrocities Israel is allowed to get away with by leadership of countries that otherwise would fume at treatment of their citizens like that (my wife holds a US passport, my uncle's family German passports). But despite the meanness, the misery, the defeatism by some, the indifferent attitude of others, life goes and the struggle goes on to reclaim Bethlehem and all of Palestine as a land of peace, coexistence, and harmony. And the good news: it will happen faster than most people think but only if enough people wake up from their passivity or cynicism. Let me explain.
Even as Israel building more in the illegal colonies in the area of Bethlehem and East Jerusalem in flagrant and continued violation of International law and Condi Rice says she "understands" (2)
Even when 272 people representing 37 families of Shepherds were evicted from their lands by the Israeli occupation authorities (3)
Even when five patients died in Gaza in the last 48 hours due to the Israeli siege and 1400 others are likely to die in the coming few months due to Israel's blockades.
Even when the medical situation is getting desperate. 450 cancer patients are forbidden to leave Gaza for medical treatment or surgery and cancer drugs cannot cross the border. 400 Renal Failure patients share a dwindling supply of dialysis machines and so must cut down on their dialysis treatment to only two times a week. There are "Zero stock of 85 essential medicines" and total depletion of stock of X-ray bags and sterilization bags and on and on (4).
Even when Ramzi Baroud recently asked us: "Intense debate over Gaza is subsiding as the status quo is delineated -- predictably -- by those with the bigger guns. But to what extent can human suffering be politicised, turned into an intellectual polemic that fails to affect the simplest change in people`s lives?" (5)
Even when Gaza's Palestinian Christians have marked their misery while doing their religious duties (6).
Even when Israeli occupation authorities denied an Italian humanitarian delegation entry to Gaza (7).
Even when over the two day holiday of Eid Al-Adha, Israel killed 22 Muslims and injured 28 while much of the Western and even Islamic world stood silent.
Even when a Palestinian dressed up as Santa was attacked for peacefully protesting the apartheid wall (8).
Even with all of this I am optimistic. The weak of heart may decide to despair when we look at the destruction and havoc wreaked by those with supremacist agendas (Imperialism, political Zionism (Christian and Muslim), racism, classism, sexism, and the many other isms). But we do have a choice: effect change positively or whine about things (or worst yet stay tied in supremacist discourses). Historical transformations are never easy and never painless but nothing remains the same. Yes, Israel has had 200-300 nuclear weapons in the past 30 years, has had other WMD, has had military superiority, and has had effective control of Western mainstream media and politics. But do not yet discount the 1 million of us Palestinians. History shows that people with a will to live never fail in the face of colonizers (unless mass genocide is committed; I don't put past the racists in Israeli elites but I think unlikely). Apartheid in Israel will end like Apartheid in South Africa ended.
How can I be sure you might ask? I could list thousands of reasons beyond my faith in us Palestinians (especially the younger generations who took charge in the Intifadas/uprisings of 1936, 1988, and 2000). The vast majority of Palestinians simply refuse to give up their rights (a few do!) and resist by being there and saying no to apartheid and yes to justice=peace. And the vast majority do this wherever they are: in refugee camps or in nice homes in the US, in villages surrounded by walls or as 10th class citizens in the self-proclaimed Jewish state, stranded at the borders of Iraq or at the borders of Rafah.....).
But I am also optimistic because each activist who does positive work (and there are millions globally) is a point of light in a growing galaxy of lights. Here is part of the Hanukkah/Christmas message of one such person, a Jewish human rights advocate (as opposed to Jewish tribalist/Zionist): "The very word Bethlehem means sustenance, for shepherds it would be meat and for farmers, grain. In the darkest time of the year, I remember that my sustenance comes from the many wise men and women who travel with me. Together we create the critical mass ready to rally against all odds, to shed light in the darkest places of the holy land. If one candle can light the darkest night imagine the illumination of many" (9). A sampling (160 names) of other good people who inspire us are listed at (10).
Decent spirits (lights) who challenge racism are also remembered long after they are gone. For example "Principally known for works on totalitarianism and the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt's powerful and prophetic critiques of the Zionist project, written in the 1940s, have rarely been discussed." Gabriel Piterberg just wrote a nice article on the evolution of this brave and independent thinker (11)
The spirit of Palestine and its native people remain strong despite the intensified effort to erase its history and its culture. Thus, even under brutal occupation, Palestinian Christians and Muslims took to the streets to observe the traditional Christmas match in manger's square (12). And the Christmas message from the highest Catholic representative in the Holy Land, a Palestinian Christian, is truly inspiring (13)
And last Saturday, activists took to the streets of Manhattan in front of Leviev Jewelry store where they sung Christmas carols with new lyrics that expose the store for its support of colonization and ethnic cleansing (14).
And as another candle in the darkness, Hannah Mermelstein said in her holiday message "our role as Americans (I would say all human beings).. is to begin campaigns in our churches, synagogues, mosques, universities, cities, unions, etc. It is not to broker false negotiations between occupier and occupied, and it is not to muse over solutions..."(15)
In next week's message, I will post over 40 other examples of great and wonderful things that happened in 2007 to show that indeed there are lots of good things that happened, are happening, and will be happening. Those candles in the darkness are indeed getting brighter and those with faint hearts, doubting minds, and/or darkened spirits will come to see the ever-stronger light of truth.
For those political Zionists with triumphalist attitudes ("our economy is good", "our armies are strong”, American candidates for president still have to "grovel to us for money and media access"): remember that even the fleeting empires of Spain and Portugal lasted longer and stretched farther before their demise. For those Palestinians who have lost faith in positively effecting change even when they are living in the comfort of Western countries: wake up and stand up (or at least get out of the way): Liberation is coming. For those who wallow in self-doubt and thus feel obligated to doubt/attack others: freedom is coming. For those apathetic individuals who think that not getting involved means things wont effect you: wake up and study what is going on to see how your future is being destroyed by evil men. For those in solidarity with the suffering people in Iraq and Palestine: thank you for defending our common humanity. For those suffering under the colonial boots in Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere: we will not let you down. For all: peace for Palestine will mean peace for Western Asia (aka the "Middle East") and this means peace for our entire shared planet. Time will not stand still nor will it be kind to us if we do not spend it wisely. After all, what would we tell the future generations as we prepare for our inevitable death? Will it be possible to get away with "I did not know" or "I was busy with my own personal life" or "I did not know that I could have made a difference"? And, when all is said and done, what would we want to be said at our funeral eulogy? As one wise person said: all men (people) die, not all live.
(1) see http://www.righttoenter.ps/
(4) See Gaza and Weep by Stuart Littlewood
(5) Politicising Gaza's Misery by Ramzi Baroud
(6) Christmas in Gaza..
(7) Italian humanitarian delegation denied Gaza entry
(8) Reuters Photo: A Palestinian protester dressed as Santa Claus scuffles with Israeli border police officers during a demonstration against the construction of the controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank village of Umm Salamouna, south of Bethlehem
(11) ZION’S REBEL DAUGHTER
Hannah Arendt on Palestine and Jewish Politics
(12) Video of Christmas events in Bethlehem at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sONUbGT-8yI
(14) Stealing Lots o' Palestinian Land (Winter Wonderland)
Leviev, Leviev (Jingle Bells)
Leviev the Red-Faced Magnate (Rudolph the red nosed reindeer)
(15) The End Of Israel? by Hannah Mermelstein
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD