Aug 16, 2016

Eight Years



It has been 8 years since I moved back from the USA to occupied Palestine and it may be worth a brief reflection. I accomplished much since then (of course I am surrounded by good people starting with my wife and immediate family members to students and volunteers who believed in what we were doing and to hundreds of supporters around the world). Briefly, under difficult circumstances in 2008-2016, I (with support)

1- Published many scientific research articles including critical ones on environment and genetics

2- Wrote books (one published in 2012 on Popular Resistance in Palestine and two on the way)

3- Founded and directed a clinical cytogenetics laboratory

4- Mentored dozens of graduate and undergraduate students

5- Taught over 8 different courses ranging from molecular biology to anthropology to biodiversity at four colleges and universities

6- Founded and directed the Palestine Museum (PMNH) of Natural History and Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) including its nascent botanical garden. http://www.palestinenature.org

7- Traveled throughout occupied Palestine and collected over 8000 specimens and over 10,000 photos that are a basis of current and future research

8- Traveled and represented Palestine in over 20 countries

9- Wrote over 200 articles on issues ranging from popular resistance to the one state solution to BDS.

10- Spoke to over 5000 visiting internationals about the situation

11- Spoke to thousands of locals on issues ranging from environment to human rights

12- Created jobs and helped some students manage their financial burden with some scholarships and work-study programs

13- Organized dozens of workshops that built human capacity

14- Built working relationships with dozens of local and international groups

15- Performed a number of consultancies to local and international agencies that made a direct impact on course of human development and the environment

16- Read over 500 books and hundreds of articles that helped me change and grow as an individual

17- Built friendships with hundreds (and met thousands)

18- Challenged oppression wherever it was found (via demonstrations, media work, etc) and got arrested a few times and questioned by intelligence services of three countries ;-)

All of this was done while struggling against not just Israeli occupation with its repression (e.g. inability to import things normally, lack of freedom of movement) but some Palestinian societal backward culture including nepotism, patriarchy, bureaucracy, and corruption. We were learning as we go how to deal with people (including the “mental occupation”). We gave chances to some who abused them and some who benefited from the chances to improve themselves and serve Palestine. But what sustained me/us was good honest people who I met and worked with everywhere. Hundreds of individuals like you on this list who helped us in so many ways by donations, volunteerism, actions, and other kinds of support. Of course what we have done is miniscule compared to what needs to be done. And there are many millions of candles in this darkness. We are humble enough to realize that we can only continue to achieve with collective work towards a peaceful., just, and SUSTAINABLE world.

Staying in the US would have been much less demanding on my physical and psychological health (and with a six figure income would have been financially “logical”). And there was lots of activities we were doing in the US for Palestine, for global peace, and for the environment. Much remains to be done within the US as it continues to be the country that is in the words of Martin Luther King Jr "the biggest purveyor of violence". It certainly is the most enabling and the major sponsor of apartheid Israel and the endless wars in neighboring countries (conflicts thought to serve Israeli interests). Without the US support “Israel” would fold in two weeks and would have to become a democratic country for all its people and allow the Palestinian refugees to return. However and having said all of that, the decision to return to Palestine was the best decision I made in my life and this feeling grows stronger every day. The most important accomplishment I feel will last generations is my mentoring of young people. I would like to spend more time with young people (this is part of the reason we built PMNH/PIBS) and work harder at helping people help themselves. As I look forward with optimism to the next eight years here (If I live that long), I want to sincerely thank all of you who contributed and continue to contribute your time and energy.

END OF REFLECTION. Now for other good news

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America voted overwhelmingly in the annual convention to set up a screen and not invest in any company that profits from Israel's occupation. They also called to end US unconditioonal aid to Israel. The Green party of the US developed a great latform on the question of Palestine (see below) that is based on human rights and justice. Social media are abuzz after the disastrous choice of Clinton and Trump to be nominees of the "democratic" and "republican" parties. Many argue that this continuing deterioration was a predictable outcome of the permission of lobbies (like the Zionist lobby to shape elections) and/or an expected outcome of several elections where people vote for the lesser of two evils rather than vote their conscience.

Following the diminishing water supply to Palestinians in the West Bank and the severe water shortage and pollution in the Gaza Strip, a light installation was held simultaneously in eight locations: Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Boston, New York, Houston, Johannesburg, Melbourne and Perth, Australia. In an illuminating display of lights reflected in water, activists from four continents stood near lakes and beaches creating the message “WATER IS A RIGHT” in various languages.

Green Party Statement on The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Our Green values oblige us to support popular movements for peace and demilitarization in Israel-Palestine, especially those that reach across the lines of conflict to engage both Palestinians and Israelis of good will.

We reaffirm the right of self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis, which precludes the self-determination of one at the expense of the other. We recognize the historical and contemporary cultural diversity of Israeli-Palestinian society, including the religious heritage of Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. This is a significant part of the rich cultural legacy of all these peoples and it must be respected. To ensure this, we support equality before international law rather than appeals to religious faith as the fair basis on which claims to the land of Palestine-Israel are resolved.

We recognize that Jewish insecurity and fear of non-Jews is understandable in light of Jewish history of horrific oppression in Europe. However, we oppose as both discriminatory and ultimately self-defeating the position that Jews would be fundamentally threatened by the implementation of full rights to Palestinian-Israelis and Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their homes. As U.S. Greens, we refuse to impose our views on the people of the region. Still, we would turn the U.S. government towards a new policy, which itself recognizes the equality, humanity, and civil rights of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and all others who live in the region, and which seeks to build confidence in prospects for secular democracy.

We reaffirm the right and feasibility of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel. We acknowledge the significant challenges of equity and restitution this policy would encounter and call on the U.S. government to make resolution of these challenges a central goal of our diplomacy in the region.

We reject U.S. unbalanced financial and military support of Israel while Israel occupies Palestinian lands and maintains an apartheid-like system in both the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens. Therefore, we call on the U.S. President and Congress to suspend all military and foreign aid, including loans and grants, to Israel until Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories, dismantles the separation wall in the Occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, ends its siege of Gaza and its apartheid-like system both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens.

We also reject U.S. political support for Israel and demand that the U.S. government end its veto of Security Council resolutions pertaining to Israel. We urge our government to join with the U.N. to secure Israel's complete withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries and its compliance with international law.

We support a much stronger and supportive U.S. position with respect to all United Nations, European Union, and Arab League initiatives that seek a negotiated peace. We call for an immediate U.N.-sponsored, multinational peacekeeping and protection force in the Palestinian territories with the mandate to initiate a conflict-resolution commission.

We call on the foreign and military affairs committees of the U.S. House and Senate to conduct full hearings on the status of human rights and war crimes in Palestine-Israel, especially violations committed during Israel's 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza ("Operation Cast Lead") as documented in the 2009 "UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict"("The Goldstone Report") authorized by the UN Commission on Human Rights.

We recognize that despite decades of continuous diplomatic attempts by the international community, it has failed to bring about Israel's compliance with international law or respect for basic Palestinian human rights; and that, despite abundant condemnation of Israel's policies by the UN, International Court of Justice, and all relevant international conventions, the international community of nations has failed to stop Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights in Israel and the OPT, while Israeli crimes continue with impunity. We recall that ending institutionalized racism (apartheid) in South Africa demanded an unusual, cooperative action by the entire international community in the form of a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid South Africa, and that BDS can become the most effective nonviolent means for achieving justice and genuine peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and for the region, through concerted international pressure as applied to apartheid South Africa; and that Palestinian resistance to ongoing dispossession has mainly been nonviolent, including its most basic form—remaining in their homes, on their land; and that while Palestinian armed resistance is legitimate under international law when directed at non-civilian targets, we believe that only nonviolent resistance will maintain the humanity of Palestinian society, elicit the greatest solidarity from others, and maximize the chance for future reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. However, we also recognize that our appeal to Palestinians to continue to resist nonviolently in the face of ongoing existential threats from Israel is hypocritical unless accompanied by substantial acts of international support. We recall that in 2005, Palestinian Civil Society appealed to the international community to support a BDS campaign against Israel, and that in response the Green Party of the US endorsed this BDS campaign in 2005. Therefore, we support the implementation of boycott and divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era, which includes pressuring our government to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel; and we support maintaining these nonviolent punitive measures until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by

-Ending its occupation and colonization of all Palestinian lands and dismantling the Wall in the West Bank
-Recognizing the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
-Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

We recognize that international opinion has been committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, we view the two-state solution as neither democratic nor viable in the face of international law, material conditions and "facts on the ground" that now exist in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Given this reality, we support a U.S. foreign policy that promotes the creation of one secular, democratic state for Palestinians and Israelis on the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan as the national home of both peoples, with Jerusalem as its capital. We encourage a new U.S. diplomatic initiative to begin the long process of negotiation, laying the groundwork for such a single-state constitution.

We recognize that such a state might take many forms and that the eventual model chosen must be decided by the peoples themselves. We also acknowledge the enormous hostilities that now exist between the two peoples, but history tells us that these are not insurmountable among people genuinely seeking peace.

As an integral part of peace negotiations and the transition to peaceful democracy, we call for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose inaugurating action would be mutual acknowledgement by Israelis and Palestinians that they have the same basic rights, including the right to exist in the same, secure place.

Jul 21, 2016

Binarity



Abdullah Issa (photo left) was a Palestinian child living in Syria (family of refugees after the ethnic cleansing of 1948 by Israel). He was captured and accused of helping the Syrian government. He had injuries and was thought to be also treated for thallasemia. Pictures show the bandaged boy of perhaps 10 or 11 years old with a catheter in his arm. His captives had him in the back of a pick-up truck (perhaps having taken him from his hospital bed). As he pleaded with them they ignored him and directed their message to the camera against Syrian government then slit the throat of this child. The killer militia shouted Allahu Akbar as the boy was mercilessly murdered. This group is funded and/or supported by the governments of the US, Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. They were considered by those four governments as “moderate rebels”.

On the same day that Abdullah was beheaded, a Palestinian boy roughly the same age (Mohyee Sedki Tbakhi, photo left) was shot by the Israeli occupation forces. I could not help note the similarity between the two as they looked like twins. As happens, only by intensifying our efforts are we able to cope with such tragedies. Coincidentally I accepted an invitation by the US Consulate in Jerusalem for Independence Day celebration (the event was held July 20th rather than July 4th here). Such trips to Jerusalem (without an Israeli permit) are always painful for me but the contradictions and conflicting emotions here were high. The area is in West Jerusalem long since transformed to a “Jewish city” the only real remnant of Palestinian next to the consulate is a cemetery (Mamilla or Maman Allah). But development is even eating away at that space and what is left of it is treated as a garden park. (photo: Me at the cemetery- a Palestinian visiting remaining Palestinians)
 
Perhaps two or three hundred people were at the consulate including many high level Palestinian officials and some Israeli officials (including many with blood on their hands). Many attendees were there for varied reasons. They dutifully listened to Consul General Blum give a good political speech highlighting need for peace and coexistence. Palestinian and Israeli beers were served (Dancing Camel beer!). Palestinian Knaffeh was served by Palestinians ut Shawerma sandwitches were served as “Israeli” food from the Waldorf Estoria! Equalizing occupier with occupied and colonize with colonized serves a clear agenda that has no space for liberation but encourages “coexistence” (status quo). But the consular staff are kind hearted and good intentioned. Many even told me privately they disagree with the policies but they are only doing what they were told to do.

Coincidentally this event was also held in parallel with the republican national convention, an event with much news coverage (for good or bad). I could not help but reflect on the state of the US in 2016 and to do so by taking time away from very important work I am doing (like analyzing the state of the Palestinian environment). Like analyzing any project, perhaps someone ought to sit down and do a proper and detail SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to this human venture called the USA. Like all human organizational structures (including religions and political institutions everywhere), it starts with an idea that is then adapted to human needs at various intervals.

The original 13 European colonies in what became known as “America” shed their allegiance to Britain and with the help of France declared their independence in 1776. Despite a constitution that says “all men are created equal” voting in the new democracy was restricted to white male land owners a. Nearly a hundred years later, slavery was abandoned and much later women got the right to vote. Civil rights were allowed to blacks only in the 1960s. The US is now a nation of hundreds of millions (6%) of the world population but consuming nearly a quarter of the glob’s natural resources. It is a country of contradictions and has always been so. Advanced science and medicine went in parallel with committing war crimes in Vietnam. Art, music and culture that spread around the world together with death and destruction. High charity among a largely devout, simple and kind population but also domestic iolence, highest incarceration rate in the world and racist discrimination and murder of blacks. Movements like Black lives matter and challenging Islamophobia are growing but face daunting challenges. The biggest challenge is that I is a society driven by money and special interests. So islamophobia will continue to be promoted by a media under much influence from the Zionist movement.  The circus like atmosphere of the upcoming democratic convention will only be slightly better than the Republican convention.  That is because these is a system of elite interests that want it so.  But ultimately I believe changes happen in the US when enough people stop believing politicians and act to push policies through. That is how the US public pushed for civil rights, women right to vote, ending the war in Vietnam (genocidal war), ending support for apartheid South Africa, and getting 40 hour work week.  That pressure (and it is not a matter of voting another politician in or out) is what changes society. That pressure must also now increase to end US support for apartheid Israel, end US support for the Saud Royal family, end US attacks on Arab countries, end the escalation against Russia that could lead to war, really tackle climate change (and not via the weak step taken in Paris), tax the rich people fairly and take care of education for the young people and much more.

I do love fellow Americans (as I do all human beings even Israelis). I do not have to agree with US foreign policy and in fact my dislike of that AIPAC-led foreign policy that is bankrupting the US is born out of my love for fellow US citizens especially people who challenged or challenge the system. There are people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. There are thousands of good Americans just on my own email list. I consider them the best hope for evolving the US out of this craziness.

Now on this “binarity”: have you noticed that the media and politicians repeatedly tell us that the world is binary? President Bush once said after 11 Sept. 2001: you are either with the terrorists or with us (I told them sorry I am with neither of you). Two million civilians killed since then and the same politicians and terrorists (both are killers) give us the same choice). They try to convince us that we have one of two choices (third choices or more are discounted). I must vote either for racist madman Trump of egotistical war monger Hilary Clinton who both lick the boots of Zionists and will kill more civilians. There are other choices!. Why can’t I choose to reject both Turkish Ordogan and the plotters of the military coup against him? Edward Said once told us we do not have to choose between a secular corrupt dictatorship and rule by Muslim Brotherhood. I do not have to support Zionism to be for Jewish rights. I do not have to support the Assad regime to be against the Saudi/US/Israel supported “rebel” groups who are nothing more than mercenary terrorists. We have many choices. It is time we exercise them.


Jul 16, 2016

ups and downs

Life in Palestine moves along with its ups and downs, like the tides of the sea. Some days we feel depressed, some days more optimistic. Some of us even feel like manic depressives for the fact that we go through these cycles. The triggers are varied. We get depressed when we heard of the murders of 84 people in Nice by a deranged lunatic. We get uplifted when we hear of how victims’ families, friends, and concerned citizens (of all religions and backgrounds) came together in solidarity. We get depressed for the bombings in Baghdad that killed over 250 innocent civilians (again by deranged lunatics) or of the innocents in Yemen and Syria. We get uplifted watching good citizens rush to help the injured and then take to the streets to demand an end to end the mayhem created by the US, Saudi, and Israeli governments (the real axis of evil here).

We get depressed to hear from friends in Gaza of the continuing hardships and almost impossible life they live under Israeli siege. That siege does not seem to end as the Turkish government “normalized” its relationship with Israel (i.e. went back to being a partner in crime). We get uplifted by the indomitable spirit of resistance of the young people who don’t give up. We hear Bernie Sanders abandon his principles and support Hillary Clinton for President (she is a Zionist war monger and will not be much better than the lunatic Donald Trump). We get uplifted to see many citizens including many of the disgruntled supporters of Sanders move towards voting for the Green Party candidate Jill Stein. The Green Party is the only political party in the US which remains consistently anti-war, anti-exploitation, and for peace and justice around the world (including in Palestine with their support of the right of return). But even within the democratic and republican parties voices of reason are raised occasionally against special interests (including of the powerful Israel lobby that has hijacked US foreign policy).

We get depressed when I heard the right wing Israeli government approved a bill that targets human rights activists and appointed a racist to be chief rabbi of the Israeli army. But then we get uplifted seeing more young people refusing to serve/be conscripted in that immoral army.  All of us discover that a person we trusted and helped went on to try to hurt us. But many of us can recall unexpected kindness from strangers. All this can be confusing! Some days I am personally at the brink of despair due to the difficulties we face in trying to build a museum and a botanical garden under a very difficult situation and without support, to recruit volunteers, and to find donors. Working 15-17 hours a day, seven days a week to accomplish what in any other civilized country could be accomplished in half the time can be frustrating. But on these same days or in days before them or after them we feel elated by what is happening. A wave of positive energy seems to descend out of nowhere on some days. Just this week we had groups of visitors and volunteers daily and we had one day in which some 25 students came during their summer camp for an environmental day at the museum. Here they learned some new skills and ideas as they volunteered to work in our botanical garden. One day I learned that one grant was rejected and the next day I learned that one of our research papers was accepted and I learned of two other grant possibilities.

This back and forth continues and it could be just as natural as the cycle of the ocean tides or the rotation of the planets. Maybe expecting life to be good is like expecting the sun up 24 hours! So am are we optimists or pessimists or pessoptimist or realist? Tragedies around us continue. We could choose to isolate ourselves from them for example by going to live in a country with less troubles but in an increasingly globalized world that might be difficult. Even if possible, that life leads to a selfish disconnect from others and a life of pain and guilty conscience. The alternative is what the Buddhists call “joyful participation in the sorrows of this world.” The trick to being content is not to fight the rising tide nor to push against the falling tide but to learn to roll with that tide while also doing your best to stay true to yourself.

See our volunteer video:  https://youtu.be/APxvAZh8qrQ

Jun 26, 2016

Europe

I wrote several articles over the past 20 years suggesting for the sake of Europe’s future to develop a more independent foreign policy and end US led NATO’s adventurism whether in Libya or the Ukraine. But looking at the British poll to exit Europe, we cannot just say “we told you so”. We cannot feel happy seeing Europe collapse even though we here in Palestine suffered and continue to suffer from European colonization (yes Zionism that created Israel is European colonization).

This vote was focused mainly on fear of immigration (not economy as many expected) and this epidemic of fear of the brown people is afflicting the US and Europe and is stoked by Zionist xenophobes. It was not surprising that all of Rupert Murdoch’s vast media empire peddled for Brexit (British exit). The stock markets collapsed, gold prices surged, and there is a general panic as the rich bankers who control/issue the money do not know what to do. The US Federal Reserve is panicking because interest rates are already so low and can’t be lowered so much further to “simulate the economy.” The economy is bad in Europe and the US because it is a war economy. For example, some three trillions were spend on the Iraq war (for Israel).  These wars to fragment the Arab world even further than what Sykes-Picot created in 1916 (100 years ago) are backfiring and are the real cause of the calamity in Europe (epitomized by what they call a refugee crisis and economic stress). Perhaps the chickens are coming home to roost? In the US a similar pop culture promoted by Hollywood and other media peddled xenophobic islamophobia to serve Israel, peddled endless wars (divide and conquer), and peddled a diversionary silly culture to draw attention away from the major challenges to a livable world (especially climate change). These Zionists challenged the principled BDS campaign hypocritically crying “anti-semitism” while peddling Islamophobia. The witch hunts in 2016 are reminiscent of the 1950s McCarthy communist scare.  We were thus not surprised that this same Zionist controlled media repackaged the Florida shooter as a “Muslim terrorist” but Madeen was clearly a lunatic gay guy who drank heavily and frequented gay bars regularly and was psychotically depressed for rejection. Without understanding this massive media campaign we cannot explain the popularity in oppressive societies of people like Avigdor Lieberman (“Israel”), Donald Trump (USA), and Boris Johnson (England). The fact that they all support Zionism should give us a hint.

What is clear is that people need to worry about the future of the so called “Western Civilization” as it is clearly in decline. When asked about Western Civilization, Mahatma Gandhi was reputed to have said “I think it would be a good idea”! Many people especially the majority of the globe that is not “white” are worried about this civilization. Wring in the Guardian, Lola Okolosie said “ The paradox of this referendum has been that those who have experienced the highest levels of migration turned out to be the least concerned about it. Fear of the unknown often underlines bigotry and xenophobia. We know that.” Her article makes more interesting points and is worth reading

Europe went through the Middle Ages for ten centuries (medieval period), a period not much different from the disarray and religious fervor gripping the Arab world today. Europe paid a heavy price for the transition from these dark ages to the renaissance and then they had the set-backs of colonialism and nationalism (including WW1 and WW2). I am hopeful that Europe will not slip back and its people learned from the past.  Now the focus is on the Arab world to finally rise out of the disarray and weakness into an era of science and technology and knowledge based decision making (our own renaissance) and this is inevitable. But then in 100 years (if climate change has not killed us all), we hope we will not be back into the colonial or nationalist mentality whether here or in Europe. Zionist colonialism like all other colonialism is already struggling to stay alive in a sea of native rejection in the 21st century. There is so much we can learn from history of Europe and we must all consider it our human history. Humanity is evolving and we must work together to make sure it evolves in a good sustainable direction.

Good news according to a friend (Mai): "Two years ago, Presbyterians passed divestment by a razor thin margin of just 7 votes. This year, they moved boldly forward with huge majority votes on further strong measures. Meanwhile, the Unitarians achieved a majority on their first attempt at divestment (remember, the Presbyterians took 10 years!)...In addition, Re/Max issued a statement to the Presbyterians prior to their Re/Max vote (which passed) that they will no longer profit from Israel's illegal settlements properties- see links below”

Jun 22, 2016

Motivation


On a lengthy trip (due to checkpoints and alternate roads under occupation) to Ramallah, we had a chance to think and discuss issues like human condition and motivations. Three of us from the Palestine Museum of Natural History were on the way to meet with an official of the UN Development Program and with leadership of an active NGO working on agriculture and the environment. Having a very busy life working 16 hours a day seven days a week basically leaves us little time for reflection.  Back in Bethlehem, I decided to take a bit more time last evening to do more reflection and share some thoughts especially on the state of our world and our role in it. I am sure all of us considered these same issues. There is unprecedented connectivity and access to information and we have richness of nature and enough resources to give everyone on this planet a comfortable life. Yet, we have over 1 billion people living in poverty. Hundreds of millions go hungry. There are murders, terrorism, war, and all other human cruelty to other humans (and to animals and to nature). There is a deterioration of quality of politicians and proportional increase in governmental lies. The global environment is at the breaking point (climate change etc.).  The rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. In this man made mayhem, it is not too difficult to understand why cynical right wing politicians can rally people based on “safety/security” concerns (the most powerful human emotion of fear). A friend of mine from a developed country noted that “ We'd better figure out ways to spread some equity around if we want to go on living in a society that is at least semifunctional. .” But the devil is in the detail. We should take the time to think of what world we want and how do we get there.

I am sure that all people like me somehow dream of a better world. If I was a child and drew it, I would draw it as a natural world, beaches, streams, beautiful trees,colorful animals running around, children playing and living in harmony with this “natural ecosystem”. Envisioning such a world of harmony, bliss and happiness is not a utopian silly dream. But not achievting it soon should not be an impediment to (re)thinking our own role in this. First we do need to understand human needs and motivations. The US psychologist Abraham Maslow  proposed that there is a hierarchy of needs in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation". We can think of this is a pyramid with these needs from bottom to top of pyramid: physiological needs (food, drink, sex etc), safety, love/belonging, esteem/recognition, and finally self-actualization. Today most people especially in underdeveloped and developing countries are actually at that bottom rung in the pyramid. We in Palestine do not have too many answers since most of our people are still at that subsistence level. It is irritating to see the elites (including Palestinian and Israelis) who have their basic needs met refuse to rise to higher levels and get motivated to do something different to make this a better world. At least they should/could follow Howard Zinn’s advise and get off the train (His book “you can’t be neutral on a moving train” ). By not being part of the problem, humans at least open the possibility of being part of the solution. The next step is of course “trouble-making”: stirring the stagnant waters so to speak.  One of the inspiring groups I know that does this is CodePink whose members put themselves in places challenging political elites and  challenging hypocrisy. The third stage of this process is to envision the alternative and build it. Many people do a great job at separating them-selves from the oppressive and apathetic hords and challenging the oppression. But few go to that third level of building and thus self-actualizing. I ended my book “Sharing the Land of Canaan” (published 2004) with this:

BEGIN QUOTE
Breaking through the conundrums humans have created is not easy.  It will require transcending a part of our selves that may seem familiar and reassuring.  Learning to live together, while initially uncomfortable, can lead to a new way of thinking.  Joseph Campbell wrote in 1968:  "Today, the walls and towers of the culture-world that then were in the building are dissolving ... But of course, on the other hand, for those who can still contrive to live within the fold of a traditional mythology of some kind, protection is still afforded against the dangers of an individual life; and for many the possibility of adhering in this way to established formulas is a birthright they rightly cherish, since it will contribute meaning and nobility to their unadventured lives, ... and to those for whom such protection seems a prospect worthy of all sacrifice, and orthodox mythology will afford both the patterns and the sentiments of a lifetime of good repute. However, by those to whom such living would be not life, but anticipated death, the circumvallating mountains that to others appear to be of stone are recognized as of the mist of dream, and precisely between their God and Devil, heaven and hell, white and black, the man of heart walks through.  Out beyond those walls, in the uncharted forest night, where the terrible wind of God blows directly on the questing undefended soul, tangled ways may lead to madness. They may also lead, however, as one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages tells, to 'all those things that go to make heaven and earth.' "(Campbell, Joseph.  1968. The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. Viking Penguin Inc., New York, p. 37.)

It is indeed a journey of awakening at the individual level that is not only spiritual, but also require concrete action to bring true peace and justice to fruition. We Canaanites, who invented the alphabet, domesticated animals and developed agriculture, and made this arid land into a land of milk and honey, surely can do this. An Arab poet wrote "Itha Asha3bu yawman Arad al-7ayata fala budda an Yastijeeb al-qadar. Wala budda lillayal an Yanjaili wala budda li-thulm an yankasir." Roughly translated, it means: If the people one day strive for life, then ultimately destiny will respond and the night will give way and the injustice will be broken. The path to peace is not served by the creation of more states or unjust "fixes" to perceived demographic "problems."  It has to do with justice and implementation of human rights and international law. It requires grass root action to accelerate its arrival but it is the only solution possible in the long term.  We can either remain locked in our old mythological and tribal ways or we can envision a better future and work for it.  The choice is obvious.
END QUOTE

But much more needs to be thought of and said and acted upon in these areas. It is after all this search for a meaning of live and our role in it that is at the heart of what makes us human. Let us all resolve to take less time on things like facebook and more time to really look and act deeper. I for one hope to spend more time with intelligent thoughtful people thinking more collectively of these things and acting on them.

A Museum and Institute of Sustainability and Biodiversity at Bethlehem University
http://middleeast-business.com/a-museum-and-institute-of-sustainability-and-biodiversity-at-bethlehem-university/

Feb 19, 2016

grateful

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

I am so grateful for all that is happening in resistance to the incredible odds and repression practiced by the elites in power. While some may get activism or compassion “fatigue” , there are literally millions of people deciding to leave their apathy behind and put their hands with other people to work.  Our tiny little small part of the world (Palestine now an apartheid sate called a “Jewish state”) has become a major center of global activism. This centrality can be due to many factors:

1.Religious centrality to three main religions, one of which was hijacked for political purposes locally in the past (Christianity --> Crusaderism), the other hijacked in the past 150 years and is still strongly hijacked (Judaism -->Zionism) and the other more recently and in nearby areas beginning to be hijacked (Islam --> Isis and Wahhabism).

2. Nowhere else on earth is Western government hypocrisy more evident than in Palestine. While the western leaders speak of democracy and human rights, they support an apartheid racist “Jewish state” that engaged and engages in racism, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing (so far 7 million of us Palestinians are refugees or displaced people). Thus, this is the Achilles heel of Western propaganda.

3. The 12 million Palestinians in the world, most refugees and others squeezed into bantustans have been remarkably peaceful and tolerant and had a long history of popular resistance for the past 130 years that provided a stellar example to the world (see my 2012 book “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and empowerment”).

4. Israeli citizens and the global community are increasingly joining hands with us to demand justice as the only road to peace.

5. More and more people realize that peace in the “Middle East” (Western Asia) and around the world is dependent on peace for Palestine. Zionism with its (sometimes dominant, sometimes subservient) twin US imperialism are and have been most destructive forces in causing global conflict.

But what really gives us optimism daily are the people we interact with. Students at the universities who see the importance of knowledge (power) and come to school with enthusiasm even in the face of suppression of their movement. Farmers that work hard in their fields even as land and water are being taken from them by the occupiers. Unarmed young demonstrators showing bravery in challenging the heavily armed Israeli forces (who occasionally murder them). Thousands of political prisoners and “administrative detainees” who resist the prisoners (one on hunger strike is close to death). Activists who sometimes sacrifice comforts to be with us. Organizers of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activities around the world who refuse to be silenced by illegal measures their governments try to impose on them to suppress free speech. Volunteers at our activities from refugee camp youth centers like Al-Rowwad to our Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability (http://www.palestinenature.org/about-us/ ).

Sometimes small actions make us retain our sanity. Just this past week:
- A small village of Izbet al-Tabib managed to gather 300 demonstrators protesting the illegal confiscation of land and resources to serve settlers.
-We saved a cattle egret (bird with long legs and beak from the heron group) which had been shot and with a macerated wing. We did an operation that saved its life (unfortunately the wing had to be amputated).
-We released a fox that was drowning in a water treatment pool in the Bethlehem garbage dump site.
- My tourism class did an exercise to help in a local tourism promotion project.
-We noted several species of butterflies in our botanic garden already and the flowers of rare orchids and even the Star of Bethlehem
-We had our first class in biodiversity for the new master program in environmental biology at Birzeit University.
-We received dozens of visitors to our facilities and added to our very large network of friends (now tens of thousands)
-We submitted two small grant proposals (we hope to start to do major fundraising soon for our museum, botanical garden, and institute of biodiversity and sustainability)
-Our aquaponic system is doing great and we expect our first harvest next week (lettuce)
- We said goodbye to some volunteers and we welcomed others who helped us build this institution.

We expect to receive more volunteers next week including a professor from Jordan and an aquaponics researcher from Switzerland and at least 10 students from Bethlehem University doing their community service. We are so grateful for all the above and we welcome volunteers and supporters with all backgrounds and skills. We are guided by love and respect (to ourselves, to others, then to nature). We are strengthened amid all the suffering (here in Gaza, in Syria, in Yemen etc) by human connections and by caring for each other.

Israeli soldiers beat detained Palestinian teenaged boys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mzw2D5iL0bg

Palestinian Teacher Among World’s Top 10 http://www.palestinechronicle.com/palestinian-teacher-among-worlds-top-10/

Reconstruction Of Gaza: Zero Buildings, Massive Profit
http://www.whoprofits.org/content/reconstruction-gaza-zero-buildings-massive-profit

Should Jews Have To Pay Reparations for Slavery? Richard Kreitner
http://forward.com/culture/213776/should-jews-have-to-pay-reparations-for-slavery/

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” Alphonse Karr


Stay human

Feb 14, 2016

Biodiversity and terrorism

Hizma flying checkpoint

(also see ACTIONS below)

I was with two of my students and an International visitor heading to Birzeit for our first class in biodiversity this semester on Saturday when we got selected for search at an Israeli “flying checkpoint”.  There are hundreds of fixed checkpoints inside the illegally occupied West Bank, most are between one Palestinian area and another and not on the “Green line” but we also have to face the “flying checkpoints” which literally can be anywhere and anytime.  In this case a long line of cars were held at Hizma.  When it was our turn, a young Israeli younger than my son told me to stop.  I said can I pull to the side to let other cars pass.  He said no.  There were several of them young recruits dressed in police uniforms and in army uniforms.   In the occupied territories the two services are indistinguishable and operate as one fascist occupation force.  Another Israeli was nearby so I said why can’t I pull to the side.  He turned over to his commanding officer who nodded his agreement.  Then the officer asked me to pull onto the circle in the middle of the road.  They asked for all our ID cards and handed them to another person who went to check them via his computer.  Then they demanded each of us get out of the car in turns.  My students in the back first, then the international visitor, then me.  Some of the uniformed occupiers pointed their guns at us while others demanded we empty all our pockets and frisked us.

They searched the car and they flipped through the camera memory to see all our pictures. They were saying things in Hebrew and I was telling them repeatedly we do not speak Hebrew and that we can speak in English or Arabic to them.  I think they all understood English and at least two showed they understood Arabic after persistence from us.  I repeatedly asked in Arabic and in English why we were picked on.  One occupier said it is because he liked the shape of my car!  When I turned to a female soldier and asked her the same question and adding “are we living in a fascist state,” she merely shrugged her shoulders and said “he liked your car”.  They did not smile but I did, which seemed to irritate them.  Ryan was asked if he smokes anything and why is he here.  Then they asked him “do you like Palestinians,” to which he answered “I like all people!”  After delaying us for half an hour, they handed our ID cards to the international visitor and let us go.  For me, I was used to this.  One of my students (also a museum employee) is from an isolated village of Nahhalin which is frequently closed off has also been frisked and checked many times in the past.  His village was closed in the last three days and he sleeps in Bethlehem instead.  My other student (also a museum employee) and the international visitor had never experienced such harassment.  We joked later that this was a “good taste” of colonial occupation for them.

We discussed how these are really mild experiences compared to others.  For example, for the first five weeks of 2016, Israel demolished an average of 30 Palestinian structures weekly, displacing an average of 66 persons a week (this is three times the weekly average than that in 2015).  Palestinian young people as young as 12 continue to be murdered by Israeli occupation forces almost every other day.  Israeli soldiers carry knives in their backpacks to plant as "evidence" against many Palestinians they murder.  But there is growing Palestinian desperation.  Israeli occupation forces currently hold hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners without charge ("administrative detentions".)  At least one of those who has been held for nearly three months is on hunger strike (taking only water and salt.)  He will likely die in the next couple of days if Israel does not release him (Mohammad Al-Qeeq).  The Israeli Knesset continues to add racist laws to an already long list of racist laws (over 50) that discriminate against non-Jewish "nominal citizens". This is not counting hundreds of military orders that discriminate against us who are not considered "nominal citizens" in our own country occupied by individuals with a superiority-inferiority complex gathered from around he world under the banner of Zionism.

Gaza's situation is far worse than the West Bank and Gaza prisoners get no family visits and the Strip is besieged and starved of basic supplies.  Most of the tunnels that "smuggled" humanitarian supplies have been destroyed.  A slip of the tongue by Israeli Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz revealed that Egypt’s new policy of flooding the tunnels between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula with seawater had come at Israel’s request.  The promise of rebuilding after Israel's last genocidal attack on Gaza never materialized.  We shudder to think that it is again time for Israel to test new weapons on the Gaza "laboratory". Israel's largest "export" is weapons-related technology, and Israeli leaders have to "test" their weapons on the nearly two million captives in the open air prison called Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile Fatah and later Hamas have taken the bait/infection of "Oslo process" believing it is possible to have an authority under occupation.  Here in teh West Bank many good Fatah leaders admit to us privately that they do not support the president whose erm expired years ago and who firest anyone who criticizes him. Yet he takes unilateral decisions to join the despots in "Saudi Arabia" and his speeches are frequently dotted with statements like "we have our hands stretched for peace.. we stop any armed resistance..we arrest activists... we believe only in peaceful demonstrations...ask [beg] the US and International community to exercise its responsibilities .. etc".  Contrast this with what Ho Chi Minh once said: “Viet Nam has the right to enjoy freedom and independence and in fact has become a free and independent country. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their freedom and independence.”  Or what Martin Luther King Jr said from Birmingham jail: "I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate...who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.'" Or even what Yasser Arafat said during the siege in Beirut or when Israel was pounding his last two rooms in his Ramallah headquarters "we will have freedom or die as martyrs".

It is hard to cope with political leaders who do not seem to push strong enough but it is harder to deal state terrorism (which is far more devastating than individual terrorism). I (almost) retain sanity by staying busy (teaching plus other volunteer jobs including directing the Palestine Museum of Natural History, clinical laboratory work, writing, lecturing on Palestine, visitor guiding, research, and more.)  Birzeit University where I teach (more coach) a Biodiversity course is a beautiful campus with great students and faculty.  Before class, and having been delayed at the flying checkpoint, my two students had to rush to finish their work on “fruit flies/Drosophila”.  Spring is here and he gardens are blooming. The smell of freshly dug air mixes with the smell of almond blossoms. Good people and good food ameliorate life under occupation.  It helps to have a larger cause than one self.  Like MLK Jr and Steven Biko and Malcolm X, we are some times bewildered by the people around (including internationals and Palestinians) who show signs of "mental occupation" or are simply apathetic. But I would like to focus on those who have freed their minds and are helping others do the same.  There are literally millions of points of light out there.  We do not "win" over the darkness but it is those lights that make life meaningful. My own students (at Bethlehem Bible College, Birziet, and Bethlehem University) are also lights. For all those points of light we say thank you.  

Here are a few lights expressing via writing "We are not just numbers" http://www.wearenotnumbers.org/

And here is a timeline of positive actions using boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) done in 2015 as examples of points of light http://bdsmovement.net/2015/bds-full-2015-round-up-13628

Having humility to recognize all these lights can help us amplify our own small light.

If you want to help in lighting our small candle locally, please see this
http://www.palestinenature.org/about-us/

Photoassay of colonialism

ACTION: The UK and US government are introducing new rules that would prevent local councils from supporting BDS. 
If you live in the UK, please take action to stop the government doing this. 
http://waronwant.org/protect-local-democracy
In the US, please write your representative
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/641/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=19106