Reflections from and about Palestine
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 11 May 2015
7 May 2015 – I and two colleagues (volunteer and worker at our museum) traveled to Jenin to both do field work and attend the conference in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding.
It was a very productive trip though tiring. I gave a talk on challenges and opportunities ahead for BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) as a tool of resistance to colonialism. I had published one book on “Sharing the Land of Canaan”, one on history of Popular Resistance in Palestine, and several book chapters including on conflict transformation. But this time I thought I needed more than ever to challenge the audience (most/>100 students) to act. At night and early morning we were observing and documenting and catching animals and plants for our museum work.
Being tired did not stop us from enjoying some of the other lectures given. Many lamented the miserable state that the Palestinians find themselves in. Some highlighted potential for resistance. I learned from hearing people like Dr. Mufid Qassoum who gave a good talk on need of development of our human resources. I read much of his book (co-authored) on how Israel’s economy and science developed hand in hand long before the establishment of the state.
Yes, it was a colonial racist system built on the annihilation of native people’s culture and economy but it is instructive to see how the founders used western enlightenment and developing knowledge as a tool of power. Indeed I agree and that is part of the reason why I now devote more time to building the museum and institute of biodiversity and sustainability as a knowledge (power) center. That is why we have a motto in the museum: RESPECT. Respect for our-selves (empowerment), respect for others (teamwork, coexistence, collaborations), and
respect for nature (including conservation, recycling, upcycling, minimizing our impact etc).
Several speakers at the conference including me highlighted the devastating impact of the Oslo accords (our real Nakba) on almost liquidating the Palestinian struggle and Palestinian cause. In this era of neo-liberal economies the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The rich are increasingly devoting more of taxpayers’ money to “security services” to oppress any resistance. The rich greedy and increasingly racist elites are also collaborating across the world. For example USA police train in oppressive techniques regularly from Israeli forces and both engage in repressive techniques. Recently, black Israelis in Tel Aviv were attacked as were black Americans. Though Palestinians remain at the bottom rung massacred in large numbers, once a person becomes racist it is hard to limit it to only one group.
Thus Israeli forces taught to hate Arabs learn to hate all others that do not look exactly like themselves. But my main point in the talk in Jenin was that we need to look in the mirror (free our colonized minds; Ngugi wa Thiong’o “Decolonising the Mind”): what are the oppressed people of the world going to do and how to mobilize, how to link our struggles across the globe etc.
BDS is only one such tool but can only succeed if we liberate our minds as many of us have been articulating. Our efforts in the museum (e.g. the function below) is just one such method to do that.
Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, author of Sharing the Land of Canaan and Popular Resistance in Palestine. He is a professor at Bethlehem University and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History in Bethlehem.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 11 May 2015.
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