Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Mazin Qumsiyeh, past US Campaign Steering Committee member and nonviolent activist, threatened with arrest

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a geneticist, author, leader of nonviolent resistance in the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour, and a past member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, is facing arrest when he returns to the occupied West Bank this week. Mazin writes in the New Haven Register (emphasis added):
On March 1, shortly after I left my village near Bethlehem for a visit home to the United States, the Israeli army invaded the neighborhood and surrounded our house at 1:30 a.m. My mother, sister and wife, terrorized for no reason, told the military I was out of the country but would be “happy” to talk to them upon my return. The soldiers delivered a note demanding my appearance in a military compound five days later — a date I have missed because my ticket was scheduled for a few days later. I thus face the likelihood of arrest, administrative detention or worse when I go back. My story is just a minor manifestation of a disturbing pattern. As civil resistance against Israel’s West Bank apartheid wall and settlement activities have increased, there has been an escalation of Israeli repression of nonviolent protesters. Nonviolent resistance to colonization and occupation are consistent with international law and U.S. policies. President Barack Obama has stated that settlement activities in the occupied territories must stop as a prelude to ending the occupation that started in 1967. Yet, Israeli authorities continue settlement activities apace, while intensifying attacks against peaceful vigils and protests against this indefensible behavior. Obama also gave clear encouragement to nonviolent Palestinian demonstrators in his Cairo speech, yet has remained silent as nonviolent demonstrators have been seized in recent weeks by the Israeli military. Bethlehem has suffered significantly because of Israeli actions. The district is squeezed now by illegal Israeli settlements and military installations on three sides. Bethlehem’s 130,00 residents have access to only 20 percent of the original land of the district. The settlers, protected by the Israeli military, now want to build a settlement in the only remaining open side of Bethlehem — to the east in an area called Ush Ghrab. The people of my village, Beit Sahour, are known for a history of nonviolent resistance, including a tax revolt in 1988 against the Israeli military government. We are a town with limited resources, comprised of 70 percent Christians and 30 percent Muslims, but have a highly educated middle class with more than 300 holders of doctorates among the population of 12,000. Having lost so much land, and being well-informed and connected to the outside world, we decided to nonviolently resist the additional Israeli encroachment on our town. The Israeli response relied on brute force. Our first prayer vigil was attacked while a Lutheran priest was leading us in prayer. As a member of the committee that organized the vigil and another peaceful event a week later, I was targeted. An Israeli officer warned me not to participate and threatened me, noting he knew I was planning to come home to the U.S. for a lecture tour. Given that the Israeli government receives billions in U.S. military aid, my taxes and yours at work, our government should defend those of us who engage in nonviolent protests. I was encouraged last week, therefore, in meeting with the office of U.S. Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that his office will pursue my concerns with the State Department and the Israeli government. While I fear for myself, I am more worried for other activists who do not have the minimal protection of a U.S. passport. And, I am terribly worried for our future as we are squeezed into smaller and smaller apartheid-like Bantustans. We will not be deterred from nonviolent protest. Despite being let down by numerous governments, we look to the United States and elsewhere in the international community to help defend us from abusive and violent responses to nonviolence.
Here's video of the Israeli army attack on the Ush Ghraib prayer vigil that Mazin mentions in his op-ed: In yet another example of our tax dollars hard at work in the West Bank, last week a 14-year old Palestinian boy named Ehab Fadel Barghouthi was shot in the head with a rubber coated steel bullet while protesting confiscation of the village land of Nabi Saleh by the Israeli settlement of Halamish. Ehab remains in critical condition in a Ramallah hosptial. The United States provides many of the "riot control" munitions that are used by the Israeli military—in one year (FY2007) alone, the United States gave Israel 121,991 pieces of teargas and riot control agents valued at $1,654,536. As Congress begins considering President Obama's FY2011 budget request, which includes $3 billion in military aid to Israel, and tax day approaches, now is the time to oppose aid to Israel and offset our tax contributions to Israeli military occupation. We have to step up the pressure so that Mazin and hundreds of other nonviolent Palestinian activists can do their work without fear of crushing reprisal and repression. We have to step up the pressure so that 14-year old boys don't have to be afraid of being shot by U.S.-made weapons. We have to step up the pressure--for human rights, for international law, and for a just peace. What can you do? 1) Contact the State Department at 202-647-6575 or email them by clicking here (and then select the Email a Question/Comment tab) and ask them to intervene with Israel to prevent the unjust arrest of U.S. citizen Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh and all other Palestinian nonviolent activists who are facing repression for heeding President Obama's call for Palestinians to win "full and equal rights" through "peaceful and determined insistence". 2) Oppose $3 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel in FY2011 by clicking here. 3) Offset your tax dollars to Israeli military occupation by clicking here. 4) Work to change U.S. policy by joining our Congressional District Coordinators network by clicking here. 5) Comment on Mazin's op-ed in the New Haven Register and/or write to the paper thanking them for giving space to leaders of nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation. You can find tips and tools for writing letters to the editor by clicking here.