By Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh
After I finished my last book on popular resistance in Palestine over the past 130 years, I became certain that political Zionism will fail and that Palestinian refugees will return to their homes and lands. My certainty is based on the lessons of history in Palestine and lessons from similar struggles like South Africa, Vietnam, and Algeria. Some of the peculiarities that will be critical for our success are:
– The incredible and inspiring history of the local popular resistance: The subtitle of my book is "A history of hope and empowerment". Over 200 forms of popular resistance are practiced including a wide spectrum of what we call in Arabic Sumud. Resistance is the main thing that stood in the way of the Zionist project. Five and a half million Palestinians still live in the dreamed of "Eretz Yisrael".
– The logarithmic growth of the boycotts, divestments and sanctions movement. In five years alone (2005-2010), we achieved more than what we were able to achieve in BDS movements in South Africa from the 1950s to the 1980s.
– The unrest in Algeria and Tunisia tell us that the era of backward selfish undemocratic Arab leadership will (and must) come to an end. There are tremendous intellectual resources in the Arab world that can then be unleashed to build a vibrant society (at levels of culture, economics, scientific, etc.)
– Despite the heavily censored/controlled mainstream media, people of good conscience were and are able to get the truth out and many of the myths of Zionism were demolished. The internet only accelerated this.
– The publication of the civil society call to action in 2005 and the Palestine Kairos document in 2009 has given tremendous push to activism around the world including in mainstream churches.
– The growth of International solidarity was unparalleled in history. Despite the attempts by the Israeli authorities to stop this international support by many methods (including refusing entry to many activists), the movement only grows stronger. We went from few hundreds to tens of thousands and from one ship to seven; and as many as 60 ships are coming to break the siege on Gaza later this year.
– We are very proud and persistent people. The thriving art and culture scene in Palestine and among Palestinian community in exile are a testament to this spirit of a people who seek life and refuse to be dehumanized. We do not and will not resort to the tactics of those who chose to be our enemies. From Dabka to good food to other cultural traditions, Palestine remained not only physically in our surroundings but deep in our hearts. We developed the most educated populace in the region.
In Palestine, these and many other reasons increase our certainty in the inevitability of a successful end to our decades of repression, colonization and occupation. We faced, almost alone, the best-organized, best-financed, most western-supported colonial enterprise in history. Rational human beings see that the spread of fundamentalism is only fostered when Israel is made an exception and is funded and protected while it flouts human rights and International law.
Zionists act to control and manipulate and we must continue to calmly resist and refuse to be enslaved. We tell our stories with dignity and we explain why this racist/tribalistic system is harmful to all of humanity. We do it without hatred to any person but with anger and hatred at the inhuman actions of a deluded few who think they can get away with war crimes and crimes against humanity forever. People around the world increasingly see the reality and join our struggle. I talk and show reality in Bethlehem area to groups of visitors almost every day in Palestine. I get invitations to speak abroad frequently but I chose to limit such trips abroad because there is so much to do at home.
We speak to diverse groups sometimes to the consternation of puritans on all sides. I spoke for example at colleges and schools in the US where the majority of students and faculty were Jewish (e.g. Brandeis, Manhattenville), I spoke at NATO defense college, at conservative Churches, at synagogues and Jewish community centers, at editorial board meetings of influential papers largely owned by Zionists, and we even spoke at a US Naval Academy. In the West Bank I spoke to visitors ranging from Church leaders, to US congressmen, to British Parliamentarians, to the US consular officers, and even to Israeli academics. Some people especially on the left balk at these events and some even openly criticized us for these kinds of engagements.
But if we are willing to speak to Israeli soldiers telling them how they are committing war crimes by obeying orders and we manage to occasionally (though rarely) touch a cord in the heart of our direct oppressors, why can’t we talk to all other human beings regardless of their background? It is counterproductive to imagine the worst in humanity, misjudge the trends in history, and insist that we can only talk to those we agree with or go with the flow.
This is a losing attitude that relegates many on the left to holding signs at street corners without creatively thinking how we get power. It also relegates those in power to complacency and corruption and mistrust of people. Many develop their diagnostic language (the corporate media is controlled, the Zionist lobby is too strong, the politics cannot change, power structures are what they are etc) but are not willing to seriously take action to make this world a better place.
In this year, we will be seven billion human beings on this earth. The distortions in many countries (including Italy and Israel/Palestine) of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer cannot and will not continue. Fear of change is what paralyzes many people. As others have pointed out, our biggest fear is not that we will fail but that for many human beings, the biggest fear is that we can be more successful than our wildest dreams. I believe indeed it is fear of success that keeps most people complacent. After all, for many if they really go seriously after their dreams (personal or collective) and succeed then it will show that the years they spent worrying and being afraid have indeed been only because of their lack of courage to change themselves.
Neurobiologists tell us that we humans only use a tiny fraction of our brain (we are told that geniuses use 1-2%). In the 1950s civil rights movement in the US, a common saying was "free your mind and your ass will follow." I think positive change always comes after people changed attitude in life to a positive direction. This is not only possible but it is imperative and inevitable. The more people realize this, the quicker we will get there. And we should all be working on the nature of the society to follow our inevitable victory: one based on human rights and the rule of law, not on military might and repression.
– Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh is a Professor at Bethlehem University and author of the book "Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment" (Pluto Press, 2010). He was arrested three times simply for advocating non-violent resistance to colonial occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.