Christmas under Occupation
by Mazin Qumsiyeh
When I look out the balcony of the faculty lounge at
the construction in the settlement that separates us
Palestinian lands surrounding
Every two weeks, Jewish settlers "visit" the hill on
the fourth side (called Ush Ghrab) that they have set
their eyes on. Yet, I hear the
other things including the weighty matter of dodging shoes.
After living 29 years in the
season. Life can be at times hard, exhilarating,
depressing, fun, and hopeful.
area in 1967, but the landscape had begun to change
well before that. In 1948,
thousands of Palestinian refugees after more than
750,000 people were driven from their homes in what
and three cramped refugee camps (Dheisheh, Azza, and
Aida) add to the local migrants from villages whose
lands were taken over.
Since 2002, we have faced the enormous human costs of a
massive, concrete segregation wall. The wall zigzags
agricultural lands on the "Israeli side," and in many
cases goes straight through centuries-old villages --
separating Palestinian families from each other and
from their jobs, hospitals, schools, churches and
mosques. The wall and checkpoints meant that many
faculty and students can no longer make it to school at
lost its geographic diversity. The biblical and
literal path from
many checkpoints and thirty-foot high slabs of concrete.
Many of my relatives lost jobs in
livelihoods that depended on the city of which we are a
suburb. It is virtually impossible for
Palestinians to obtain permits to enter
for Jerusalemites to engage in commerce with us. Even
if one gets a rare permit, checkpoints make travel
unpredictable and often impossible, precluding
maintaining a decent economy. Unemployment is now at
45%, nearly twice what it was during the
Depression. But we can be thankful that we are not
whole area feels like a ticking time bomb.
minimum Palestinian demography is the root of the
suffering afflicting the
million Palestinian refugees and displaced people.
Amnesty International has observed that the "peace
processes" failed because
rights, including the right of native Palestinians to
return to their homes and lands. There is now a broad
international consensus (with the exceptions of the
and Israeli governments) on the danger to international
peace and security posed by
violations of human rights and international law.
Clearly if one wants peace in the
beyond, the path starts by giving justice to
Palestinians. I am doubly pained as an American and a
Palestinian Christian because my taxes support this
foreign aid and the
their way to cater to Israeli lobby influences.
The logic of military and political power dictates that
demolishing more Palestinian homes and farms in spite
of its obligations under signed agreements and under
international law. The current Israeli government is
even moving further right to fend off the extreme right
of Netanyahu before the elections. The incoming Obama
administration has appointed Israeli apologists to key
positions of power (Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel)
indicating we should expect no "change."
welfare of those under its belligerent military rule
per the applicable
intentionally de-developed the Palestinian economy.
With the collusion of the EU and the
the West Bank and
Western "humanitarian aid." Some 30% of this aid is
siphoned off into
Palestinian "security forces" whose job seems to focus
not on protecting Palestinians from settler attacks but
to fight any Palestinian who dares to resist the
occupation or challenge the usurpation of his land.
There is a system of corruption involving governments
and "authorities" trickling down to people. This is
coupled with a media strategy that makes it look as if
the only choices available to Palestinians are blowing
themselves up or capitulation and endless negotiations.
This sad state of affairs did not just happen but was
engineered and is actively managed to perpetuate
occupation and dependency. Why else would
entry to academics coming to teach at the universities
here or entry to equipment for even the simplest of
industries? Why deny
to treat the sewage and thus let sewage of 1.5 million
people flow into the Mediterranean Sea polluting
and even Tel Aviv?
But we are hopeful; history is not static as is amply
illustrated by many historical examples including the
rise and fall of the Bush dynasty. Here in
we derive strength from knowing that the foreign
military occupation that existed at Jesus's time has
ended. We derive hope from the thousands of visitors
who come every year to show us solidarity. We derive
contentment and patience from our faith and prayers.
We derive energy from our work for peace with justice.
The heads of our churches this year asked the
international community to consider "what would Jesus
do" in this situation of injustice.
In this season celebrating the birth of the Prince of
Peace, let us all resolve to pray and work for ending
the occupation that began in 1967 and for implementing
other internationally recognized Palestinian rights.
When we succeed, people of all religions (Jews,
Christians, and Muslims) and all backgrounds will share
this small piece of earth in harmony and peace. This
will be the real change that we have been working for
and that will finally shed the shackles holding
This is our prayer this holiday season.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD is Chairman of the Board of the
www.pcr.ps -- and is a professor at
University in the occupied West Bank. This article
first appeared in PalestineChronicle.com on 17 December
2008. Contact him through his website: http://qumsiyeh.org.