A Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem talks about life under occupationProfessor Mazin Qumsiyeh, who is a Palestinian Chrsitian, gave a fascinating, heartfelt and powerful talk at St James Church, Avebury (July 28). He provided an insight to the history of Palestine and its people, the Israeli occupation and the impact this has had on him, his family and many, many others.
He spoke of the scale of the massacres by Israeli forces, the razing of Palestinian villages and the reality of the Israeli Military occupation today. He described the apartheid and ethnic cleansing taking place, together with the massive theft of Palestinian land by the Israeli Government, the military and of the colonisation of the land by settlers.
Since 1916: 100,000 Palestinians have been killed, 800,000 injured and 900,000 detained or imprisoned by the Israeli authorities.
The long Palestinian history of successful integration of multiple nationalities and faiths was explained together with the impact of the Israeli Government’s intention of making Palestine a Jewish State to the exclusion of all others. Today only 8.3 per cent of the original Palestinian land remains and it continues to shrink as more Palestinian villages are destroyed.
Today 7.5 million Palestinians are still refugees. Many of them living in appalling conditions in vast and cramped refugee camps. They are unable to travel freely, not even to attend hospital or visit relatives.
Mazin clarified that it is not that the Palestinians hate Israelis or Jews, but that they object to them taking their land away from them. Palestinians, he told the audience, have always been inclusive and welcoming and in the past Jews, Muslims, Christians, Israelis, Palestinians and others have lived together, worked together and been friends. The majority of Palestinians have resisted the occupation non-violently.
He also described his commitment to science, biodiversity and the environment and to the Palestine Museum of Natural History at Bethlehem University.
Mazin’s view is that as Christians or as human beings we should try to help others, particularly those less fortunate than ourselves and to think of what we should be doing to help others. He urged his audience to think about what they could do to help Palestinians.
The organisers gave special thanks to Rev Maria Shepherdson for her support and particularly for the use of the Church.
Professor Qumsiyeh is Director of the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability and of the Palestine Museum of Natural History. He teaches and undertakes research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in the West Bank. He previously served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke University, and Yale University. In addition to his many academic publications he is author of 'Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle', and of 'Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment'.