Monday, July 11, 2011

Mazin Qumsiyeh, Welcome to Palestine and the Olive Tree Initiative

Gary Fouse

Israeli activists protest at B-G airport, Friday.

                                                                                    Mazin Qumsiyeh

As mentioned in my previous post, I contributed to the article appearing today in Frontpage Magazine by Nicole Hungerford.

The above article highlights the fact that Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian activist, is front and center with the Flytilla. He is also a friend of the UC-Irvine-based Olive Tree Initiative. Hungerford also links (p. 2 site) to many of the organizations involved in the Flytilla. Among them are the Siraj Centre for Holy Land Studies and the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between Peoples, both previously described on this site. Say hello to George S Rishmawi and George N Rishmawi, both heavily involved in the Olive Tree Initiative.

Below is my own version regarding the involvement of Olive Tree Initiative participant, speaker and guide Mazin Qumsiyeh in this past week's Flytilla venture, an attempt to have hundreds of anti-Israel activists fly into Israel to engage in anti-Israel protests and demonstations.

I have written previously about Mazin Qumsiyeh, a West Bank activist who has been involved for the past three years as a speaker and guide for the UC-Irvine based Olive Tree Initiative. Qumsiyeh is a PhD who previously taught at Yale. He travels the globe giving presentations against Israel. Yet, he is a highly-esteemed figure among OTI participants.

Now it appears that Qumsiyeh is an important player in the present fiasco called "Welcome to Palestine" going on whereby hundreds of activists from around the world are attempting to fly into Israel to protest against that country on behalf of the Palestinians. This immediately on the heels of the unsuccessful flotilla effort to sail to Gaza by sea. At this time, Israel is refusing entry to known activists and getting cooperation from other countries like France, which are not allowing identified activists to board flights to Israel.

On June 12, Qumsiyeh sent out a message to the Palestinian American Congress in regards to a program entitled, "Welcome to Palestine".  It contained this message (excerpts).

Dear friends:

I am back in Palestine and busily working with dozens of volunteers (but we need more) on the July and other actions to challenge the system of apartheid. As governments (including the Palestinian authority) abrogate their duties and obligations to defend human rights, citizens around the world are acting Below you can see an example of a young American (who happens to be Jewish) as he spoke out and was attacked by apartheid state mercenaries. But millions are acting. In our small corner of the world, some 20 of us met today to organize for our July actions....... "

......"With the BDS boycott against Israeli politics and the Flotilla which is preparing to oppose the siege of Gaza, hundreds of people going on the 8th July 2011 mission visiting Palestinian civil rights associations, illustrates the importance of international solidarity with Palestine and our duty to get involved......."

Video for the July Mission: Palestine, Yes we come

On July 7, Qumsiyeh sent a message to his followers regarding the on-going events concerning the aforementioned international activists trying to enter Israel.

From: Mazin Qumsiyeh

Date:  July 7, 2011
"This campaign that we have been working very hard on for months is just beginning. The week of activities will go on with all your help. We will plan bigger and more dramatic events in the months to come. The collusion of the governments and corporations in Israeli oxccupation and colonization must be further exposed.]

‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign responds to Israel’s denial of entrance to international visitors who support human rights

Bethlehem and Jerusalem, July 7, 2011 - The Israeli authorities are escalating attacks on anyone they suspect of participating in the peaceful events of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign. Israeli authorities sent hundreds of names to airline companies telling them to deny travel to individuals on the list. Several people on the list who had booked flights were sent letters from airline companies cancelling their reservations ‘based on a request from the Israeli authorities.’ We call on all airline companies not to accept such provocative, blackmailing, and illegal actions by the Israeli government. Ominously, Israeli Prime minister has directed the interior security minister that the Israeli authorities must ‘act with determination’ towards those who do make it to Ben Gurion Airport.

The visitors coming from the US and Europe on Friday are committed to the principles of international and humanitarian law and believe strictly in nonviolence. They were invited by dozens of Palestinian civil society organizations and groups. They have stated that the only way to visit and work with Palestinians is by passing through Israeli border controls. They have declared their commitment to pass these border controls in an orderly, peaceful and fully transparent way.

Before stepping onto the airplanes, the visitors will have passed through meticulous security procedures at the various airports of origin and will pose no threat in any way. The propaganda efforts to paint human rights advocates as ‘hooligans’ and even ‘violent’ (an attempt to demonize and dehumanize them in order to justify violence against them) is simply not credible and indeed ridiculous. We are pleased that this episode further exposes Israeli policies towards anything or anyone relating to ‘Palestinians’ as dictatorial, racist, and criminal and not complying with basic elements of democracy or human rights.

Visitors traveling between countries have rights under international law and bilateral travel agreements. Our foreign visitors insist that they must be treated with respect in the same manner Israeli citizens receive when traveling to their countries. Those who had reservations cancelled will exercise their right of protest including bringing legal cases in their own countries. We will also bring legal cases in Israeli courts under our continued attempt to expose the racist policies of the Israeli government.

Several peaceful protests will be held at airports throughout Europe on the 8th of July and we urge all civilized people throughout the world to protest these undemocratic moves to silence free speech and legal travel. We ask the media to insist on access and fair reporting on Israeli tactics that are against basic human rights of international solidarity activists before, during and after they arrive at the Israeli airport. We demand Israel publishes all instructions given to their ‘border control officials’ regarding visitors who intend to visit Palestinians.

The "Welcome to Palestine" campaign has been successful in exposing Israeli attempts to isolate and imprison Palestinians and prevent international visitors from coming to find out what is really happening on the ground.

Friday 8 July 2011 at 10 AM in Bethlehem Peace Center, located in Nativity Square, we will have a Press Conference to announce further steps we will take."

Then there is this direct from the International Solidarity Movement:

Update: This site has apparently been taken down. So let's go to this one to show Qumsiyeh's connection to the Welcome to Palestine action (News from the Middle East):

Activists conducting 'fly in' to Israel

Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport is famous for having some of the tightest airport security in the world [GALLO/GETTY]

July 6, 2011

"Despite threats from Israeli security, hundreds of Palestinian solidarity activists plan to fly into Tel Aviv's airport.

This Friday, July 8, hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists are planning to fly to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport in a display of solidarity with Palestinians living in the occupied territories.

According to organisers, at least 500 people have already scheduled flights to Israel, including Palestinians that will fly from Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa.

The "fly in", as organisers are referring to the action, will bring protesters to Tel Aviv where they will all arrive within a two-hour period. At least fifteen organisations are involved in the event which is timed to coincide with peaceful demonstrations and actions within the occupied territories that have been set up by Palestinians. The travellers plan to travel from the airport to the West Bank, a move that would challenge the long-standing Israeli government policy that has forbidden such movement.

"The goal is very clear, we are all fed up with being obliged to lie when we arrive in Allenby [bridge] or Ben Gurion [Airport] when visiting our Palestinian friends," Mireille Rumeau, an organiser with the International Solidarity Movement in Paris told Al Jazeera.

"We are fed up with lying about being tourists, or coming for a pilgrimage. Now, they are all going to say: 'we are coming to visit our Palestinian friends that have invited us.' If they get through, there are events planned for Palestinian groups for us to take part in, as we were invited by them six months ago, and we are answering their call."

Rumeau said that approximately 350 of the participants that already have their tickets are from France, and others are flying from Italy, Belgium, and Germany. She also hopes the action will bring attention to the lack of Palestinians' ability to move freely, and that, as the sea flotilla aimed to bring attention to the Israeli naval blockade, this action will highlight how Israel also bars air access to the occupied Palestinian territories.

The 'hooligans' are coming

Mazin Qumsiyeh is the international media spokesperson for the Welcome to Palestine Campaign in the West Bank. He spoke with Al Jazeera about the upcoming "fly in" and how it was connected to events his group is coordinating in the occupied territories.

"The purpose is to bring internationals to join us and show solidarity in actions we're doing anyway," Qumsiyeh told Al Jazeera. "We ask internationals to come, the only difference from previous actions of solidarity is that these people have decided among themselves to come all on the same day to the airport and they are not going to tell the Israelis they are tourists, but they are coming in solidarity with the Palestinian people."

On July 5, Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch called the activists "hooligans" and said they would be barred entry.

"These hooligans who try to break our laws will not be allowed into the country and will be returned immediately to their home countries," he said.

In his first interview as Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, Yohanan Denino said that his forces "will use all the legal means in our hands, and we have many", to stop the activists from proceeding with their plan to protest at Ben Gurion airport or to travel to the West Bank.

Israeli media has reported that flights landing on July 8 from Europe will be taken to a separate terminal and all of the passengers carefully screened.

Rumeau, whose group has been active in organising weekly protests against the West Bank security fence at Bil'in, as well as being involved with the Free Gaza Movement behind the flotillas of 2010 and 2011, said she does not know what Israeli security officials will do with the hundreds of activists who arrive at the airport.

"We don't know what we will do, as we don't expect them [Israeli security] to let people leave the tarmac," she said. "They cannot allow 500 people to enter the small airport at Tel Aviv. We suppose they might stop the people from leaving the planes, and checking at that time who is going to Palestine and who is not. The other scenario is they put people in buses and take them to detention."

Qumsiyeh also does not know what the activists might expect from Israeli security forces.

"We can't predict what the Israeli authorities will do, but what they've done to individuals who have been honest about their goal of visiting Palestine is they have been interrogated for many hours, and possibly deported," he said.

Qumsiyeh hopes that Israeli authorities will "do the right and legal thing and let these people through".

"British citizens arriving at Ben-Gurion should be treated as Israelis are treated at Heathrow," he added. "They should not be interrogated and deported, just like if Israelis who are going to visit minorities in London would not be interrogated and deported. It's the right and legal course of action."

A small risk

Should those on board the flights be allowed access into the occupied territories, they will join Palestinians in peaceful solidarity actions and other events that Qumsiyeh's group is helping organise.

The move comes as a flotilla of international activists who planned to try to breach Israel's sea blockade of Gaza has largely failed to get permission to set sail from Greece, as a result of Israeli diplomatic pressure on the country in the throes of economic chaos.

Organisers chose July 8 for the "fly in" as it is the date in 2004 that the UN's International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion that Israel's West Bank "security fence" stood contrary to international law.

Laura Durkay, a US activist from New York, will be one of only a few US citizens participating in the action. She told Al Jazeera the reason she is taking part in the "fly in" is because, having travelled to Gaza and the West Bank, "I saw the conditions and saw what the Israeli security apparatus looks like. I was interrogated at the Allenby Bridge, and saw how that apparatus and control of borders is part of the occupation. We want to highlight that the West Bank is also under siege, and one of the ways they enforce that siege is by keeping people from going in and out of the West Bank."

Durkay understands that Israeli security forces will likely turn them away at the airport and not allow the travellers to enter the West Bank.

"We understand there is a good chance the Israeli government will prevent us from doing this, and that would show the world how this so-called democracy treats those of us who simply want to visit Palestinians and express our solidarity with them," she said.

Durkay said she understands that there is a possibility of the activists being treated badly by Israeli security, but added: "As internationals, we know the risk for us is much less the risk faced by Palestinians on a daily basis. It's a small risk compared to what Palestinians have to deal with all the time and don't have a choice about."

Author : Dahr Jamail

Article : 79319 sent on 07-jul-2011 12:35 ECT
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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

Olive Tree Initiative

Now that we see Qumsiyeh's involvement with this operation, we come back to his involvement with that much-heralded Olive Tree Initiative, born at UC Irvine in 2007. To date, three groups of students from UCI, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other, have traveled to Israel and the West Bank to meet with both sides of the conflict. Problem is that evidence has shown over the course of the last three years that this venture is heavily weighted on the Palestinian side and has included involvement by co-founders of the International Solidarity Movement. In September 2009, the students actually met with a big Hamas official in the West Bank named Aziz Duwaik-now in Israeli custody. In addition, some of the people involved in these trips have tried-and apparently are still trying- to pass themselves off as pro-Israel or neutral.

Mazin Qumsiyeh is not neutral nor does he pretend to be. He is a man working night and day to bring about an end to Israel through a worldwide public relations program to paint Israel as a racist, aggressive and occupying state.

But as for the Olive Tree Initiative, which is sponsored by UCI, indeed the entire University of California system under Pres. Mark Yudof, and the Orange County Jewish Federation, which has provided the bulk of the funding through its own Rose Project, this has to come as another embarrassing development. The above entities have promoted the OTI and furiously fought off any criticism of the program coming from supporters of Israel. Now we learn that their much-loved friend in the West Bank, Qumsiyeh, is involved in this latest venture called "Palestine: Yes we come." And make no mistake, Qumsiyeh has made close friends with those who have participated in the OTI.

With another trip being organized for September into this increasingly volatile region, who knows what the next OTI delegation will walk into. As for those involved in OTI, it is high time to examine where your sentiments lay. It is also high time to start identifying these so-called Israel supporters who promote and work in this program-with people like Mazin Qumsiyeh. The Olive Tree Initiative is accomplishing nothing more than enabling and giving credibility to the Mazin Qumsiyehs of the world.

1 comment:

WomanHonorThyself said...

they wouldnt know humanitarian if it hit them in the head! OIY!