150 Palestinians and internationals plant olive trees at Um Salamuna

Today over 150 Palestinians and internationals participated in an activity to reclaim and plant olive trees on a threatened hill in an area called Um Salamuna. Um Salamuna already lost significant amount of its land to colonial Jewish-only settlements like Efrata and Migdal Oz. The wall that includes the settlements has not been completed in this area and is slated to zig-zag to capture the hill we worked on to add it to the colonial settlement area that is already stolen. The village is one of over 20 villages and towns in the Bethlehem area that lost land to these illegal colonial settlements. In total the Bethlehem district had already been shrunk to about 20% of its original size. This 20% is a concentration camp with few openings (that could be closed at whim by the colonial occupiers) but 97% of its residents (including me) are not even allowed into occupied Jerusalem (a mere five miles away). On my way out of the area, I stopped by to take some pictures (see http://picasaweb.google.com/jchangcpa/UmmSalamunaTreePlanting?authkey=Gv1sRgCOqi4qLk6faskgE&feat=directlink# ) and talk with some of the occupation soldiers. Most would not talk to me. A black (Ethiopian) soldier exchanged a few words with me before his officer came and ordered me not to talk to him or other soldiers (lest they get a glimpse of the war crimes they are engaged in!). I think these grass-root Palestinian activities are critical but they have to be far better organized, planned, and managed. There were no instructions and many of the volunteers did not know what to do. Representatives of the PA (Palestinian authority who a friend jokes as standing Public Announcement) spent much of their time talking to the media. I urged them to speak to the people assembled and to organize better/bigger activities and most importantly to participate themselves (and their security staff) in planting and in clearing the land of the rocks etc.

Many Palestinians want the PA to develop real influence instead of fictional authority under occupation (and we are here talking about both the West Bank and Gaza). They have lots of resources at their disposal: most of all people they could mobilize to organize and resist. Our options are not really restricted to endless useless negotiations or shooting home-made rockets. It is time I believe for many more activities like at Um Salamuna and far better organized activities to build, grow, reclaim land, resist military orders, topple down walls, and remove barricades (and those are just few examples of hundreds of actions that could be done). It is time to real change in Palestine. People are ready for it. They are just looking for direction, for real heroic leadership, a leadership of actions not words, a leadership of substance not image, of rough calloused hands not suits. Many people I talk to here say that if the West Bank Authority under Fatah and the Gaza Authority under Hamas will not or cannot provide this kind of leadership then others should step forward. The inability of Hamas and Fatah to even agree on a modality of pluralistic representation under occupation or to even lay out a clear program to achieve what they all say are Palestinian constants (“thawabet” including and especially rights of refugees to return to their homes and lands), this suggests they are not stepping up to the plate and the only other alternatives (leftist groups) are also divided and bickering. Could this period be similar to the period of 1933-1935 when a similar situation occurred and then came the general strike and revolution of 1936-1939 to change the political landscape or maybe 1983-1986? Perhaps those of us of all political factions and backgrounds, independents, and all humans with a living conscience who see the injustice should start mobilizing and working more.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
http://www.qumsiyeh .org
http://www.pcr. ps

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