Mazin Qumsiyeh reports on his likely arrest next week by the Israeli military when he returns from a lecture tour in the U.S. to his village in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. His crime? Participation in nonviolent protests against the military takeover of the only remaining open land in Bethlehem, which the Jewish-Israeli settlers covet for themselves.
Qumsiyeh is a U.S. citizen and professor who lived in America for 29 years before returning to Beit Sahour in 2008. He contrasts the freedoms he enjoyed as a human rights advocate in America with the severe repression faced by him and all those who engage in civil resistance in the occupied West Bank.
On March 1, shortly after I left my village near Bethlehem for a visit home to the United States, the Israeli army invaded the neighborhood and surrounded our house at 1:30 a.m. My mother, sister and wife, terrorized for no reason, told the military I was out of the country but would be “happy” to talk to them upon my return.
The soldiers delivered a note demanding my appearance in a military compound five days later – a date I have missed because my ticket was scheduled for a few days later. I thus face the likelihood of arrest, administrative detention or worse when I go back.
My story is just a minor manifestation of a disturbing pattern. As civil resistance against Israel’s West Bank apartheid wall and settlement activities have increased, there has been an escalation of Israeli repression of nonviolent protesters.
Qumsiyeh calls on the United States to defend the right to nonviolent protest against abusive Israeli policies that the U.S. itself condemns.
Given that the Israeli government receives billions in U.S. military aid, my taxes and yours at work, our government should defend those of us who engage in nonviolent protests. I was encouraged last week, therefore, in meeting with the office of U.S. Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that his office will pursue my concerns with the State Department and the Israeli government.
We will not be deterred from nonviolent protest. Despite being let down by numerous governments, we look to the United States and elsewhere in the international community to help defend us from abusive and violent responses to nonviolence.