Take Another Look at Human Rights: An Interview w/ Mazin Qumsiyeh

The Right to Return: An interview with Mazin Qumsiyeh

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD is an author, professor and human rights activist. He was recently in Chicago as a member of coordinating committee of the Palestine Popular Conference. He sat down with the Final Call’s Assistant Editor Ashahed M. Muhammad to discuss the complexities of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and the very successful Wheels of Justice Tour which sheds light on the realities on the ground in the occupied territories and passes through the midwest during the last two weeks in September.

The Final Call (FC): Can you tell us a little bit about the Wheels of Justice Tour?

Mazin Qumsiyeh (MQ):
The Wheels of Justice bus tour has been going on for about 5 years. It has traveled around the country to over 48 states and over 2,000 colleges and universities and over 250. It’s not too political unless questions arise in the Q and A session. These are people who are telling stories of what they observe in Iraq and Palestine. That is why I think it has been a very successful project.

FC: At the same time, there is a companion movement going on dealing with the boycott of Israeli produced goods and companies that do business in Israel, can you talk about that also?

Well, the Palestinian Civil Society called to action about three years ago and was initially signed by 107 organizations. It has since expanded to include over 5,000 organizations that support the call to action. It basically calls for boycotts, divestments and sanctions to be applied to Israel in the same way they were applied to South Africa during apartheid until Israel complies with International Law. That includes the right of refugees to return, ending the occupation and allowing Palestinian self-determination. Those Palestinian constants are what guides the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement around the world, which is growing very rapidly. It is a wonderful movement. We try to practice it as individuals by boycotting companies that support the occupation, for example, Motorola or Caterpillar that support the occupation and oppression of Palestinians.

FC: Now this conference focuses on the many sides of the discussion of the two state solution, the one state solution and the complexities and varied views. Talk to us a little bit about the purpose for the conference.

MQ: This particular conference is to empower Palestinians in the U.S., to assert our narrative and assert our rights with part of the Palestinian collective. There are some 300,000 Palestinians in the U.S. We believe that we are part of and parcel of this Palestinian nation, the Palestinian population. As such we have a right to participate in the decision making process. That is the focus of this conference and that includes the diversity of views. It’s just like there are diversity of views in Palestine itself. But we assert that we have the right to express this diversity of views. One panel addresses the one state solution. I myself wrote a book in support of the one state solution but I do not oppose people who support the two state solution as long as it complies with International Law and human rights. Meaning, the right to refugee should be respected (whether) you support the two state solution or you support the one state solution, Palestinians refugees have the right to return to their homes and lands.

FC: You mentioned that you were going back to live in Palestine, many are calling it a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip and the West Bank—terrible conditions. Your decision to go back there is based on what?

MQ: The conditions are very difficult, I would not say they are terrible. They are very difficult (but) they are not the most difficult. We have had more difficult times during 1948 and the massacre and killings in Palestine and the massacres that were being committed just about every week to drive the Palestinians out. There have been more difficult times in our history, but nevertheless this situation being difficult is actually more of an inducement for us to exert even more effort to correct it and acquire the justice and human rights that we all see.

FC: Is there is one thing that you think the Western world here, people who want to help who find solidarity with the struggle for self-determination for the Palestinian people, what would you like to get across to them that they may not know?

MQ: For people in the United States, especially, they need to know that without really facing up to the reality of what is going on in Palestine, the U.S. as an economic super power will be finished. It is already being diminished significantly. The AIPAC and Israel lobby in Washington has pushed us into a war in Iraq which cost us three trillion dollars. This is by the estimate of the Harvard economist who won the Nobel Peace economy prize.
Now they are talking about Iran—which will be even more costly. Our economy here has already gone down the drain from the housing crisis, with the dollar decline and all these things. That is what is relevant for people in this country to understand. The reality of how these things connect to them and not just because Palestinians are suffering—I do not want them to just feel sorry for us because there are a lot of people suffering around world.
I want the American public to see that unless they really face-up to the hijacking of the United States foreign policy by AIPAC and the Right wing extremists who are bent on the destruction of the world to create personal wealth for themselves—that the average American taxpayer is going to be basically fleeced.

FC: Thank you.

(For information about Mazin Qumsiyeh visit www.qumsiyeh.org. For more information about the Wheels of Justice Tour, visit www.justicewheels.org.)

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