by Stanley Heller, Director, Middle East Crisis Committee
Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Director of the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability, spoke twice in Connecticut in August, once at the Palestine Museum US in Woodbridge and the next day in Hartford at the Unitarian Society. He brought us up to date on the impressive activities of his institute and the Palestine Museum of Natural History, which is one of its projects.
Qumsiyeh lived in Connecticut at the start of the 2000s as he headed the Cytogenetics Department at the Yale Medical School. He was very active in Palestinian human rights work and co-founded the Palestine Right to Return Campaign. He returned to Palestine a decade ago. In his talks, he maintained that despite what is usually said, Palestine was a peaceful area for most of its thousands of years history. He dated recent problems to the Zionist movement and its settler colonial project.
As a bit of activism at the events we passed out copies of a picture of a two-year-old boy named Mohammed Tamimi, who was shot to death by an Israeli sniper on June 1. The ultra-right Israeli government almost immediately excused the sniper from all responsibility and expressed “regret.” We briefly chanted “Justice for Mohammed Tamimi.”
The one bit of good news discussed was the open letter called the “Elephant in the Room,” which was signed at the time of the meetings by over 700 academics and public figures decrying Israeli apartheid and telling Jewish leaders in the U.S. that democracy in Israel could only be maintained if it included equal treatment for Palestinians. The number of signers, overwhelmingly Jewish, has since swelled to more than 1,800. The wall of Jewish support for the Israeli government has a deep fissure.