Inevitability of justice is the foundation for optimism
Edition 2: No. 28
In this issue of Palestine Update we share with readers an inimitable think-piece from Mazin Qumsiyeh. Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine and serves as chairman of the board of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour He has authored several books, the most recent being “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment”.
Mazin Qumsiyeh’s thoughts, coming from a Palestinian, are humbling because the Palestinian everyday reality is to face what is easily the most vicious and tyrannical regime in modern day history. (Of course, the western media would have us believe thatIsraelis a modern state with solid democratic credentials and hence would grant it a less harsh characterisation).
Rauchfuss K, Schmolze B, Medical Care Service for Refugees, Bochum, Germany in a study of impunity shows how ongoing impunity–the inability to overcome the legal protection of the perpetrators assured by impunity laws, incomplete truth finding, missing integral reparation and a lack of the necessary acknowledgement by society–represents an important obstacle for the recovery of survivors of serious human rights violations. This is probably a fact in the case of many situations where people face repression on a continuous basis.
Encouragingly, Mazin Qumsiyeh finds reason for optimism even in the midst of the worst that any community of people experience –Israeli occupation. Those who have had occasion to visitPalestineeven in the worst of times would always find in the Palestinian consciousness a determination that defies the odds and remains unwavering towards their goal of liberation from justice. Palestinians have chosen to remain dignified and have not accepted their transitory suppression as one to which they must be reconciled.
It is this psyche that enables them to find signs of optimism in circumstances which may have driven others to despair. In the final analysis, what counts is hope, not despair, possibilities not inconvenience, confidence not doubt. It is one thing to advance the notion that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ in a rhetorical sort of manner. Those who meet head-on with injustice – and for Palestinians this has been a 64 year-old encounter- they say ‘enough is enough’. Yet, they have learned that steadfastness and patience will bring them positive results- surely sooner than later!
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (Martin Luther king Jr.)
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
Overall life is good and people are good. Some people do foolish things once in a while: oppress, kill, steal land, destroy trees etc. But life continues and people survive, adapt, and struggle to get to a better place. Here inPalestine, the apricots (Mishmish) are in season and they are as sweet as can be. Our village is known for Faqous (of the cucumber family) which is now also in season. While Israeli colonizers took most of the agricultural land around the area, we still have some Sahouri Faqous and we still struggle to reclaim our rights. And we are now beginning to get the first ripe figs (called Teen Dafour). The young olives and grapes are still green and growing. Like those grape vines that shed their leaves always come back with young leaves and then bear fruits. So I am thrilled that thousands of our students are graduating this month. The wedding season is on and my sister, a nurse at a maternity hospital inBethlehem, relays how they are busier than ever. Community gatherings always have more children than adults (60% of us Palestinians are children). Nothing pleases my sight more than young children walking down ancient streets holding hands like their ancestors did thousands of years ago. 5 and 6 year old friends with their arms on each other’s shoulders whispering in each other’s ears through the narrow alleys of the refugee camp of Aida. Kids are sharing fruits and balloons in the nativity square. Young girls giggling as they go home from the “Shepherds’ field school”. They all look like little angels on earth even in the cantons/ghettos of Israeli apartheid.
Those of us who are adults may sometime lose the optimism and energy of childhood. We need to be reminded and retain our optimism. Adults sometimes try to remind us with a bit of philosophical reflections. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
Or our departed friend Howard Zinn who once wrote: “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” (You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A personal history of our times, p. 208.)
But we remain optimistic because we are human beings who believe in coexistence, equality, peace, and freedom. Pessimists are those who believe in tribalism, racism, conflict, and the need for military might. In the long run, we are more numerous than they are and we need to help them see the truth and join us. We remain optimistic because our children and grandchildren are optimistic and we should not try to dissuade them from optimism or from acting to improve their lives. As we free our minds of dark thoughts, we can see the light.
For more on Mazin Qumsiyeh see: