The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Mazin Qumsiyeh: Sleeping on a bus and more

Mazin Qumsiyeh, 5/9/2004

Here is something to inspire you. Read this. It will help you believe your efforts are all worth it. — Jennifer Loewenstein

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution (again overwhelming support) to affirm that the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, remain subject to the 4th Geneva Convention (Israel as the occupying belligerent power). By a vote of 140 in favour to 6 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), the General Assembly also affirmed that the Palestinian people had the right to self-determination and to sovereignty over their territory, and that Israel had only the duties and obligations of an occupying Power. Does anyone still believe the US and Israel (and their minor four client states) can defy the will of 140 countries and the majority of the people (even in the US)? And besides countries and their politics, we have public opinion which ultimately no government can ignore (governments stand only as long as people give them permission to stand).

On Monday evening I was in Brattleboro, VT for the showing of Jenin, Jenin. Some 80-100 people jammed the room at the School of International Training (SIT) in this lovely New England town. A brief description of the event is provided at I spoke before the film and then answered questions afterwards. I read a section from my contribution in the book “Searching Jenin” (an edited book I highly recommend; see ). Reem and all the organizers were just wonderful but those who took the time to attend really were the stars of the show. They all helped by donating and acting (money going to bring a Palestinian to SIT). We had the pleasure to meet Kate Casa, a journalist who was unfairly dismissed due to her truth telling. We spent the night in a home of a wonderful lady by the name of Rupa Cousins who has merged traditions from cabalist to Sufi mysticism in her healing techniques; we talked about poetry and philosophies from Hafiz to Rumi.

On Tuesday Morning I interviewed with two radio Stations in Brattleboro and then drove to Concord, New Hampshire for a meeting with the editorial board of the Concord Monitor. The editors were gracious and receptive. Later Tuesday evening, we had a lecture and a book signing (for my book “Sharing the Land of Canaan”) at Portsmouth, NH. This event was well publicized well ahead of time (e.g. at and ) and well attended. Those attending were quite interested (e.g. 22 books were sold by the cosponsoring bookstore). It was heartening to hear several Jews in the audience speak out in support; this followed a comment by one self-described “left Zionist” who seemed to grope for words of opposition against the one state solution. On Wednesday early morning (following a night at a home of an 81 year old WWII veteran and peace activist by the name of Robin Willits), we met with a reporter for the Portsmouth Herald who did a story on the book signing and on the local Seacoast Peace Response group that sponsored the event. I also got a $216 speeding ticket (unfairly I might add as I was not speeding). 🙁

On Thursday evening I hooked up with the Wheels of Justice (WOJ) bus tour in North Hampton, MA. I joined Mike Miles (bus driver, Iraq and Palestine volunteer, speaker, father, farmer, deep thinker, etc.) and David Lippman (entertainer, manager, artist, singing “CIA agent”). We spoke at the largest Catholic church in the area thanks to the efforts of Jacob and many local volunteers. Those who attended were extremely generous.

My experience of sleeping Thursday night inside the bus (converted bus with mattresses and a small kitchenette) was indeed a transforming experience. It is difficult with the images of Iraqi and Palestinian Children posted all around and inside the bus not to be changed. Having came back from Palestine in October, my discussion with Mike Miles and the pictures made me feel that I had been also to Iraq (Mike is a captivating speaker). It is also rewarding to think of all the other great people we met on the tour, from 18 year olds to 87 year olds.

On Friday, we were at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School in the beautiful Berkshire mountains. We spoke to four classes (and a fifth by an impromptu invitation). The students in these five classes were bright and engaged. It was one of the most rewarding experiences we had. It was especially poignant since it followed on the heels of a visit to the school by two IDF soldiers.

After the bus came to CT and parked for a while in front of our house, a neighbor taped Israeli and American flags at her window. But aside from this one person who did not attend our presentation, the reception has been phenomenal to this tour. Literally thousands of people were touched by the eyewitness presentations. Traveling in 25 states and speaking at over 200 places just since August (high schools, universities, colleges, churches, community centers, etc.). We will take a break in the Summer to redecorate the bus and revamp for the new school year this fall.

The WOJ brings grass root education and builds coalitions with literally hundreds of groups across the US. The reception we are getting everywhere we go is the best evidence of the centrality of this tour to our work. To see the incredible coverage and range of events we have been doing with the Wheels of Justice, just run an internet search (e.g. at using something like “Wheels of Justice tour”. You will see tens of thousands of media and web hits. I am glad to see that all the hard work of hundreds of activists (and donors) around the country is paying off. I am thrilled that this important work is accelerating. We must now intensify our media and outreach work especially taking advantage of the predicted and predictable debacles and fumblings by those in hegemonic power (Sharon and Bush and their cabals). You as an individual can make a big difference because you can organize and lead events at schools, colleges, universities, etc. Even an informal discussion dinner with your friends and/or coworkers is worthwhile.

My links for this week:
– ‘Homeland Dreams’ on the BBC web-site:
– Flagging symbols by Azmi Bishara (on Torture)

My book of the week: Greg Palast’s “The best Democracy money can buy”.

Mazin Qumsiyeh