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MAZIN QUMSIYEH : TUNISIA AND RESHAPING THE ARAB WORLD

I think the empire’s hold on the Arab World has begun to unravel and I think we see in Tunisia the first spark of a revolution that will reshape the Arab world for the better and spell the end of repression.

Maymanah Farhat specializes in modern and contemporary Arab art.

Here in Palestine, we face a relentless assault not only on us and our lands but on truth, on decency, on nature, on dignity, and, dare I say, on God. Israeli authorities are working overtime to transform the Holy City of Jerusalem from a multi-ethnic and multi-religious city to a distorted vision of what Zionists think Judaism is about (supremacy, ethnic purity, tribalism etc). They will be debating in the next few days a project for an additional 1400 “housing units” near Gilo colony.  The land targeted belongs to the village of Al-Walaja and the Town of Beit Jala. The Negev village of Al-Araqib was also just demolished for the 9th time*. More home and business demolitions were carried out in Jerusalem and the Jordan valley. Taking lands from Christians and Muslims, destroying over 2 million trees and countless homes and  businesses are not just war crimes but crimes against humanity. We must continue to challenge these destructive policies and demand the international community bring those responsible to justice. Please write to media, politicians, and all others (the internet allows you to get hundred of emails very quickly for decision makers).**

I think the empire’s hold on the Arab World has begun to unravel and I think we see in Tunisia the first spark of a revolution that will reshape the Arab world for the better and spell the end of repression. In 1948, the insertion of Israel in the Middle of the Arab world was designed to dominate the area, keep the people disjointed, disunited and ruled by (Western-appointed) dictators.  In 1953, the US and Britain engineered the coup that removed the democratically elected  government of Mousaddeq and placed the brutal Shah in power in Iran.  These moves worked for many years because people in the Arab world let them happen and offered limited resistance.  Things have been changing.  In retrospect, the year 1973 was pivotal as for the first time two Arab countries decided to fight to take back their stolen lands. Unfortunately, the US chose to save its monstrous creation from having to return all the stolen lands (and Sadat was willing to walk a separate line). Then came the nonviolent people’s revolution in Iran which got rid of the
Shah in 1979. Since then Israel and its benefactor has attempted in vain to
crush any Arab resistance by might.  Fom their invasion and occupation of Lebanon to invasion and occupation of Iraq, these evil forces attempted to keep the lid on Arab democracy and keep their hegemony.  Arab dictators were useful tools in implementing these destructive policies.  But many of us have long argued that these shenanigans will and must come to an end.

By Angry Arab: "This has become a very popular poster in the streets of the Middle East and on the internet. It says (on top): "The High One Built the High Dam", and (bottom): "The Low One built the Low Dam."

As people around the world evolved beyond dictatorship and racism, we in the Arab world will too.  After all, why should people in Latin America (some that used to be called banana republics) be able to say NO to the neo-liberal and neo-colonial systems while we in the Arab world could not? Why should Iran and Turkey be able to say NO to violations of International law and NO to hegemony while we in the rich Arab world stay silent?  The directions may be coming from Tunisia.  I have visited Tunisia twice and have many colleagues and friends that hail from Tunisia’s beautiful towns and villages. My single largest scientific collaborator is a Tunisian scientist living in Paris.  I have commented on the similarity that Palestine and Tunisia has in geography, topography, climate, and village life.

Tunisians used popular resistance methods I discussed in my recent book on Palestine to get rid of a corrupt leader who had hung on to power for over 23 years.  But there are other Arab leaders who have been in power even longer. It is time for real change, a change not to replace one face with another but to begin to form truly democratic institutions throughout the Arab world.  Our demands include democracy, transparency (including totally free and critical press), plurality, and justice.  We have enough natural and human resources to build new vibrant societies.  All we have to do is muster the will to free our minds.  Those of us who have done so and shed their inhibitions should also begin to discuss and ORGANIZE for the day after (after Zionism and after mperialism).  We have to begin to examine how we may repair the damage caused by the corrupt systems and build a better future.

Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He previously served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke and Yale Universities. He served on the board/steering/executive committees of a number of groups including Peace Action Education Fund, the US Campaign to End the Occupation, the Palestinian American Congress, Association for One Democratic State in Israel/Palestine, and BoycottIsraeliGoods.org. He is now president of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People. He advised many other groups including Sommerville Divestment Project, Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project, Palestine Freedom Project, Sabeel North America, and National Council of Churches of Christ USA. He is an active member of a number of human rights groups (Amnesty, Peace action, Human Rights Watch, ACLU etc.). He published several books of which the most acclaimed “Sharing the Land of Canaan: human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle” which was also translated to spanish.

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