Caring for Palestine Days of Science Festival

We are in the midst of the “Days of Science Festival” in Palestine (in 18 cities). Palestine Days of Science FestivalIn Bethlehem District, it is inspiring to watch hundreds of school children learn basics of questioning and basics of knowledge acquisition. Students just need opportunities to learn not to be lectured to. Unfortunately education is taking a back seat among Israelis and Palestinians to the ongoing daily distorted realities of the governments. For example 43% of the Palestinian authority budget goes to security (for Israel as subcontractors of occupation). Israel spent $8 billion just on the expansion and annexation apartheid wall to steal more Palestinian land. The Oslo and Paris accords ensured expansion of corruption to unprecedented levels (both in NGOs and government level).  Glittery buildings and fancy SUVs and hotels ensure the rich in Ramallah and Tel Aviv know little and care less about the marginalized in our society. Thus 25% of Israeli children and >50% of Palestinian children live below the poverty line. Otherwise good people (Palestinian and Israeli) now spend their days begging for aid from Europeans and Americans and writing progress reports and filling in text and pictures on imaginary “development activities”. The Palestinian authority figures and Israeli leaders play games and meet with “dignitaries” in 5-star hotels hoping they could delay the inevitable collapse of the corrupt system they created. Perhaps they think that one more year of the status quo means one more year to accumulate wealth of the hapless people. Meanwhile, the Zionist Knesset passes a racist “basic” law that consecrates Israel as the state of “the Jewish people” (Jewish national anthem, laws based on Jewish mythology etc). I do not know why people complain about the “Islamic State” when Israel has similar racist laws that set it up as a “Jewish state”.

Insightful letter from US President Thomas Jefferson to Mordecai Noah,  May 28, 1818: “I thank you for the Discourse on the consecration of the Synagogue in your city, with which you have been pleased to favor me. I have read it with pleasure and instruction, having learnt from it some valuable facts in Jewish history which I did not know before. Your sect by its sufferings has furnished a remarkable proof of the universal spirit of religious intolerance inherent in every sect, disclaimed by all while feeble, and practiced by all when in power. Our laws have applied the only antidote to this vice, protecting our religious, as they do our civil rights, by putting all on an equal footing. But more remains to be done, for although we are free by the law, we are not so in practice.”

Colonization activities here in Palestine go unchecked: Jerusalem is being mutated to a Jewish city and its natives removed, and the common people suffer horridly (house demolitions, killing, jailing, ethnic cleansing etc). The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. International law and human rights are not relevant to the racist Zionist “might makes right.” Yet, we do not have the luxury of despair and we must redouble our efforts even in the spheres we can work. That is why we teach students at our universities. That is why over 30 volunteers are working hard every day on the science festival in the Palestine Museum of Natural History (at Bethlehem University). Changing behavior is critical to build the human resources needed to reshape the future. We believe we can make our own future and write our own history. The challenges we face are both external and internal and the internal challenges are far more pressing. We must end the mental colonization before we end the physical one.

I end with a message from a South African who participated in work with the World Council of Churches in Palestine: “Dr Mazin: your article today reads like a discourse from our apartheid South African history. It takes me back to my own childhood & growing up, the displacement of communities, creation of what they called homelands, alienation of family & friends. Tensions flaring, arrests, loved ones leaving the country of their birth, some to never be seen again. Violent killings or imprisonment of those who resisted. All this in the name of religion & the entitlement of one over another. It was legitimized by many countries around the world. That was why I couldn’t just walk away in 2004 when I volunteered to heed the call of the Palestinian religious leaders via EAPPI & stayed for 2 years. I later realised why. It was something I knew, grew up with could relate to & also knew it would not, could not last forever. Unfortunately the world is so slow to react to this gross injustice, the same as with apartheid or the holocaust, or ebola, or South Sudan & so I can go on. Evil can only prevail when good man do nothing. My comrade never get tired with what you are doing, this too shall end. Aluta continua!!! In SA we also have another slogan : Amandla – Awethu!!! (Power to the people). Stay strong, I was born under Apartheid & lived & worked to see its end.”

I may add that like with South Africa, help of the international community must be directed at ending apartheid not at making conditions of imprisonment (colonization) a bit more tolerable to the native people. Hence I say encourage BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) and encourage real resistance to the apartheid state of Israel. Try to avoid those who claim they are resisting in order to get a few more donor dollars! Try to put your effort (and money) in a direction that produces measurable impact in that direction.

To see pictures of our activities in the science festival and more, look for our facebook page under Palestine Museum of Natural History. Also come visit us anytime.

The battle for Jerusalem

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Professor (Bethlehem University) and director PMNH

Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine

Update from Mazin Qumsiyeh, Palestine Museum of Natural History

This message today is a brief one to give you commentary on the
deteriorating situation here, and two action items  and we titled it
Theater of the absurd versus reality

John Kerry conducted a theatre of the absurd in Amman by Mazin Qumsiyeh
US Secretary John Kerry met in Amman with King Abdullah, PM Netanyahu, and
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas for the umpteenth episode of the ongoing theatre
saga dubbed the “peace process.”…. for more go to

Action for EU citizens: End the EU-Israel association agreement

Tomorrow (Thursday) we open the Palestine “days of science” festival in the
Bethlehem District. This month, this festival is opening in Palestinian
cities like Nazareth, Jerusalem, Gaza, Jericho and others. In Bethlehem we
at the Palestine Museum of Natural History are honored to be the venue for
this great project. For many weeks, students, teachers, and volunteers
worked hard to put together a festival of science days that will allow
students in the Bethlehem District to have unique experience. Scheduled
between November 20 and November 29, the days at the Palestine Museum of
Natural History will be filled with activities ranging from doing actual
scientific experiments, to observing and studying nature, to appreciating
our cultural and scientific heritage, to dealing with animals, and to
recycling material. The activities promote critical thinking, questioning
attitude, love of all living things, and sustainable living. LET US KNOW IF
facebook under Palestine Museum of Natural History

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Bethlehem University, Occupied Palestine

Olives and Nature, Oct. 19 Palestine Museum of Natural History

We just finished harvesting our olive trees.  It is hard work and in our
case produces a limited material since we only have five trees in our yard
(this year 45 kg of oil and we pickled some jars of olives). But many of
our friends and relatives can only dream of their olive trees which are now
on the other side of segregation and annexation wall. One of the volunteers
in our museum of Natural History ( tells me that his
family had 150 olive trees and they were able to visit  through a special
permit four years ago and they had to walk through a special gate in the
apartheid wall many kilometers away from their land (no mechanized
transportation allowed on the land). Alas Israel then uses many rules to
steal Palestinian lands (they restrict or prevent access to the land and
then they confiscate it because it is “not tended”).  But this is one of
the 100+ ways to steal land. Zionists are sophisticated 20th and 21st
century land pirates. But still Palestinians who still have access to some
of their lands or some of their olive trees keep trying and keep
persisting. It is what we call sumud. Activists from around the world come
to help especially in the areas near the Jewish racist colonies built on
stolen land. Settlers this season like in other seasons, steal olives, burn
olive trees, and attack farmers. The Israeli government encourages them
with subsidies and military protection.

Many of the readers of my weekly emails ask that I tell them what is going
on here and I do but I am also focused on what we (every one of us) can do
to change circumstances and not just here but around the globe. I try to
make suggestion for actions but I believe fundamental transformation in our
societies is needed to transform our world from this suicidal path we are
going down (wars, conflicts, climate change, consumerism etc). Sometimes it
is very difficult to effect transformation in societies. Transformation
comes from people but most people follow the their own minds which are
shaped by preexisting conditions and prejudices. Most people (especially
older ones) have limited capacity to change because they are trapped in
their own minds which are shaped by years of conditioning through family,
through religious teachings, through schools, and through a community.Early
education is important but we also do not despair of changing adults
starting with ourselves. Change is integral to life. We as a species can do
better and must do better.

An important article about our Palestine Museum of Natural History
published in the excellent magazine called “This Week in Palestine”
(even though the museum is not open to the public now, we welcome visitors
by arrangement especially those who may help us through volunteer or other
ways, see )

An article I wrote 5 years ago about the olives and the olive harvest

Under cover of reconstruction, UN and PA become enforcers of Israel’s Gaza

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Bethlehem University