Prisoners Show the Way
by Mazin Qumsiyeh - qumsiyeh.org
April 27, 2017
Bethlehem is a ghost town and all shops and public transportation are closed and Israeli helicopters are in the skies.
[Volunteers came to museum and we are taking a group on tour of the wall and impact of settlements on the environment because this is not work but resistance].
Tomorrow is a day of demonstrations and confrontations. In this message I just want to reflect on why this is very important.
Every day we encounter greedy people focused on their own needs and unhealthy desires. How many cheated us? How many come around us because they have some material interest?
How many corrupt politicians do we know? How many people we know turn out to be kinder and gentler and more self-sacrificing than we thought? How many turned out more mean, more selfish, more sadistic? Looking at the world in this fashion (some would claim it is seeing reality) can be truly dispiriting. It can remove any remaining humanity in many people. But then comes a prisoner hunger strike! It sounds small but it touches a cord in human beings bigger than any other and I will argue it is the way to reclaim our humanity.
Today, Palestinians and their friends around the world show solidarity with over 1800 Palestinian political prisoners who are on their 11th day of hunger strike. Salt and water is all they will take until their just and rightful demands are met (basic decent treatment in prison based on international law). It sounds simple but this is a profound even in Palestinian and human history. The price one pays for resistance is injury, death or imprisonment. It is the antithesis of selfishness and greed.
800,000 Palestinians tasted life in prison and today almost 7000 are there in the colonial apartheid Israeli prisons. While everyone knows this, the hunger strike brought the prisoners' message home to all - rich and poor, greedy and self-sacrificing, honest and liar. This message is nothing short of that we humans must reconnect to our humanity and that caring for others is the way to save humanity. In this 21st century with weapons of mass destruction and climate change, we cannot afford as a species to do otherwise. Prisoners show us the way like many decent human beings showed us the way before (think of Jesus and prophets and revolutionaries like Che Guevera).
But the alarm bells for us are now alarm bells for a dying species unless we act. It is more urgent than ever in our short history on earth. We really have a choice to make and it is both an individual and a collective choice. That choice is to either accept war and greed as "natural" and follow the other human lemmings over the cliff OR resist and give of ourselves as a way to save humanity. Mahatma Gandhi used hunger strike to refocus people away from greed and selfishness to caring for each other.
Hunger is painful and people will die sooner or later unless we all act. What is at stake is very high: our own self-respect (dignity) as human beings. But as the world changed, the danger is that we can also go extinct as a species unless we manage to collectively transcend a huge baggage of greed, colonialism, and capitalism that cannot be sustained in the 21st century. Palestinian prisoners by their silent deeds of self-sacrifice have shown us the way.
As did martyrs like Basil Al-Araj who simply noted that in his extremely short last words on paper: there is no more eloquent speech than the deed of the Martyr.
Kkalil Gibran wrote in "The Prophet" 1923:
“You give but little when you give of your possessions; it is when you give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? And what is fear of need but need itself.”
The prisoners and the martyrs gave silently of themselves. For the rest of us, where we stand today and tomorrow will say a lot about who we are.
Here is a relevant article I wrote seven years ago "The Savior in Each of Us"
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
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