Talk at Sarum College on the history and problems of this troubled land

On the 31 July 2019, Prof. Mazim Qumsiyeh (pictured) of the Bethlehem University gave an extremely interesting talk on the history and political situation in Israel and Palestine.  This is a tricky subject at the best of times with deep historical wounds and considerable and seemingly irreconcilable hatreds.

Mazin Qumsiyeh Interveiw at Bethlehem University - YouTube

Pic: YouTube

His talk – illustrated with copious slides – was built around the medical paradigm that is: start with the history, then the diagnosis, followed by therapy and prognosis.  So he started with the history of the area.  We now tend to think of it as an area under constant conflict but interestingly, historically, nothing much happened there and there was little conflict.  Such as there was came from outside namely the Crusaders and latterly the Zionists.  This movement, founded by Theodor Herzl in 1868, introduced the idea of a Jewish homeland.  To do this, the local existing population had to go.

We are familiar today with the Balfour Declaration but less so its equivalent in France by Jules Martin Cambor.  This led to the creation of the British mandate in the area and the loss of territory by the indigenous people who had lived there for a considerable time.  The maps showing the loss of territory are well known.

Prof. Qumsiyeh contrasted the ownership of land in Israel by Palestinians at 8.3% with apartheid in South Africa where ownership by indigenous people was 11%.

Many efforts have been made to resolve the conflict and one such is the two state solution promoted by several western powers and recently the Quartet.  He does not support this.  A two state solution does not solve the problems he claims, merely creating fresh ones with settlers and others being moved as part of the process.  He says quite simply that the colonists and the colonisers should live together.  He emphasised the importance of diversity.  The history of the area supports this with many different peoples and beliefs existing together over centuries.  His own family is an example of various religions and beliefs represented through the generations.

He also believes that fundamental to any solution is the issue of human rights and in particular, the right of refugees to return.  He reminded us that one of the early drafts of the UN Declaration of Human Rights was written by a Jew.

Our concept of the area is that of constant violence: Israeli soldiers against civilians or rockets being fired into Israel.  Yet resistance for many years has been non violent and consisted of the usual run of sit-ins, protests and civil disobedience.

This was a truly enlightening talk by someone who has been arrested many times by Israeli authorities and also by Palestinian ones as well.  It was given without bitterness or rancour.  He pointed out that many Israelis are unhappy with the treatment of Palestinian and many come to support sit-down protests in front of bulldozers brought in to demolish townships and olive groves.  He was not anti Israel or anti Palestine but pro human rights.  He illustrated his talk with pictures of the wall of course and the destruction of Palestinian communities.

No doubt aspect of his talk could be questioned and facts challenged.  It was disappointing when the very first question – or rather statement – was from a man who said he was Jewish who simply said it was ‘anti Israel, anti Jewish propaganda with every slide.’  It was a pity he was not asked to explain what he meant by referring to particular slides .

Real peace the professor said will come with ‘mental liberation’ followed by physical.  Apathy (he meant in the west) was a major problem.


If you would like to join the group you would be very welcome.  Come along to one of our events over the next few months and make yourself known.

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Programme of forthcoming group events

We have a number of events planned in the period between now and Christmas so these are listed below.  Please note that some are yet to be fully confirmed and dates may change for one or two so please check here or on our Facebook or Twitter pages for updates.

7 September   Coffee morning at St Thomas’s church in Salisbury.  After an absence of several years we are pleased to be able to host this event again in this church.  It would be a good time to make yourself known if wish to join us.  We hope to show a looped film.

8 October   THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED   Author and journalist Paul Mason is coming to speak at the Salisbury Methodist church starting at 7:30.  Paul has written a book Clear Bright Future and the issue of human rights in the modern age is discussed.   We are awaiting confirmation from his agent over the date.  Note this event is postponed from June hence the link text saying it was ‘cancelled’.

10 October  World Day Against the Death Penalty.  Details of any event nearer the time.  See our latest DP report.

24 October   As part of schools Citizenship programme, we shall be giving a presentation at Bishops Wordsworth.  We rather regret few schools take part in this so if any teacher in the Salisbury area is reading this and would like a presentation in their school, please get in touch.

December   Evensong at the Cathedral.  Date to be agreed.  All welcome.  Photo shows the Amnesty candle in the Cathedral.

13 November   Film at the Arts Centre.  The film is Nae Pasaran about a group of Scottish workers refusing to repair aircraft engines destined for the Chilean government after the coup which took place there.

17 December   Our annual carol singing event in the Victoria Road, College Street, Marlborough Road area with members of the Farrant Singers.  This is a popular event and several families come into the street to listen to a selection of carols properly sung by this choir.

We look forward to seeing you at one or more of these events.

 

Carol singing in 2018


The minutes of the July meeting are attached thanks to group member Lesley for writing them.  It was a full meeting again with a number of matters discussed and with several activities planned in the near future and in the autumn.

As ever, if you live in the Salisbury area – including Amesbury, Downton or around Tisbury – you would be welcome to join the group.  The simplest thing is to keep an eye on this site and when an event is posted, come along and make yourself known.

July Minutes (Word)


We are fortunate in Salisbury to have the support of the Cathedral which has a prisoner  of conscience window and the Amnesty candle.  They also allow us to put prisoner of conscience details for people to pick up and act on if they wish.  This is changed once a month by group member Tony.

Cathedral site

Candle

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Salisbury Amnesty

 


No to the death penaltyAttached is the monthly death penalty report for mid June/July 2019 compiled by group member Lesley.  It covers a number of countries and in addition to the usual suspects, includes Sri Lanka which is planning to start executing it citizens again.

Note that China is not included which is believed to execute more of its citizens than the rest of the world put together but the details are a state secret.

Monthly report (Word)


13 prisoners at risk of execution

Amnesty International has received reports indicating that the President was due to consider signing execution warrants as early as the week of 24 June.  Should this be confirmed, up to 13 prisoners would be put at imminent risk of execution.

There is completely secrecy around the dates of any scheduled executions, as well as identities of the death row prisoners most at risk.  Amnesty International has not been able to confirm whether the individuals had fair trials, access to lawyers or whether they were able to engage in a meaningful clemency process.  Sri Lanka has not implemented this ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment for more than four decades.  It should continue to honour a tradition that chooses life instead of vengeance.

Source: Amnesty

Urgent action details (pdf)


The US is the only country in the Americas which still has the death penalty.

There is an opportunity to join Amnesty members for a protest outside the American Embassy on the continued use of the penalty.  They will be gathering signatures for a petition and, to illustrate the barbarity of the practice, you can also tweet a picture of yourself sitting in our mock electric chair.

Meeting at 1:30 in the small park opposite the US Embassy on 30 June.

See our death penalty report


Belarus

Belarus remains the only country in the whole of Europe and the former Soviet Union which still carries out death sentences.  Only days ago, news emerged from Belarus that another death row prisoner had been executed.  This was not officially confirmed as the Belarusian authorities do not publicly confirm executions or even tell families of death-row prisoners that their loved ones have been executed until weeks after it has happened.

Join Amnesty and international activists on 8 July for a discussion, exhibition and short film regarding the brutal reality of Europe’s last executioner.

Details: deathpenalty@amnesty.org.uk or on Facebook


Good news today that the Court of Appeal has upheld the appeal by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade who are trying to stop the British government supplying lethal weapons to the Saudis who are using them to cause terrible death and destruction in Yemen.

There will be more about this in future posts.  A previous post on this subject can be read here.

 


While a lot of attention – quite rightly – has been focused on the plight of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, there are other things going in that country including the execution of minors.  Below are details of an urgent action which if you have time, we would be grateful if you could send a message of some kind.  There is an option to tweet.

Danial Zeinolabedini, an 18-year-old imprisoned in Mahabad prison, West Azerbaijan province, is at risk of execution. He was sentenced to death in June 2018 after an unfair trial in which he was convicted of a murder that took place when he was 17 years old. His execution would be a grave violation of international law.

Further details from an Iran human rights group.

Urgent action


If you live in the Salisbury, South Wilts area and would like to join us, you would be very welcome.  The best thing is to keep an eye on this site and come along to an event and make yourself known.  It is free to join locally.