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Curfews and (existential) questions | Mazin Qumsiyeh

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This post first appeared on the website of Mazin Qumsiyeh, Professor and Director, Palestine Museum of Natural History, Bethlehem University. http://palestinenature.org, http://qumsiyeh.org, http://popular-resistance.com.

As of last night, our town of Beit Sahour is under complete curfew. Even shopping for food is prohibited. The emergency committee stated that we can call shops for home delivery. However, I am not sure how that would work out since most people need money which they do not have and if they do have it in the bank would need to go to ATMs which are prohibited and banks are closed in the Bethlehem district so they cannot re-stock the ATM machines. This is a global catastrophe and you in New York will is already heavily affected so please get ready and take care of yourself. I also would like to check on needy people and help them but I have to figure out how we can do that under complete curfew. Staff is all at home and we try to do work though psychologically it is challenging. But we must keep our spirits up.

The Palestinian authority does some positive things but like all other political leaders really are not immune from political considerations and as they have freedom of movement and lots of resources, they may not quite understand people’s needs. Also coordinations with our apartheid oppressors increased dramatically. Israel is taking this opportunity to implement the last touches of its plan of complete hegemony, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Their occupation army even came into Bethlehem (dressed in full protective corona gear) and arrested three people from their homes.. Truly sickening that all the PA does is issue statements. I thus have questions:

Why is it that the Palestinian Authority does not have the dignity to use this crisis to finally give up on Oslo and stop serving the occupation by relieving it of its responsibility for the occupied people’s health and education instead of using debt and charity money?

Why do they use loudspeakers and give speeches about curfews or “social distancing” but not explaining to common people how to cope, how to survive with no income, how to have “Social connections” (helping each other while maintaining “physical distancing”)??

Why is it that our financial priorities still skewed in favor of military and elites and a tiny fraction for health, agriculture, education, and research? The PA for example spend 40+% of its budget on security and so little on the areas that could have helped us weather this crisis.

If governments have emergency powers, why not use them to tax the wealthy say 5% of their wealth and use it instead of racking up debt? If they do this just to the billionaire class, they would have hundreds of billions!!

Why is it that ministries including local government and health (and not just in Palestine) did not send out one call for expertise in the areas most needed (like community health education, epidemiology, nutrition etc)?

Why is it that Cuba and China help the world while the supposed richest country on earth (USA) actually punished these countries (sanctions on Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Yemen, Syria etc, financial blocks on China and Russia, and Trump calling it repeatedly the “Chinese virus”)

Why is it that a pandemic is not declared for 25,000 who die daily from starvation, over 10,000 who die daily from preventable diseases like malaria, or the hundreds who die daily from blockaded (e.g. Gaza, Venezuela, Iran)

Why is it that politicians will not be held accountable for not heeding our warnings as scientists (and the many published works) that such pandemics were inevitable?

Why is it that people let their governments amass powers to use for political benefit that infringe on people’s rights in a crisis and they know that when the crisis is over governments do not return these rights to people (e.g. Patriot act never repealed since 2001!)?

Why is it that western countries will add to their government (read people’s) debt to help rich people and companies survive but not the people (over 400 billion in the UK, >1 trillion in the US)? Common people (Taxpayers) become poorer and rich people continue to get richer.

Why do people trust governments that have been repeatedly shown to lie? Why do we allow deep states to continue to give us choices like Clinton vs Trump and Biden vs Trump and Abbas vs Haniya and Netanyahu vs Gantz)? Will this crisis ever make such people change their ways?

I know only that each of us needs to dig deeper into our hearts for answers and more importantly for actions. 19 years ago, I wrote an article after the crisis of 11 Sept 2001 explaining the two choices before us (collectively): We keep the old ways (greed, rampant capitalism and die together) or care for each other and for our planet. Our health and the health of the planet are at stake. This is yet another stark reminder. Let us hope we make the right choices, pressure politicians, and choose life. We cannot act like lemmings going towards the cliff.

Stay Human and Stay safe

This column originally appeared at  http://popular-resistance.blogspot.com/2020/03/questions-and-curfews.html and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

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