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Canterbury Students welcome Palestinian Professor to Otāutahi Christchurch

May 28, 2024

On May 27, UCDisarm and the Palestine Peace Society of Canterbury hosted a public lecture for visiting Palestinian scientist, author, and human rights activist Mazin Qumsiyeh, attended by students and faculty of the University of Canterbury. Professor Qumsiyeh’s talk was titled ‘Why Israel’s war on Gaza is not the solution for peace and security in the Middle East’. He traversed many aspects of historical Palestine, from its anthropological origins, settlement, colonisation, to the Nakba of 1948 and subsequent oppression of indigenous Christian and Muslim Palestinians leading to the current conflict.

Prof Mazin Qumsiyeh with co-hosts Lucia (Palestine Peace Society) and Patrick Kinney (UCDisarm President)

As a biologist, Professor Qumsiyeh has been acutely aware not only of the social impact of decades of occupation and displacement, but also the ecological destruction which has resulted. He used the term ‘ecocide’ to describe the vast swathes of fertile land throughout historic Palestine which have become arid due to the redirecting of water to Israeli settlements – of which all in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are deemed illegal under international law. Widespread desertification in previously productive areas has transformed parts of the once abundantly flowing Jordan River into a trickle. This has had a catastrophic impact on the diverse flora and fauna of Palestine, and forced indigenous communities out of areas where they have lived for centuries.

Mazin Qumsiyeh knocked down by Israeli security forces at a protest in Al Walaja in 2010.

Despite the challenges of living and working under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, Professor Qumsiyeh continues to direct the Palestine Museum of Natural History and the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability, both of which he founded at Bethlehem University. He talked of the heightened restrictions on movement for Palestinians in the West Bank since the October 7th attack on Israel by Hamas. As a Christian, along with his fellow Muslims, he is now barred from entering Jerusalem – home to some of the most holy sites in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Many of his own friends and colleagues have been killed in Gaza since October 2023, and he noted the deplorable messages which have come out of the Israeli government, with one minister, Amichai Eliyahu, stating that dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza was an option. Despite the immense pain and violence experienced in the last eight months of war, Professor Qumsiyeh still remains hopeful that one day Palestinians will have the same human rights afforded to all people, and that Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side in harmony. He told the audience to remain vigilant in holding the New Zealand government to account and warned against our country aligning too closely to the US, or security alliances like AUKUS and NATO. In his own words, ‘No one will win the next World War, only cockroaches’. New Zealand’s nuclear free legacy has a bumpy road ahead.

Prof Qumsiyeh with the DSC team Patrick Kinney, Lucy Stewart, and Dr Marcus Coll

Professor Qumsiyeh recently spoke throughout Australia and is currently on a three-week speaking tour around Aotearoa. In Wellington, he will meet with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Members of Parliament. We wish him well on his journey ahead.

You can watch a recording of the talk here.


*Students can download Mazin Qumsiyeh's e-book 'Popular Resistance inPalestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment' here  

*All others can purchase the book here

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