Tawfiq Nasser: Palestinian Doctor Tells Of Life Under Occupation

Samara Kalk Derby, The Capital Times, October 10, 2005

To get to work each day, Tawfiq Nasser needs a green card, known as a “dirty ID.” He also needs what is called a magnetic card to show that he is not a terrorist or security threat.

On top of that, he must carry two permits, both of which have to be renewed every few months.

Nasser is one of the lucky ones. As director and CEO of Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem, the Palestinian doctor moves about the city and the rest of Israel with some aggravation and complication.

“This is a privilege, a real privilege,” he told an audience of about 40 Sunday afternoon at Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg.

Nasser, who has studied and worked in the U.S., was in Madison to give a presentation, “A View From Jerusalem: Challenges for Palestinian Health Care.” He also spoke at St. Stephens Lutheran Church in Monona. His appearances were co-sponsored by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

“I am not angry,” said Nasser, 40, noting that he makes a good living and has a driver to help navigate the checkpoints.

But with its 52 permanent and 60 “flying” or mobile checkpoints, and now its security fence almost half complete, the Israeli government punishes the whole Palestinian population for the crimes of a few, creating “more anger, polarization and radicalization,” he said.

Suicide bombers — whom Nasser calls creative and “literally crazy” — will plan their attacks close to the wall to make holes in it, he said: “Just to signify to the world that we need a way out. We can’t just be prisoners.”

Israel contends that its controversial 435-mile security barrier — a mixture of concrete, razor wire, ditches and electronic fence – is crucial in keeping out Palestinian suicide bombers.

Hundreds of Israeli civilians have been killed and injured in suicide attacks in the last five years. Israel maintains that the wall has cut attacks significantly.

The U.S. administration is talking about a viable Palestinian state, Nasser said.

“We appreciate Bush saying it,” he said. “We just don’t know if he meant it. Like when he said we are in a ‘crusade’ in the Middle East. Whoops!”

October 9, 2005
Dr. Tawfiq Nasser in Madison


A View From Jerusalem – Challenges for Palestinian Health Care

Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, CEO of Augusta Victoria Hospital, Jerusalem

St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church
5700 Pheasant Hill Rd., Monona
Dr. Nasser will preach at 8:00 & 10:00 Worship
and make a presentation beginning at 9:10

Memorial United Church of Christ
5705 Lacey Rd., Fitchburg
Dr. Nasser will speak from 4:30 – 5:30

Evening Reception of Hospitality and Conversation
At the home of Rev. Bruce Burnside
1109 Gilbert Rd., Madison
RSVP Requested to Rev. Burnside (see below)

The public is invited to any and all events of the day. For Information or directions please contact Rev Bruce Burnside, 608-222-1241 or revbhb@tds.net.

AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL stands atop the Mt. Of Olives in East Jerusalem where for over 50 years it has, as a project of Lutheran World Federation, provided exceptional health care to Palestinian people, primarily from East Jerusalem, many refugee camps and villages in the West Bank. Numerous challenges have threatened the work of the hospital, its staff and patients over the years, but none, perhaps, as great as those now being faced because of the Israeli “Security Wall” and an Israeli tax decision. A great deal of the hospital’s care is provided on a charitable basis.

The Director of the hospital DR. TAWFIQ NASSER grew up in Ramallah and Jerusalem and now lives in Ramallah with his wife and children. Nasser is a Palestinian Christian in the Anglican tradition. His work as CEO of the hospital is characterized by tremendous resourcefulness, amazing stamina and noble dedication. Under his leadership the hospital has developed a first class pediatrics dialysis department, has recently opened an enviable radiation oncology unit and has developed a series of mobile clinics to travel into the West Bank to provide medical care for Palestinians who no longer have access to the hospital because of closures, checkpoints and the “Security Wall” which cuts the hospital off from the West Bank. While bureaucracy, economic hardship and movement restrictions plague the hospital, Dr. Nasser continues to break new ground as a visionary and man of compassion.

An articulate and energetic speaker, Tawfiq Nasser will inspire you with stories and challenge you to support the cause of justice and peace.

Co-sponsored by St. Stephens Lutheran Church, Memorial United Church of Christ, and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

September 22 – December 1, 2005
Film Series: “Finding Hope in Unexpected Places”



A Community Film Series
September 22 – Uncovered: The War on Iraq
October 20 – Rana’s Wedding
November 10 – Hidden in Plain Sight
December 1 – Until When . . .

Edgewood College, Predolin Humanities Center, Anderson Auditorium
7:00 pm for all showings

“The Arts Go to War”, an Edgewood human issues class; the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and the School of the Americas Watch — Madison join forces to bring you four thought-provoking, disturbing, and enlightening films. An audience discussion will follow each film. All films are free and open to the public.

September 22 – Uncovered: The War on Iraq
Documentary; Director: Robert Greenwald; 2004; 87 minutes
Filmmaker Robert Greenwald chronicles the Bush Administration’s case to invade Iraq following Sept. 11, 2001. The film examines the administration’s argument for war through interviews with U.S intelligence and defense officials, foreign service experts and U.N. weapons inspectors — including a former CIA director, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and President Bush’s Secretary of the Army.

“When the Bush Administration’s case for war in Iraq shifted from the existence of weapons of mass destruction to the existence of ‘weapons of mass destruction-related activities’, director Robert Greenwald got angry. Uncovered: The War On Iraq is his response; a powerful, well-constructed and sober documentary that – via a dense collection of interviews with intelligence experts, diplomats, weapons inspectors, and politicians – painstakingly and ruthlessly takes apart the American government’s changing arguments for invasion.” – Jonathan Trout, BBC

October 20 – Rana’s Wedding
Feature; Director: Hany Abu-Assad; 2002; 90 minutes
Shot on location in East Jerusalem, Ramallah, and checkpoints in between, Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad sees the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of a young woman who, with only ten hours to marry, must negotiate her way around roadblocks, soldiers, stonethrowers, overworked officials and into the heart of an elusive lover.

Roger Ebert says Rana’s Wedding is ” . . . fascinating as a document. It gives a more complete visual picture of the borders, the Palestinian settlements and the streets of Jerusalem than we ever see on the news . . .” Phil Hall of Film Threat says Rana’s Wedding is “among the finest films made in the Middle East.”

November 10 – Hidden in Plain Sight
Documentary; Director: John H. Smihula; 2003; 90 minutes
Hidden in Plain Sight is a feature-length documentary that looks at the nature of U.S. policy in Latin America through the prism of the School of the Americas (renamed, in January of 2001, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), the controversial military school that trains Latin American soldiers in the USA.

Demonstrators denounce the SOA as a “School of Assassins,” but Army officials argue that the school has played a crucial role in bringing democracy and stability to Latin America. On this issue, the U.S. Congress is sharply divided. Enter noted scholars Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Christopher Hitchens, and Michael Parenti, who broaden the debate to include such subjects as militarism, globalization, national security, and international terrorism. Personal accounts from victims of the violence and repression in Latin America raise questions and concerns about the true aims of U.S. foreign policy.

Informative and provocative, this documentary presents different points of view which illuminate the turbulent reality of Latin America, demystify the policy-making process, and shed light on some of the most complex and urgent problems facing U.S. citizens today.

December 1 – Until When . . .
Documentary; Director: Dahna Abourahme; 2004; 76 minutes
Until When . . . explores the lives of four Palestinian families who live in Dheisheh Refugee Camp near Bethlehem. People share their experiences with the Israeli occupation and how it affects their lives. Director Dahna Abourahme integrates archival photographs, map animations, and informational text into the film’s historical journey. The personal stories convey sadness, frustration and nostalgia for absent family members. However, they live and marry, so the families dance and ululate when they celebrate momentous occasions.

Sonia Nettnin writes in Scoop: “Palestinians affirm their human rights to freedom from oppression now and for future generations. Their shared feelings weave a narrative thread that leads to hope.”

Contacts:
Sr. Maureen McDonnell, mcdonnel at edgewood.edu
RafahSisterCity at yahoo.com

Ain’t gonna study war no more

Bill Lueders, Isthmus, September 1, 2005

Camp Shalom had children pretend to be Israeli soldiers

It was the face paint that tipped Tsele Barr off. Early this summer, she was picking up her two sons from Camp Shalom, a day camp run by the Madison Jewish Community Council, and noticed that some of the children had paint on their faces. She asked her youngest son, Izak, what this was about and he explained, “We were playing Israeli army.”

This, Barr learned from Izak, involved “doing drills and such.” Then her older son, Jasper, told her that similar training was part of his camp experience the summer before, and had included shooting make-believe guns.

Barr, a freelance graphic designer, was deeply troubled by this news and placed some calls to other parents. She also spoke to the camp director, Lynn Kaplan, and to Shirin Ezekial, a cultural ambassador from Israel who led the children in this activity.

“Although they listened to my concerns, I got the impression that they didn’t see what the big deal was,” relates Barr. “I really think it’s appalling that a camp that calls itself Camp Shalom [the word means peace] would glorify the Israeli army” — which, she says, “repeatedly commits human-rights abuses.”

Other parents also contacted Kaplan. Susan Cook, a professor at the UW-Madison School of Music, says her son reported that, during this year’s simulation, he raised his hand to ask a question, only to be told: “Soldiers don’t ask questions, they follow orders.”

“That is something I do not teach my children — to blindly follow orders,” says Cook. She thought Kaplan was initially defensive but ultimately seemed to grasp the reasons for her discomfit: “I came away feeling very good about her response.”

Both parents stress that Camp Shalom is an excellent camp and that they have no problem with a component that teaches children about life in Israel. But they object to what Cook calls “inculcating militaristic beliefs.”

So do others in the community. “I just feel really outraged that at Camp Peace, the kids were playing Israeli army,” says Jennifer Loewenstein, the founder of the Madison-Rafah Sister-City Project. “When I heard about it, I was just livid.”

George Arida, an Arab American member of Loewenstein’s group (whose efforts to establish a formal sister-city link were voraciously opposed by the Madison Jewish Community Council), has this to say: “If there was an Islamic kids’ camp and it had even a hint of playing Islamic war games, there would be a huge public outcry and rightly so.”

Kaplan, in a brief phone interview, disputed an overview of the parents’ accounts (without giving any specifics) but admitted they “did raise a concern and it was a very valid concern” about a camp “activity.” Kaplan, saying she was too busy to talk, promised to call back later but never did, ignoring a follow-up message.

Marc Rosenthal, whose son attended a subsequent session of Camp Shalom, says the Israel soldier role-playing was apparently not repeated. Which is fine by him. “This is not what we want our kids doing. This is not what Camp Shalom is all about.”

Barr, for her part, vows to remain vigilant: “We’ll see what happens next year.”

Israeli Wall to Ruin Palestinian Economy

Al Jazeera, August 26, 2005

The Palestinian economy has deteriorated sharply since the start of the
uprising in 2000, and Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank will
depress it further, a United Nations agency said.

The economy shrank 1% in 2004, one in three Palestinian workers was jobless
at the end of last year and 61% of households had income below the poverty
line of $350 per month, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said in
its annual report on the occupied territories on Thursday.

“Put simply, in the wake of the past four years of Israeli occupation and
war, the Palestinian economy invests and produces less and therefore
consumes more imports, especially those from Israel,” the report said.

Palestinian net imports from Israel represent two-thirds of the total trade
deficit of $2.6 billion, it said. Some 80,000 workers formerly employed in
Israel must also be absorbed.

The Palestinian Authority must now focus on reducing widespread poverty and
boosting production to revive its war-torn economy, the UNCTAD report said.

Ability to Produce

But the barrier or wall Israel is building inside the West Bank will further
erode the fragmented Palestinian production base and resources and “people’s
ability to feed themselves,” it said.

Israel says the wall is a security measure and is intended to keep out
bombers.

Earlier this week Israel finished evacuating all 21 Jewish settlements in
Gaza and four of 120 in the West Bank, part of its plan to withdraw
completely from Gaza, where some 8500 Israeli settlers lived close to 1.4
million Palestinians.

The Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israel’s occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza, broke out in 2000 when peace talks stalled. Israel had
occupied both territories since the 1967 Middle East war.

Occupation-related Distortions

“The top priority at this stage of the Palestinian economy’s development is
to focus on poverty reduction while nurturing productive capacity,
eliminating occupation-related distortions and laying the ground for
sustainable economic recovery,” the UNCTAD report said.

The estimated opportunity cost to the economy over the past five years,
representing the value of goods and services that were not produced because
of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, is estimated at 6.4
billion, while capital stock losses are estimated at $3.5 billion during the
period.

“Economic realities on the ground after the prolonged conflict remain very
harsh and uncertain, regardless of all the positive developments we’ve
witnessed recently,” Raja Khalidi, the report’s main author, told a news
briefing. “In both Gaza and the West Bank, challenges of recovery are
overwhelming.”

Distortions due to decades of Israeli occupation and dependence on the
Jewish state must be corrected before the future Palestinian state turns to
trade liberalisation, the report added.
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Jobless in Gaza

Mehammed Mack, L.A. Weekly, August 25, 2005

A somber note for many Gazans witnessing the Israeli pullout was the prospect of losing jobs. Al-Jazeera profiled the closure of one of the last remaining monuments of Oslo-era cooperation, the Erez industrial park, a multidisciplinary Gaza manufacturing facility that had employed more than 4,000 Arab workers. One of the newly redundant vented to Al-Jazeera cameras: “This is a cruel decision for us, I have worked here for 10 years,” he said. “I don’t have any work in Gaza, I am going to have to sit around doing nothing.” According to Israeli Gaza correspondent Amira Hass, the settlements employed around 3,200 Palestinians whose cheap labor (salaries averaging about a third of the Israeli minimum wage) inflated the wealth of Israeli farmers and entrepreneurs. The international LinkTV, whose Middle Eastern–themed programming attracts many Arab viewers because of shows like the Peabody award–winning newsreel Mosaic, ran a documentary peering into the life of a Palestinian family working on a Gaza agricultural settlement, remarkable for its unintentional echoes of the Old South. One memorable image showed the enthusiastic Palestinian father speaking in Hebrew of the brotherly bond between Arabs and Jews, while seated at a table with the settler couple that had given him a good job and food to eat.

Overall, the Arab media approached last week’s Israeli withdrawal from Gaza from an almost unanimously critical perspective. But the Middle East’s satellite commentators and editorial pages were anything but monolithic in content, sharply disagreeing over what the week’s “disengagement” meant and, more importantly, portends. Reading a sampling of reports and opinion from the region’s main Arabic and English presses, it would be difficult to decide whether the Gaza pullout was cause for Palestinian celebration or gloom.

Neglecting economics, Arab papers had particular scorn for the Western media’s “soft” treatment of previously belligerent settlers. Rami Khouri, of Lebanon’s Daily Star, wondered in his column if everyone had forgotten who the victim was: “The widespread press descriptions of the Gaza settler’s ‘emotional pain’ at being sent back to their own country of Israel lack both credibility and relevance.” Khouri, among other acerbic commentators, noted the glorification of Ariel Sharon’s “heroic” masochism in reneging on his legacy as father of the settlements: “It is outrageous that Sharon would say, even as he was evacuating Gaza, that he prefers to keep it.” The paper’s editorial, however, rationalized Sharon’s promise to “continue and develop” settlement activity in the West Bank as the words of a man trying to appease his public: “We can partly excuse the imperialist hostility of his statement by acknowledging that the pullout has stirred strong sentiments in Israel, and Sharon is now facing considerable domestic pressure and even a potential challenge to his premiership.”

Despite a few overtures, the main attitude spanning the Arab media is one of extreme vigilance and suspicion. Discussion around the seemingly benevolent withdrawal has turned to what the “catch” will be, a dreaded prospect that has precluded widespread Palestinian celebration, for fear of indicating partnership in a bargain that might mean the loss of the West Bank. A fearful Daily Star editorial raised the empty threat of international law against Sharon’s PR maneuvering: “He cannot continue to ignore his responsibilities to the international community under the ‘road map’ to peace, nor can he speak two different messages — one of peace to the international community and one of conquest to his Israeli public.” Speculation as to Sharon’s true disengagement motives was far-reaching and almost unanimously bleak. Khouri called the pullout “an expedient, grudging, defensive, reluctant endeavor” that “does not have the compelling ring of authenticity and honesty that characterized the white South Africans’ coming to terms with black majority rule.”

As Western anchors gaped at Ariel Sharon’s incredible personal sacrifice, getting teary over the drama of internecine Jewish conflict, Al-Jazeera sat back like a pessimistic theater critic and waxed unenthusiastic: “The question of the evacuation of the settlements has not come with the difficulty the Israeli government is trying to project,” sighed Palestinian correspondent Shereen Abu Aqla. More curious to Al-Jazeera was the soldiers’ “excessive sensitivity” in evicting the settlers, and all the “images of self-control, patience and kindness that the eye has not witnessed before from the Israeli forces,” especially in comparison to the Israel Defense Forces’ callous and sometimes deadly management of Israeli Arab protests. An article on the Al-Jazeera Web site had six references to Israeli “tears” and seemed to make much of the sympathy-provoking practice by which settlers would wave their children in front of phlegmatic soldiers, portraying their behavior as a kind of child endangerment similar to Michael Jackson’s toddler-dangling. One report read, “Another man who had been forced onto a bus held his infant nephew out of the window, shouting to the soldiers, ‘You want him?’”

Veteran journalist Daoud Kuttab, writing in the Jordan Times, cautioned against believing that the withdrawal came in response to Palestinian resistance, especially during the current climate of ambiguity: “It would be a mistake to attribute the Israeli withdrawal exclusively to Palestinian attacks,” he explained. “After all, this bittersweet Israeli action was neither a clear result of military defeat nor a consequence of political negotiations.” He acknowledged the political stakes of Sharon’s decision, stopping short of using the word “courage”: “There is no doubt that the evacuation of Jewish settlers in areas that Israelis consider part of their God-given territory represents a huge ideological reversal.” One analogy that kept re-appearing throughout media speculation of Sharon’s pullout motives was that of military strategizing, as in the words of Ghassan Sharbal, editor in chief of the influential pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat: “Sometimes a warrior is forced to retreat a step. But that doesn’t mean he wants peace,” he wrote. “The retreat aims to redraw the lines, a redeployment to strengthen his ability to fight the next battle.” The Al-Ahram Weekly viewed the withdrawal as a smoke screen to distract from accelerated construction in Palestinian East Jerusalem, where new settlements and the growing Separation Wall threaten to imminently cut the civic and economic heart of Palestine out of the West Bank. The paper quoted the somber prediction of professor Ali Jarbawy, from Ramallah’s Bir Zeit University: “By giving up Gaza, the Israelis are winning 15 years’ advance in materializing their project,” he explained. “The formula for Sharon now is not land for peace, but land for time.” The disengagement has expanded the almost-deaf disconnect between the sides, with both dreaming up isolated and unrealistic endings to the story that begins with Gaza, as Cairo’s Al-Ahram Weekly’s Sherine Bahaa described.

“It would seem as if the two parties are speaking different languages,” she said. “Palestinian officials believe Gaza is but a prelude to the liberation of Jerusalem and the West Bank while the Israelis are reiterating that no more retreats are expected, neither now nor ever.”

Ehud Asheri, of the Israeli left-wing Daily Ha’aretz (whose coverage of Middle East affairs many Arab journalists prefer to The New York Times), cut through the satellite fog and gave the best summary of the media circus, calling attention to “the real battle being waged in the Gaza Strip — the battle over the disengagement narrative,” which the settlers were “winning,” regardless of real events, “on television.”

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