Pittsburgh Jews decry pro-Israel group’s support for Republican extremists

AIPAC is spending millions to oppose Democrat who would be Pennsylvania’s first Black female member of Congress

Summer Lee survived an Aipac effort to block her at the primary stage because of her criticisms of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Summer Lee survived an AIPAC effort to block her at the primary stage because of her criticisms of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Photograph: Quinn Glabicki/Reuters

More than 240 Jewish American voters in Pittsburgh have signed a letterdenouncing the US’s largest pro-Israel group for backing extremist Republican election candidates while spending millions of dollars to oppose a Democrat who would be Pennsylvania’s first Black female member of Congress.

The letter condemned the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for its attempts to defeat Summer Lee, a candidate for the district that includes Pittsburgh, after failing to block her during the Democratic primaries earlier this year because of her criticisms of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

The signatories said they were “outraged that at this critical moment in American history, AIPAC has chosen to cast Democrats like Lee as extremists” while endorsing more than 100 Republican candidates who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The letter suggested that AIPAC does not represent the views of the majority of American Jews and is working against their interests by also endorsing Republicans who promote white supremacy, a particularly sensitive issue in a city where 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogues were murdered in an antisemitic attack four years ago.

“We also condemn AIPAC endorsement of lawmakers who have promoted the antisemitic ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory that helped inspire the murder of eleven members of the three synagogues housed at Tree of Life,” the letter said.

“Clearly, their definition of ‘extreme’ is completely opposite to that held by the majority of American Jews – who worry about the stark rise in antisemitism and white nationalism in our state and in our country.”

It is the first time AIPAC has funded support for a Republican contender for Congress over a Democrat in a general election, marking a further shift away from its once more bipartisan approach.

AIPAC’s campaign funding arm, the United Democracy Project (UDP), is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for television advertising and mailings against Lee. The group is backing Mike Doyle, who supports a federal ban on abortion and has described himself as very conservative.

The UDP has posted a leaflet to voters calling Lee “too extreme” because of her positions on police, prison and immigration reform. The leaflet makes no mention of her criticisms of Israeli government policies which do not appear to be an election issue for most voters, although AIPAC has previously saidthat its “sole factor for supporting Democratic and Republican candidates is their support for strengthening the US-Israel relationship”.

Lee has drawn AIPAC’s fire for her support of setting conditions for the US’s considerable aid to Israel, for accusing Israel of “atrocities” in Gaza, and for drawing parallels between Israeli actions against Palestinians and the shooting of young black men in the US.

In a tweet earlier this week, Lee accused AIPAC of funding extremists: “8 days from making history in PA–where Black women have never had federal representation–AIPAC is funding my extreme GOP opponent. Since endorsing 100+ insurrectionists, AIPAC has repeatedly shown us that democracy has never been as important as keeping progressives out.”

Lee’s campaign has an additional cause for concern because her Republican opponent has the same first and last name as the outgoing Democratic member of Congress she is seeking to replace. In an apparent attempt to exploit potential confusion, Doyle’s website does not mention that he is a Republican.

AIPAC’s campaign against Lee is a rematch after it tried and failed to block her during the Democratic primaries earlier this year.

The UDP spent more than $25m in the primaries to defeat candidates it deemed too critical, or insufficiently supportive, of Israel, including about $2.6m against Lee. Most of the candidates opposed by AIPAC lost but Lee won her race by a slim margin.

Much of the advertising in support of AIPAC-backed candidates in the primaries played up Democratic party values such as equality. One of those opposed by the lobby group, Congressman Andy Levin who lost his primary and seat, on Wednesday tweeted that AIPAC’s opposition to Lee revealed its professed support for liberal values to have been a sham.

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Amnesty Says ICC Israel Probe Should Include ‘Crime Against Humanity of Apartheid’

“Israel’s apartheid remains the root cause of Palestinians’ suffering,” said the group.

Palestinians inspect the ruins of a collapsed building destroyed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on August 6, 2022. (Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

JULIA CONLEY, Common Dreams, October 25, 2022

Calling for the International Criminal Court to open a new investigation into possible war crimes by Israeli military forces in Gaza in August, Amnesty International on Tuesday said the court must also include Israel’s illegal apartheid policies against the Occupied Palestinian Territories in its probe.

“As well as investigating war crimes committed in Gaza, the ICC should consider the crime against humanity of apartheid within its current investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The organization’s call centered on the three-day offensive launched by Israel between August 5-8 in the Gaza Strip, with advocates saying its research suggests three specific attacks could amount to war crimes.

Seventeen civilians were among the 49 Palestinian people who were killed by Israeli forces during the offensive, while seven were determined to have been killed by Palestinian rockets that were likely misfired. The group could not determine which side was responsible for the deaths of seven other civilians.

Amnesty noted that Israel, which claimed the attacks were “preemptive” and targeted the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, has set the stage for such deadly assaults on civilians for years by imposing a blockade and other apartheid policies on Gaza.

“These violations were perpetrated in the context of Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade on Gaza, which is a key tool of its apartheid regime,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, in a statement. “Palestinians in Gaza are dominated, oppressed, and segregated, trapped in a 15-year nightmare where recurrent unlawful attacks punctuate a worsening humanitarian crisis.”

“As well as investigating war crimes committed in Gaza, the ICC should consider the crime against humanity of apartheid within its current investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Callamard added.

The group said Israel’s policies—including military control of Palestine, restrictions on the movement of millions of people in the West Bank, and denial of essential services—are the “root cause of Palestinians’ suffering.”

The call comes eight months after Amnesty outlined Israel’s apartheid system in a report, saying “the international community and the ICC should all investigate the commission of the crime of apartheid under international law.”

In its report released Tuesday regarding the three-day offensive that took place in August, the group said it had interviewed 42 people including attack survivors, family members of those killed, eyewitnesses, and medical professionals. A fieldworker, the organization’s evidence lab, and a weapons expert determined that at least three of the 17 attacks Amnesty documented should be investigated by the ICC as possible war crimes.

An Israeli tank fired a projectile on August 5, hitting the home of 22-year-old art student Duniana al-Amour and her family in the southern Gaza Strip. Al-Amour was killed and her mother was wounded. Amnesty concluded in its analysis that the family’s home had been “deliberately targeted,” even though there is “no evidence that any members of the al-Amour family could reasonably be believed to be involved in armed combat.”

Five children were killed on August 7 when a missile struck Al-Falluja cemetery, near the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. The children ranged in age from four to 16.

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The Case Against ALEC Lawmakers Continues in Arizona Supreme Court

On November 15, the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance (APSA), Black Lives Matter (BLM) Phoenix Metro, Mijente, and Puente continue their fight against the corporate-led American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the Arizona Supreme Court. The groups will join the Center for Consitutional Rights and the Peoples Law Firm for oral argument in court.

Our lawsuit argues that the lawmakers, who together make up a quorum of several Arizona legislative committees, have violated Arizona’s Open Meeting Law by meeting behind closed doors at a private ALEC gathering in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2019. A closed meeting of a quorum of an Arizona legislative committee where members debate, discuss, deliberate, or otherwise work is a violation of the Arizona Open Meeting Law. In a major victory in the case, on February 15 this year, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that we may continue to pursue the lawsuit against 26 Arizona lawmakers who attended ALEC’s closed meetings in 2019. The court said the legislature cannot exempt itself from its own Open Meeting Law, rejected all of the defendants’ other arguments for dismissal, and sent the case back to the trial court. 

The initial filing in 2019 came after the Center for Constitutional Rights, Dream Defenders, Palestine Legal, The Red Nation, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights together released the report “ALEC Attacks: How evangelicals and corporations captured state lawmaking to safeguard white supremacy and corporate power,” which examines the harmful impact of ALEC laws on people of color. 

ALEC provides a ‘pay-to-play’ membership system in which its corporate members pay high fees in return for closed-door meetings with lawmakers to deliberate, draft, and vote on “model bills,” which are later introduced by ALEC-affiliated state lawmakers across the country. ALEC boasts that approximately one third of all state lawmakers are members. They are required to sign “loyalty oaths” to “put the interests of [ALEC] first.”

Between 2010 and 2018, ALEC’s “model bills” were introduced nearly 2,900 times, and more than 600 became law. The Arizona groups leading this fight point out that marginalized communities, particularly communities of color, have been disproportionately harmed by laws produced by ALEC. These include Stand Your Ground laws, voter ID laws, legislation targeting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement supporting Palestinian human rights, and “critical infrastructure” laws that criminalize protests by Indigenous people and other activists against oil and gas companies. 

At ALEC’s 2009 meeting, anti-immigrant former state senator Russell Pearce introduced to ALEC members what would later become Arizona’s infamous SB 1070. The law granted authority to law enforcement to racially profile Latinx people in the state. Similar laws were soon adopted in Utah, Georgia, Indiana, Alabama, and South Carolina. 


Palestine: Where Manufactured Water Scarcity Meets Climate Change

Destruction of the water network in Masafer Yatta, South Hebron hills, Area C of West Bank. | Courtesy: Nasser Nawaj’ah, B’Tselem, 25 November 2020

Anna Abraham, Currently, October 12, 2022

The Israeli-occupied territory of Palestine faces both natural and state-sanctioned acute water scarcity. 

The term “man-made climate change” is used to reiterate the role humanity has played in causing the climate crisis. In present-day Palestine, which is suffering from acute water scarcity and colonial occupation, the term takes a whole new form. 

The semi-arid Middle East and North Africa region is considered a climate hotspot due to its natural dryness. Droughts are common and locals have, over time, adapted to these circumstances. Palestine is no stranger to these conditions.

The heatwave that hit Israel and Palestine this summer brought extreme temperatures to the region, raising temperatures by 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) above the seasonal average. In the Jordan Valley, the eastern portion of the West Bank region of Palestine, temperatures soared as high as 45 degrees C (113 degrees F).

However, despite these extreme changes, Israelis, in both the Zionist State and the Settlements, did not face any water shortages, while Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as usual, did.

“The chronic water shortage [in Palestine] is the outcome of the Israeli occupation regime,” said Eyal Hareuveni an Israeli researcher with B’Tselem working on water issues.

“All Israeli settlements are built in opposition to the international humanitarian law. In the Jordan Valley, communities that depend on water for agriculture and consumption have lost it to the wells that Israel is digging for neighboring settlements.”

The West Bank

While Palestinians in the West Bank don’t have water to drink, Israelis in the settlements fill their swimming pools to the brim, highlighting a glaring disparity. 

According to Palestinian officials, Israel controls 85 percent of the water in this region and has a say in how the rest is allocated. Year-round water cuts, therefore, which can last weeks, have become a core facet of Palestinian life.

And while most Israelis and settlers can consume between 240 and 300 liters of water per day, most Palestinians only reach about 73 liters — much less than what the World Health Organization regards as the minimum required standard of 100 liters per person. 

Many apartment buildings in city centers have resorted to lining their roofs with black and white water tanks, which residents pay extra to fill when their taps inevitably run dry.

Water tanks on the roofs of homes in Nablus, Palestine | Courtesy: Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 13 September 2017.

In some rural agricultural communities, water consumption is as low as 20 liters per person per day. Some villages receive water once every 15 days. In the case of poor communities, half the family’s income is spent on water alone. Many are not connected to piped water and must buy water from mobile water tankers and contractors. In Aroura, a village near the capital city of Ramallah, the price of 250 liters (66 gallons) of water from a mobile tanker is $61.

Village of a-Duqaiqah, South Hebron Hills, West Bank, not hooked up to water grid; villagers purchase water from water trucks, paying 4 times as much as the average water tariff for private use in Israel | Courtesy: Nasser Nawaj’ah, B’Tselem, 19 August 2012.

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Webinar: Unrooting the Jewish National Fund

November 20
12 Noon Central
Zoom Registration

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) owns the land where over half the population of Israel lives.

It is best known around the world for its forestation, tree planting, and environmental conservation efforts. This ethical image is contrasted by the central role the JNF plays in the ongoing dispossession of Palestinans on both sides of the Green Line.

Join the Green Olive Collective in conversation with human rights activists Maya Rosen and Daniel Roth, whose recent report sheds light on the greenwashing tactics of the JNF and the way its deliberately opaque structure facilitates the expropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish settlement.

Presented by Green Olive Collective.

Online Film and Discussion: The Settlers

    November 13
    2 pm Central
    Zoom Registration

    After registration you will receive a link to watch the film prior to the discussion.

Combining history and headlines, THE SETTLERS is the first comprehensive look at the sensitive issue of Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the West Bank, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Radicals, idealists, messianic fanatics, true believers and political opportunists, living on the fault lines of an age-old conflict, come face to face with history itself. Today, the settlers threaten to destroy what little peace remains in the Middle East.

Register now and join us for a discussion of the film with:

  • Shimon Dotan – Filmmaker, university instructor on Political Cinema and Film Directing
  • Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro – Scholar, author, and Board Director at International Council for Middle East Studies
  • Moderator Lara Freidman – President, Foundation for Middle East Peace.

Presented by Voices from the Holy Land Film Series.

Mazin Qumsiyeh: Palestine Is a Climate Justice Issue

Join us to learn the environmental reality in Israel/Palestine today, what is being done by the land’s indigenous protectors. and what we can do to support their efforts.

We are honored to have one of Palestine’s leading voices on Palestinian activism and resistance, Mazin Qumsiyeh, an authority on the natural world of Palestine and environmental justice. Dr. Qumsiyeh is the founder and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History and the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University.

The world’s climate and environmental crisis touches every corner of the globe.The most vulnerable and marginalized populations of the world are bearing the brunt of climate change and suffering daily environmental injustice. Nowhere is that more true than in Israel/Palestine. For Palestinians, climate change is not just a natural phenomenon, but a political one. Israel‘s regime of occupation and apartheid, which denies Palestinians the right to manage their land and resources, greatly heightens the impact of the climate crisis for Palestinians, making them more vulnerable to all climate-related conditions.

Yet Israel cultivates an image worldwide as an environmentally conscious, “green” society. It is even considered to be an environmental leader for the world. The reality is dramatically different.

He is also the author of several books, including Sharing The Land Of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle and Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment, and he has been called “the most important chronicler of contemporary popular resistance in Palestine.”

When we gather online with Mazin Qumsiyeh, representatives from around the world will be meeting in Egypt for the United Nations’ global climate conference, COP27. As we will see on November 9th, the fight for climate justice for all is directly connected to the Palestinian struggle.

Sponsored by Methodist Federation for Social Change and United Methodist Kairos Response.

“You Can Be the Last Leaf” by Maya Abu Al-Hayyat

Maya Abu Al-Hayyat directs the Palestine Writing Workshop on the West Bank. She’ll read poems & be in conversation with poet Deema Shehabi.

    A Virtual Book Celebration!
    October 29, 2022, 1 PM CT
    Benefit for the Palestine Writing Workshop, Tickets $10
    RSVP and share!

Maya Abu Al-Hayyat is a Palestinian writer, storyteller, and mother based in occupied East Jerusalem. Each day she passes through Israeli checkpoints, like the infamous Qalandia checkpoint, to direct the Palestine Writing Workshop, one of MECA’s partner organizations. Maya and her team at the Palestine Writing Workshop have published award-winning Arabic children’s books and led hundreds of interactive workshops from Nablus to Silwan to Gaza for children, youth, librarians and parents on reading aloud, creative writing, and storytelling. Her work is grounded in the belief that art and literature can change lives and aims to improve Palestinian children’s literacy and also encourage their imaginations. She is a gifted storyteller who captures the attention of children of all ages (and adults too!). Maya also runs writing courses for former prisoners, helping them transform trauma into art.

She has published four collections of poems, four novels, and numerous children’s stories, including The Blue Pool of Questions. She contributed to and wrote a foreword for A Bird Is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry, and she is an editor of The Book of Ramallah. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Cordite Poetry Review, The Guardian, and Literary Hub. Please join us to learn more about Maya’s work and life in Palestine!

Deema K. Shehabi is the author of Thirteen Departures From the Moon and co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, for which she received the Northern California Book Award’s NCBR Recognition Award. She co-authored Diaspo/Renga with Marilyn Hacker and won the 2018 Nazim Hikmet poetry competition. Her work has also appeared in Literary Imagination, the Kenyon Review, Literary Hub, Poetry London, and Crab Orchard, and has been translated into French, Farsi, and Arabic; she has been nominated for the Pushcart prize several times.

Cosponsored by Middle East Children’s Alliance and Sacramento Bethlehem Sister City. Info: meca@mecaforpeace.org, 510-548-0542.

PRAISE FOR “You Can Be The Last Leaf”

“The Palestinian poet’s U.S. debut gathers two decades of her intimate testimony about private life in a public war zone, where ‘those who win by killing fewer children / are losers.’”—New York Times

“Al-Hayyat’s latest devastating and courageous collection captures the precarious everyday lives of Palestinians with enormous empathy and glistening clarity . . . The vivid translations by Fady Joudah will jostle readers into discomfort and pin Al-Hayyat’s stunning voice into their ears.”—Booklist

“Abu Al-Hayyat explores the broader political and geographic aspects of Palestinian life under colonial rule while at the same time interweaving the quotidian aspects of life and loss in such settings. Within these frictions of exterior trauma and private contemplations, large constraints and small freedoms, these poems soar.”—Chicago Review of Books

Investigate war crimes during August offensive on Gaza

© MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images

Amnesty International, October 25, 2022

The International Criminal Court (ICC) must investigate unlawful attacks committed during Israel’s August 2022 assault on the Gaza Strip as war crimes, Amnesty International said today in a new research briefing. Using ph​otographs of weapons fragments, satellite imagery analysis and testimony from dozens of interviews, the organization reconstructed the circumstances around three specific attacks, two of which were carried out by Israeli forces and one most likely by Palestinian armed groups. The briefing, ‘They were just kids’: Evidence of war crimes during Israel’s August 2022 Gaza offensive, sets out why these attacks may amount to war crimes.  

Amnesty International found that the two Israeli attacks together killed six Palestinian civilians. Throughout the August offensive, Israeli authorities boasted about the precision of their operation. Yet Amnesty International found that victims of these ‘precise’ attacks included a four-year-old boy, a teenager visiting his mother’s grave, and a 22-year-old student at home with her family. The third attack, which killed seven Palestinian civilians, appears to have been caused by an unguided rocket launched by Palestinian armed groups.

Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza lasted only three days, but that was ample time to unleash fresh trauma and destruction on the besieged population.
Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

“Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza lasted only three days, but that was ample time to unleash fresh trauma and destruction on the besieged population. The three deadly attacks we examined must be investigated as war crimes; all victims of unlawful attacks and their families deserve justice and reparations,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. 

“These violations were perpetrated in the context of Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade on Gaza, which is a key tool of its apartheid regime. Palestinians in Gaza are dominated, oppressed and segregated, trapped in a 15-year nightmare where recurrent unlawful attacks punctuate a worsening humanitarian crisis. As well as investigating war crimes committed in Gaza, the ICC should consider the crime against humanity of apartheid within its current investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” 

Amnesty International interviewed 42 individuals for the briefing, including survivors of attacks, relatives of those killed or wounded, eyewitnesses, and medics. Israeli authorities have denied Amnesty International access to the Gaza Strip since 2012, so the organization worked with a fieldworker who visited 17 attack sites and collected evidence such as photographs of weapons remnants. Amnesty International’s weapons expert and Evidence Lab analysed evidence collected on the ground, as well as satellite imagery and other open-source material such as footage of attacks.

Amnesty International considered it had sufficient evidence to assess the lawfulness of three of the 17 attacks it documented, and these are the focus of the report.

The organization wrote to the Israeli authorities and to Palestinian Islamic Jihad on 30 September 2022, providing a summary of its key findings and requesting comment. It had not received a response from either at the time of publication. 

Dozens of civilians killed 

On 5 August 2022, Israel launched what it described as a “pre-emptive” military offensive on the Gaza Strip, targeting Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its armed wing the Al-Quds Brigades. Israeli authorities said the offensive was in response to threats of attack.  

According to the UN, 49 Palestinians were killed as a result of the fighting. Amnesty International’s assessment is that 33 of these, including 17 civilians, were killed by Israeli forces.

Of the remaining 16 Palestinians who were killed, Amnesty International concluded that 14 were civilians. The organization gathered sufficient evidence to conclude that seven of these were killed by a rocket launched by Palestinian armed groups; it was unable to conclude which party was responsible for the seven remaining civilian deaths. These seven civilians were killed in four attacks, after which remnants of weapons were immediately removed, preventing Amnesty International’s researchers from accessing material evidence. As noted below, this removal matches the pattern identified in past cases where Palestinian rockets misfired.

In this conflict, rockets launched by Palestinian armed groups did not cause deaths or serious injuries among Israeli civilians.

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Gaza: The Longest Siege in Modern History

Video recorded October 3, 2022

In 1948, the tiny Gaza Strip was cut off from the rest of historic Palestine, absorbing a huge number of Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed from their ancestral lands.

In 1967, it was militarily occupied by Israeli forces, its inhabitants suffering from a plethora of colonial domination techniques and movement restrictions over the subsequent decades.

An unprecedented land, air, and sea blockade was imposed on Gaza since June 2007, constituting the longest siege in modern history.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 has noted in her latest report: “Israel’s apparent strategy is the indefinite warehousing of an unwanted population of two million Palestinians, whom it has confined to a narrow strip of land through its comprehensive 15-year-old air, land and sea blockade.” 

The outcome has been a harrowing process of de-development resulting, as the UN Special Rapporteur notes, “in a 45 percent unemployment rate, a 60 percent poverty rate and with 80 percent of the population dependent on some form of international assistance, in significant part because of the hermetic sealing of Gaza’s access to the outside world”. 

Besides this siege imposed by the Israeli state with Egyptian state collusion, the Palestinian people living in Gaza have been assaulted and bombarded by Israeli forces from land, sea, and air on a regular basis. Their cities, villages, and refugee camps have suffered from several Israeli military invasions, which have led to the killing of thousands and the maiming of tens of thousands of Palestinians. Centering the voices of Palestinian scholars and intellectuals from Gaza, this panel examines the political and historic context of this process, accounting for its enormous human toll but also highlighting the ongoing will to resist this oppressive colonial present.

Hosted by Darwish Visiting Professor in Palestinian Studies, Abdel Razzaq Takriti

Jehad Abusalim, PhD candidate, History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies Joint Program, New York University
Aya Al-Ghazzawi , Writer, English language teacher, Palestinian Ministry of Education
Swee Chai Ang , Orthopedic surgeon, Author
Hadeel Assali, Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Lecturer, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University
Fady Joudah, Physician, Poet, Translator