If one is not moved by this story which I first saw at Annie's Letters
, then one is lacking morally. The plight of the Palestinians in Iraq is a microcosm of what Zionists bequeathed to Palestinians, 7.2 million refugees, disposessed and dispersed to all corners of the earth. Some are in South America, some are in North America, some in Europe, some in Australia; many in the Arab world, and the vast majority within sight and mere kilometers of their rightful homes. I often wonder how any Jew with a modicum of morality could immigrate to Palestine, knowing full well that Israel was created on the demolished villages of Palestine and that Palestinians continue to be killed and continue to suffer.
UNHCR calls for seriously ill Palestinian children in Iraq to be medevaced
29 Jun 2007 15:54:46
GENEVA, June 29 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Friday issued an urgent plea for the immediate evacuation of at least a dozen seriously ill Palestinians – mostly young children – stuck in Baghdad or in a makeshift camp on the Iraqi side of the desert border with Syria."Without evacuation and life-saving medical help, they could die or suffer lifelong complications," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. "We currently have 12 cases in urgent need of medical evacuation, the youngest just 15 months old," he added. Last week a UNHCR team travelled to the isolated Al Waleed camp near the border with Syria and found that several young people among the 1,071 displaced Palestinians there were in serious need of specialized medical treatment. They included a youth with a hole in his heart, two children with Hodgkin's disease, one youth about to lose his leg because of a vascular disease and a young man with severe diabetes who is losing his sight. But Redmond said there were more cases in need of urgent attention. "We have also identified a two-year-old with cerebral palsy who has very low immunity, is in urgent need of physical therapy and has stopped eating.
Another child, a 13-year-old girl suffering from a spinal injury, will be permanently paralyzed from the neck down unless she gets treatment soon," he said adding that the girl's mother died a few years ago, her father was murdered in January and her home was burned by militia.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has also found other urgent cases in Baghdad, including a 15-month-old boy with spinal problems who is in danger of paralysis from the waist down, and a 14-year-old boy who has had 13 operations but suffers from severe urinary and bladder problems. UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been trying to provide proper medical care but this is very difficult in the dusty border camps and volatile Baghdad. There is a refugee doctor in Al Waleed but he cannot cover all medical needs. The UNHCR team that visited last week delivered a month's supply of multivitamins for 120 children. The UN refugee agency continues to receive reports from Baghdad of Palestinians who refuse to go for medical care because they are afraid for their safety. UNHCR knows of some people who refused to seek medical attention for fear of attacks and later died in their homes as a consequence.
A humanitarian solution is urgently needed for the remaining Palestinians – 1,450 of whom are living in dire conditions at Al Waleed and Al Tanf camp, and up to 13,000 still living in Baghdad from an original population of 34,000 in 2003. Those remaining in Iraq have no access to another country, and no communities to flee to inside Iraq. In the meantime, they continue to be targeted. UNHCR visited Al Tanf earlier this week and found conditions deteriorating there for the almost 400 displaced Palestinians amidst rising summer temperatures and no sign of a solution. "This is the hell that we have read about it in holy books. We are dying slowly and feel the world has forgotten us. How long are we going to stay in this desert?," asked one camp resident, reflecting the falling morale in Al Tanf. "Is the world so small and unable to rescue 10,000 Palestinian refugees from the killing, torture and hell of Iraq and the prison of this camp?"
As in Al Waleed, camp residents are facing medical problems and shortages. Mona* suffers from kidney problems and had to be medically evacuated to Syria two weeks ago to receive urgent treatment. She was not allowed to take her to young daughters and had to leave them alone in the camp while she was away.
Mona's husband sent her, the two girls and an adult son to the border after the family was threatened in Baghdad last year, but he and their other son have not been able to reach Al Tanf. "It is hard enough to be living in the camp under these terrible conditions, but my 22-year-old son is also becoming rebellious . . . he does not want me to speak to anyone or leave the tent," Mona added who's now back in the camp.
Life in the camp appears to be particularly hard on women. "In addition to everything else that we have to do, including feeding our children, teaching them and above all holding up patiently so that life goes on, our husbands are so stressed out and quite often they vent their anger on the women," said Nadia*.
Earlier this year, UNHCR and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) set up five tented classrooms for the 122 children living in the camp and this has helped raise their morale. "The school was a great initiative but still our children have no future in this desert. They have no touch with the outside developed world," said one mother.
* Names changed for protection reasons
Was so happy to see that the Houston Chronicle's
Mike Tolson covered the Ramallah Convention. I attended one at San Francisco's then new Hyatt Regency (with the revolving bar at the top) about forty years ago. For more information about the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine, the largest Arab-American organization in the US, visit its website, http://www.afrp.org/
Thank you for publishing the intriguing story Ramallah not far in hearts of visiting Palestinians: Convention celebrates links to the land some have left behind by By MIKE TOLSON.
Whether living halfway across the world, or only a stone's toss away from our heritage, we can not help but treasure and value what our parents and mentors have, by example, taught us to cherish. Warm family ties and good food trump conquest, cold politics and empty words every time, no matter where in the world you might be.... While I suspect our American newspapers tend to publish more Israeli news and views than Palestinian, I bet the internet plus many a book case & file cupboard are mainly full of millions of personal family pages, photos, pictures, descriptions, recipes, names, documents, books and notes from many Palestinians and their heirs all over the world who have kept Palestine alive in hearts and minds in ways a textbook never could.
And yes- I quite agree with Afif Safieh: "It's the optimists who make history, not the pessimists." !!!
Anne Selden Annab
For many Americans, Ramallah is little more than a name in a newscast, a troubled place where bad things are known to happen. For about 3,000 local conventioneers visiting Houston this week, it is home — literal for some, but for all the birthplace of an identity they are determined to keep alive.
The American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine, comprising more than 30,000 Palestinian expatriates and their children and grandchildren, meets every year to celebrate a history that goes back centuries and cultural traditions that are threatened by increasing integration into their adopted homeland.
"We are facing the same dilemma that the Irish and the Italians faced with new generations," said George Zaibaq, the convention chairman. "We have the advantage of being one large family. Our goal is that (our descendants) will know what their roots and ancestry are. When you know who your family is, it gives you an added sense of belonging and security and accomplishment."
The convention is a great social gathering — they call it the world's biggest family reunion, owing to a common origin in the 1500s — and every annual meeting features centuries-old dances and foods, a "culture camp" for the children and a traditional mock wedding. But the current state of affairs in the ancient West Bank town 10 miles north of Jerusalem is seldom far from anyone's thoughts.
"The connection is still strong," said Jamal Jubran, president of the federation, which has chapters in 14 states. "We left the city because of the bad political and economic situation, but about 60 percent of the land in Ramallah is still owned by the people who left. We help them as much as we can. The people there live under terrible conditions."
Ramallah Mayor Janet Michael, the first female mayor in the Middle East, can attest to that. Employment is spotty and services are hard to provide because of reduced revenue. She is trying to get the federation to donate a street sweeper to the city. For its shortcomings, however, Ramallah still offers many cultural attractions and a higher standard of living than some Palestinian towns.
It is an open, liberal city, and people who come to it are happy," said Michael, who attended the convention in part because she has four brothers living in the U.S. "It's a better place to live. The people there are accepting of those from all over."
Of Ramallah's 57,000 residents, only about 12,000 are Christian, Michael among them. Though the city was once almost exclusively Christian, she said there is seldom friction with Muslim Palestinians over religion. They are united by a common cause: establishment of a Palestinian state.
Afif Safieh, the Palestinian Liberation Organization mission representative to the U.S., encouraged those present to join other Arab-American groups in becoming increasingly vocal in politics.
"We have to prove to American society and American elected officials that being pro-Palestinian is not suicidal," Safieh said. "We are not a marginal minority, we are a mainstream majority."
He praised the Ramallah federation as the best organized of the Arab-American groups, and because it is Christian it is even better poised to communicate the Palestinian cause in American politics.
"We belong to a privileged element of our society," Safieh said. "It's a historically important moment for the Palestinian diaspora communities to shoulder much of the responsibility. We have to become actors in our history and not just subjects of history."
Safieh, who also is Christian, said there is increasing evidence of dissatisfaction within the American Jewish communities over Israeli policies, and the two historically opposed American interest groups are finding more common ground.
"We are passing through a very difficult moment in our history," he said. "The mood of pessimism and defeat is strong. But the degree of that pessimism should not be a measure of one's patriotism. It's the optimists who make history, not the pessimists."