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Ramallah and Jericho

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Ramallah and Jericho, 7-9 June 2005. A visit to

 

I joined a group of American professors and students on a three day visit to Ramallah and Jericho. We were privileged to visit several Palestinian institutions, including the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), that was introduced to us by its  general coordinator, Dr. Azmi Shuaibi. We visited  the Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation for Victims of Torture, where we met its chief psychologist, Ms. Suad Mitwalli, and heard a report about the procedures of psychological torture developed by the Shabak in order to leave no physical marks while causing immense suffering and long-term damage to the victims of these inhumane and utterly illegal practices. We were also briefly introduced to some of the modern approaches to the treatment of trauma practiced in this center, and visited a nicely equipped room used for the treatment of children who underwent trauma. We then visited the offices of the Medical Relief Committee, where we were introduced to the immense hardships of administering medical assistance under the conditions of brutal closure, lack of resources and widespread poverty. In this context I would like to stress the sincere recognition expressed by our hosts to the contribution of the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights (headed by Dr. Ruchama Marton), which provides the only opportunity for many Palestinians to meet Israelis who are neither soldiers enforcing a brutal occupation nor settlers enhancing the military brutality by their own (fully backed by the occupation authorities). We also visited the village of Bil'in, that for the last several months has been a focus of non-violent struggle against the apartheid wall

[http://www.yairgil.com/bilin-050506/index.htm].

Our visit was extensively documented by members of the group as well as by a documentary film-maker who accompanied us. I will therefore be very short in this report, whose main aim is to share what I found to be the most important message of our direct encounter with the following well known Palestinian leaders, each one of whom met us in her or his own office and generously shared their insights with us:

Mr. Yasser Abed Rabbo, Head of the Palestinian Peace Coalition,

Dr. Saeb Erakat, Head of the Negotiation Department of the Palestinian National Authority,

Professor Hanan Ashrawi [see http://www.miftah.org].

And

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative.

They are well-know to the Israeli and international public, and do not need my introduction. It was very interesting to listen to each one of them and to notice nuances in their messages. However, there was an underlying common message that went through very strongly and convincingly. It was clear that collectively they represent the majority of the Palestinians, who wish to establish an independent, secular and democratic Palestinian State on the 22% of original Palestine that comprises the West Bank and the Gaza strip, a state that will establish peaceful relations and cooperation with the State of Israel. They all view Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, whose nature and scope remain totally in the dark, as a path to chaos and to strengthening the non-democratic Islamic fundamentalism. If I may add an interpretation I would wish to suggest that Sharon, following Barak's deceitful footsteps, is seeking to manufacture international legitimacy for yet another round of perhaps worse brutality against the Palestinian Nation. It may be very appropriate to point out that the Palestinians I met were all determined to continue their struggle for the fulfillment of their legitimate national aspirations. I noticed no sign of despair. On the contrary, I was impressed by the resilience of the Palestinian civil society, which stands in sharp contrast to the psychotic state of the Israeli extreme right and to the comatose state of the Israeli mainstream and academe. I am more convinced than ever before that the Palestinian aspiration for independence in a progressive, democratic and pluralistic State will ultimately be achieved. The choice that Israel faces is to let that happen without further mutual bloodshed or insist on further rounds of aggression and brutality that will dwindle the most precious resources of its own society, that is already on the verge of falling apart.

 

Finally, I would like to strongly recommend the two hotels we stayed in, City Inn Palace Hotel in Al-Bireh (02 2408080) and Royal Court Suite Hotel in Ramallah (02 2964040), as well as the pleasant and high-quality restaurants that we visited. Ramallah, we were told, is a five star prison. While in Jericho we managed to visit the very impressive archeological site "Hisham's Palace".

 I am grateful to the people who opened their homes and hearts to us, and to the Birzeit students who joined our dinners. I took particular interest in a (male) student of chemistry on one occasion (whom I tried to encourage to study physical chemistry) and in a (female) student of mathematics on another occasion (with whom I talked about my fascination with group theory). The former was impressed to learn that I knew where the place of origin of his family, Beit Nabalah (near Lod), was located. I would also wish to record my personal resentment of the fact that the Israeli group that intended to take part in the "Geneva Initiative" conference in Jericho on Thursday, June 9 (that included Dr. Yossi Beilin and Mr. Ophir Pines), did not decide to defy the politically motivated and totally unwarranted "instruction" by the GSS (shabak) to avoid visiting Jericho. I felt very welcome and secure. If my visit to "area A" was illegal (under the regulations of an entity that has lost its last shred of moral legitimacy), so let it be.

 

Jacob Katriel

Professor Emeritus, Technion

jkatriel@tx.technion.ac.il

0544 642672

 

 

 

 

Dr. Saeb Erakat, Head of Negotiation Dept.

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"God is not a real-estate broker".

Prof. Hanan Ashrawi

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Mr. Yasser Abed Rabbo, PLO Executive Committee Member, Head of Palestinian Peace Coalition.

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Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative.

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The green line is not deleted (this is a Palestinian map).

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Ms. Suad Mitwalli, Chief Psychologist, TRC

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Room for the treatment of traumatized children.

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26 June - UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

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Mobile clinic operated by the medical relief Committee.

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The barbarians were here

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.

Ramallah, a five star prison.

Ms. Ellen Posman, Professor of Religion, Baldwin College, Ohio, enjoying Ramallah.

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A peaceful afternoon with friends in Ramallah

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Tut (Hebrew: strawberry), trained in Rishon Lezion to watch horses, obeys commands in Hebrew. He got a job in Ramallah.

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What Tut is in charge of

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Dinner in the Royal Court Suites Hotel, Jaffa St., Ramallah, 02-2964040

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Tourist in Jericho

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Conclusion

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The Palestinians I met were all determined to continue their struggle for the fulfillment of their legitimate national aspirations. I noticed no sign of despair. On the contrary, I was impressed by the resilience of the Palestinian civil society, which stands in sharp contrast to the psychotic state of the Israeli extreme right and to the comatose state of the Israeli mainstream and academe. I am more convinced than ever before that the Palestinian aspiration for independence in a progressive, democratic and pluralistic State will ultimately be achieved. The choice that Israel faces is to let that happen without further mutual bloodshed or insist on further rounds of aggression and brutality that will dwindle the most precious resources of its own society, that is already on the verge of falling apart.