11/30/2012, 00.00
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The Doctor from Gaza: "Palestinians have invited the whole world to open their eyes"

Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian Muslim obstetrician and gynecologist, famous throughout the world for his book I Shall Not Hate, written after the death of three daughters and a niece during Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009). Talking to AsiaNews, the man emphasized the desire of the Palestinian population for a true peace with Israel. However, it can only be done with a full recognition of Palestine, which is a right and not a mere concession by the international community. Without a concrete action, peace is an abstract word. For the doctor, the Palestinian issue is a message for the whole world, divided by war and hatred.

Toronto (AsiaNews) - "Through Abu Mazen's request, the Palestinians have invited the world to open their eyes. The action helps all of us to move forward towards a path of peace." This is what Izzeldin Abuelaish told AsiaNews; Izzledin is Palestinian obstetrician/gynecologist, who like other people of his land has chosen the values ​​of love, peace and reconciliation, preferring them to the hatred and confrontation promoted by Islamic extremists and members of the Israeli right-wing parties. Commenting few days ago on the request of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), for Palestine's entry into the UN as a Non-member State, Izzledin pointed out: "Unfortunately, today the term 'peace' has become an empty word, abstract, without any real meaning. Instead, it implies having courage, giving up something in order to get it. Peace requires a constant commitment that enables one to touch the results first-hand, obtained through real action, through sacrifice. If all this does not happen, 'Peace' is a meaningless word."

The story of Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Muslim, is dramatic and marked by pain. Born in 1955 in the Jabalia refugee camp (Gaza), during the Israeli occupation, the professor was forced as a child to work to help his family. After a few years, he was hired for a period in an Israeli agricultural cooperative beyond the Gaza Strip. Here began a friendship with his Jewish directors. One day, while working, he discovered that his home had been destroyed by the Israeli military, which had opened a passage for tanks. His pain was great, but mindful of the friendship that had arisen with Israelis, he did not give in to hatred and thanks to the money he had earned, he enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Cairo and became an obstetrician/gynecologist. Returning to his homeland, after several training courses in the United States and Great Britain, he became the first Palestinian doctor to practice both in Gaza and in Israel, dealing every day with the humiliating series of military checkpoints on the border. On January 16, 2008 his wife died from a serious illness, leaving him with six children. Bessan, the eldest daughter, took on the role of mother. During Operation Cast Lead, on January 16, 2009, a grenade launched by a tank destroyed his apartment in the Jabalia camp, killing three of his daughters, including Bessan, and a niece. Another daughter was seriously injured. While the armored vehicle fired, Izzeldin was on the phone with Israeli television for an interview, that broadcasted live all the whole account of the tragedy, shocking the public. This pushed the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to declare a cease-fire on both fronts.

Since 2009 Abuelaish has been living in Canada, where he teaches general medicine at the University of Toronto. After the death of his daughters he created the foundation Daughters for Life, which helps Palestinian women to study and to emancipate themselves. The doctor is the author of the bestseller I Shall Not Hate, an autobiography translated into 17 languages, including Arabic and Hebrew.

"I left Palestine, but I continue to live in Palestine," he says, "I am not far from there because I still have my loved ones, my people live there, and suffer." When asked how he lived the week of the "Pillar of Defense" launched by the Israeli army against Gaza, he explained that "this situation must be analyzed, to give an answer." "What kind of war is it?", Izzeldin asks, "war is between two states that have an identical recognized status, but unfortunately this is not our case. In addition, I always wonder: what is the path by which we want to build peace? By admitting the right of the Palestinian people to live side by side with Israel and to have the same freedom, or by destroying with weapons the efforts for a peaceful way?".

As stated several times in his book, the professor points out that the world must make an act of courage and admit the possibility for Palestinians to live in a free state and not in a militarized zone, where the dialogue is carried out by machine guns on both sides. "The time has come," he continues, "to show courage and to obtain the peace treaty that recognizes the right of Palestine to exist before the international community."

The doctor noted that the Palestinian issue is a challenge to the whole world. "In my book, where I tell the story of my life," he says, "I wanted to give a message to the whole world. How can we face the often dramatic challenges of life without succumbing? Peace is just that, it is not a word, but something that must be found first in oneself to then communicate it to others. Talking about peace in this particular situation means walking together, helping each other, speaking with one voice and an international community able to listen."

According to Izzeldin, in Gaza and the rest of the Palestinian territories there are many who want a radical change for a true reconciliation. "My people who want to start this journey," he says, "have suffered through everything, but they have resisted and believe in peace and in a true relationship with Israel. Many have even sacrificed their lives for this cause. Their desire is to live in peace in a free and recognized country. So far our requests have only been on paper, but with this action at the United Nations maybe something will move".

For the gynecologist is very important to teach children these values. "Young Palestinians," he explains, "are highly educated and they know how important peace and reconciliation are. But how can you expect them to understand these values, if they have to fight for their freedom, which is a right. The international community has a duty to ensure this right to exist, that we deserve, that our young people deserve. Many people have sacrificed everything to teach the values ​​of peace and reconciliation with the Israeli people."(SC)



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