Talk Nation Radio for August 6, 2009
Dr. Alice Rothchild, Settlements in East Jerusalem as a Roadblock to Peace
We continue our conversation with
Dr. Alice Rothchild author of 'Broken Promises, Broken Dreams--Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience'. (Royalties from the book are donated to Jewish Voice for Peace Boston.)
Negotiations with Israel on a possible settlement freeze have fallen short. The settlements are an obstacle to peace, explains Dr. Rothchild. Other crises for Palestinians such as the ongoing blockade of Gaza continue, we hear about the lack of health care, and the lack of information getting out to Israelis and Americans about what is really going on in Palestine.
This is Part two of an earlier program. Part one can be found here. Both programs stand alone.
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Our theme music is by Fritz Heede
We also hear, We Shall Not Be Moved, performed by 'A Besere Velt' choir. In English their name means, 'A Better World'. Dr. Rothchild and her husband sing in this community chorus, which is part of the Boston Workmen's Circle. [You can find a link to this Music here.]
From Chapter 11, Broken Promises, Broken Dreams, 'The Gaza Community Health Program has documented that children in Rafah have experienced extreme levels of violence and trauma and this affects their emotional and cognitive health and development. Here a young boy pretends to shoot at us.'
We met two Israeli women, Noa Kaufam on the left, Ella Yedaya on the right, doing alternative military service at PHR I, Physicians for Human Rights, Israel. Alice Rothchild M.D., second from left.
From today's broadcast Dr. Alice Rothchild, on the Israeli settlements: 'I think that understanding the impact of the settlements is critical to understanding the conflict. Because if you can imagine that there is this territory called the West Bank which is 22% of historic Palestine, which in the 1980's [Yasser] Arafat said OK just give us the 22% and we'll agree to lay down our arms and recognize a two state solution. And then you imagine, since 1967 a steady growth of Jewish towns and cities which are called settlements into this territory so that now there are some, almost 500,000 Jews living in settlements and in greater Jerusalem and in ever expanding neighborhoods in Jerusalem; this is a major land grab.
It also involves the most fertile soil, and the water aquifers, and in the Middle East, water is gold. So what the settlements do is they create facts on the ground, and these facts on the ground are totally in favor of Jewish settlers. So that when you travel around the West Bank, when I travel around the West Bank, you see all of these cities that are built on hilltops and then in the valleys there are Palestinian towns that are basically starving, that don't have enough water, that don't have a good road, that don't have electricity. And what happens with the settlements is that there are sort of approved settlements, which are still illegal, and then there are unapproved settlements, which are also illegal. And the unapproved ones are the little caravans and the settlements keep going further and further into the West Bank, and its totally destroying the Palestinian economy.
Peace Now said it is something like, I don't know whether it's 93% of settlements are built on private Palestinian land. There is some number that's just stunning. So this is a land grab. And this is attempting to create facts on the ground that when there is a final settlement will be in favor of Jews owning more territory without Palestinians in it.
So I think the fact that Obama actually called attention to this was very important, I mean as opposed to Bush who said, Oh settlements are OK and sort of gave his blessing. But it's not only settlements, it's the fact of settlements'.
Dr. Alice Rothchild is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and she has devoted much of her medical career to working on behalf of poor and under served communities. She has been a tireless advocate for woman's rights, and was Medical Director of the Women’s Community Health Center in Cambridge, Mass. during the 1970s. She then co-founded the non profit medical organization, Urban Woman and Child Health, Inc. in Jamaica Plain, Mass. and later joined the staff of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She became a member of the staff of Harvard Community Health Plan, now Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates.
During our interview July 27, 2009, Dr. Alice Rothchild spoke about the significance of Israeli settlements when it comes to any peace talks or other kinds of negotiations. She also addressed the health care crisis for Palestinians, especially women, who often must give birth at home in unplanned natural pregnancies due to a lack of ability to cross checkpoints to get to a hospital.
See Dr. Alice Rothchild's article, Avigdor’s Ascent here. And her more recent piece, Lieberman's Ascent has roots in 60 years of Jewish history, here.
She also warns Jews and others about evangelical leaders who would call on them to make Aliya, [also spelled, Aliyah] a spiritual journey to Israel:
'I would say that making an all with people whose main goal is to get you there so there can be an apocalypse and you can either die or convert is a really dubious kind of decision and that Jews who do that have basically sold their soul. And a lot of settlements are funded by the evangelical right. So you have to ask, with friends like this? What are you doing? It's another one of those serious problematic things in political history'.
This is the Jewish Government's description of Aliya.
Dr. Rothchild expressed these concerns in response to our questions about Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of Wings of Eagles, a group that raises money through infomercials asking Christians to give money to pay air fare to bring Jews from Russia, Ethiopia, and other places, to Israel. The fund raising videos feature former Watergate felon, Charles [Chuck] Colson, singer Pat Boon, and US Senator Joseph Lieberman, endorsing the Rabbi. Some of the fund raising videos began with the words, end days' repeated three times.
Here is a link to an article by Bill Berkowitz in Talk to Action, about Rabbi Eckstein. He points out that Eckstein partnered with Ralph Reed in 2002 to found, Stand for Israel. In his own descriptions of what his organization does, Rabbi Eckstein says they raise money, pray, work to build support for Israel, and lobby.
Photos in chapter 5 of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams..'Jerusalem is also the center of Jewish religious Orthodoxy. On the left, women are praying at the Western Wall. On the right, an Orthodox man in full beard and tall black hat waits for a bus, praying.'
As of March 2008 in Gaza, health care conditions had deteriorated to the point where many complicated surgeries could no longer be done, that according to a Time Magazine story by Tim McGirk. Palestinian children face starvation, stunted growth, and the entire population faces extreme risks from diseases like tuberculosis, which had risen nearly 60% by 2003. Still the blockade continues and health care workers cannot get through with medical supplies or to offer their assistance.
Other credits: We also hear clips of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who called Israel's eviction of 50 Palestinians, August 2nd a provocation. Norman Finkelstein, explains part of the history of what Hamas offered prior to the Israeli attack on Gaza. Did Israelis reject a more moderate Hamas that could have been a partner?
BBC Middle East reporter, Katya Adler, interviews students in settlement re land for peace.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says no to a freeze on settlements.