In Gaza, hand surgery gets remote assistance from Beirut


At a hospital in northern Gaza, a young patient is being prepared for hand surgery as one of the doctors leading the operation watches on – from nearly 200 miles away in Beirut.

In the Lebanese capital Doctor Ghassan Abu Sitta is guiding colleagues at Gaza's Al-Awda hospital via an online interactive platform known as Proximie, which allows the medical teams to communicate and work together via tablet computers.

Doctors in Lebanon attempted remote surgery in the region for the first time at the weekend with the tool. Its makers hope it will help doctors such as Hafez Abu Khousa in Gaza, whose patient needed specialist plastic surgery his team could not provide unaided.

“It is like the consultant is with you in the same room, giving you an opinion so that the surgery can be perfect,” Abu Khousa said after the operation.

He was guided via live video and by his Lebanese counterpart drawing markers over an image of the patient's hand.

Gaza has been run by the Islamist Hamas movement since 2007. Since then, Egypt and Israel have maintained a blockade on the territory, carefully monitoring the flow of goods and people to and fro. Restrictions on imports and fighting in the region have also affected medical facilities.

Hilton boycott organizers claim victory as Palestinian ‘right of return’ conclave in O. C. attracts


[MAY 29] — The fifth international conference by Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, showed poor attendance last weekend, drawing about 50 people to their O.C. event, Jewish observers said.

The “Uniting for the Return” conference was held May 25-27 at the Hilton Embassy Suites Hotel in Garden Grove after organizers moved it from UC Riverside earlier last week.

“We feel that this group has been marginalized,” said Esther Renzer, national president of StandWithUs. “We’ll continue to keep an eye on them.”

The three-day conference featured speakers, workshops and a “nakba [catastrophe] memorial service,” according to the group’s Web site.

Al-Awda, whose name means “the return,” describes itself as the “largest network of grass-roots activists and students dedicated to Palestinian human rights.”

The Al-Awda conference was originally scheduled to be held at UC Riverside, but was moved on May 20.

Lee Kaplan, founder of Stop the ISM (Israel Solidarity Movement), reported in FrontPage Magazine that Al-Awda “student organizers advised [James Sandoval, UC Riverside vice chancellor for student affairs,] ‘without explanation’ that the event was being canceled.”

Kaplan wrote that Sandoval objected to an element on the Al-Awda Web site that stated the conference reserved the right to decline any reservation. “Public taxpayer-supported universities cannot bar people from events because of their ethnicity or point of view as long as they behave in a lawful manner,” Kaplan wrote.

Kaplan told The Journal that he had shown cached pages of Al-Awda’s Web site to Sandoval. He said the pages included links to the Nazi Party and sites propagating the blood libel myth.

“I showed the chancellor the links on Saturday, and he wrote me back an e-mail on Sunday telling me about the cancellation,” he said.

Calls made to Sandoval seeking comment were not returned.

Al-Awda last met on the the Riverside campus in 2006 for a statewide meeting to discuss Israel divestment strategies. That event drew more than 100 attendees.
Moving the conference off campus “unquestionably” affected attendance, Kaplan told The Journal.

“The reason Al-Awda does this on a university campus is to attract students to their fold,” he said. “They do it on their campus because it’s cheaper; the California taxpayer has to pay for it.”

Al-Awda held its third international conference at UCLA in 2005 and its fourth conference at San Francisco State University in 2006.
Kaplan hoped the cancellation was a harbinger to getting groups like Al-Awda kicked off campus.

An online boycott of Hilton Hotels (http://www.petitiononline.com/hh052507/petition.html), which owns Embassy Suites, the site of the relocated conference, was coordinated with Stop the ISM and yielded some 400 signatures.

“For 50 Al-Awda participants, they lost 400 customers,” Kaplan said.

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Jewish group calls for Hilton boycott after O. C. hotel books Palestinian ‘right of return’ event

[MAY 25] — A Jewish group is calling for a boycott of the Hilton Hotel group, which this week is hosting an Orange County conference sponsored by Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC).

PRRC describes itself as the “largest network of grass-roots activists and students dedicated to Palestinian human rights.”

“Uniting for the Return: Fifth Annual International Al-Awda Convention,” is taking place at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Garden Grove May 25-27.

“The date of the convention commemorates the Nakba, the 59th year since the ‘State of Israel’ was declared on stolen Palestinian land, and which led to the Zionist occupation of all of Palestine,” the Al-Awda Web site stated.

The three-day conference will feature speakers, workshops, a Nakba memorial service and will to develop action plans for students, artists and media interested in promoting the right to return.

A “Say no to Al Awda Conference on Hilton Property” online petition (http://www.petitiononline.com/hh052507/petition.html) was started by Stop the ISM (Israel Solidarity Movement) founder Lee Kaplan.

“To Hilton Hotels,” the petition begins. “Embassy Suites Hotel — Anaheim South, in Garden Grove CA, has been engaged by the organization Al Awda to host its ‘Fifth Annual International Convention’ May 25-27, 2007. This organization aids and abets the complete destruction of the State of Israel … this is a virulently anti-Semitic organization, as evidenced by their members demonstrating in San Francisco, waving ‘Palestinian’ flags and chanting ‘Palestine is ours and the Jews are our dogs!’ in Arabic,” the petition states. “We petition the Hilton Hotels International: Do not let this happen: cancel the contract now.”

Lee KaplanAccording to Kaplan (photo, left) , the conference was originally to be held and University of California, Riverside, but was cancelled “without explanation,” Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs James Sandoval. told Kaplan, according to Kaplan’s article in FrontPage Magazine.
Kaplan hailed the seemingly random cancellation as a “powerful blow” to the anti-Israel movement on American campuses. “While Sandoval maintained that the cancellation of the event was the decision of the student organizers that included the Students for Justice in Palestine and Muslim Students Union at UC Riverside, both International Solidarity Movement-affiliated groups, the UC Riverside administration deserves praise for setting up ground rules that obviously made the event too risky for the organizers to conduct on campus,” Kaplan says, noting that the rules included opening the event up to the public, the media and providing outside security.

Kaplan says the rules included opening the event up to the public, the media and providing outside security.

Calls seeking comment from Kaplan, Sandoval and Hilton Hotels were not returned.

Kaplan urged the Hilton Hotels to cancel the conference and warned that various Jewish organizations and pro-Israel groups would organize a boycott of the Hilton Hotels chain.

‘Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid’ comes to UCLA


As part of UCLA’s Palestine Solidarity Week, on Sunday, May 20, the Southern California Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid (CEIA) staged a forum titled, “Israel, Zionism and Apartheid: The Case for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.”

Part of a movement developing nationally on behalf of Palestinians, this is one of many events leading up to a scheduled June 10-11 protest in Washington, D.C., dubbed, “The World Says NO to Israeli Occupation!” In what was a one-sided day of criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and advocacy for divestment, including Arab, Jewish and Christian speakers, the event drew a small crowd of roughly 100 guests to a humanities lecture hall on the UCLA campus. The group ranged in age, though most appeared to be middle-aged, and they came from within and beyond the UCLA community.

Greeting attendees was extensive literature on the topics of occupation, Marxism, socialism, feminism and more set out on tables run by the American Friends Service Committee, the student leg of the Socialist Party, a national group called Radical Women and others.

With a guard at the door at all times, the event kicked off with a speech by Zahi Damuni, co-founder of Al-Awda: The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, an association of activists and students. Damuni’s speech, titled, “The Consequences of Zionism: The Inherent Inequalities of the Jewish State,” raised the question of a Palestinian homeland, asking, “Why must we advocate for a fundamental right to return home?”

Damuni spent much time outlining a history of the Jewish people, with many inaccuracies. He described sympathy for “Jewish oppression,” which he used, unconvincingly, as a tool to imply sensitivity and an ability to see both sides.
He outlined the oppression of Jews in Europe beginning in the mid-19th century and ending, with pogroms, with no mention of the Holocaust.

“Zionism,” Damuni said, “developed because of a huge amount of discrimination that restricted their movements. The Palestinian cause is a direct consequence of Zionism.”

Appearing increasingly angry and red in the face, Damuni referred to the “exclusive Zionist state of Israel” as a “colonial project,” rooted in racism, that could have been established in three ways: 1) expel the people, 2) kill them or 3) slow transfer. Slow transfer, as he described what he believes has occurred in Israel, consists of the squeezing of a people. It has resulted, in his words, in “ethnic cleansing.”

“Although personally,” he said, “I don’t see what’s so clean about it.”

“We must be aware of our own power to make change,” Damuni said. “Boycotts, divestment and sanctions led to the dismemberment of apartheid in South Africa.”

Damuni advocated for these in America, although precisely “how” was yet to be determined.

Damuni is an Arab Israeli citizen from Haifa who identifies as Palestinian. His wife is from the village of Petunya. They cannot live together in their home, he said, because of the geographic division of their roots.

“But,” he said with clear derision, “I am a citizen. A happy-go-lucky citizen of Israel.”

Paul Hershfield of the CEIA followed Damuni with a short speech on “The Misuse of Anti-Semitism.”

A tall, thin man, Hershfield wore a black T-shirt and black pants, had a tattoo peeking out from under his sleeve, and addressed a question from the audience, “What is the difference between a Zionist, an Israeli and a Jew?”

He described how he was raised in a middle-class Jewish household. Born a Jew, he said he hopes to die “a human being.” He said he is more interested in humanity than racial/ethnic identity. For this choice, Hershfield described how Jews and Zionists often label him a “self-hating Jew” and discredit his voice on the topic of Israel. Because he criticizes Israel, he is often, he said, deemed an anti-Semite.

“Anti-Semitism,” Hershfield said, “is the hatred of Jews for no reason.”

He argued that in his opposition to Israel, “we know what our motivations are.

If it’s for justice — it is not racist to oppose a racist ideology.”

Introducing the next speaker was Barry Weiss of the CEIA, a descendant of Holocaust survivors. Weiss explained his Holocaust roots as “all the more reason why I oppose Israel’s policy of oppression on another people.” Appearing solid and peaceful in his belief that Israel should not echo the oppressive past inflicted upon his ancestors, Weiss was the most convincing in his arguments.

Weiss introduced Samuel A. Paul, an ordained Pentecostal minister who holds a doctorate in religious and public policy from Fuller Theological Seminary and was active in the 1980s student movement in South Africa.

In his speech, “Lessons From South Africa,” Paul described the demise of apartheid in South Africa in 1994. It was the first time in the history of his nation, he said, “that white and black joined to find solutions.”

“Out of the struggle for revolution,” Paul explained, “came liberation for all.”

A South African Christian of Indian descent, Paul is not a citizen of India, he explained, but also not white, so he was not allowed to be considered South African under the apartheid rules. Despite the fact that he is Christian, he said, his color negated his inclusion in that group, as well. This changed in 1994 under the new regime, when he was finally deemed a South African citizen.

Paul’s presentation reached near-gospel outbursts that came at unexpected and often flat moments. His optimism about South Africa today preserved the idealism of the “rainbow nation” while negating the large gap between upper and lower classes, neglected and impoverished townships, and unemployment that continues in his country. To bolster his argument, he painted things prettier and more equal than what has been depicted of today’s South Africa in news and other accounts. Paul created a simplistic recipe for change, attributing negotiations and compromise as having been the solo means of reform in South Africa.

“Dialogability,” he explained, “only survives under positive intellectual pluralism.” Apartheid government was anti-dialogue, he said.