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U.S.-Palestinian women promote awareness

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WASHINGTON, Oct 28, 2005 (UPI via COMTEX) -- Three women of three different faiths, one Israeli, two Palestinians have embarked on a speaking tour across the United States to educate Americans about the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Roni Hammerman, Sherene Abdulhadi, and Amira Hillal all felt the importance of speaking out about the lack of attention paid to Palestinian issues.

"Our goal is to show the American public the real face of the occupation, right now they are only showed one side," said Hammerman, a Jewish Israeli involved in several humanitarian organizations that monitor Israeli military actions. "Our own experiences can tell Americans what occupation looks like, it destroys societies, both Palestinian and Israeli."

All three ladies agreed that the greatest impediment to peace is Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. "The settlements are the most manifest signs of the occupation," said Hammerman.

According to Hammerman, the settlements and the costs of occupying the Palestinian territories are causing a financial crisis in Israel. "The settlements take up all of Israel's money. Israeli society is becoming polarized between the rich and the poor. Every third child in Israel goes hungry. Schooling is also disadvantaged," said Hammerman.

The Israeli government estimates that one out of six people are living below the poverty line. According to a recent report from Oxfam, Israeli welfare programs have been drastically cut recently while defense spending has not been touched. Since the start of the second intifada in 2000 the Israeli government has spent between seven and nine billion dollars in the military occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Among the women there was great dissatisfaction for President Bush's Road Map for Peace. "The road map is problematic, it doesn't stop the occupation, it doesn't put the two parties on an equitable basis," said Abdulhadi, a Muslim Palestinian who has devoted her career to Palestinian economic development.

The Road Map calls for "Palestinians to declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere."

"The U.S. is known to be biased in its implementation of the Road Map. It wants Palestine to clamp down on terrorism and to arrest political militants but it's not putting any pressure on Israel to stop building settlements and appropriating land. In my opinion it's a charade," said Abdulhadi.

Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. financial aid in the world, receiving over one third of U.S. aid to foreign countries, according to a Washington report on the Middle East. Every year Israel receives over three billion dollars in aid from the U.S. Direct and indirect military assistance makes up two thirds of the aid package.

"Americans need to know what is going on," said Hillal, a Christian Palestinian who works to disseminate information to Palestinians and Israelis about the present conflict and what can be done about it. "Palestinians are the victims of their support of Israel," said Hillal.

"The U.S. government has to think about what is really good for the region because automatically supporting a government's policy that brings about the political destruction, economic destruction, and social destruction of the Palestinians is not acceptable," said Abdulhadi.

The idea for the speaking tour originated from the lack of mass media attention paid to Palestinian issues. "It's hard to break into mass media, this is a hook, three women, three faiths" said Jacob Pace, program coordinator for Partners for Peace, the sponsor of the speaking tour.

The two-week speaking tour wound its way through Iowa, Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, DC, and Virginia.

Partners for Peace is a non-profit organization, which seeks to educate the American public about issues affecting peace and justice in the Middle East.


Copyright 2005 by United Press International

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