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2005-07-18

Three Women, Palestinian Christian, Muslim and Israeli Jew on Life Under Occupation

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As Israel prepares for a possible ground offensive in Gaza and Hamas says it will halt attacks, we speak with three women: Dr. Jumana Odeh, a Muslim Palestinian who lives in Jerusalem and is the Director of the Palestinian Happy Child Center; Michal Sagi, a Jewish Israeli who is active with Checkpoint Watch, a women’s human rights monitoring group and Rana Khoury, a Christian Palestinian who is Deputy General Director of the International Center of Bethlehem. [includes rush transcript]

A weekend of violence in Gaza threatened to topple a five-month-old truce and derail plans for the August pullout of Jewish settlements and soldiers. The Israeli military massed tanks on the edge of Gaza yesterday in preparation for a possible ground offensive.

Hamas said today it will honor the truce, reserving the right to "resistance and self defense." This follows a pledge from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he will do all he can to stop rocket and mortar attacks on Jewish settlements.

Last Tuesday, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed four Israelis in the town of Netanya. And Hamas has launched more than one hundred rockets at Israeli targets in Gaza over the past several days.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that despite the truce there would be "no restriction on our activities to halt the attacks at communities both inside and outside the Gaza Strip."

The Israeli Defense Forces renewed their practice of targeting individual Palestinian leaders. On Sunday an Israeli sniper shot dead a local Hamas leader, Saeed Seyam outside his home. And army personnel shot and killed a Palestinian man approaching the Jewish settlement of Netzarim. On Friday, Israeli helicopter gunships fired a missile at a mini-bus in Gaza City, killing four Palestinians.

Well, we turn now to a conversation about the daily realities of the Israeli-Palestinian confict. Three women peacemakers–Christian, Muslim, and Jewish–traveled through out the United States last month to share their experiences with American audiences.

  • Dr. Jumana Odeh, Muslim Palestinian lives in Jerusalem and is the Director of the Palestinian Happy Child Center. She supervises child health programs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem.
  • Michal Sagi, a Jewish Israeli who serves as the Executive Director of SHILO–Jerusalem’s Family Planning, Educational, and Counseling Center. She is active with Checkpoint Watch, a women’s human rights monitoring group which reports on its observations at Israeli military and police checkpoints in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • Rana Khoury is Christian Palestinian and lives in Bethlehem. She is Deputy General Director of the International Center of Bethlehem, a Palestinian NGO. Her father died in January of 2004 when he was denied passage at an Israeli checkpoint on the way to the hospital because he did not hold a "sickness permit" to attest to his massive heart attack. Even his American passport was not able to get him to a Jerusalem hospital.

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Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today we turn to a conversation about the daily realities of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Three women — a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew — traveled throughout the United States last month to share their experiences with American audiences. Dr. Jumana Odeh, a Muslim Palestinian, lives in Jerusalem, is Director of Palestinian Happy Child Center. She supervises child health programs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. Michal Sagi is a Jewish Israeli who serves as the Executive Director of SHILO, Jerusalem’s Family Planning, Educational and Counseling Center. She’s active with Checkpoint Watch, a women’s human rights monitoring group, which monitors reports on its observations at Israeli military and police checkpoints in West Bank and East Jerusalem. Also, Rana Khoury, a Christian Palestinian, lives in Bethlehem, Deputy General Director of the International Center of Bethlehem, a Palestinian NGO. Her father died in January of 2004 when he was denied passage at an Israeli checkpoint on the way to the hospital because he was not holding a sickness permit to attest to his massive heart attack. Even his American passport was not able to get him to a Jerusalem hospital. We began with Dr. Jumana Odeh, Michal Sagi and Rana Khoury. When they came into our firehouse, Dr. Odeh began by talking about the situation of the children she works with.

DR. JUMANA ODEH: Although it sounds happy, but Palestinian children are going through very difficult circumstances, and to be a doctor, the most frustrating, actually, when you feel that you can’t do anything for a sick baby or a sick child coming to your center. And the minute they arrive with their parents, or mainly with their mothers, you don’t ask the regular questions any physician on earth will ask — 'How are you doing?' and then you go directly to signs and symptoms and ask about the health of the child — you ask how did they arrive, how many checkpoints and roadblocks they had to go through, how many hours it took them to reach the center, and much more question than any other doctor will ask in other situations. Besides that, you have to be aware of their psycho-social, other aspects, rather than only medical, pure medical aspects. How much did it cost them to reach? Because of the long distances they have to go through, it is becoming so hard for people to reach. Beside that, the economical situation is too harsh for Palestinians. Then you go to the core issue, which is the health.

From — I wrote once a story about a child during the invasion of Ramallah, because actually I’m from Jerusalem but I live in Ramallah and Jerusalem, not only in Jerusalem. And I work mainly in Ramallah, so I have to go and come from Ramallah to Jerusalem and the opposite direction. And once when Ramallah was under seige, I had to stay in Ramallah all the way through, because I’m needed there. Like many other doctors, we were needed in the city. And I remember that the curfew was lifted. There was a long curfew for almost three weeks, then the curfew was lifted for only two hours. And you imagine what can you do within two hours. And I got lots of calls from my patients, especially that particular child, who was around six, and he had epilepsy. And they ran out of their anti-epileptic drugs, and they lived in a village next to Ramallah. So his father was calling, pleading for help, that they tried to enter Ramallah because the curfew was lifted only for two hours. They were not allowed to enter Ramallah within those two hours. And he was asking for medication. And he told me that 'My child is seizuring, he's fitting; he’s having his seizures on the checkpoint, right on the checkpoint while the soldiers were watching, and they are not allowing me.’ So I had to jump into that checkpoint, run to that checkpoint, give him the medication, calm down the child. And I remember him saying to me, "Please, I don’t want to fall down again! I don’t want to fall down again!" I’ll never, ever forget this story.

AMY GOODMAN: How old was the boy?

DR. JUMANA ODEH: He was around 5 1/2, six.

AMY GOODMAN: What happens at the checkpoint? Can you describe when it’s a family trying to get to the doctor?

DR. JUMANA ODEH: You know, first of all, I can give another story about what does it mean for me very personally. You know, yes, I’m a doctor, yes, I have special permits to pass. Yes, I am Jerusalemite so it’s much easier for me to go from one place to another. And I can’t compare myself with other people who suffer much more than I do. And always I compare myself with somebody, with a mother carrying her disabled child and going through hell.

But lately, my brother — my father, 1 1/2 year ago was diagnosed with having cancer. And he’s from Ramallah, so he needs a special permit to go to Jerusalem. Because his treatment wasn’t available in Ramallah, we have to go to Jerusalem. And only in one of the Israeli hospitals we found his treatment. So hopefully, that I could do this permit for him to go and come. And this permit is supposed to be only for patients, only for him as a patient and only for one day. Then later on, I could make — with the help of the hospital, I could make it for two months or three months. And hopefully, that the professor that is treating him — and I really admire this woman, and I want to acknowledge her name. Her name is Professor Dina Ben-Yehuda, and she works — she’s the head of the Hematology Department at the Hadassah Ein-Kerem Hospital. She was of a great help. She saved the life of my dad. And again, I will never forget her and what she did to my dad.

And she’s — the minute we are in the hospital, as my — as a patient and daughter, and everybody is taking his chemotherapy, we sit together, Arabs and Israelis, in one room. By time we become like family, you know? If somebody is complaining, everybody will go and try to help and ask about his or her health. And everybody is so friendly with my dad: the nurses, the doctors, everybody. And always, I wonder, if we can share this pain together, why don’t we share joy, too? So these are very painful stories, yet I do believe that peace will come one day, because there are some people, and many, I believe, within the Israeli system and the Israeli community, like Professor Ben-Yehuda and many other friends, and like Michal, like many other friends who go to Machsom Watch, which is the Checkpoint Watch, and they are very helpful. And many other doctors and professors that I know within the health community in Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Jumana Odeh lives in Jerusalem, works in Ramallah, and back and forth, is a physician, and describing going across the checkpoint, Muslim-Palestinian woman. The checkpoint, which brings us to Michal Sagi, who is an Israeli Jew who spends a lot of time at checkpoints. Why?

MICHAL SAGI: I need to go there. I cannot ignore the things that are happening, the things that are being done by using my name, my citizenship. I feel the need to witness and not to be able to say, "I didn’t know. I didn’t see," so —

AMY GOODMAN: Describe a checkpoint for us.

MICHAL SAGI: A checkpoint is not like here in the airport where someone wants to go in and is being checked for security, but nobody questions his or her right to go on board. In the military checkpoints around the West Bank and around Jerusalem, the soldiers can decide who is going to pass and who is not going to pass. On top of that, the majority of checkpoints are not between Israelis and Palestinians. Most of the checkpoints are separating a Palestinian village from a Palestinian town. So if — let’s say that you’re living in Hewara village, which is southern to Nablus, and you want to get to Nablus in order to get dentist treatment or for shopping or for university, school, whatever the daily needs that one need, they should go out in the morning, early. They would stand at the checkpoint, sometimes for hours, without knowing if they’re actually going to make it, if they’re actually going to pass it, because the rules are keeping the —- they keep changing the rules. One day everybody are allowed in, and the next day only people over 35 are allowed. One day students can go inside to university, and one day, no. People are being detained for hours, for checking, but also as a mean of punishment. And -—

AMY GOODMAN: What about you? Can you go back and forth?

MICHAL SAGI: No, actually. I can get to the checkpoint. I cannot cross it inside what we call Area A, which was during the — back during Oslo agreements, considered to be Palestinians’ areas under Palestinian authority. So I cannot go there. I can go to B and C. B is where, in terms of its civilian staff, is under Palestinian authority, and militarily it’s under the Israeli army’s responsibility.

AMY GOODMAN: How does the Israeli military treat you?

MICHAL SAGI: As the women of Machsom Watch?

AMY GOODMAN: The women of Checkpoint Watch.

MICHAL SAGI: They got used to us. They were amazed at first. 'Hey, what are you doing here in the middle of nowhere?' We really go inside, inside the territories into distant checkpoints, and at first they’re amazed to see us there. Then they are very disturbed by our presence. They’re sometimes very rude, sometimes not. One soldier once told me, 'Thank you for reminding me what it's all about,’ and some tell us, ’You’re being ungrateful traitors, go away.’ So it’s various, but they would prefer us not to be there.

AMY GOODMAN: What —

MICHAL SAGI: Which is exactly why we should be there.

AMY GOODMAN: And have you witnessed anything that you intervened in?

MICHAL SAGI: Yes. Let me tell you a story which is not a big drama. It’s a small story. Because that’s what it’s all about. It’s not a big drama. Those get into the news. I’ve been to a Kalandia checkpoint and —

AMY GOODMAN: Where is that?

MICHAL SAGI: That is southern to Ramallah, northern to Jerusalem, and it’s a checkpoint that many people are crossing daily because, like Dr. Odeh said, they’re going to Ramallah to work and they live in East Jerusalem or vice-versa. And it’s a big checkpoint, again in the middle of a Palestinian neighborhood, Kalandia, actually a refugee camp. There’s another checkpoint further towards Jerusalem. So why to have two? But that’s a different question.

So anyway, I met a teacher there. She lives in Jerusalem, teaches in Ramallah. And she left in the morning. Everything was fine. She was allowed to cross. When she came back, they declared a siege, or something similar to that, and she couldn’t go back. When I met her, it was the third day that the siege was held. And for three days, she came to the checkpoint, couldn’t cross, went back to stay with friends in Ramallah. Their kids, her husband, was back home in East Jerusalem.

I approached the officer, and I said, 'Listen, she's trying for three days now to go back home, and she has a permit. She’s allowed to cross back and forth according to the army’s law.’ And he said, 'Yes, I know. I'm sorry. Those are the rules. Today only humanitarian cases are allowed.’ So I got back to her, I apologized. I said, 'Listen, I tried, but I, you know, I didn't manage to help out.’ And then she said, 'You know, I didn't change for three days.’ Got back to the officer and asked him, would he consider not changing for three days a humanitarian case. And he was like looking at me, and he let her through.

So it’s a little story. It’s not a big drama. And these are the things that we manage to do. We don’t manage to do much. The soldiers, they’re not going to change the rules that are so sacred to them because of me. But every once in a while we manage to make them rethink or to question the axioms, which is basically what we’re trying to do with the Israeli society and the public opinion all over the world. We’re trying to make people to question the axioms. And that’s why we report, and we have written reports on our website.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your website?

MICHAL SAGI: It’s MachsomWatch.org. And all of our reports, we report twice a day from various checkpoints, we have two shifts a day. And after a few days it’s on the web.

AMY GOODMAN: How many people involved? And are you all women?

MICHAL SAGI: We are all women. And at the moment, we’re around 500 women. We have a group up north monitoring the checkpoints around Jenin City. We have the original group in Jerusalem monitoring checkpoints around Jerusalem and into the West Bank we get to, as I said, Nablus and to Hebron on the other side. And we have a group down south and in Tel Aviv.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you serve in the military?

MICHAL SAGI: Yes, I did.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you do?

MICHAL SAGI: That was so many years ago. I’ve been a teacher. If there’s anything positive that the Israeli army is doing, it’s giving education to underprivileged youth in Israel to bring them to a minimum standard of education. And I was teaching those guys.

AMY GOODMAN: Michal Sagi is with Checkpoint Watch, a women’s human rights group that monitors checkpoints in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We’re also joined by Rana Khoury who is in Bethlehem, lives there, but did her college and graduate education here at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Here the three of you are. You’re a Palestinian Christian. Dr. Jumana Odeh is a Palestinian Muslim. And Michal Sagi is an Israeli Jew. Why are you in the United States? Why did you come back?

RANA KHOURY: You mean on this tour? I think for a number of reasons. One, is to show that the conflict is not about religion. The fact that three faiths are presented here, the stories are different, but there is a common aim, which is to end occupation, end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians. And the fact that it’s not about religious differences. It’s about land. It’s about the denial of human rights for a nation, a people.

AMY GOODMAN: Rana Khoury and Dr. Jumana Odeh, Michal Sagi, with us in the studio.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return to three women, an Israeli Jew, a Palestinian Muslim and Christian. Rana Khoury is the Christian Palestinian who lives in Bethlehem. I asked her if she was an American citizen.

RANA KHOURY: It doesn’t matter. There are different classes of an American. I have a Palestinian ID, and once I enter into Israel and Palestine, I cease to be an American citizen. And so I cannot choose my American passport to travel freely. And so, I am basically in the town of Bethlehem. If I need to go to Jerusalem, I need to apply for a permit, and that’s very difficult to get. Not too many people get those permits. And so, even if I wanted to meet with Michal or to go to Ramallah, for example, a city that is 40-minutes drive away from Bethlehem, it would take me four to five hours. So I have to really think about going. And that’s the situation. And so, even if we want to meet after this tour, it’s going to be a very challenging experience.

AMY GOODMAN: What about you as two Palestinian women, one Muslim and one Christian? Is your experience in the West Bank of the occupation any different in terms of are you treated differently?

RANA KHOURY: No.

DR. JUMANA ODEH: I don’t think so.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Odeh.

DR. JUMANA ODEH: Actually. I don’t think so, that there’s any difference between Muslims or Christians in a way the occupiers treat. They treat everybody alike. So even maybe, maybe I don’t know, Rana’s experience is really sad. And I have lots of friends in Bethlehem, who can’t reach Jerusalem. And from many other towns of the country, they can’t go to Jerusalem. So maybe I’m a bit lucky that I am Jerusalemite, beside that I’m a doctor. It’s a bit easier for us to fight for the right of a doctor-patient relation in order to pass. But there’s no difference because of the religion.

RANA KHOURY: I mean, the image in the United States is that there is a persecution of Palestinian Christians by the Muslim Palestinians, which is completely ridiculous. I mean, the fact is — and the perception is based on the fact that there is a very high immigration rate amongst Palestinian Christians, but that goes back to other factors, but mainly it has to do with Israeli occupation and not with the fact that Palestinian Christians are being persecuted. They’re not.

And Dr. Odeh perhaps was referring — I mean, when we talk about checkpoints, it’s a very personal experience with myself, because I feel that the checkpoints were responsible partly for the death of my father, again, an American citizen. And a year and a half ago, he had a massive heart attack, and he was to be transferred for a hospital in East Jerusalem because there are no good health system in the West Bank or in Palestinian cities and areas. And at the checkpoint, he was held for four hours, trying to — I mean, the man was almost dead.

And the reason why he was held was the fact that he had the wrong permit. He was — he’s a hotel owner, and he has a permit that — as a merchant, meaning he goes into East Jerusalem or in Israel as a merchant. And on that day, because he was not — there was a closure that merchants could not go in Jerusalem, he needed a medical permit. The man was in an ambulance. For four hours he was held at a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. And then the only way to solve the matter after four hours of trying to connect to people was to call an ambulance from Jerusalem, where he was transported from that ambulance of the West Bank to an ambulance in Jerusalem in order to go to a hospital.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you get a medical permit if you’re in a crisis?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, that’s another challenge, as well, because in order to get a medical — in order to get a permit, you need to travel on a bypass road, bypass road meaning mainly it’s for Jewish-only settlers. And you need to travel on that road in order to get to a military headquarters, an Israeli military headquarters, in order to apply. And that in itself is a long, long procedure. You can go from 5:00 in the morning and get back at 5:00 in the evening, several days in a row in order to get a permit. And to get a permit, it’s not very easy. It’s not like — you need medical reports, you need — for a medical. If you need a permit to go as a worker, you hardly get that, and so on and so forth. So there has to be a very valid reason why would you need a permit to go into a place like East Jerusalem.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Jumana Odeh, how many people die at checkpoints?

DR. JUMANA ODEH: You know, there were — many women give birth at checkpoints. The latest statistic that there were 39 babies died on the checkpoints.

AMY GOODMAN: Died?

DR. JUMANA ODEH: Died. Died. Not only delivered. I mean, around, I think, 70-something, they were delivered at the checkpoints. This is from the beginning of intifada, but many — the reason why it is not only checkpoint. As Rana mentioned, medically speaking heart attack might be tackled in good hospitals, it might be tackled. But there was one reason, which is the heart attack for death, but another reason why to hold a patient for four hours, this is no explanation. I can’t explain, you know.

Again with the — some cases or women who delivered on checkpoints because they needed more help. That’s why they had to reach the — to try to reach hospitals. Otherwise they deliver in their homes or with the help of a TBA, traditional birth attendants, or doctors or nurses within their community. It is available those days, and we had to adapt, actually. When Rana was talking in medical community we are having new phenomenas, like back-to-back ambulance; this is back-to-back, which means from — one ambulance will come from the West Bank and one from Jerusalem, and then you transfer your patients from one on the checkpoint.

AMY GOODMAN: So they don’t care about the patient, they care about which ambulance the patient is driving in?

DR. JUMANA ODEH: Yes, so you have to transfer your patient from one ambulance to another back by back.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s that?

MICHAL SAGI: By the way, it’s the same — the same system work for goods that — there are checkpoints that are not for pedestrians, but only for goods, for flour, sugar, oil. And a truck comes from the Palestinian side, and the truck brings the food, for example, from the Israeli side, and then back to back they transfer the things from one truck to another, and then now they apply it also to human beings, to ambulances.

DR. JUMANA ODEH: Yes, actually the argument is why is that? Is it for the security of the Israeli people. I am with the security of the Israeli people. I mean, I wish that one day all Israeli kids will go to their schools peacefully and with no fear of entering any bus. At the same time I wish and I dream that one day will come for Palestinian kids to go to their schools peacefully and with dignity. The issue is, it has nothing to do with security reasons.

I give one example. When I applied, like many other people, applied for a permit for a sick person, like my dad who is 80 years old and he’s sick and he needed treatment, we go to Israeli system. We pay for it. It is privately we do it, so — but why this whole long procedure? It is just to humiliate people, more and more and more. I remember the first time I went for his permit, I waited maybe 40-45 minutes, and I started crying. I couldn’t take it. There was no explanation. The minute I come close to the — not only me, there are many hundred people do the same.

The minute I am close to the window, the soldiers start shouting, 'Go back! Go back!' Okay. Once, twice — how many times you can be humiliated at once, systematically? Second time, I were a bit equipped. I took my book with me. So it took me around 1 1/2 hour, and then I cried. I couldn’t take it. Third time, I decided, 'No, I will go equipped. I will have a book, a good book to survive this, and I call it antidote to the occupation, yes, and my water.' And I said, 'My main aim is to get this permit, bloody permit.' That’s why I could survive three hours, waiting for the permit, and I didn’t cry.

It doesn’t mean that we get used to this humiliation. Nobody likes to be humiliated. We are human beings. The issue is, that you find your ways to survive. Is it resilient? Is it that this is a coping mechanism? We try, and this we find a lot with children. We notice it with children, and I’m sometimes amazed how they can cope with all that, with all this pressure. So it is — there’s no answer, except that this is systematic humiliation in order to kill the spirit of Palestinian people. There’s no other explanation to that.

AMY GOODMAN: Michal Sagi, as we listen to these stories, what is the perception in Israeli society of what is going on in the occupied territories and especially at the checkpoints? Do they know the stories of Rana Khoury’s father? Do they know the stories of the patients of Dr. Jumana Odeh?

MICHAL SAGI: Some of them know, most of them don’t know. Most of them don’t want to know. It’s hard to witness. Most of the Israelis think that the checkpoints are a necessary evil, and that they don’t look nice and they don’t give us a good reputation in the world, but we don’t have a choice.

AMY GOODMAN: Why not?

MICHAL SAGI: That’s the Israeli point of view. It’s not my point of view.

AMY GOODMAN: And why do they say that there is no choice?

MICHAL SAGI: Because they believe that with the checkpoint, Israel is defending its citizens, with the checkpoints and the wall. The wall that is being built is the same. Israelis really believe that that will give them security.

AMY GOODMAN: And that wall, just a quick description? I know any one of you could do it.

MICHAL SAGI: Eight meters high, enclaves the whole Palestinian area, the whole West Bank, cutting the West Bank into pieces. Rana gave yesterday a good metaphor.

RANA KHOURY: I said we have become Swiss cheese. The fact that the Israelis are taking the cheese, and the Palestinians get the holes. And this is basically what — I mean, for example, I come from Bethlehem and Bethlehem at this point is being encircled by — it’s a 26-foot high wall, much higher than the Berlin wall. And it’s circling Bethlehem from three parts, the north, the west and the east — and south. And then the east is the bypass road. And so, if we can talk about something in two words, it’s an open-air prison. That’s the towns. It’s prisons with, for example, in the case of Bethlehem, three gates: two for people, one for merchandise. So the same sort of concept that Palestinians are not human. The merchandise gets the gate all on its own. Many kids will be living between walls so that, at this point, they’re talking about tunnels for the children to go to their schools from the area that is between walls into the city through what they are calling humanitarian tunnels.

AMY GOODMAN: There is a movement in the United States on college campuses to cut off — call for the cut-off of aid to Israel, stop doing business with companies that do business with Israel. As the Israeli here, Michal Sagi, what is your response to that? Do you support that?

MICHAL SAGI: We Israelis, and I am Israeli, part of the Israeli society, care deeply for Israel and its future, and this is exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing. I’m very pro-Israeli. I’m not pro the policy, but I’m very pro-Israeli. So I know that it’s going to be very hard for Israel if countries and companies will start boycotting us. But I think that we need a certain amount of pressure to go forward. We need a third party to get involved, but in a fair way.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean "but in a fair way?" What about the role of the U.S. right now?

MICHAL SAGI: "In a fair way" means to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians and to negotiate eye to eye, on eye-level, not to patronize, not to decide for the other what is good for them, but to really sit around a round table, and not otherwise. Obviously, the States is more towards the Israeli policy. And I’m —

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning the United States?

MICHAL SAGI: Yes. I’m not using the terminology of being — they’re not being pro-Israeli, because again, I am not — I don’t think that this is pro-Israeli. I think that it harms Israel. Continuing the occupation is destroying Israeli society. It’s harming us severely. We’re corrupting a second and third generation by occupying another nation. And by the way, I think it’s going to happen to you, as well, if — but that’s again, a different story.

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning?

MICHAL SAGI: Meaning, you cannot occupy a civil society and control a civil society and stay human and stay democratic and stay good human beings.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’re talking about?

MICHAL SAGI: Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. occupation of Iraq?

MICHAL SAGI: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you hope to accomplish with this tour right now? What do you see as a realistic solution? And what do you think of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader? What do you think of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli leader? Who wants to take that on?

MICHAL SAGI: In terms of what I’m hoping to accomplish in that tour is mostly to let people know, or at least to let people understand, that they should get more information and that they shouldn’t trust whatever they hear. They should go and seek the information for themselves in, for example, independent websites, not believe whatever the media, Israeli media or American one, for that matter, is giving them, because it’s not always what is really happening. So mostly, to get awareness and to get people to ask some question. And doing it together brings a different voice, which is not very often heard, a voice that says, it can be done. We can do it. It has to do with good will. It has to do with realizing that there is more than me in the story. There’s me and you. And some other little changes in the way we think. And it can be done.

AMY GOODMAN: Michal Sagi is an Israeli Jew with Checkpoint Watch. Rana Khoury, a Christian Palestinian who lives in Bethlehem. And Dr. Jumana Odeh a Muslim Palestinian, lives in Jerusalem and works in the Occupied Territories. Three women talking about life under occupation.

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