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STEVEN BROWNING: These are extraordinarily committed professionals, working under the most incredibly difficult, horrible conditions. We heard stories of working 72 hours straight, carrying water up to wash their surgical instruments from the river.
MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, Iraqi doctors demand change.
PORTER: Plus, Iran’s Kurds speak out on Iraq.
GOLAH LAHMADINIAH: I think if they have a better situation all the Kurds in the world would be happier because we’re close to them. I’m very glad myself and I’m hopeful in the situation of the Kurds getting better. And in the next government in Iraq they would have a share.
PORTER: And a look at Africa’s Hot Zone.
JULIA TAFT: What everyone sees when they go down there is the beginning of a social meltdown and a meltdown of governance.
MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.
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MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.
PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. At first it was all about security. Now, US administrators in Iraq must also focus on creating jobs and getting the country working again. But many of Iraq’s most-skilled civil servants were in some way associated with the past regime, seen as corrupt and brutal by many lower-ranking workers. So how will the new workforce look? Reporting from Baghdad, Alastair Wanklyn looks at one example, Iraq’s medical sector.
[The sound of doctors at a street protest.]
ALASTAIR WANKLYN: On a street in central Baghdad around 100 doctors are calling for change. They want salaries, and a clean-out of those colleagues who in the past perhaps did more thieving than healing.
DR IMALI UDDIN AS-SAUD: I want to tell you that Iraqi people accept the war, accept the destruction, accept the death and the crippled people. All this just for one positive thing, the change. Iraqi people want the change. So if after all that mess you came back and you see the same faces, the same leaders, what’s going on?
WANKLYN: Doctor Imali Uddin As-Saud says he and his colleagues know better than the new US administrators which individuals were the rotten apples in a ministry long suspected of losing funds and medicines through corruption. So the US official responsible for healthcare, Steven Browning, has come to hear the doctors’ complaints.
[The sounds of a conference.]
STEVEN BROWNING: Yes, my name is Steven Browning and I have the honor of representing the coalition provisional authority. As a senior advisor to the…
[The sound of Iraqi doctors speaking at the conference.]
WANKLYN: Iraqi doctors take turns to speak and to call for a rejection of those who held senior posts in Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party.
[More doctors speak at the conference.]
BROWNING: These are extraordinarily committed professionals, working under the most incredibly difficult, horrible conditions. We heard stories of working 72 hours straight, carrying water up to wash their instruments, their surgical instruments from the river. As we look at this Ba’athist, the complexity of this Ba’athist regime, I don’t believe that all these administrators were part and parcel to the Saddam regime. It’s clear there were those almost as if comissars who controlled, and others were just those who cooperated with the Ba’ath regime because that was the party in power.
WANKLYN: That belief, that the comissars should burden the blame, has resulted in a decree by the US overseer of Iraq’s reconstruction banning the four former top tiers of party membership from public office. Paul Bremer said the move would “de-Ba’athify” the public sector and send a signal of renewal to all Iraqis.
[The sound of doctors at a street protest.]
WANKLYN: But even that is not enough for some of the doctors protesting in Baghdad. They say some former officials may lie outside the four categories of Ba’ath Party membership but still have bloodied hands. One of these is Dr. Ali Shnan, who held a deputy ministerial post in the Saddam Hussein government. He defends his record back then and says he should be allowed to return to office.
DR. ALI SHNAN: You know that there is a difference between, you believe in the Ba’ath as I did, and you are speaking about policy of a person. There is much difference and you can understand what I mean.
WANKLYN: For now, Dr. Ali Shnan is being refused a return to the Ministry of Health; he refused to sign a statement denouncing his former party. Steven Browning says he’s asking all appointees to renounce past links to the Ba’ath Party, but acknowledges that more measures may be needed to create a thoroughly new administration.
BROWNING: We’re doing our best. I feel in the Ministry of Health we’ve made wise decisions. That’s not to say that based on some of the things I heard today, and I’ve asked for some evidence. If there is some evidence of, for example, of graft or theft or corruption, I’ve asked these doctors to bring the specifics to me because we will not tolerate thieves in the government.
[The sound of a baby ward.]
WANKLYN: But as the protesters return to work at their wards, such as at this children’s hospital in Baghdad, they reflect that reform needs to be farther-reaching than just a renewal of regime. The official salary for a doctor can be as low as $10 US a month, so US administrators also need to revitalize the economy, and create jobs with meaningful salaries. For Common Ground I’m Alastair Wanklyn in Baghdad.
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MCHUGH: The ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq is prompting people in nearby countries to imagine new possibilities for their future. Kurds make up 7 percent of the population in Iran and they are closely watching events unfold for their kinfolk in Iraq. As Roxana Saberi reports from Iran, many of the Kurds there are envisioning what developments in Iraq might mean for them at home.
[The sound of people talking in a hallway.]
ROXANA SABERI: To many of the hundreds of Iranian Kurds gathered at a Kurdistan University Conference, a border cannot block the bonds they feel with their kin in next-door Iraq.
[Sound track from a Kurdish film]
SABERI: Here, in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, they’re watching films and talking about atrocities they say the ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein committed against Kurds in Iraq.
GOLAH LAHMADINIAH: [via a translator] I am in agreement that Saddam has fallen. Saddam is a killer. No one said anything about what he did, and he killed many Kurds.
SABERI: Golah Lahmadiniah is a 21-year-old student of English literature. Though she is an Iranian Kurd, she feels ties to Kurds in Iraq, who fought a long battle against Saddam Hussein and his predecessors for autonomy and for their basic human rights.
GOLAH LAHMADINIAH: I hope the situation of the Kurds and the people of Iraq will be better in the future. I think if they have a better situation all the Kurds in the world would be happier because we’re close to them. I’m very glad myself and I’m hopeful in the situation of the Kurds getting better. And in the next government in Iraq they would have a share.
SABERI: Like Golah, many of the Iranian Kurds at this conference believe the departure of the Iraqi president will give Iraq’s more than four million Kurds new opportunities. But it’s hard to ignore conversation here about what his removal also might mean for Kurds outside of Iraq, including those in Iran. Determining the actual number of Kurds in Iran or anywhere else is very difficult. The CIA World Fact Book says there are five million Kurds in Iran; some inside Iran speculate the number may be as high as 10 million An estimated 25 to 35 million of them live in parts of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and the former Soviet Union, making Kurds the largest ethnic group in the world without their own official homeland. Many of Iran’s Kurds have admired the de-facto self-government enjoyed by the Kurds of northern Iraq in the past decade or so. Now that Iraqi Kurds are set to play a significant role in their country’s future government, many here wonder what effect they might see in Iran.
SAJAHDI BAKHTIAR: And Iraq would be that country which is gonna be run by a parliamentary sort of system throughout every religion, every ethnic group can have their own rights.
SABERI: Sajahdi Bakhtiar, an English literature professor at Kurdistan University, says he believes events in Iraq will have some positive effects on Kurds in other nations, such as Iran, Turkey, and Syria. He refers to the area where Kurds are scattered across the Middle East as Kurdistan.
BAKHTIAR: In my idea, these events in the actually past two months in Iraq, which led to the downfall of a dictator regime, throughout the history of humanity, can be, can have positive effects on this situation. And actually political, economic, actually cultural conditions of the Kurdish nations in all parts of Kurdistan. So we are hopeful that these events can lead to a better democracy in, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan but also in the other parts of Kurdistan.
SABERI: Throughout history, from the time of the Persian Empire to today, the Kurds have remained a minority pushing for more say in governments. Iran’s Kurds have shown an independent spirit throughout Iran’s modern history, rebelling at various times against efforts by the central government to restrict their demands for more rights. After Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, the new regime and Kurdish guerrillas who opposed it engaged in intense fighting. But since 1983 the government has asserted its control over most of the Kurdish area. Most of Iran’s Kurds are Sunni Muslim, like their cousins in northern Iraq, living in a majority Shiite Muslim country. Many of them believe Iran’s current Shiite Muslim regime discriminates against them. Today, while some of Iran’s Kurds advocate a new nation unifying Kurds from various countries, others say they’re willing to settle for autonomy or a more democratic system within Iran. Many leaders in Iran and Turkey have worried that if Iraq’s Kurds exploit the US-led war to pursue greater autonomy, it could create unrest among their own, larger Kurdish populations. But this is a notion Iran’s Interior Minister dismisses.
MOUSAVI LARI: [via a translator] The people of our society are related to each other, but what is common in Iran and among Kurds in Iran is their feeling of being Iranian.
SABERI: Mousavi Lari says what happens in Iraq will affect Iran. But he says his country is not worried about harmful consequences.
LARI: [via a translator] Kurds of Iran may like Iran very much and I think that all Kurds who are living in Kurdish areas of Iran, they feel they are Iranian and they insist on it, more than anyone.
SABERI: Many of Iran’s Kurds say they do enjoy more liberties than their kin in countries like Syria and Turkey.
[Sounds of Moslem calls to prayer]
SABERI: Kurds here are allowed to worship in their own mosques, wear their traditional clothes in public, and play Kurdish music. And some analysts say Iran does not discriminate against Kurds because of their ethnic origin or language, but for being Sunni Muslims. They point to Shiite Kurds like Abdullah Ramazanzadeh, who has managed to become the Presidential Cabinet’s spokesperson. But many Kurds are demanding more. They say the country’s Shiite leaders control local government offices, pressure their media, and prohibit them from teaching the Kurdish language in schools. Though Kurds have 24 members in Iran’s parliament, some say these representatives lack sufficient powers. There are also no legalized Kurdish political parties in Iran. Kurds like Hossein, a university student from Tehran, say they are optimistic that Kurdish participation in a future Iraqi government can help Kurds in Iran.
HOSSEIN: I think America continue his interests, but he no kill Kurds, he no prohibit his language, his thoughts, his party in Iraq. At the same time, if Iraq establish a democratic government, Iran perhaps permit me using my language in school, perhaps release [the Kurdish] political party in Iran.
SABERI: Others, like Golah, the English literature student, say if change comes, it should be gradual.
GOLAH LAHMADINIAH: [via a translator] I think we are more free in Iran, more than Kurds in Turkey and Iraq. Maybe not very good, but we are satisfied in our situation. We don’t want another revolution. We agree with reforms—just that.
SABERI: Most people here agree it’s just too soon to tell what might happen as a result of events next door.
[The sound of Kurdish music.]
SABERI: But as they go about their daily lives, many say, their thoughts are pointed west to Iraq and east to the capital of Iran. For Common Ground, I’m Roxana Saberi in Tehran.
[The sound of Kurdish music.]
PORTER: South Africa’s right wing extremists, next on Common Ground.
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PORTER: Last year right-wing extremists planted bombs in Soweto and other South African cities. Newspapers widely reported the sabotage, and the government quickly made arrests. Now, as the alleged perpetrators await trial for treason, residents are still divided over how great a threat these right-wing movements pose to the country’s stability. In the first of a four-part series, Reese Erlich reports from Soweto.
[The sound of people walking on a gravel path, followed by an opening gate.]
REESE ERLICH: Josephina Monarang walks along a dirt path past corrugated metal shacks in this impoverished section of Soweto.
JOSEPHINA MONARANG: [via a translator] It was the 29th of October, when, it was around 12:00 midnight, we were all sleeping. We first heard a sound, something like “sssssssh” and then all of a sudden made a “boom” sound. And we had kids crying and then we started running to see what happened.
ERLICH: What residents couldn’t have known at the time was that right-wing extremists had planted a bomb at a nearby railway line. A piece of steel track flew 500 yards and crashed into one woman’s home. Authorities say the bombing was the work of an all-white group called the Boermag.
MONARANG: [summarized by a translator] The little girl told us that her mother had passed away. We walked into the house, her brains splattered all over and there was blood all over the place. And we ran around trying to get hold of the police and the ambulances.
ERLICH: That same night, Boermag also allegedly placed bombs at a Soweto taxi depot and at a mosque. Police say the Boermag blew up strategic targets around South Africa in November and planned to assassinate then-President Nelson Mandela. The government has charged 18 Boermag members, including three active duty military officers, with sabotage and high treason. South Africans disagree on how serious a threat these right-wing extremists pose. Henri Boshoff, a military analyst with the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, says Boermag is not a national problem.
HENRI BOSHOFF: This is a small group, but still they’ve got the capacity to do some damage. But they will do the damage on the local level. They haven’t got the capacity to overthrow the government or to pose a serious threat to the government.
ERLICH: Paul Setsetse, spokesman for the Minister Of Justice and Constitutional Development, says the threat is far more serious.
PAUL SETSETSE: They could cause untold harm if they were not stopped. These were well experienced people with the necessary skills to make bombs. The threats could be quite huge. You know, they were targeting the national infrastructures such as the dams, the railway lines, the bridges.
ERLICH: Professor Albert Venter, an expert on right-wing groups at Rand University, says only a small minority of white South Africans support right-wing extremist ideology, and almost none support terrorist tactics.
PROFESSOR ALBERT VENTER: There are still racial, racist attitudes in the white community. There is no denying that. My judgment is that maybe 5 or 6 percent of the people, which you mentioned, could be sympathetic to, at least to some of the ideas that these people have in the sense that they, let’s call it white supremacist ideas. But that does not turn them into revolutionaries.
ERLICH: Professor Venter says Boermag further alienates white South Africans by calling for creation of an all-white, Christian nation. And, he says, they promote Christian fundamentalism.
VENTER: These specific people that we’re talking about have a specific interpretation of the Christian Bible. As a matter of fact they have their own version of the Christian Bible. The white Afrikan speaking of South Africa, so-called Afrikaners, are God’s chosen people and that they are in South Africa to bring the light of the Christian civilization and so on. They use that type of symbolism.
ERLICH: Professor Venter says the extreme right-wing is unlikely to develop significant support so long as the country’s economy remains stable. He notes that violent nationalist movements in former Yugoslavia, for example, arose during hard economic times.
VENTER: Very few white south Africans find themselves without a job or find themselves without access to some form of income. Also, white South Africans have gone to court and had their rights affirmed by the court. Things have been going fairly smoothly for people who felt—some people at least—felt that the walls of Jericho had come down and that there was no future for white South Africans in this country. And it didn’t turn out that way.
ERLICH: Right-wing extremist activity in South Africa reached its peak towards the end of 1993 and early 1994, during the run-up to the country’s first democratic elections. Militants from the all white Afrikaner Resistance Movement and elements within the South African military engaged in violent actions aimed at disrupting the elections. A right-wing coalition received 425,000 votes nationally in the 1994 elections, but by 1999, the combined right-wing vote was only 174,000. Kobus Mostert, Executive Director of the conservative organization Afrikanerbond, says the African National Congress government has undercut extremism by allowing for the creation of all-Afrikaner areas within South Africa. But Afrikaners themselves decided such areas aren’t practical economically or politically.
KOBUS MOSTERT: The issue of say, for instance, an Afrikaner homeland is not part of reality politics. Give the ANC the credit for this.
ERLICH: What was the response in the Afrikaner community when these bombings took place and people were arrested?
MOSTERT: Well, we can’t condone it. That is not the democratic way of handling matters, if you don’t get what you would like to have. From my side I would see it as insanity.
[The sounds of a siren, then workers digging and talking.]
ERLICH: In Soweto, workers here are busy rebuilding the mosque partially destroyed by a bomb. Residents are determined not to be intimidated by last year’s attacks.
[The sound of music coming form a neighbor’s house.]
ERLICH: Across the street Morgan Gobese, a book salesman, describes the mosque bombing in October.
MORGAN GOBESE: I heard this huge smash. I actually fell on the ground. I never heard a bomb, you know, going off like this as close as this. The windows were smashed. So it was all this noise, all this—at the same time. And I tried to open this door. I couldn’t open this door. I tried for the second time and this door just blew opened. I also fell down because the dust that came in. The impact of this thing was unusual. I’d never seen such a blast.
ERLICH: Gobese says local residents worry about right-wing extremists. He notes that many lives could have been lost had the police not defused another bomb at a nearby taxi depot.
GOBESE: All they need is for people to realize that they exist. They were just creating some awareness that they can do anything. That garage is used now for taxis to park, but still those taxis when they park there, they are loaded with gas. So it would have been a mess if, had that bomb gone off.
ERLICH: Justice Ministry spokesman Setsetse says the government takes this group very seriously. While the Boermag has little popular support, he says a determined group with military skills can still cause serious damage through terrorist activity. Setsetse says the Boermag failed in its objective of sparking a race war.
SETSETSE: Those who targeted Soweto knew what they were doing. They wanted to provoke the majority of our people to resort to violence and retaliations. Fortunately, our people could read the bigger picture. They were not for a moment tempted.
ERLICH: The Justice Ministry plans to bring the Boermag defendants to trial for treason in May. It recently refurbished the courtroom in Pretoria where Nelson Mandela and other African National Congress leaders were tried in the infamous 1964 Rivonia Trial. The government may use the same courtroom for the Boermag case.
SETSETSE: To us it will be an interesting change because that court was used in the past to implement apartheid laws. But now it might be used again in defense of democracy.
ERLICH: For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich in Soweto, South Africa.
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MCHUGH: Earlier this year, United Nations officials toured several countries in Africa. They went expecting to find famine. Instead, they found the convergence of several crises, including malnutrition, threatening to destroy communities and political stability in the region. Julia Taft of the United Nations Development Programme recently talked with Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman about the tour, the problems they discovered, and possible solutions.
JULIA TAFT: I went to the, what’s called the “hot zone” of southern Africa. These are several countries in which the HIV/AIDS rate is around 30 percent. Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi were the primary countries that I spent time in. And what I saw?
CLIFF BROCKMAN: Yes, what did you see there?
TAFT: Well, it was, it was just breathtaking. What everyone sees when they go down there is the beginning of what I characterize as a social meltdown and a meltdown of governance. The number of people who have been affected by HIV/AIDS is so awesome, it is depleting many of the technical personnel in government—the teaching staff, the healthcare staff, the government functionaries, the extension agents, the veterinarians. Those critical positions are one which have got to function so that the countries can function. The other thing that was quite clear is the impact of this on women and girls is not just a health issue. It’s a cultural issue, it’s an agriculture issue, and it’s a social issue. Their rates have been increasing substantially due to the—well, some people say it’s the pernicious treatment of women by men in the culture. But also the women have been carrying the burden of so many different activities. They’re the subsistence farmers, they’re the nurturers, they’re the ones that prepare the food, they are the ones that manage the markets. Their jobs are huge. And they have been stretched beyond their capacity because they too are sick.
So you’re seeing at the community level villages which have, have old women and young children when the women have died. Or villages that are all orphans. And yet, there still seems to be some hope that if we could just inject a large number of people—volunteers, UN volunteers, and maybe health professionals from the Diaspora, or from other countries, or the West—it would give not only the critical talent that is needed but it would also give them a sense that they’re not alone in the decline of their countries.
BROCKMAN: Taft says the trip’s original purpose was to investigate famine in the area. She says there wasn’t any starvation but they did find a related problem.
TAFT: There has been an enormous response by donors—the US leading the pack as always—to preposition food, and through a lot of very difficult work manage the logistics of delivery and the distribution of food, ever since last year. But the nutritional well-being has had an impact because where, where people’s own nutritional ability and their bodies to, to process food, it declines, that’s when the virus takes on hold and just grows exponentially.
BROCKMAN: For our listeners, why is that part of the world so malnourished?
TAFT: One of the reasons is that they have depended regionally on good wheat and maize production in Zimbabwe. We don’t have time now to go into all the political problems of Zimbabwe and land reform. But that has been, has had a very serious impact on the availability of food regionally. Secondly, most of the subsistence farmers grow maize. And this mono-cropping does not give a lot of flexibility to the diet and is very susceptible to variations in weather patterns. We think that if we could introduce different kinds of drought-resistant crops, more variety to the diet, and more diversification of commodities, that that would be better. Unfortunately, the people who have to grow it are the women who are sick.
BROCKMAN: Julia Taft says the so-called “hot zone” is a very poor area and its recovery will depend on resources and donations from other countries. Taft is the Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.
PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh.
KEITH PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, the impact of suicide bombings on everyday life in Israel.
EDITOR DAVID LANDAU: Although, of course, the Palestinians are suffering worse than the Israelis, as much as their lives are truly dislocated, it would be wrong to understate the suffering of the Israelis.
PORTER: Plus, Israeli and Palestinian women search for peace. And the international battle brewing over food names.
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MCHUGH: President Bush has declared his intention to put an end to the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis during his term in office. But the road continues to be marred by violence. Jude Landau investigates the impact of suicide bombings on the mindset of the Israeli public.
[The sound of sirens.]
JUDE LANDAU: The sirens are part of the everyday background noise in most Israeli cities. Here in Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city and the scene of several suicide attacks in recent months, people barely blink at the sound of them. But for Tina Myer any complacency was quickly disposed of when she was caught up in the chaos of a suicide bomb at the popular beach front bar Mike’s Place.
TINA MYER: I just told my friends, “Okay, I’m going in a minute. I’m just going to the bathroom and then I’m leaving when I come back.” And it took me a good five minutes to get from the bathroom at the back, back down to the door and out. And I came out maybe 30 seconds before the bomb. I was saying goodbye to my friend Dave. And I put my hand on his shoulder. And he’s a bit of a joker Dave, so he’s always, you know, luckily he kept me talking for a few more seconds. He was like “Oh, why are you going so soon? Why don’t you stay? Drink some more. You’re going to leave me all on my own.” And because of his jabbering he saved me from actually walking past the door at the vital seconds. As far as I’m concerned he saved my life as well.
JUDE LANDAU: Three people were killed and 50 wounded when two British-born Muslim men, sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, detonated devices strapped to their bodies. One of the bombs failed to go off and the other bomber fled. Since September 2000, the Israeli government says more than 700 terrorist incidents have taken place in the country. These include assaults on military installations, grenade attacks, and most widely reported, suicide bombings where the assassin wearing a belt with explosives enters a busy area—usually a café or a bus—and explodes the device with the aim of creating as much havoc as possible.
MYER: There was a flash, an incredibly vivid orange flash that just consumed everything. I didn’t see anything other than orange. And it must have been a split second but it seemed like a long time. And the boom, the disorientation and shock at that moment. I remember thinking, “the speakers that were inside blew” or something. It didn’t occur to me that it was a bomb. And I felt a burn on my leg. And I could smell the burning as well. And after the flash went I could see I was facing the door. And the carnage. And I saw bodies and parts of bodies and I saw the suicide bomber, what was left of him, hanging from the rail, from the entrance.
[The sound of a busy nightclub.]
JUDE LANDAU: Mike’s Place has since reopened and is now busier than ever. There is a small memorial outside which pays tribute to the victims who died in the attack. It seems hard to believe that the scene was once one of the carnage that Tina described.
[The sound of music and talking at the bar.]
JUDE LANDAU: Most Israelis view the suicide attacks as an everyday part of life. But the daily threat of such attacks takes it toll on the Israeli public. David Landau is the editor of the English language edition of the left wing Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, and is no relation to this reporter.
EDITOR DAVID LANDAU: People have tried to keep their children indoors as much as possible. And so although, of course, the Palestinians are suffering worse than the Israelis, as much as their lives are truly dislocated, it would be wrong to understate the suffering of the Israelis. There’s almost a complete collapse of the tourism industry and all the allied industries. And a severe decline in foreign investment. And this has led to a steady rise in unemployment and a general recession in the economy. There’s nobody who doesn’t feel it. Even if you’re not out of work.
JUDE LANDAU: Landau’s paper graphically reports the aftermath of bombings and pays particular attention to the attack victims.
EDITOR DAVID LANDAU: Official efforts to relieve people in their time of tragedy focus more on death than on injury. And the tradition is that bereaved families are addressed with a great deal of humaneness and much concern. Whereas people who’ve “merely”—in quotes—been injured sometimes do feel that they’ve been abandoned. Although they’re not sufficiently compensated or their medical attention isn’t sufficiently supported by government or local authorities.
LANDAU: Tina Myer also believes she was not given enough support in the aftermath of the suicide bomb.
MYER: The Taclomeh (?), which is the agency that gives financial aid and psychological help and everything, they were on strike for a really long time. And so I went to my next appointment and there was no one there. And they didn’t call me to cancel. And she hasn’t called me to apologize. So I haven’t actually had any more psychological help. And I feel very let down by that actually.
JUDE LANDAU: At the recent launch of the US-backed road map to peace in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba , the key issue of preventing terror attacks was one that the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pressed his Palestinian counterpart, Prime Minister Abu Mazen to act on. But the task of reining in Palestinian groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade will not be easy for Abu Mazen. Abu Mazen may be prime minister but long-time Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remains powerful behind the scenes. Dr. Reuven Paz is director of research into Islamic movements at the Herzliya Inter-disciplinary Center. After spending years in Israeli intelligence his analysis is that groups like Hamas, which carry out the attacks, have a strong hold on the everyday lives of Palestinians.
DR REUVEN PAZ: Hamas will never abandon the dream of Islamic state all over Palestine. They mean to change the Israeli public opinion towards more concessions for the Palestinians. At least the Islamic terrorism of Hamas is meant also to stop any process of negotiations that might lead to the division of Palestine.
LANDAU: The situation changes on a regular basis and various pushes for peace, like the Oslo process, have failed in the past. David Landau again.
EDITOR DAVID LANDAU: We’ve been there before. The Oslo process also included dramatic meetings and ringing statements of commitment to peace with all those kind of phraseologies in them. All of us in the Middle East have been deeply disappointed by what emerged. And so there’s a good measure of skepticism this time around. What we’ve got now that we haven’t had, at least for a couple of years, is the direct personal, high profile involvement of an American president. This is a president who when he came to power the first thing he said was, “I’m not getting involved in the Middle East.” Because that’s a no-win sort of an option.
JUDE LANDAU: Despite closing the entrances and exits to Palestinian areas and stopping dozens of would-be bombers, Israel has still been unable to prevent suicide attacks entirely. Therefore terrorism remains the biggest obstacle for all of those trying to follow the latest road map to peace. For Common Ground I’m Jude Landau in Israel.
MCHUGH: Since this story was first reported, Israel and Palestine have entered into a new round of peace talks, Israeli forces have withdrawn from certain disputed territories, and Muslim extremist groups have agreed to a short-term cease fire where they will suspend attacks on Israeli citizens.
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PORTER: In May of 1989, a group of Israeli and Palestinian women peace activists gathered in Brussels to look for common ground on the issues dividing their two peoples. Five years and many meetings later, the women had developed a set of political principles they could agree on and they had also established two independent women’s centers which have been working together on conflict resolution programs ever since. Sumaya Farhat-Naser was one of the founders of the Palestinian organization, the Jerusalem Women’s Center. She’s just published a book called, Daughter of the Olive Trees: A Palestinian Woman’s Struggle for Peace. On a recent trip to Washington, she spoke about the many contradictions in her life as a Palestinian peace activist. Judith Smelser reports.
SUMAYA FARHAT-NASSER: Palestine is the land of the olive trees. They have left their stamp on the landscape, and to us they symbolize home and our ties to the land. We feel safe in their shadow. We admire and love them. We tend them and make songs about them. Olive trees are blessed trees.
JUDITH SMELSER: Sumaya Farhat-Nasser is a writer, an academic, and an activist. In all of those roles, she is passionately committed to nonviolence, but also to the end of what she sees as an unjust Israeli occupation.
SUMAYA FARHAT-NASSER: As long as occupation is there, it is also our right to resist. It is our obligation to resist. I resist also, but I do it nonviolently, and I will continue to resist in my way.
SMELSER: Her way involves talking to people on the other side, often in a painfully frank manner, to make them understand how difficult life is for her and other Palestinians under strict Israeli rule. Over a decade ago, she and other women on both sides of the conflict realized they had a unique opportunity to step up that kind of communication, simply by virtue of their gender.
SUMAYA FARHAT-NASSER: When it was coming at the surface and men talked to each other they were put in prison, because usually men are taken very seriously, especially in politics. Yeah, and they must be punished if they break the law. But if we women break the law, they consider us, in the first line, we are women. This weakness they thought we have, we considered it as our strength. And we said to ourselves, “We have to be there where men are not allowed to be there.”
SMELSER: It was that realization that led to the series of meetings in Brussels that ended in the formation of the Jerusalem Women’s Center on the Palestinian side, and Bat Shalom on the Israeli side—two women’s organizations that continue to work together on conflict resolution programs. But their work has been much more difficult since the start of the new Intifadah and the resulting restrictions that Israel has placed on the Palestinian people. Because of the strict travel restrictions, Sumaya has been forced to give up her position with the Jerusalem Women’s Center, as she’s unable to travel into the city from her nearby village. She says one of the biggest problems in the region is that the two sides simply don’t understand what completely different worlds they live in. For example, most Israelis have no idea how hard it is for Palestinians to get around. In her book she gives the example of an Israeli friend of hers who invited her to come for a visit.
SUMAYA FARHAT-NASSER: He said, “You just need to get a taxi to Beersheeba and I’ll collect you there.” “I am not allowed to move more than 2 kilometers from here,” I answered, “and I’d have to get through at least 15 checkpoints on the way to Beersheeba. If I were to arrive there at all, I’d be committing a punishable offense. I’d even be putting my life at risk.” He couldn’t believe it. He said that he could travel anywhere and didn’t have to stop at the checkpoints. “You belong to the group which I don’t belong to,” I said to him. “You can drive along roads which I am not allowed to use. You have a car with number plates which I am not allowed to drive with.”
SMELSER: Because of inequalities like this, she says, many of her fellow Palestinians believe she’s wasting her time working for peace. She says a large number of them feel betrayed by the peace process, which, in their view, has promised so much but delivered little.
SUMAYA FARHAT-NASSER: Instead of seeing our land liberated, occupation ended, that a Palestinian state—what we aspire to—has been established, we thought it would be. We have seen that much more land have been taken away, much more suppression, much more deportation, and terrible things are happening, so many people in my country lost the faith in one day peace could be coming.
SMELSER: Sumaya feels that frustration deeply, and it seeps through into her writing. But she hasn’t given up on exchanging ideas. One passage in her book is devoted to a letter exchange she had with one of her Israeli counterparts named Dafna.
SUMAYA FARHAT-NASSER: [reading her letter] Dear Dafna: I think it’s the first time that I ever write “Dear” Dafna. You see, I can do this easily, recognizing as I do that, that you like it and as long as our worlds remain private. But as long as our relationship and our sphere of joint work is official and political, as long as an enormous asymmetry continues to exist between our peoples, one being occupier, the other occupied, it remains unacceptable to address you as my friend.
And Dafna responded, Dear Sumaya: You wrote, that you could call me Dear Dafna in private but not in public. You are very dear to me both in public and in private, and it is hard for me to accept that you can address me as “Dear Dafna” in private only. I accepted this position of the enemy for 10 years, I cannot take it anymore. I regret not being able to feel guilty all the time, but I just don’t want to be the other, the Israeli, the oppressor, the occupier. I am Dafna.
SMELSER: As that exchange illustrates, the frustration runs deep on both sides. But the important thing, in Sumaya’s view, is to keep telling the truth, no matter how hard the truth might be to hear or to read. For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser in Washington.
MCHUGH: Coming up next, geographical food fights. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
Listen to This Segment: MP3
MCHUGH: “Geographical Indications”: you may not know the jargon, but you might have tasted—and probably enjoyed—at least one of the products the term refers to. Take Stilton and Roquefort cheeses, Parma ham, and Champagne. They’re specialty goods which are generally named after their place or region of origin. The examples we just gave are among the best known, but there are hundreds more, especially in Europe where there’s a drive to protect the names from what Europeans see as abuse of their intellectual property by foreign usurpers. The accused would include US producers, who complain that the Europeans are trying to take back terms which have become common in America, like Parmesan. Fighting over the name of a cheese may sound like small potatoes, but the issue is causing additional friction in already troubled world trade negotiations. Malcolm Brown examines what’s really in a name.
[The sound of a meat slicer.]
MALCOLM BROWN: A spinning blade shaves thin slices off a leg of cured ham at Vace, an Italian delicatessen in northwest Washington, DC. This is the domestic stuff. Yours for around $11 a pound. If you want to shell out another 8 bucks, you can get Prosciutto di Parma—aka Parma ham.
[The sound of a cash register.]
BROWN: It seems many are prepared to pay the extra. The store estimates that around 50 percent of its customers go for the import. Its taste and texture are the result of a carefully regulated process that stresses quality and takes more than a year to complete. Vace’s manager Mauricio Calcagno says it’s worth the wait.
MAURICIO CALCAGNO: There’s a big difference in the price, but the taste is also, it’s amazing. It’s much better quality, the imported. Personally, if I could, I would eat the imported Parma ham all the time.
BROWN: Of course, Parma is not the only Italian specialty on sale here.
CALCAGNO: The biggest ones would probably be the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the Parma Prosciutto and the Buffalo. The Buffalo Mozzarella is a big hit too. It’s quite difficult to find in most of your typical markets.
[Sounds of consumers and cash registers at a large supermarket.]
BROWN: What’s much easier to find in the aisles of major supermarkets are US-made products which can trace their history back across the Atlantic. Now, the US food industry is fighting what it sees as an unfair European effort to reclaim terms which have become familiar to US consumers. Sarah Thorn is director of international trade at the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
SARAH THORN: They want to claw back names for products like parmesan and pilsner and feta that are generic in this country and that consumers understand as a kind of cheese, or a kind of beer and that aren’t really identified with a country or a particular region any more.
BROWN: European officials haven’t listed the specific products they want added to a global registry, but they do say that they want the sort of protections available in the EU extended worldwide. In Europe, only Greek producers can call their cheese feta. Cheddar, on the other hand, is regarded as generic and isn’t on the protected list, even though it takes its name from a village in the southwest of England. Gerry Kiely, Agriculture counselor at the European delegation in Washington, says the aim is to protect high-quality, regional specialties.
GERRY KIELY: We have 600 products registered in the European Union where we give full protection. We have a very onerous process that a company has to go through before a product can be considered a Geographical Indication. And we will decide, yes it is a GI, or it’s generic. If we consider it’s a GI, then we want protection internationally for it.
BROWN: In effect that would provide selected foods with the sort of worldwide legal protection already covering many wines and spirits.
[The sound of a popping champagne cork, followed by the sound of champagne pouring into a glass.]
BROWN: Take champagne. A sparkling wine may only use the famous name if it actually comes from the Champagne region of France.
[The sound of clinking champagne glasses.]
BROWN: Thomas Bruce, the Director of the Office of Champagne, USA, says it’s simply impossible to make the same product anywhere else.
THOMAS BRUCE: They’re not made according to the rules and the traditions of champagne. They don’t even have to come from grapes that enjoy the same climate, or that, have, you know, had the same stresses and aspects and characteristics as the one that come from Champagne.
BROWN: That’s an argument of the sort commonly used in support of the European position on foods. Specialty producers say you simply can’t replicate elsewhere the complex matrix of factors which make their particular food what it is. So, they say, the name of their product is a brand which should be protected. David Biltchik represents the Italian Parma ham industry in the US.
DAVID BILTCHIK: It’s our brand name. Much as Coca Cola protects its brand name vigorously everywhere, we do too. I don’t want to tell you how much money I’ve spent on lawyers protecting our name here in the United States and in Canada.
BROWN: The fact that he could do so is proof, according to Europe’s opponents, that the US legal system already protects Geographical Indications. Sarah Thorn from the Grocery Manufacturers of America, again.
THORN: We do actually protect products like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Roquefort, Stilton here under a trademark system and so we have to ask back to the Europeans, why isn’t our system adequate to protect these products?
BROWN: The answer given is that the system is cumbersome and the costs are beyond the reach of small-scale European producers. But the US government, backed by a number of other nations, maintains that current trade rules provide adequate protection and that the additional costs of the European approach would far outweigh the potential benefits. Both sides will get a chance to make their case during an important World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, Mexico, later this year. For Common Ground, I’m Malcolm Brown in Washington.
Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.
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