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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Benefit instills awareness of suffering in Gaza

???Two people who have had extensive first-hand experiences in the turmoil-filled territory of Gaza Strip discussed the graphic scenes they witnessed at Salvatore's Italian Gardens Restaurant on Friday night in conjunction with UB's Organization of Arab Students (OAS) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA).

???The event titled "A Benefit for Palestine: Shedding Light on the Atrocities in Gaza," which was co-sponsored by the Western New York Peace Center, was held with the purpose to help promote awareness and fundraise for the people suffering in the Gaza Strip.

???Tamera Akarah, president of the OAS, opened the night by explaining the central purpose of the event.

???"This event is not only about raising money for the people in Palestine, but also raising awareness," Akarah said.

???The two speakers of the night believed that it was extremely important that all be made aware of the violence and suffering in Gaza.

???Ismail Mehr, head of anesthesiology at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell, N.Y. and a member of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) spoke about his first-hand experiences working in Gaza and treating patients with severe illnesses and injuries.

???There were once 13 hospitals in Gaza, two-thirds of which were destroyed during the Israeli invasion, according to Mehr. Perhaps the most severe problem that prevents Palestinian patients from receiving proper medical attention is the embargo that Israel placed on the Gaza strip.

???"The embargo has caused the medical system to be choked off, so we ended up inheriting children dying of diabetes and cancer," Mehr said. "Because of the embargo, nothing goes into Gaza and nothing comes out."

???Mehr pointed out that in Gaza, normal routine illnesses that could have been taken care of anywhere, even in third-world countries, were not being adequately addressed because the proper medications and supplies were not allowed into the region. During his time in Gaza, Mehr found that there was no local anesthesiologist, no monitors to provide anesthesia and no chemotherapy to treat cancer.

???The medical world was not the only realm affected by the embargo, according to Mehr. He visited a partially built orphanage, but because the embargo does not allow any materials or building supplies to come in, the orphanage will probably not be completed.

???Mehr was shocked to see that basic necessities were being denied entry due to the embargo.

???"There is no doubt that Gaza is the world's largest open-air prison," Mehr said.

???Mehr explained that one of IMANA's future goals in Gaza is the unequivocal entry of medical and humanitarian teams into the region. However, this can only be possible if the current embargo is loosened or eliminated.

???"None of this is going to happen if this embargo remains in place," Mehr said.

???The second speaker for the night was Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian journalist and writer based between Gaza and the United States who reports for the al-Jazeera English web site and the Guardian Unlimited.

???Israeli disengagement in Gaza does not better the situation or prevents civilians from suffering, according to El-Haddad.

???"Gaza is still occupied after disengagement," El-Haddad said.

???El- Haddad used the metaphor of a gerbil cage to relate what Gaza is like even after disengagement. Even if the obstacles are removed, the cage still remains.

???"There is no escape and there is no entry," El-Haddad said. "There is nowhere to run to."

???In addition to the talks by Mehr and El-Haddad, attendees at the event were treated to a four-course meal. They also bid on various Palestinian-made accessories and decorations during an auction at the end of the night.

???People called the event eye-opening, yet enjoyable experience.

Rawey Kased, a junior media study major and member of OAS, believed that the true success of the event lied in the new awareness that many gained of the suffering in Gaza.

???"This event was very successful not only because we raised a substantial amount of money for the children suffering in Gaza, but also because it promoted awareness here in America," Kased said.

???Another attendee at the benefit, local resident Mehla Abdallah, emphasizes the importance of seeing through the eyes of the Gazans.

???"The people need to know what is going on in Gaza. We must speak out and show our love and support," Abdallah said. "All of the money in the world that we raise will never be enough for our country, our love-Palestine."



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