“I shall not hate” message of Palestinian doctor not enough (for some)

April 13, 2016

A post in the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) by Myron Love (on 11 April 2016) reports that University of Manitoba professor Haskel Greenfield expressed outrage about an exhibit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights that highlights, among 17 other human rights defenders, the story of Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor from Gaza who lost three daughters and a niece when an Israeli missile hit his home during Operation Cast Lead in 2009. In Greenfield’s words, the interactive exhibit that includes Abuelaish is “a disgusting, one-sided portrayal of a complex situation. It completely ignored the fact that Hamas used yards and roofs of residences, schools and hospitals to launch their missiles. The Palestinian family portrayed was a tragic example of collateral damage in a war started by their Hamas government.” Greenfield is an archeologist and acting head of U of M’s Judaic studies program. He said it’s “very clear to me that the exhibit is not about human rights at all. It is an opportunity for Israel bashing and subtle anti-Semitism. The exhibit only focuses on what the Israelis have done to Palestinians – and, in particular to one Palestinian family – without any context as to why it happened.” 

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish U OF T PHOTO
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, University of Toronto photo

Abuelaish was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. After schooling in the refugee camp he received a scholarship to study medicine in Cairo and then a diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the University of London. From 1997–2002 he completed a residency at the Soroka University hospital in Israel and a master’s degree in Public Health from Harvard University. He founded the “Daughters for Life Foundation” [awards scholarship to encourage young women to pursue their studies] in memory of three of his daughters, who were killed by Israeli tank fire in 2009. He has written a book named I Shall Not Hate.  According to Wikipedia, Dr. Abuelaish was the first Palestinian doctor to receive a staff position at an Israeli hospital, where he treated both Israeli and Palestinian patients. Immediately before the war he was a researcher at the Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv and an important figure in Israeli-Palestinian relations. The death of his children strengthened his resolve to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Abuelaish, who is now an associate professor of global health at the University of Toronto, is scheduled to speak at the museum on 20 April.

Museum spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry said Abuelaish’s story is one of 17 profiles of human rights defenders with diverse backgrounds that are currently being featured in the Rights Today gallery. “This particular exhibit… is intended to show how the challenge of defending and promoting human rights around the world involves many people, including Canadians, working in many different fields.” [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/winnipeg/She noted that Abuelaish was born and raised in a refugee camp, but still managed to become a highly educated doctor who uses health care as way to promote human rights. He is also committed to helping women in the Middle East access post-secondary education, through a foundation he established after the death of his daughters,” Fitzhenry said.  His personal tragedy… is only one aspect of his story. Despite this tragic event, he refuses to hate. Instead he works for peace, understanding and reconciliation. He believes that if we treat each other with decency and respect, if we refuse to take sides, if we claim responsibility for our actions, then getting past the ugliness of war and conflict is possible. His story illustrates one way that an individual can take positive action for human rights.” She added that Abuelaish’s “story is relayed in a factual and non-judgmental fashion. It’s not focused on who was to blame for the death of the children, but explores how his personal experiences – including this tragic event – shaped the human rights work he does today.” The point, Fitzhenry said, is to tell what has shaped his work as a human rights defender, not probe the causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict. “Our aim is to explore Dr. Abuelaish’s journey, demonstrate his ongoing commitment to peace, and encourage respectful discussion and dialogue.”


Human rights museum criticized for featuring Palestinian doctor


One Response to ““I shall not hate” message of Palestinian doctor not enough (for some)”

  1. […] Izzeldin Abuelaish started the Daughters for Life organization after his daughters were tragically killed. Since then he’s devoted his life to promoting the higher education of young women in the Middle East and around the world. He has helped nearly 400 girls since 2010 achieve their dreams. He said seeing these remarkable women move to change the world is keeping his daughters memory alive. I reported earlier that even this kind of approach was considered ‘controversial’ by some [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/13/human-rights-museum-controversy-izzeldin-abuelaishfor-p… […]

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