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2012 Justice for Palestine Festival Dr Colin Cooper Gaza medical aid worker

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Published on Jun 14, 2012

Tayside Justice for Palestine organised a festival in Dundee. There was a mixture of political speeches and cultural performances concerning Palestine. There were a few musical acts and an art display. The highlight of the festival were the two sessions of Dabka dances performed by young Palestinians from the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem who are involved with the Lajee Cultural Center. Dr Colin Cooper, a medical aid worker recently returned from the Gaza strip, speaks in this video just after the final dance by the Lajee troupe. He starts off by praising their brilliant and unbeatable performance.

He speaks of how Gaza is not far from where the young dancers live but they can't go there because Gaza is like a huge prison camp with 1.6 million people living in an area 20 miles long and 5 miles wide. As a doctor he is interested in the healthy effects that dancing and singing can bring in in what would otherwise be a soul-destroying environment. Dancing and singing make you joyful. Joy, hope and dignity are conducive to health and longevity. He noticed the beneficial health effects of music and dance when he was working in the Red Cross in a refugee camp in Cambodia, probably the worst conflict in the last 150 years. Dignity and knowing you're heard matter. It's not uncommon in the West to hear of people dying alone and being found dead in their house after several days or longer, who despite staying in a relatively safe environment, lack hope and joy due to loneliness. Contributing to the happiness of people even in small ways like visiting them helps keep people alive. He encourages everyone to contribute in whatever way they can, however small to do things to widen the door between Gaza and the world. He looked at some amazing athletes with disabilities, who are coming to London for the Para-Olympics and visiting Scotland afterwards, in spite of all the disadvantages.

He also observed the differences in how terminally ill people die: in Britain there is morphine which is very effective and very cheap. Gaza has none. One fifth of all patients dying of cancer at home will need radio-therapy, not to cure the illness but control the pain. 1.6 million people in Gaza have no access to a radiotherapy machine. He said medicine and politics and justice and peace are all connected. After the bombardment of Gaza in 2009 many learned doctors from the UK concluded that medicine is not sufficient for the Palestinians' health. It is freedom to move in their own country and having the ability to trade normally and have a functioning economy that is needed. Well-meaning NGOs bring aid but it is not always evenly distributed. On top of that, because they are living in a kind of prison camp with high walls and checkpoints, 1500 tunnels have been created controlled by gangsters who have become millionaires from all the daily goods that pass through. They take all the money and the ordinary Gazans get none. None of this would happen if the blockade was lifted and the Palestinians had the freedom of movement to trade normally.

He talks of a memorial in Gaza to the victims of the assault on the Mavi Marmara and mentions that Turkey has decided enough is enough and wants Israel to be brought before an international legal tribunal to account for its actions.

He gives examples at various points of what people here can do to help e.g. asking MPs if they've signed early day motion 1677 in support of the Palestinians or writing to persuade them to have an ethical foreign policy.

He quotes a line from the minister of foreign affairs and commonwealth office who had said in a letter "Israel is carrying out our policy in the region and we support them." - "Not in my name!" declares the Doctor in response.
Ditto. Ruthless imperialists in the government do not represent the views of ordinary people and cannot speak for us.

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