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Blocking Maneuver: Delegation members protest an Israeli military roadblock at the town of El Khader.

Nüz

Ears and Eyes

Santa Cruz residents Joyce Diamond, Lisa Nessan, Bob Fitch, Scott Kennedy and his son Benjamin brought back personal messages about the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories after spending two weeks there this July as part of a 19-person interfaith peacemaking delegation.

The delegation met with more than 24 Israeli and Palestinian peacemaking organizations, stayed with Israeli and Palestinian families, worshipped at a Jewish synagogue, participated in removing a blockade at El Khader, a small town southwest of Bethlehem--and visited the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, where Diamond spotted a map of 1941 Poland/Germany highlighting the Jewish ghettos.

"There was such a similarity between that ghettoization and what's going on in Israel/Palestine 60 years later," says Diamond, who no longer holds out much hope for a bloodless peace. "Too many factors are weighing towards conflict. Both governments are corrupt," she insists.

Former Hillel Foundation employee Nessan says Americans have the stereotype that Palestinians are violent, but Israelis are burning fields, closing roads, demolishing houses, bombing and humiliating Palestinians on a daily basis. According to Nessan, "I've seen militant graffiti glorifying bus explosions and murdering of Israeli soldiers, and Hebrew writing in Hebron on the doors of the closed shops in the Arab market saying, 'I hate you, you smell' and 'Death to the Arabs.' Apartheid really is the right word."

Local resident Richard Nanas, who has been involved in Israeli and Palestinian peace movements since 1967, but wasn't part of the delegation delegation, agrees that the situation is a mess, but disagrees with the apartheid analogy. He blames the Palestinian authority for affecting Israeli and Palestinian lives alike. "Israelis live in fear of being blown up when they go to a store, and the Palestinians' misery is awful," Nanas says.

This fall, Nessan, Fitch and Kennedy will report on their trip, in an attempt to educate people about the area. As Fitch explains, "Israel has 8 million people--that's 25 percent of California's population--squeezed into 10,000 square miles (which is like Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties combined) within which area Israel, [the Palestininians] and Syria are seeking national boundaries."

Adding that Israel maintains the world's 13th largest military force, Fitch acknowledges that "Israelis are brilliant, hardworking people" but questions "how they engage in protection as a military force inside Palestinian territory."

Santa Cruz City Councilmember Kennedy, who has traveled to Israel almost 30 times since 1968, points out that Israel controls access to every border crossing and freeway, as well as access to water, electricity and communications systems. "Americans should ask about the $3 billion in U.S. aid each year, an increasing portion of which goes to the Israeli military," Kennedy says.

Nessan, Fitch, Scott Kennedy and Ben Kennedy will discuss their trip on Sept. 2, 7-9pm, at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, 515 Broadway, Santa Cruz. For information, call 423.1626, ext. 102.

Knowledge Edge

Biogeeks were out in full force this weekend, flashing terms like petabytes, SNPs and linkage disequilibrium at UCSC's Human Genome Symposium 2001. In attendance for the panel discussion were Human Genome Project Director Dr. Francis "we're still in the pregenome era" Collins; leather-jacketed Vice President of Celera Genomics Dr. Eugene "people need to get computer savvy" Myers as the lone cowboy from the private sector; University of Washington professor Dr. Mary-Claire King, who arrived at the press conference late because she was visiting local genome hero Jim Kent; and Dr. Robert Sinsheimer, whose vision kicked off the human genome project in 1983, when, as the snowy-haired former UCSC chancellor recalled, "People believed the project was technically impossible and overly expensive, not to mention mind-numbingly boring."

Sixteen years later, a lot of confusion remains, with scientists still not sure how many genes are in our genome. (A sweepstakes is in progress among scientists with the average guess being 61,710 genes.) But as Dr. King explained, this indecision "isn't a matter of silliness but a profound philosophical question." And an awesomely scary one.

As Collins pointed out, "We all have glitch genes--several dozen per person--which is the biological equivalent of original sin, but would you want to know about them unless we had a cure?"

In his keynote address, Collins raised the following questions: Will effective legislative solutions to genetic discrimination be found? Will benefits of advances only be available to a privileged few? Will knowledge of human variation increase or decrease prejudice?

Kent, who helped keep the human genome in the public sector (Metro Santa Cruz, April 18) and is currently sequencing the mouse genome, warned that the time will come when we have therapies to regrow heart or, say, knee tissue. "At that point, we will want compatible cell lines--and something will have to give,' Kent said.

Meanwhile, David Haussler, who shared the limelight with Kent in our April 18 cover story, announced that he has been selected as R&D magazine's 2001 Scientist of the Year, while Sinsheimer learned that he'd been awarded the UC Presidential Medal.

Paradise Notes

Tom Shaver of the Community Housing Land Trust of Santa Cruz County delivered a letter to the City Council Aug. 24 asking the city not to take action against Camp Paradise residents until the council has met CHLT to explore options. Shaver also asked the city to review the camping-ban ordinance and have language ready that would allow the temporary placement of Camp Paradise in its current location or an alternative site. On Aug. 27, Mayor Tim Fitzmaurice responded, inviting camp leader Larry Templeton, his lawyer Paul Sanford and the CHLT to a Sept. 5 meeting, thereby giving campers hope they will not be ticketed/evicted before that date. Meanwhile, Sanford gave city attorney John Barisone the names of 6 people no longer with the camp, a situation that makes them eligible for ticket dismissal. As Barisone explained, since the city wants to obtain compliance and protect the river, not extort money from individuals, ticket dismissal is possible--and, apparently, not unusual; "In the case of code enforcement, we also dismiss tickets once people come into compliance," Barisone said.

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From the August 29-September 5, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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