The Public Square

WILL - The Public Square - February 11, 2011

The Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative welcomes Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

The Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative has arranged for Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish to come to our community for a 2-1/2 day visit this weekend. From world press and Internet coverage given to the tragic death of three of his daughter's caused by Israeli shelling of their home in Gaza in 2009 and, more recently, from publicity given to his new book entitled, "I Shall Not Hate", Dr. Abuelaish has come to be known by many simply as "the Gaza doctor".

The doctor's story is an amazing one. Born into extreme poverty in a refugee camp in Gaza, his Palestinian parents did everything they could to encourage his pursuit of education and, through a scholarship to study medicine in Cairo, he eventually went on earn degrees in Obstetrics and Gynecology in London and to complete a 6-year residency at the Soroka Medical Center in Israel. During and after the residency, he lived in Gaza and practiced medicine in both places, coping with extraordinarily frustrating travel restrictions during his weekly commutes and a paucity of medical resources in Gaza. During this period, however, he gained the respect of many patients and professional colleagues, Palestinian and Israeli, and formed his strong belief that medicine could bridge the divide between the two groups.

Deciding that if he wanted to make a larger difference for the Palestinian people, he needed to acquire management and policy-making skills, Dr. Abuelaish enrolled in a masters program in public health at Harvard University before returning to Gaza and being hired as a senior researcher at a large hospital in Tel Aviv. He was commuting weekly between the two places when his daughters were killed.

As stated on the cover of his book, Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hated, Abuelaish called for the people of the region to start talking to each other. His deep hope is that his daughters will be the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis. After the death of his daughters, Dr Abuelaish formed a foundation dedicated to improving the health and education of women in the Middle East.

Please find time to listen to and talk with this extraordinary guest to our community. He will be at the Urbana Free Library tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. and at the Provena Covenant Auditorium at 4:00 p.m.. He will also be at CIMIC , the local Islamic mosque, at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday before appearing live on WILLs Keeping the Faith at 6:00. There will be opportunities to buy his book and get it signed at some of these venues.

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WILL - The Public Square - February 04, 2011

Lillian Driver on the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign and Ameren toxic waste at the site

Hello. My name is Lillian Driver and I am a resident of the 5th and Hill neighborhood in Champaign, where the Ameren toxic site is located.

During the past three years, my family and I have been a part of the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign. With the help of the Champaign County Health Care Consumers, we have been working to make sure that Ameren cleans up all of the toxic waste that has spread into our neighborhood from their former manufactured gas plant. Toxic chemicals from Amerens property, like cancer-causing benzene, have been found in the soil and groundwater in our neighborhood.

Right now, Ameren is cleaning up their toxic property but the Illinois EPA, is only making Ameren clean up the soil on their property, not the toxic groundwater.

Ameren does not have to clean up the toxic groundwater because the City of Champaign passed a city-wide groundwater restriction ordinance in 2007, and under the Illinois EPAs rules, Ameren can use this ordinance to get off the hook for having to clean up the toxic groundwater.

Residents of the City of Champaign and surrounding communities need to know that this groundwater ordinance is bad environmental policy, and it doesnt just apply to Ameren. It opens the door for any polluter, such as gas stations, laundry cleaners, factories and others to contaminate our groundwater with toxic waste, and never have to clean it up.

This ordinance is based on the faulty logic that toxic contaminated groundwater is not harmful to human health as long as people are prohibited from drinking it. However, as a resident of the 5th & Hill neighborhood, I know that toxic groundwater can flood our homes and create vapors that enter our homes, and put our health at risk.

The only purpose of this groundwater ordinance is to save polluters money. But it comes at the expense of the health of the city's residents and it compromises an important natural resource our groundwater.

Fortunately, on Tuesday, February 8th, the Champaign City Council will be holding a Study Session to consider amending or repealing this harmful groundwater ordinance.

Please come and stand with the residents of the 5th & Hill Neighborhood in calling for the repeal of this harmful groundwater ordinance at the Study Session on Tuesday, February 8 at 7 p.m. at the Champaign City Building.

For more information, call Champaign County Health Care Consumers at (217) 352-6533. I hope to see you on Tuesday!

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