Sundance doctor outraged about casualties in Lebanon

Ron Bender, Staff Writer
The Rapid City Journal, July 1, 1982

SUNDANCE, Wyo. – A Sundance physician who spent a week treating people wounded in the the Israeli-Palestinian Liberation Organization war has returned home with a feeling of outrage against against Israel at what he saw and heard.

“It’s unbelievable. I never imagined this could happen. I know war is war, and I understand there are casualties, but these are civilians, and the the problem is that it is deliberate, indiscriminate shelling of towns and villages,” said Dr. Mohammad Said, an American physician of Palestinian extraction.

He volunteered to go to the Mideast after Israel invaded Lebanon June 6. He arrived in Amman, Jordan, but the U.S. embassy there advised him it was too dangerous to travel to Lebanon, especially with his Palestinian background. But Said treated many wounded people, both military and civilians, in a PLO hospital in Amman. He worked there and gathered information about the casualties in Lebanon, which he said are much higher than the numbers reported.

He met with the Jordanian minister of health who told him that the Israelis were not allowing medical supplies from the international Red Cross to get through to South Lebanon. The hospitals were being bombed and doctors and nurses taken prisoner in the Sidon and Tyre areas.

“He showed me a report by a Norwegian doctor, Dr. Berge, and a Beligian doctor, Dr. Moeller. They were in Sidon about a month before the invasion on missionary work to help Palestinian refugees. When the Israelis came to Sidon, they arrested them, tried them and, before their eyes, beat seven Palestinians to death. They used clubs. Dr. Berge said in his report, “I never thought I would see the day when people were beaten to death. It was absolutely shocking.”

Said saw another report which said the Israelis “bombed and flattened” a camp near Sidon, which housed 80,000 Palestinians. “The casualties were in the thousands, the wounded much more. There are lots of people really suffering because of the lack of water and diseases.”

People in Beirut have no protection from Israeli bombing, he said, and hundreds of people have died because they couldn’t be dig out from all the rubble.

The Sundance physician found people in the war-torn area “absolutely angry at the United States, and particularly Mr. (Alexander) Haig. They believe Mr. Haig encouraged the Israelis either indirectly or directly. But they have great sympathy for Mr. Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. They think he is a brave man and a good man.”

Said believes the only solution to the Palestinian problem is political, and that the Palestinians have the right to their homeland. But he said the PLO leaders are under pressure not just from the Israelis, but from Palestinian civilians and Lebanese to pull out and avoid a final, all-out attack by Israel.

“I believe they (the PLO) may pull out from Beirut, but I don’t know what that would accomplish. I believe the Palestinians in those areas are not really a big military force to threaten Israel.”

Said returned to Washington, D.C. from Amman to report to the Palestinian-American Congress. He then picked up his wife and children who had stayed with friends in Fargo, ND and returned to Sundance Tuesday. He wants to return to the Mideast in several months to help some more.