18 December 1988 Apple grower helps PLO

By Julie Sullivan, Staff writer
  

From his apple orchards in Ephrata, a Palestinian-American doctor is offering olive branches from the Middle East. In a one-man public relations tour designed to polish the image of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Dr. Mohammad Said says the Palestinians’ pleas for peace are genuine. What happens now, he said, is up to the Israelis. “They have to respond positively and remove this brutal military occupation (of the West Bank),” said Said, a 50-year old family practitioner and American citizen since 1974. Last week, at the personal invitation of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Said accompanied the PLO to Geneva as the only American member of the Palestinian delegation at the United Nations. Earlier this month, Said addressed the Palestine National Congress, the parliament in exile, at its meeting in Algiers, Algeria. Both invitations came in light of Said’s work on Arab-Israeli peace resolutions at the Washington state and national Democratic conventions. Last summer, Said co-authored a resolution that was adopted by the Democratic party of Washington. It called for Israel’s right to live in security and the Palestinians’ right to a homeland. The resolution was debated on the floor of the National Democratic convention in Atlanta. In Spokane on his way home from Geneva, Said said that as the PLO resumes talks with the United States, he will resume work on his resolution and try to get the Legislature to adopt it. “I am trying to educate people,” he said. “Our values as Americans call for self-determination. Well, it’s not just for South Africans, it’s for all people.” David Loud, a King County lawyer and delegate to the state Democratic convention lauded Said for his work. As a member of the Jewish community, Loud said Said’s call for peace in the Middle East was of worldwide importance. It has been more than 25 years since Said left Palestine to study medicine in Spain. But, his sister and cousins still live in the West Bank. His 11-year-old son is named Yasser.

Said said Americans don’t understand the Palestinian suffering in the West Bank. Americans call the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians defensive acts, but he says it’s state terrorism. Like Arafat, Said does not see the bloodshed ending soon. Arafat’s denunciation of terrorism and acknowledgement of Israel’s right to co-exist comes after almost a year of intefadeh, the popular Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza against the Israeli occupation. Said said the suffering under intefadeh has been so great that the PLO was forced to consider peaceful resolution to the conflict.

It’s probable that Arafat’s life is in peril because of the recent peace proposals, he said. “You will always find a splinter group which tries to damage the peace process from both the Arabs and the Jews.” But, he added, even if something did happen to Arafat, the move to resolve the conflicts would go on. “It’s a Palestinian commitment,” he said. “The peace process will continue.” Born in Haifa, and raised on the West Bank, Said left Palestine in 1082. He immigrated to Canada and then to the United States in 1974. Since 1982, he has practiced internal, family and geriatric medicine in Ephrata.

“On the national platform committee of the Democratic party, he helped find common ground with opponents,” said Loud. ’It’s made a difference.”

“I will not go back to Palestine,” Said said. “But I have a stake in this peace process. I want my relatives there to have the dignity and happiness that I do in this country.”