by New Worker Correspondent
Londoners turned up in droves last week to hear Dr Ang Swee Chai talk about her medical efforts and solidarity work that has made her a household name amongst the Palestinian community.
Lewisham Town Hall’s council chamber was packed to hear her speak, at a fund-raising evening for Medical Aid for Palestine, about her decision, over 30 years ago, to use her skills to help the Palestinian Arabs and her own realisation that the Israelis were not the “good guys” in the Middle East.
|Ang Swee Chai (far right) with supporters and Sir Steve Bullock|
In 1987 the Palestinian leader,Yasser Arafat presented Dr Ang Swee Chai with the Star of Palestine, the highest award for service to the Palestinian people.
But it all began in 1982 when the Singaporean surgeon decided to leave London to help Christian Aid in a Palestinian refugee camp in war-torn Beirut.
The continuous attacks on the camp by the Israelis soon changed her naïve perception that the Israelis were simply defending themselves from Palestinian terrorism.
Later she was a witness of the terrible massacres at the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps, where some of her former patients were slaughtered.
Shortly after the young doctor came back to Britain for a while and spent her time campaigning for an end to the violence and played a role in setting up the charity Medical Aid for Palestine.
Then she went back to work in Palestine and was still working there until last summer and the most recent bombardment of Gaza by the Israelis, killing 2,131 Palestinians, including more than 500 children.
Dr Ang Swee Chai was arrested while travelling by the Israelis and held for two days and she is now banned by the Zionist authorities from returning to Palestine.
But, she reassured her audience: “There are many more doctors and health workers ready to take my place.”
Now her work is raising funds to help them deliver health care to Palestinians.
The photos she showed as she recounted her work in Lebanon and Gaza showed a story of repeated horror, bombardment, restriction and oppression that help the audience silent throughout.
“But,” Dr Ang Swee Chai added, “The children there are amazing. In spite of everything they are so full of life and fun and resistance. They are the future that ensures Palestine will never die.”
She went on to give figures that show both inside Palestine and as refugees throughout the world waiting for their right to return, the population of Palestine is now more than double what it was in 1948.
The meeting was also addressed briefly by Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock.
The Al Zaytouna Palestinian dance troupe, based in London, gave an energetic display of traditional Palestinian dances and Reem Kelani, a Palestinian singer, sang.
Before the meeting local members of Palestine Solidarity, CND and Stop the War had laid on a magnificent spread of Middle Eastern food for all those attending.