Friday, 14 May 2010

Omar Said, Practitioner of Arab Traditional Medicine: Why is the Shin Bet Afraid of This Man?

Lately, I have written extensively about Ameer Makhoul, whose arrest by the Shin Bet was placed under seal and broken by Israeli and American bloggers and journalists (including me). But I haven’t written at all about Makhoul’s colleague, Omar Said, who was also arrested. I just discovered a moving statement of appreciation circulated by Dr. Stephen Fulder, an Oxford-educated Anglo-Israeli Buddhist peace activist, biochemist, and practitioner of herbal and folk medicine. Fulder has published many academic papers with Said in this field and they are close friends and colleagues:

Dr. Omar Said, my long time friend, co-worker, peace and ecological activist, and fellow academic, was arrested and accused of spying for Hizbollah. The newspapers have given him all kinds of damaging and untrue labels. I want to correct these impressions.

1. Dr. Omar Said is an important international intellectual figure, a scientist, pharmacologist and one of the world’s top experts on traditional Arabic medicine, medical history and medicinal plants. He has written many scientific papers, some of which I have written with him. He is the author of a forthcoming academic text which will be the most authoritative text on Arabic medicine in the world. He is the founder and director of the largest botanical garden of medicinal plants in the Middle East. This subject is his passion and his main activity in life. Many years ago he was active politically, and he has been the deputy head of his village of Kfar Kanna in the Galilee. Now his passion is his professional subject, and his social activity is mostly within an NGO in education, ecology and co-existence.

2. Dr. Said has never shown, in the 15 years I have worked closely with him both as a co-worker and as a close friend, any hate or tendency to conflict. He is a peace worker who longs for peaceful co-existence. He has taken many actions in his life to bring healing to his community and to the relationships between Jews and Arabs. He works with and is close to both Jews and Arabs in daily life, in work and in the intellectual community. The herbal projects he is involved with are examples of peace projects in which both Jews and Arabs participate. For example he has invited and given classes to many thousands of Arab and Jewish children at the botanical garden, bringing them together to study something of interest to all communities. All those who have worked with him on a daily basis and know him, including many Jewish colleagues, know him to be a friend, a warm partner, a lover of peace and a great man with a big heart.

3. Dr. Said is constantly travelling throughout the world, in particular Jordan, where he buys herbs, carries out research, and meets experts from Arab countries. It is shameful that this activity is the reason for the suspicion of the Israeli security apparatus. I am completely convinced that a great mistake and a serious injustice is happening right now. Omar is still in prison on remand.

What becomes clear from Fulder’s statement is that the Shin Bet has labeled a man, whose most dangerous activity was collecting plants in the hills of the West Bank for preparation of his herbal remedies, as a Hezbollah spy seeking the destruction of the State of Israel. Oh, and yes, it’s true, Said is a leader of the Arab nationalist political party, Balad. Last I checked, membership in Balad was entirely legal. So what precisely has he done wrong and when will the Shin Bet stop the shell game and reveal its charges?

Yesterday, I revealed that the alleged ‘Hezbollah agent’ with whom Makhoul and Said met is none other than the founder of a Jordanian NGO whose mission is to repair the environmental damage caused to Lebanon and Gaza by Israel’s wars there. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Rechavia Berman jokes that he half expects the security services to trot out Nasrallah’s cousin who, like the Hamas Green Prince agent, will attest to the crimes committed by the pair on Hezbollah’s behalf. Barring that, this case is a disgrace and makes both the Shin Bet and Israel (or whoever in the government thought this prosecution was a crackerjack idea) into a laughingstock among nations.

Hassan Geagea, Shin Bet’s All-Purpose ‘Hezbollah Spy’

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