Dove of peace

This Date in UCSF History: Middle Eastern Scientists Build Bridges

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Originally published in Synapse on May 21, 1999. 

Five months ago, the Alliance of Middle Eastern Scientists and Physicians was founded on the UCSF campus by a small group of Arab and Israeli scientists, who were concerned about the tense situation in the Middle East. 

The group of 20 students, scientists, physicians, and professionals from Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine is bringing new dimensions of understanding to the protracted Middle East conflict. 

The emphasis of the Alliance is on scientific and medical collaboration between Arabs and Israelis as a means of building mutual understanding, respect, and trust and advancing a just solution for all people in the region. 

While discussing possible scientific and medical projects to take on, the participants experience the need to share and resolve distrust and anger to enable them to work together. 

Distrust, fear, and anger are major obstacles preventing people from working together for a better future. In a previous meeting, Jamil, a Palestinian scientist from the village of A’rrabeh, shared his experience of being discriminated against as a Palestinian Israeli citizen. 

Much of what he said was new for many of the Israeli participants — as if they were not living several miles apart, but on different planets. Jamil noted that it is also important for the Palestinian side to hear the pain of the Israelis. 

Dudy, a postdoctoral fellow from the Israeli town of Ramat Gan, concluded, “If we want to have a real peace, we need partners. If we want to have partners, we need to start listening to each other.” 

Another issue that surfaced was the mission statement of the group. 

“There are many relief organizations with huge budgets working to aid Palestinian and Lebanese people,” Mohamad Ozeir, a journalist from Lebanon stated. “We cannot compete with them. Our power lies not in the projects per se, but rather in the attached message of political statement and partnership for peace.

“I believe in the power of this message and this is why I am here. I know the Lebanese people will appreciate Israelis who really care about them.” 

At this stage the members of Alliance are discussing possible projects to take on and how to fulfill them. 

Possible projects include student exchange, training, scientific collaboration, and addressing shortages in equipment and literature.

The Alliance of Middle Eastern Scientists and Physicians meets the second Tuesday each month on the UCSF campus. 

Yumma’s restaurant at 721 Irving St. supports the Alliance and its mission, and generously provides delicious Middle Eastern food each meeting.