[IWAR] LEBANON/TERROR ABC News report transcript

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    Poverty of Terror 
    How Fanaticism Finds Favor Among Lebanons Poor 
    Jan. 19, 1998
           CHRIS WALLACE
    It was a little more than four years ago when President Clinton brought an
    Israeli prime minister and the leader of the PLO to the White House for
    that historic handshake and what seemed to be a new peace in the Middle
    East. This week, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat are coming to
    Washington for more talks. But if you want a sense of where Mideast
    diplomacy stands now, they will have separate meetings with the president
    two days apart and a White House spokesman admits prospects for progress
    are rock bottom.
    But while the world watches what happens in Washington, the forgotten
    people in the peace process will continue to be ignored -- hundreds of
    thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, some of whom were displaced
    from their homes 50 years ago when the state of Israel was formed and who
    are still forgotten today, even by Arab leaders. For these people, its not
    just politics, but poverty, for they lead the most desperate of lives. And
    that combination has made them a breeding ground for terrorist causes.
    John Laurence went to Lebanon to talk with a forgotten people about lives
    that make them dream of revenge. 
        JOHN LAURENCE, ABC NEWS (VO) Supper for Hamal Achmad Akbar (ph) and
    her five children is lentils and bread. They cannot afford more. Giving her
    children a proper diet is a problem, one of many for Hamal and her family.
    They eat on the floor because they have no table. Hamal, who is 31 -
    yearsold, is a Palestinian refugee. She and her family lived in a refugee
    camp in Beirut, where they were born. The camp is named Shattila (ph). Of
    all who suffered in Lebanons long civil war, the residents of Shattilla
    suffered most. Hamal was wounded four times. She lost an eye. Her mother
    was killed.
     Each day, Hamals husband leaves the camp to look for work. Mohammed
    Hassan Yusuf (ph) is 37. He, too, was born in Shattila. Although it is
    illegal for Palestinians to work in Lebanon without a permit and it is
    virtually impossible for Mohammed to get one, he tries to find day labor as
    a painter. When he gets work, which is not often, the pay is $1.25 an hour,
    $10 to $15 a day. (interviewing) How hard is life here in the camps?
     MOHAMMED HASSAN YUSUF (through translator) It is very hard. For us,
    death would be better than life. For the Palestinians in Lebanon, death
    would be better. There is no work. There are no services. There are no
    schools. We dont have proper houses and you cannot live a good life. If
    your sons shoes get ruined, you cant replace them because there is no
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) Poverty affects every aspect of their lives. Ten
    days earlier, Hamal gave birth to her sixth child, a son. When he was a
    week old, the baby broke out in a rash and Mohammed took it to a Beirut
    hospital which treats Palestinians. There, the medical staff referred him
    to another hospital with better pediatric facilities. Mohammed then brought
    his son here, to the Hotel Deu De France, a private hospital in East
    Beirut. The hospital was under contract with the United Nations to treat
    Palestinian patients. The UN paid the bills. In this case, Mohammeds son
    was examined by a doctor in the emergency ward, diagnosed and referred for
    admission. But a hospital administrator demanded $3,000 to treat the baby,
    a sum of money Mohammed did not have. (VO) We went to the hospital
    emergency ward to find out what happened to Hamal and Mohammeds baby.
    (interviewing) A young boy and his father came here and you would not give
    him treatment.
     1ST HOSPITAL WORKER We would not give him treatment?
     JOHN LAURENCE He says you would not give this baby treatment ...
     1ST HOSPITAL WORKER Well, this is not ...
     JOHN LAURENCE ... until he paid some money.
     1ST HOSPITAL WORKER No, no. If you want to photograph anything,
    whatever you want, talk to the administration. This is not permitted.
     JOHN LAURENCE I understand. Do you ever refuse people?
    when he arrived. All emergency treatment are given to patients before he
     JOHN LAURENCE In this case the baby was sent to a hospital in Sidon
    because people herethe administration here asked for $3,000. This is what
    we were told.
     DR MARIECLAIRE ANTAKLY No, no, no. Go to the administration and they
    will answer to you ...
     1ST HOSPITAL WORKER Those who have decision take the permission ...
     DR MARIECLAIRE ANTAKLY ... but it is, I am sure that it is not true.
     JOHN LAURENCE Have you never heard of someone being turned away?
     JOHN LAURENCE You sure?
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) We checked the emergency room register. It showed
    that when the baby was brought here, he was suffering from jaundice with
    complications and hypothermia.
     DR MARIECLAIRE ANTAKLY And the doctor who see the patient decided to
    hospitalize him.
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) But the baby was not hospitalized, despite his
    critical condition. (interviewing) Was there a problem because he was
     DR MARIECLAIRE ANTAKLY You have to ask administration of hospital
    what are conditions to admit a Palestinian patient.
     JOHN LAURENCE So its possible that this boy, this baby was rejected?
     DR MARIECLAIRE ANTAKLY Yes, its possible.
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) A member of the staff confirmed that the
    administration asked Mohammed for $3,000. Embarrassed, the hospital
    security chief ordered us to leave. As we left, an administrator was asked
    if she cared whether the hospital turned away sick babies. She said, its
    not my problem. Mohammed had been trying to get his son treated for nine
    hours. He ended up at a hospital in Sidon, 50 miles away. There, too, they
    demanded money.
     MOHAMMED HASSAN YUSUF (through translator) They asked for $1,000 and I
    pleaded with them to show some humanity. I told them, this is a child here.
    The main thing is that the child, if the Lord wishes, lives. The man felt a
    bit sorry for me when I started crying and said okay, but I had to bring
    the money the next day. The boy was admitted but he died. The next day I
    went back to Sidon and the man said that he wouldnt give me the boys body
    until I gave him $220. I said to him my son has died, may he rest in peace.
    I havent even got enough money to buy a shroud for him. Bury him where you
    like, you bury him. But he gave me a paper to collect my son.
     HAMAL ACHMAD AKBAR (through translator) Our hearts have been broken to
    pieces. We are the living dead. There is no life here. If somebody just
    held out one hand to support us, to provide us with the things we need,
    then we could carry on. Otherwise, we will fall to the ground and die.
     MOHAMMED HASSAN YUSUF (through translator) Poverty creates despair and
    despair creates even more things and you cant blame us if we were to do
    certain things.
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) When Mohammed says certain things, he is talking
    about violence. For Palestinians like him, violence and revenge have become
    compelling outlets for their anger and despair. (Commercial Break)
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) Ten thousand people live in the Shattila camp in
    Beirut, some of the 3.5 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East.
    They have been refugees for 50 years, since Israel became a state. Since
    then, their care has been in the hands of UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works
    Agency. Their lives are impoverished and getting worse.
     WOLFGANG PLASA, DIRECTOR, UNRWA LEBANON Just imagine that you belong
    to a people, that, of course, you are born in, nobody asked you. Youre
    living in a country which is not yours. You have no citizenship. You dont
    have a real passport. You may have been living so since you were born and
    your father was already born in the same country under the same conditions.
    Sooner or later you have this victims mentality.
    Were not accepted outside. The Israelis are not accepting to implement the
    right of return and the Lebanese are insisting not to give us the
    opportunity of work and social security.
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) Forty percent unemployment, inadequate housing,
    limited education, poor diet, bad hygiene, ill health. Refugee life is
    constantly at the edge of catastrophe. For Hamal, the death of her infant
    son was one more wound. (interviewing) Who do you blame? Whos responsible?
     HAMAL ACHMAD AKBAR (through translator) Who do you think? Who is
    responsible for us and has forgotten us? The United Nations, UNRWA. Nobody
    else. Whatever happens, I will never forget my son and that they killed
     WOLFGANG PLASA I can perfectly well imagine this case to happen in
    Lebanon because the situation is that in lots of hospitals, in Lebanon, in
    particular, in the private sector, money is the most important factor.
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) Money is also a factor for UNRWA. Last year, in a
    move to save money, it ordered Palestinians to pay part of their major
    medical costs.
     WOLFGANG PLASA We are unable to pay everything. Im talking about
    hospital bills which are exactly as high as in Europe or the United States.
    Im talking about bills of $10,000 or $20,000.
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) But most Palestinians hardly have enough to pay for
    food much less thousands of dollars for hospital bills.
     SUHAIL NATOUR Most of the Lebanese hospitals, they dont accept any
    Palestinian without previous payment. Even in cases of emergency, if you
    dont pay $1,000 or $3,000 as a previous payment before entering to the
    hospital, youll never enter it. We had last year, for example, a list of
    approximately 100 cases of kidney problems. Now, the list diminished to be
    only 15 cases. The others died. Every Palestinian who has a serious illness
    is condemned to death in Lebanon because there is no way to give these
     JOHN LAURENCE (on camera) The Lebanese have a saying for difficult
    situations that do not affect them directly. It is mishmishklite (ph)its
    not my problem. When you ask Lebanese officials about the plight of the
    350,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, you are likely to be told
    mishmishklite. (interviewing) What about the Palestinians?
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) Rafiq alHariri is prime minister of Lebanon.
    (interviewing) They are suffering.
     RAFIQ ALHARIRI I know. They are suffering because of the Israelis,
    because of Israel.
     JOHN LAURENCE Is there anything that the Lebanese government can do to
    make their suffering less acute?
     RAFIQ ALHARIRI Listen, Israel have taken their country. It is totally
    the responsibility of Israel. I dont accept that, OK, this is happened a
    few years ago, 20 years ago, 50 years ago and now it is our responsibility.
    No, it is not our responsibility. It is the responsibility of Israel and it
    will be always the responsibility of Israel.
     JOHN LAURENCE Is it fair for the head of the Lebanese government to
    say its not our problem?
     RAFIQ ALHARIRI You know, it depends how you put it. It depends how
    you put it. We cannot integrate them in the society. We cannot give them
    the Lebanese nationality. We cannot consider them as Lebanese because they
    are not and if we did so, we feel that we are implementing the plan of
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) So the refugees are stuck. Even Yasser Arafat
    appears to have forgotten them. Financial aid from the PLO has been cut.
    Contributions from wealthy Arab nations, once generous, are next to nothing
     SUHAIL NATOUR Everyone all over who were assisting the Palestinians
    were thinking that this is Oslo agreement. Im finished with the
    Palestinian problem and that means finish their obligation towards the
    Palestinian refugees, which is not true because the occupation of Israel is
    continuous and the oppression done by the Israelis on all stratas of
    society is continuing and the Arab regimes treatment of the Palestinian
    refugees, they didnt change. So they cut their assistance to the
    Palestinians, but we didnt find alternative solutions to that. Thats why
    the problem is turning to be acute.
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) In a country where the cost of living is as high as
    the United States and onethird of the population lives below the poverty
    line, the most ambitious and expensive building project in the world is
    under waythe reconstruction of Beirut. When its completed, the public and
    private costs will amount to at least $35 billion.
     CHRIS WALLACE Palestinian refugees are not the only group of poor,
    dispossessed and profoundly alienated people in Lebanon. There are also
    more than one million Shiah Muslims, many of whom live in poverty, many of
    whom have turned to the radical Islamic group known as Hezbollah. Part
    three of John Laurences report, when we come back. (Commercial Break)
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) Emergencya babys life is on the line. The staff
    of this Beirut hospital works to save it. At this stage, no one cares what
    it will cost. No one has been asked to pay in advance. The infant is
    admitted on the spot. Of Beiruts 32 private hospitals, this is the least
    expensive. It is also one of the most efficient. It is owned and operated
    by the Islamic fundamentalist organization, Hezbollah.
     AlRassoul Aazam Hospital started 10 years ago as a first aid station
    for Hezbollah soldiers in the civil war. Now a full hospital, it treats
    5,000 patients a month. (interviewing) Which is the priority here, the
    business or the immediate care?
    Its to care for the patient because in many cases, really, we take them
    into the emergency, after we treat them, they cannot afford to pay so we
    have to take the case as he cannot pay and then from there we have to take
    the bill, you know.
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) The hospital survives by operating on a low profit
    margin, renting rather than purchasing expensive medical equipment and
    raising money from its Islamic supporters around the world. It serves a
    south Beirut community of 800,000 Lebanese, almost all Muslim, almost all
    poor. The governments medical care program has failed them. (interviewing)
    Do people die because they cannot pay for medical care?
     DR KAYED TFAYLY, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON (through translator) Yes. Yes. I
    know several cases where people died because they could not afford the
    costs of treatment. With a very low standard of living and bad education,
    people dont get the treatment they need and the result is that theyre
    left to die.
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) Gotta Samat (ph) has just given birth. Her hospital
    bill will be met by an insurance policy paid by her husbands employer.
    Gotta is a refugee from South Lebanon. There, Hezbollah is engaged in a
    guerrilla war with the Israeli Army. The families of Hezbollah soldiers
    killed in action receive free medical care for life. Hezbollah also offers
    private education, trying to fill gaps left by the poorly funded state
    system. Hezbollah is active in all major areas of social welfare,
    education, health care, housing, humanitarian aid as well as religion. Its
    constituency of Shiah Muslims makes up onethird of the Lebanese
    population, the largest and fastest growing group in the country. By most
    accounts, Hezbollahs welfare programs are honest, efficient and gaining
     The same cannot be said for the government. The poor are not its
    priority. Most of its money is being spent on construction programs to
    rebuild the physical infrastructure of the country and get back to the
    business of making and spending money, something the Lebanese have excelled
    at since Phoenician times. But the government is deeply in debt and only
    the wealthy few are able to enjoy the riches of the new Beirut.
     A few streets away, Shiah Muslim refugees from South Lebanon live in
    bombed out buildings no one else wants. Poor, unemployed, outside the reach
    of the governments social welfare system, the Miri (ph) family struggles
    to survive. They say life is miserable. Nobody wants to help.
     1ST LEBANESE (through translator) In this country, there are people
    who have absolutely nothing and those who have everything. There are no
    people in the middle. The strong devour the weak. One is dead and the other
    lives in luxury. Thats how it is, like a master and a slave. Nobody
    accepts that. Humanity does not accept that.
     2ND LEBANESE (through translator) The war is over, 17 years of war. It
    is good to be like any other country in the world again. But we had hoped
    the Lebanese state would think more of the poor people and not only think
    of reconstruction, roads and bridges. There are also people who want to
     JOHN LAURENCE (VO) If the plans of Lebanons are fulfilled, in a few
    more years, Beirut will be a bright, shining star in the Middle East, once
    again a center of commerce, tourism and culture. Then, some of the expected
    prosperity may reach the lives of those who now have least, like those
    living in the shadow of Beiruts new $65 million sports complex. In the
    meantime, as one wealthy businessman said, the poor will have to wait.
    Those who dream of peace in the Middle East ignore the needs of these
    people at their peril.
     John Laurence for Nightline, Beirut. 
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