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Thestar.com/In Ramallah, being Canadian means nothing
They include people such as Muhammad Rashid, a key adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat; Yasser Abbas, a top businessman and son of Abu Mazen, Arafat's deputy and the number two man in the Palestinian Authority; Abdul Malik Al Jaber, director of Padaco, the biggest investment company in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip; Farouk Fanoush, head of Coca Cola Palestine; and a host of engineers, doctors and lawyers.
..."Canada is so peaceful and nice, just a wonderful, wonderful place," said Jaber, 39, who earned his Ph.D. in engineering at Montreal's McGill University, and his MBA at renowned Northwestern University in Chicago.
Added Abdullah, the head of an architectural firm whose monthly, $1 million (U.S.) housing projects have ground to a halt: "So many people in the world hate the United States, but everyone loves and respects Canada."
Most have chosen to stay in Ramallah, the hub of the Palestinian economy, watching the city they helped build reduced to a war zone.
They strongly condemn suicide bomb attacks against Israel, but insist they are the desperate byproduct of a military occupation that must end for peace to exist.
has two daughters, 4-month-old Maya and Aya, 3.When the tanks rumbled in and began shelling, Jaber
frightened 3-year-old that the noise came from the house her
uncle was building.
would say, `This is a naughty uncle.' But in the last three days, when the shelling got worse, she
said, `Let's go to the roof and hit the helicopters with a stick so they will go away,'"' Jaber
`This war is now
about who will fall to their knees first'
...Jaber spent 13 years studying and working in Montreal, before joining the Palestinian negotiating team in the landmark Madrid conference in 1991, which was followed by the Oslo interim peace deal two years later. Jaber
then took charge of Padaco
, an investment firm set up by wealthy Palestinians in the diaspora to help build the future Palestinian state.Padaco
has so far pumped $500 million into the occupied territories in housing projects, mobile phone networks, bus stations, five-star hotels, and companies that manufacture everything from television sets to bottles.
One of Padaco's
key initiatives is the setting up of industrial parks along Israel's border with the occupied territories, jointly funded with Israeli investors.Before the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation began 18 months ago, Padaco
had one industrial park working at the Gaza border, employing 2,500 Palestinians, and eight others in various stages of construction or tender.
All eight industrial parks on the drawing board were aborted when the violence erupted, because Israeli investors pulled out and the land the parks were to be built on became Israeli military zones.