Washington, DC; 28 April 2016: Providing aid and bolstering development in a region that has been a perennial conflict zone since 1948 is both demanding and rewarding. United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) has managed to do just that with a small dedicated staff and supporters since their founding in 1978 by a group of successful Palestinian-American professionals in New York. Focus Washington’s Chuck Conconi sat down with UPA’s Executive Director Saleem Zaru to learn more about the organization and its operations.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don't have a secure food source. UPA's Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don’t have a secure food source. UPA’s Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families. (Photo credit: UPA)

Zaru discussed the challenges of working under the constant state of emergency, noting that providing relief often consumes a great deal of time and funding, as opposed to being able to focus on development. One of the founding principles of UPA was to contribute to socioeconomic and cultural development in Palestine, but immediate needs to provide food aid, medical care (including psychological care for trauma victims) and basic needs like clothing and hygiene products sometimes take precedence.

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

In spite of the ongoing violence and emergency situations, UPA has made remarkable inroads in anticipating and instituting programs that help Palestinians become more independent so their situations do not perpetuate reliance on charity. Whether through micro-finance programs that launch small entrepreneurial start-ups, scholarships that advance education to better position Palestinians for employment, or partnerships programs like the Embracing Life campaign which is bringing Cleft Lip and Palate surgical and nursing training to West Bank and Gaza in conjunction with the Craniofacial Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

When asked about how programs like UPA can address extremism, Zaru stated that giving someone the opportunity to put food on their table and support their family creates hope, and hope is the best way to fight the lure of extremism.

Zaru’s dream for UPA is that they would go out of business because there is no more need and Palestinians live under normal conditions. Until that time comes, UPA will continue delivering hope to the people in Palestine and the refuge camps.

To learn more about United Palestinian Appeal, visit their website at: http://helpupa.org/

In 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected, progressive liberals looked forward to a leader who could move a progressive agenda along. On this week’s episode of Focus Washington with Chuck Conconi, liberal political commentator Bill Press addresses his disappointment in Obama’s pursuit of progressive legislation and change; Press’s recent book, Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down, makes a case for each missed opportunity.

According to Press, who is the former chairman of the Democratic Party in California, Obama fell short of progressive expectations on issues such as gun control, health care and immigration. Nevertheless,  Press praises Obama for several accomplishments during his eight years in the White House, “I give him credit for all the good things…brought the economy from the brink of ruin, saved the American auto industry… the [recent] Iran nuclear deal, re-opening relations with Cuba, so long overdue…”

Press criticizes the philosophical underpinnings of Obamacare’s in particular. “[Obama] said single-payer option was not under consideration–mistake number one,” says Press.  “Then a public-plan option was offered, giving people the option: instead of buying private insurance they can set up for Medicare, he sold that public plan action, dropped it without a vote or fight.” Current Obamacare requires every single American to buy insurance from a private insurance company… pharmaceutical companies can charge anything they want for prescription drugs.”

Press says that where the President walked away from Congress, he should have stepped forward. Both gun control and immigration reform present similar scenarios: Democrats had the majority in Congress for the first two years, and the Obama administration failed to act decisively.

“Obama should have fought the fight…. there are people that know how to work Congress. President Obama didn’t develop any strong relations when he was there and certainly didn’t as president.”

A progressive will work with Congress, says Press, engage in conservation, and “fight the fight.” To the extent that Obama didn’t use the power of the presidency with Congress, he let down the progressive liberals like Bill Press down.


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