Obituary: David Wakim

By Maire Leadbeater

* David Wakim, peace advocate, pharmacist. Died aged 60

It may have been his auspicious birth date August 6, 1945 (Hiroshima Day). Or perhaps it was his Lebanese origins that inspired David Wakim to become a passionate advocate for justice for the Palestinian people.

Nowadays many would agree that this issue holds the key to peace in the Middle East and beyond, but this awareness has come through the tireless work of people like David.

David was an early member of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, which began in 1982 when Israel had just invaded Lebanon, directly threatening the survival of the Palestinian movement. David frequently faced vilification for putting the other side, the story of Palestinian dispossession of land and human dignity.

David seldom spoke of the distress the accusations caused. He just kept on good-humouredly putting his case. Since his death many have said it was David who made them rethink long-held views and ultimately recruited them to work for Palestinian rights.

It takes courage to work against the grain of popular opinion for so many years, but David had the rare gift of seeing a kernel of hope in the most difficult times. His optimism buoyed everyone who worked with him.

The frustrations were legion. David helped to organise demonstrations whenever there was an Israeli representative in town, as well as a monthly downtown vigil calling for an end to the occupation and for a shared Jerusalem.

But media attention remained elusive. Articles and letters fared little better, and Zionist representatives rebuffed attempts at dialogue. Undeterred, David also turned his energies to working with aid agencies to identify and fund Palestinian health projects such as an emergency mobile clinic.

David was always loyal to his Australian birthplace but he cheerfully made his wife's home his and for 30 years he was a well-known pharmacist on Dominion Rd. His clientele remember a man whose professional care came with a generous quota of compassion and a listening ear. His colleagues say he helped promote the profession as a vital component of an efficient health system.

St Benedicts Catholic Church is mourning a treasured parishioner who was a key mover in their community projects. He was an active member of the Catholic peace group Pax Christi and of the Council for Christians and Muslims, and he founded the Council of Christians and Jews.

Perhaps part of David's secret was his exuberance for life and enjoyment of leisure. He had a single-figure golf handicap. He also loved to visit far- flung and little-known places of the world. At the time of his sudden death from a heart attack he was in Africa learning about the birth pangs of post-liberation Namibia.

David is survived by his wife, Janfrie, and their children Suzy, Chris, Nadine and Larissa.

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