[News] Israel Bans Renowned Doctor and Human Rights Activist from Entering Gaza for Life

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 14 18:53:12 EST 2014


Weekend Edition November 14-16, 2014
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/14/israel-bans-renowned-doctor-and-human-rights-activist-mads-gilbert-from-entering-gaza-for-life/


Solidarity Not Pity


  Israel Bans Renowned Doctor and Human Rights Activist Mads Gilbert
  from Entering Gaza for Life

by BEN NORTON

Israel has banned 
<http://www.thelocal.no/20141114/israel-shuts-gilbert-out-from-gaza-for-life> 
Norwegian doctor and human rights activist Mads Gilbert from entering 
Gaza for life.

Gilbert, a professor at the University Hospital of North Norway, where 
he has worked since 1976, earned international renown for his 
philanthropic work in late 2008, during Israel's Operation Cast Lead, an 
attack that, according to Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem 
<http://www.btselem.org/statistics/fatalities/during-cast-lead/by-date-of-event>, 
killed roughly 1,400 Gazans, including almost 800 civilians, 350 of whom 
were children.

The aid worker, along with fellow Norwegian doctor Erik Fosse, decided 
to volunteer in Gaza as soon as he heard that bombing had started, on 27 
December 2008. Thanks to diplomatic and economic support (in the sum of 
$1 million dollar of emergency funding from the Norwegian Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs), the two physicians managed to arrive in the strip by 
30 December.

The Israeli government prevented all international press from entering 
Gaza during Cast Lead (a documentary, /The War Around Us/ 
<http://thewararoundus.com/filmmakers>, was made about the only two 
foreign reporters in the strip at the time), in what Gilbert called 
<http://www.indypendent.org/2010/02/12/eyewitness-gaza-interview-dr-mads-gilbert#sthash.xbZ5aQsF.dpuf> 
Israel's insidious "PR plan." The doctor, as one of the only 
international aid workers in Gaza, thus devoted considerable time to 
speaking with local Palestinian news outlets, some of whom were 
reporting on behalf of foreign networks including BBC, CNN, ABC, and Al 
Jazeera.

BBC aired an interview with Gilbert 
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7812547.stm>, conducted in the 
hospital. The questions asked, and the answers garnered, were eerily 
similar to those he would give just five years later, during Operation 
Protective Edge. The interviewer began asking him to respond to Israel's 
claims that it was not targeting civilians, that it was only attacking 
Hamas militants. Gilbert called the claim "an absolutely stupid 
statement" and explained that, among the hundreds of patients he had 
seen at that point, only two had been fighters. The "large majority" 
were women, children, and men civilians. "These numbers are 
contradictory to everything Israel says," he reported.

Gilbert drew attention to the fact that the overflowing hospital did not 
have enough supplies to treat all of its patients, and censured the 
international community for doing nothing to assist them. Israel would 
not let in foreign doctors, and yet Palestinians were "dying waiting for 
surgery." "This is a complete disaster," he remarked, calling it "the 
worst man-made disaster" he could think of. "There are injuries you just 
don't want to see in this world."

*Operation Protective Edge*

In 2008 and 2009, Gilbert treated Palestinians who had been grievously 
wounded by Israel's use of experimental and illegal chemical weapons, 
including white phosphorous <http://www.hrw.org/fr/node/81821>, dense 
inert metal explosives (DIME) munitions 
<http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/14/white_phosphorous_and_dense_inert_metal>, 
and flechette shells 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/20/israel-using-flechette-shells-in-gaza>. 
In July 2014, in the midst of Israel's most recent attack on Gaza, 
Gilbert spoke with /Electronic Intifada/ 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israel-firing-experimental-weapons-gazas-civilians-say-doctors>, 
revealing that he saw indications of renewed use of DIME weapons and 
flechettes.

While volunteering in Shifa hospital, Gaza's principal medical facility, 
Gilbert penned an open letter 
<http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/israelgaza-conflict-mr-obama-do-you-have-a-heart-spend-one-night-with-us-in-gaza-it-would-change-history-norwegian-doctor-mads-gilberts-open-letter-evokes-conditions-in-shifa-hospital-30452235.html>, 
lamenting the unspeakable horrors the Israeli military was instigating.

    [Israel's] "ground invasion" of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads
    with maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying... All sorts of
    injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.

    The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza's hospitals are
    working 12 to 24-hour shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman
    workloads (without payment in Shifa for the last four months). They
    care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of
    bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not
    breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. Humans!?...?Ashy grey
    faces -- Oh no! not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding. We
    still have lakes of blood on the floor in the emergency room, piles
    of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out -- oh -- the
    cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded
    tissues, hair, clothes, cannulas -- the leftovers from death -- all
    taken away... to be prepared again, to be repeated all over.

    More than 100 cases came to Shifa in the last 24 hours. Enough for a
    large well-trained hospital with everything, but here -- almost
    nothing: electricity, water, disposables, drugs, operating-room
    tables, instruments, monitors -- all rusted and as if taken from
    museums of yesterday's hospitals. But they do not complain, these
    heroes.

    Now, once more treated like animals by "the most moral army in the
    world."

The doctor directed one heart-wrenching passage to President Obama, 
writing "Mr Obama -- do you have a heart? I invite you -- spend one 
night -- just one night -- with us in Shifa. I am convinced, 100 per 
cent, it would change history. Nobody with a heart and power could ever 
walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the 
slaughter of the Palestinian people."

Israel later attacked Shifa hospital. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) 
"strongly condemn[ed]" the incursion, saying it "demonstrate[d] how 
civilians in Gaza have nowhere safe to go." MSF director Marie-Noëlle 
Rodrigue stated, in an official statement 
<http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news-stories/press-release/gaza-msf-strongly-condemns-attack-al-shifa-hospital>, 
"When the Israeli army orders civilians to evacuate their houses and 
their neighborhoods, where is there for them to go? Gazans have no 
freedom of movement and cannot take refuge outside Gaza. They are 
effectively trapped." Shifa was one of the over 10 medical facilities 
Israel bombed in its 50-day offensive.

*Human Rights Work*

In 2000, Gilbert made headlines 
<http://www.nordlys.no/kultur/article303781.ece> for saving the life of 
a skier who had been trapped in sub-zero water. She had been pronounced 
clinically dead, with a body temperature of 57 °F, but Gilbert managed 
to revive her. For his service, Gilbert was awarded the Northern 
Norwegian of the Year award.

Before Operation Protective Edge commenced in early July 2014, Gilbert 
toured medical and health facilities and individual homes in Gaza, 
researching for a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine 
Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) report on the dire state of the 
strip's health sector 
<http://www.unrwa.org/sites/default/files/final_report_-_gaza_health_sector_june-july_2014_-_mads_gilbert_2.pdf>. 
He wrote of "overstretched" health facilities, widespread physical and 
psychological trauma, "a deep financial crisis," a lack of needed 
medical supplies, and a "severe energy crisis." He also noted the 
"devastating results of the blockade imposed by the Government of 
Israel," with rampant poverty, a 38.5% unemployment rate, food 
insecurity in at least 57% of households, and inadequate access to clean 
water. All of these already extreme ills were only exacerbated by the 
July-August Israeli assault on Gaza, an onslaught that left roughly 
2,200 Palestinians dead, including over 1,500 civilians, more than 500 
of whom were children.

Gilbert is not the only one Israel has recently prevented from entering 
Gaza. In August, just after the end of its military assault, Israel 
refused to allow Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the 
world's leading human rights organizations, from entering the strip, 
impeding them from conducting war crimes investigations. The 
organizations had been requesting access for over a month, before Israel 
had even begun its ground invasion of Gaza, yet were continuously 
prevented from doing so, Israeli journalist Amira Hass reported in 
/Haaretz/ 
<http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.611015>, 
"using various bureaucratic excuses."

Israel has banned Human Right Watch investigators from entering Gaza 
since 2006; Amnesty International has been refused access since 2012. 
Dr. Mads Gilbert is the latest esteemed /persona non grata/ to be added 
to this growing list.

*Solidarity, Not Pity*

Other aid workers and medical professionals have faced even worse 
consequences for volunteering to help Palestinians. In August, Israeli 
occupation forces killed a social worker 
<http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/twilight-zone/.premium-1.610619>. In the 
same month, as the Israeli military engaged in a campaign to target and 
openly murder Palestinian civilians who spoke Hebrew, Israeli forces 
assassinated volunteers working with the Palestine Red Crescent 
<http://www.alternet.org/world/israel-put-trial-war-crimes?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark>, 
a non-profit humanitarian organization, part of the International Red 
Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

A common myth suggests that Israel ended its occupation of Gaza with its 
2005 disengagement. The state's ability to ban, and even kill, 
internationally recognized human rights organizations and doctors---not 
to mention food 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/17/israeli-military-calorie-limit-gaza>, 
construction equipment 
<http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-23/next-gaza-disaster-after-war-with-israel-no-cement-for-rebuilding>, 
and medical supplies 
<http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/suffocating-gaza-israeli-blockades-effects-palestinians-2010-06-01>---from 
entering Palestinian territory, however, demonstrates that Gaza is by no 
means autonomous. Israel's siege of the strip is clearly a continuation 
of its 47-year-long illegal military occupation.

As legal scholar Noura Erakat explains 
<http://www.thenation.com/article/180783/five-israeli-talking-points-gaza-debunked>

    Despite removing 8,000 settlers and the military infrastructure that
    protected their illegal presence, Israel maintained effective
    control of the Gaza Strip and thus remains the occupying power as
    defined by Article 47 of the Hague Regulations. To date, Israel
    maintains control of the territory's air space, territorial waters,
    electromagnetic sphere, population registry and the movement of all
    goods and people.?...?Palestinians have yet to experience a day of
    self-governance. Israel immediately imposed a siege upon the Gaza
    Strip when Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006 and
    tightened it severely when Hamas routed Fatah in June 2007. The
    siege has created a "humanitarian catastrophe
    <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jan/07/gaza-israel-palestine>" in
    the Gaza Strip. Inhabitants will not be able to access clean water,
    electricity or tend to even the most urgent medical needs. The World
    Health Organization explains that the Gaza Strip will be unlivable
    <http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/gaza-2020-liveable-place>
    by 2020. Not only did Israel not end its occupation, it has created
    a situation in which Palestinians cannot survive in the long-term.

    In his July interview with /Electronic Intifada/, Gilbert made it
    clear that his work as a medical professional cannot be done---the
    Palestinian people cannot live healthy, yet alone free,
    lives---while Israel continues its illegal siege and occupation. "As
    a doctor, my prescription is very clear. Number one, stop the
    bombing, and that means stop Israel from bombing civilians and
    indiscriminately hitting families. Number two, lift the siege. And
    number three, find a political solution," he stated.

In a late October discussion 
<http://www.dailytargum.com/article/2014/10/doctor-shares-experience-in-gaza> 
with the /Daily Targum/, Gilbert encouraged Americans to do what they 
can to speak out against Israel's illegal occupation and blockade of the 
Palestinian territories, and to pressure their government to stop its 
indefatigable support for Israeli crimes.

At present, the US provides Israel with over 3.1$ billion of military 
aid per year. In the past 52 years, over $100 billion US tax dollars 
<http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.611001> have 
been given to the country in military aid alone.

"You are the change-makers," Gilbert told American readers. "The key to 
the change when it comes to the occupation of Palestine lies in the 
United States." "Solidarity, not pity," he said, is the solution.

/*Ben Norton* is an artist and activist. His website can be found at 
http://bennorton.com/ <http://www.bennorton.com/>./

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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