News Release

Gaza “More Dire Than Ever”

Dr. Mads Gilbert in Gaza

Dr. Mads Gilbert in Gaza

Dr. MADS GILBERT, mads.gilbert at gmail.com, also via Jennifer Loewenstein, amadea311 at earthlink.net
During the Israeli “Operation Cast Lead” in Dec. 2008 – Jan. 2009, Dr. Gilbert was one of only two outside doctors in Gaza. Last week the International Criminal Court, to the protests of Amnesty International and other groups, stated it would not issue prosecutions for the Israeli Operation. Recently Gilbert, co-author of “Eyes in Gaza,” returned to Gaza and is now on a 10-day speaking tour in the U.S.

Gilbert said today: “The Israeli Operation Cast Lead killed 1.400 people in Gaza, struck 58 mosques and 280 schools. I’m sad to say from my visit to Gaza earlier this year, the situation is now more dire than ever. The Israeli siege effectively prohibits the rebuilding of Gaza — the import of concrete, of window panes, the availability of travel for medical care for the population. I’ve worked in other desperate situations in other places and Gaza is unique in a number of respects. It’s a captive population — usually if civilians are being attacked, there’s a safe place they can take refuge and then come back to their homes when the fighting has stopped. That doesn’t exist for the people in Gaza since they are effectively imprisoned by the Israeli siege. It’s an incredibly young population and a very poor population with nearly 80 percent unemployment, largely because of the Israeli siege, which is an illegal form of collective punishment. Anemia and protein deficiency are widespread.

“During the Israeli attack, I saw the effects of new weapons including drones, phosphorous and also DIME [Dense Inert Metal Explosives], which leave no shrapnel, but I witnessed their capacity to cut a child in two; they also leave radioactive traces. The Palestinian population is very resilient but this is being undermined in a number of ways that are not obvious. Israel is finding ways of getting more and more informants and traitors, including by blackmailing people who need medical care.

“Politically, the Palestinians have fundamentally abided by truces. The truce before Cast Lead was broken by the Israelis on Nov. 4, 2008, just as many in the U.S. were celebrating the election of Barack Obama and was planned for two years.

“When I asked a wise man in Gaza what I should say to people in the U.S., he said: ‘Tell them your tax dollars are killing us, the Palestinians.’ Indeed, all this could change if there were a shift in U.S. policy. Imagine if Obama had acted in a courageous manner — if he’d flown his Marine One helicopter into Gaza when he was in Egypt and addressed the people there, like Kennedy did in Berlin, saying to the people ‘I am a Palestinian.’”

Regarding last week’s ICC decision, Glibert noted “the ICC is in effect telling Israel that it can do what it wants to the Palestinians without legal accountability. Unfortunately the Norwegian legal system similarly dismissed a case form Norwegian lawyers.” He continued, “I do see positive changes coming from the grassroots. My own country of Norway used to be very pro-Israeli, but because of the reality of Israeli polices and because Norwegians became aware of them — through our soldiers serving as peacekeepers in the region and solidarity workers like myself — the Palestinian narrative took hold. It took decades, but it took hold.”

Gilbert is a professor and head of the department of emergency services at the University of North Norway and did medical research at the University of Iowa. See Gilbert’s piece “Inside Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital” in the noted medical journal The Lancet.

Gilbert is also available for interviews via Jennifer Loewenstein, who is faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and board member of the Chomsky Fund, which is organizing Gilbert’s tour.