World does not know the things we know. We can’t let the things run as they do now. This, THIS cannot continue. Can nobody stop this?”
We as scientists and doctors cannot remain silent against the horrors that the humanity is facing.
Mads Gilbert is a Norwegian doctor. He stood by the Palestinian people throughout his over 30-year career. He ran to help Palestinians each and everytime Israel bombed them, and lived his life in such a way that shows to the world every human life is valuable and that kindness knows no religion, race or language.
MD Mads Gilbert met Palestinians for the first time in 1981 when Israel laid siege on West Beirut and bombed it relentlessly. At the time he was in his twenties. He recalls those days: “Israel first cut the water and power before laying siege on the city. So it made sure no food and mecidine is delivered to the city. Then it bombed the city day and night indiscriminately. So the targets were no only military bases but also schools, residential areas, hospitals, ambulances even humanitarians trying to rescue the injured civilians. It was a dreadful scene.”
After witnessing the plight of Palestinians during West Beirut siege of 1981 MD Mads Gilbert made up his mind to dedicate his life to the Palestinian cause. Since then he has advocated that every man or woman of conscience should tell the world about the occupation of Palestine. He has been the voice telling the West about the Palestinians` suffering and used every opportunity to raise awareness about this cause so far.
Mads Gilbert who did not want to remain apathetic to the military assaults against civilians in Palestine went to Gaza right after the occupation started in 2008 and was surprised to find no journalists in the scene. Palestinians were alone. In his book where his experiences in the year 2008 and 2009 are chronicled he described the situation with the following words: “Israel had systematically banned Western journalists and medics from entering Gaza. A friend of mine and I managed to enter Gaza via Egypt in the fifth day of the occupation right before the New Year`s eve in 2008. No one was willing to show resistance and talk about Israel`s assault on Gaza or they just couldnot do it. In addition to our medical service in Shifa hospital, my friend and I took it upon ourselves to show the world what was happening in Gaza as we witnessed it.”
Mads Gilbert started running news stories about what he has been witnessing while trying to treat the patients in order to let the world know about the horrific situation.
Mads Gilbert who was witness to the suffering of the civilians in Gaza tried to chronicle the things he saw by taking photos and writing them down. When shelling paused and his colleagues took a brief break he emailed primarily Norwegian and also other Western media outlets about the horror that is happening on the ground. His personal emails proved to be a great help to raise awareness about the Israel`s assault.
In 2008 to 2009 in Gaza
In 2008 Mads Gilbert was on Christmas holiday with his children when he learned that Israel started bombing Gaza. He said his farewell to his kids there and then before he headed to Palestine. His children on the other hand were very supportive of his decision and encouraged him. “We will stand by you if you wish to go” they said to their father who taught them that “you should fight for it if you believe in something.” Gilbert replied that he would continue his struggle for the needy and oppressed till the end.
Mads Gilbert traveled from Norway to Gaza with a friend of his who is also an MD. They first flied into Cairo, Egypt and then drove to Gaza. But the route to Gaza proved to be quite troublesome as Egypt shut down the border. They have barely managed to cross the border after the Norwegian authorities got involved and pressed Egyptian authorities to grant them passage to Gaza.
Gilbert has decided to dedicate his life to the people struggling for their lives and made helping them out a part of his life. In 2007 Israel started to impose a heavy embargo on Gaza as its citizens elected Hamas to the government. As a result the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies was banned. Public offices, hospitals, schools and residential areas were bombed and the assault was still going on. Two million people were living in five-kilometre square Gaza strip out of which over 1-million was living in camps. So life already was quite hard. Jabalya, Gaza, Beyt Lahya, Beyt Hanun, Dir el-Belah, Hanyunus, Refah and Abasan Kebir are littered with refugee camps for internally displaced people due to Israel`s heavy bombardment.
Israel had put restrictions on goods and items coming in and out of Gaza. People had been suffering an illegitimate embargo. Hence Israel had turned Gaza into an open-air prison where education and health facilities no longer functioned while economy and security collapsed. There was no means of communication with the outside world.
In spite of all these, Gilbert left his home and headed to Palestine in every bombardment regardless of the life thretening situation in order to treat the patients hospitalized and worked to cure thousands. In the regular time when there is no bombardment he would visit Palestine at least once a year to carry out aid campaigns in healthcare.
Mads Gilbert, who calls all of that has happened “a man-made catastrophe,” has tried to raise awarness in the international community about Israelis` horrific endgoal that is to push Palestinians to leave their homeland altogether through relentless bombardments, deprivation of food and medical supplies.
In an interview Mads Gilbert reports that Israel has used white phosphoric bomb as he treated the patients during Israel’s 2008-2009 Gaza bombardment and observed heavy burn injuries in the patients that is the result of exposure of phosphoric bomb. The burn injuries of some patients were so terrifying that their flesh was burned out until the bones. MD Gilbert could not remain silent against what he had been witnessing. While he was active in treating victims of war at Shifa Hospital he also gave numerous interviews to the international media outlets. He highlighted the despair of Palestinians against Israel`s relentless bombardment.
Gilbert who has risked his life for people that he never met before nor did he speak their language became the voice of Palestinians through his efforts. He voiced out their suffering in places where they were unable to have acces to. He demonstrated an example of courage in interviews that he gave while bombs were falling down. He tried to convey his message to everybody around the world: “World does not know the things we know. We can’t let the things run as they do now. This, THIS cannot continue. Can nobody stop it?”
Gilbert was one of the founding members of NORWAC (Norwegian Aid Committee). He was able to easily get his message heard through NORWAC and to mobilize them for humanitarian relief supplies when needed. However during the assault in 2009 Israel did not allow the supplies, which included anathezia machines, respiratory devices, and medications, to enter Gaza.
On the 3rd day of January 2009 what Gilbert went through testifies to what a hard struggle he put up in Gaza. News of another one of those mass death arrived at Shifa Hospital. A marketplace was bombed and scores of injured were being taken to the hospital. Gilbert rested himself on the wall not to collapse down. He hardly kept himself together and then rushed to the window to look out. When he saw the smoke still coming out of the marketplace he was enraged. He picked up his phone and texted these lines: “… Land of the dead! Death, blood and torn limbs surround us. So many children, a pregnant woman. I have ever never lived such horror in my life. Right now we can hear the tanks. Please share this message with others, cry it out!” He swiftly sent it to various media outlets, to his children and friends.
Gilbert attended to the injured children who arrived in the hospital at that moment like they were his own. When he despaired he caressed through the heads of injured children. He put a superhuman effort for the children and placed a kiss on the foreheads of those who died, as he could not just let them go. The bombardment was so intensified in 2009 that the gun report was heard very close. Shifa Hospital was also running the risk of being bombed like Palestinians.
In his return from Gaza a huge crowd welcomed the charitable doctor. The people embraced him and started aid campaigns on his behalf for Palestine.
In Israel`s assault on Gaza during July and August 2014 regardless of his old age he returned to Gaza and started attending to the patients in Shifa Hospital. Just like he did previously he simultaneously became the voice of Palestinians. In his report to the United Nations he explained that Palestine healthcare system has totally collapsed. He noted that all kinds of medical supplies needed in a hospital were blocked entry to Gaza. In his emails and tv interviews he described how number of patients who needed treatment increased every moment during the war and that hospitals simply had no capacity to deliver them health service and stressed that if the situation continued like this Palestinian people would suffer a catastrophe. Gilbert expressed that he as a Westerner felt ashamed by this situation. “We should not pity but support them,” he cried out about the unjustified suffering Palestinians had to go through with no food and drink under bombardment.
In Lancet, a medical journal published by Palestinian doctors he wrote that this tragedy must stop. “We, as scientists and doctors cannot remain silent against this horror done to humanity. We are calling out to our readers to not remain silent too. People in besieged Gaza city are systematically killed by the largest and best equipped armies in the world.”
Israeli assault in 2014 lasted 51 days. During this period Gilbert treated over thousand injured civilians. He said the things even media outlets failed to report in this horrific situation where 95% of the hospitalized civilians were women and children. “In the assault called Operation Protective Edge by Israel, according to UN`s report Israel used five times more bombs than it did in 2009 assault. Three thousand five hundred children were injured in the assault. Normally they are supposed to be protected by organizations like UN and Red Cross. However they failed to do anything. Israel enjoys a horrible immunity.” His statements enraged Israeli government. He got angry reaction from Israel for bearing witness to the events and asserting that Israel is shelling the city on purpose. Yet Mads did not mind about it. His only concern was to draw internetional community`s attention to the assault on Gaza city thus help stop it.
Mads Gilbert kept communicating with the outside world to tell what is happening in Palestine. Following the terrifying assault launched in the middle of the night in 2014 he decided to pen a letter to get his message heard. He described the horror faced by Palestinians in his letter:
The last night was extreme. The “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 12-24 hour shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment all in Shifa for the last 4 months), they care, triage, try to understand the incromprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking and not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. HUMANS!
Later in his letter Mads Gilbert says that he is writing his letter while his tears are flowing, they are warm but useless tears of pain. Gilbert who wrote that Israeli artillery, ammunition and arms were mostly made in and paid by US, calls out to former US President Barack Obama:
Mr. Obama – do you have a heart?
I invite you – spend one night- just one night – with us in Shifa. Disguised as a cleaner maybe.
I am convinced, 100%, 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. But the heartless and merciless have done their calculations and planned another “dahyia” onslaught in Gaza. The rivers of blood will keep running the coming night. I can hear they have tuned their instruments of death.
Please. Do what you can. This, THIS cannot continue.
Mads Gilbert’s letter earned him greater fame in international platforms. In 2014 around forty organizations led by Palestine Committee of Norway held a protest to condemn Israeli assaults on Gaza city. To the protesters gathered in front of the Norwegian parliament Mads Gilbert`s letter from Gaza was read out. After greeting everyone who turned out in the demonstration Mads said in his letter written under sickening drones: “I cry out to you from Gaza: we have no time to lose! You have to stop this madness! You have to scream louder that the sickening noise of bombs! Imagine Gaza people will be free, independent and peaceful like us. Palestinians should have the same human rights, the same legal right to protection with Israelis, Americans and Norwegians. Palestinians` worth as humans are no less than others like us who live on this earth.
When weapons are dropped, despair will also drop!
We can create peace when we create the value of humans!”
Mads Gilbert has tried everything to get his voice heard in countries who turn a blind to what is happening in Palestine whilst also working as a doctor in Shifa. Thanks to his efforts thousands turned out in demonstrations held in Oslo and Paris to back peace in Gaza.
Banned from Entering Gaza
After the assault in 2014 he returned to Gaza. Before long he decided to go back to Palestine as he felt that Gazans needed him more. He was stopped from entering Gaza at the border regardless of his multiple entry visa. He tried to talk to the border police and said “I am a doctor and never involved in an illegal activity. I never acted against Israel law. I did not even complete the period of stay that Israel gave for my stay in Gaza” but to no avail. They said that he was in the list of banned persons and prohibited from entering Palestine for a lifetime.
In his statement afterwards he said “I did not do anything wrong against Israel. This has nothing to do with me. They are punishing Palestinians for my political views.”
Mads Gilbert’s Books on Gaza
During 20-day assault in late 2008 and early 2009 thousands of Palestinians lost their lives. Mads Gilbert, who witnessed all that, showed solidarity with Palestine, which was razed to the ground. Living witnesses of the events that happened on the ground MD Mads Gilbert and his friend MD Erik Fosse took notes of what they saw everyday in order to tell everything as they happened. Later they co-authored a book where they published all their notes. The book, Eyes in Gaza gives an authentic account of Israel`s assault on civilians and what happened in Shifa hospital during the attacks. Following the assault in 2014 Gilbert wrote a second book, entitled Night in Gaza and continued to be the voice of Palestine.
Mads Gilbert, who was the witness of horror Palestinian civilians had gone through, is a kind man with a giant heart as he values human life not based on race, faith and language but based on humanity and he has been the voice of Palestinians.