Israel bars outspoken Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert from entering the Gaza Strip

Mads Gilbert had criticised Israeli bombardment in August as he treated injured and dying Palestinians

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The Independent Online

Israel has barred a Norwegian doctor from entering the Gaza Strip through its territory after he severely criticised its military campaign while volunteering at a Gaza hospital during the devastating conflict over the summer.

There was no immediate Israeli confirmation of Norwegian media reports that Dr Mads Gilbert, a trauma surgeon and far-left political activist, had been banned for life from entering Gaza for security reasons.

Dr Gilbert told The Independent yesterday that he did not know how long the ban was for. He said that when he tried to enter Gaza via the Erez crossing last month he was told he could not do so for “security reasons”.

“This is not about me. This is about Israel denying the Palestinian people in Gaza international support,” he said. “To deny professionals from the medical field the right to go to Gaza is another aspect of the collective punishment. They’re exercising the siege in an increasingly harsh and brutal way.

“I’ve done nothing wrong. The truth on the ground is very inconvenient for Israel. Anyone who conveys that truth is unwanted.”

Norway’s Foreign Secretary, Bard Glad Pedersen, told reporters yesterday that “from the Norwegian perspective we have raised Gilbert’s exclusion from Gaza and asked Israel to change their decision. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is still difficult and there is a need for all health workers.”

 

During the war, Dr Gilbert charged that Israel was committing “state terrorism at the highest levels”.

In a dispatch from Gaza’s Shifa hospital published in The Independent on 20 July, at the height of the fighting, he graphically described treating “maimed and torn-apart people” and wrote that all those being cared for were innocent civilians. “We still have lakes of blood on the floor in the emergency room, piles of dripping blood-soaked bandages to clear out. 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.”

He closed his letter with a call on readers to force Israel to stop its onslaught. “Please. Do what you can. This cannot continue.” Dr Gilbert gave frequent press interviews in which he made the same points. He also joined with two other doctors, who it later turned out had endorsed an anti-Semitic video, in writing an “Open Letter for the people of Gaza” that was published in The Lancet in August. “We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre,” the doctors wrote.

Dr Gilbert was quoted by the Norwegian daily Dagbladet as saying in response to the Israeli ban: “What’s next, a bullet in my head?”

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Palestinians saw their homes destroyed in Gaza City after it was shelled by Israeli forces in August (EPA)

Jaber Wishah, the deputy director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said the international community must take action to reverse the ban on Dr Gilbert. “This is part of the policy of successive Israeli governments to hide the truth from the international community and all interested persons. Gilbert was an eyewitness and did his best to give the truth about the wounds and injuries and in a scientific manner to give indications of the weapons used in this war. It is the duty of the international community to exact every pressure on the Israeli government to cancel this decision.”

Dr Gilbert is on the left-wing fringe in Norway. In 2001, he told Dagbladet that the 9/11 attacks in the US were a result of decades of Western foreign policy and that he supported terrorist attacks against the US in that “context”.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Paul Hirschson, recalled those remarks yesterday, adding: “He’s not on the side of decency and peace and he’s got a horrible track record. I wouldn’t be surprised if his acquaintances are among the worst people in the world.”

But Tony Laurance, the chief executive of the UK-based Medical Aid for Palestine, voiced “extreme concern” about Dr Gilbert’s exclusion from the Gaza Strip. “There aren’t many people like him going on a regular basis to Gaza and he bravely stays there during conflict,” he said. “His being critical of Israeli policy should not be reason to prevent him from providing support to the Gaza health system.”

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