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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Israel permanently bans Norwegian doctor from Gaza Strip

Israel has banned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert from entering Gaza permanently. Israeli authorities say the ban was imposed on Gilbert for security reasons.



Dr. Gilbert is an activist as well as a doctor. He has been working in the medical system of the Gaza Strip for decades. The 67-year-old activist has repeatedly condemned the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza. During the latest round of fighting he worked in the Shifa Medical Center. When he was returning to Gaza in October, he was not allowed to cross into Gaza even though he had a visa with multiple entries as well as documents from the Israeli army.
 There has been no explanation of what the supposed security issue is that resulted in the ban. When Gilbert debated with the number two official at the Israeli embassy on TV in Oslo, the official said: “We cannot explain, we cannot detail that but we have got the information from our security authorities that there is a security issue.” Gilbert claims that the security claim is nonsense: I am a medical doctor. I have never done anything illegal. I’ve got a stethoscope, a pen, and a camera, and I document what I see. But I‘ve never been a security threat to Israel, of course. Gilbert thinks that Israel simply regards his reports on the situation during attacks in 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2014 as damaging to Israel's image simply by graphically illustrating the results of those attacks.
 Gilbert points out that during the last siege there were more than 2,100 Palestinians killed including 521 children and civilians being 70 to 80 per cent of the casualties. On the Israeli side there 71 killed of whom 66 were soldiers. Gilbert found out from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the ban on security grounds dated from the 28th of July and was permanent. That was the day Gilbert left Gaza during the bombing. His permit to enter was canceled. This was all done without notifying Gilbert and while he had the visa mentioned earlier that was valid until November 11.
 As indicated in the Wikipedia entry about Gilbert, he believes that doctors should not be neutral about the conflict situation within which they work. As well as his medical work in conflict zones, Gilbert has contributed to treatment of extreme hypothermia. Gilbert was able to save a Norwegian skier whose body temperature was 13.7 degrees C. the lowest body temperature ever survived.
 Naturally, Israeli authorities are not appreciative of Gilbert. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor responded to a report by Gilbert in Lancet as follows: "Dr. Gilbert is notorious for his radical far left opinions and his systematic demonizaton of Israel. He has already accused Israel of almost every nightmarish crime in the book only to ignore the refutation of every one of his allegations. His stories are worthy of Dante's imagination but have been proved time and again to be far removed from reality. It is a pity that serious members of the medical profession should allow themselves to be dragged into an excessive of mad Mads". Compared to that flowery outburst Gilbert's reply is a model of restraint:"This is a part of the propaganda war. We are not surprised and take this very calmly. We tell the truth and do not need to lie. If Israel think we are lying, they can just open the borders and let the world's press into Gaza. Then one will soon find out who is lying." Gilbert describes his religious orientation as a "practicing agnostic, with a recurring need for prayer".

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