NEWS

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April 17, 2009

Talk discusses Gaza’s “reality”

Anesthesiologist Mads Gilbert, a relief worker in the recent Gaza conflict, decried Wednesday what he described as Israel’s violations of international law and crimes against humanity in recent months.

At his talk, entitled “Health, Human Rights, and the War on Gaza: Evidence from the Front Lines,” Gilbert shared personal stories and showed photos of individual patients in order to give “the reality behind the numbers on the news.

Gilbert called for a political solution to Palestinian-Israeli tensions. “There is no military solution for Palestine,” he said. “60 years is enough."

Gilbert is a Norwegian anesthesiologist, professor at the University of Tromsø and self-described solidarity worker who rose to prominence following his work in Palestine. During the conflict, he snuck into Gaza on assignment for the Norwegian Aid Committee, making him one of few foreigners in Gaza at a time when foreigners were banned.

Gilbert described current U.S. and Israeli Gaza policy as a step backwards for their lack of consideration for Gazans’ rights. “This is a human disaster for Palestine. This is a moral disaster for Israel,” he said.

He pointed to what he said is the United States’ policy of unilaterally defining people active in Hamas as terrorists.

“You don’t start bombing a country because the people chose something you don’t like,” he said. “We cannot stamp children as ‘Hamas-child’ or ‘terrorist.’”

Though he described the conflict as “collective punishment” and “ethnic cleansing,” Gilbert expressed hope for the future. Evoking the image of “small drops hollowing the stone,” Gilbert listed a number of ways to effect change in government policies that included making songs, writing letters, and forming committees.

Acknowledging the charged emotions in the room, he said that he hopes the audience has “feelings, not just anger, and I hope you can change those feelings into action, so we can change the world for the better.”