Mads Gilbert, Norwegian doctor, humanitarian and political activist, who has worked in the war zone of Gaza during four major Israeli attacks since 2006, has completed his short but inspirational tour of Scotland, speaking to large audiences in Edinburgh, Glenrothes and Glasgow. His testimony in words and graphic images told of Gaza under siege and bombardment for over 8 years and the desperate conditions for the 1.8 million people trapped in this small area with no prospect of escape to safety.
In the summer of 2014 Israel launched another massive attack causing even more deaths, injuries and destruction than in previous ones, from which Gaza had never recovered due to the siege enforced by Israel and supported by its complicit Western allies. According to Mads Gilbert, an ‘Orchestra of Death’ could be heard from inside the operating theatres of al-Shifa hospital, the differentiated and murderous sounds of planes, drones, missiles and artillery. The inside of the hospital at times appeared as much a bloodbath as outside from where casualties were brought. This was no accident either as Mads Gilbert confirmed what was already a widely known feature of Israeli attacks : the deliberate and systematic targeting of hospitals, ambulances and healthcare workers. Mads Gilbert is the third visiting speaker to Scotland in recent months (after Max Blumenthal and Jeff Halper) to highlight Israel’s application of the Dahiya Doctrine, a military and political concept that involves the use of massive and indiscriminate force against the Palestinian population, causing widespread destruction and maximum casualties. Under these conditions, life is made as intolerable as possible in order that Palestinians will be quiescent, surrender or better still, leave.
Everything that happens in Gaza disproportionately affects young people, with 66% of the population (of 1.8 million) under 24 and 43% below the age of 14. Children under 8 years old have known nothing but trauma, loss, poor health and a devastated physical landscape as a result of siege and bombardment. Mads Gilbert described Gaza as a ‘besieged child ghetto’. The fate of children, maimed and murdered by Israeli forces, figured heavily in his report and the visual and audio evidence of child casualties was absolutely chilling.
Despite his grim experiences, Mads Gilbert’s concluding message was positive and he exhorted the audiences to action. He has been treating casualties in Gaza for many years but as a doctor, he stated that he has a duty to prevent deaths and injuries and bloodshed. His prescription is for solidarity and not charity, and a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a non-violent and morally powerful weapon to confront Israel and its principal ally, the USA. He views BDS as an absolute necessity, to end Israeli impunity and to support the heroism of Palestinian people. The BDS campaign has had many successes in its first 10 years and Mads Gilbert’s report challenged us all to be even more effective in opposing Zionism and the settler-colonial, apartheid state that Israel has constructed.