"Where could I cry out the despair and rage I felt for all this terrible fate we saw at such close quarters? Would the heavens hear? Will the world hear? They know that this is happening, after all. The numbers tick into the West every single afternoon, to the news agencies, to the intelligence services and to the diplomatic missions of the world's most powerful nations, who do not even make an attempt to pull in the reins and control the wildness of the Israeli war machine."
Giving a frightening new edge to the word "siege", the complete cutting off of all incoming and outgoing traffic to the Gaza Strip by Israel last winter kept almost all human exchange – irrespective of journalists, aid workers, and refugees—at a standstill. Despite this, two doctors (the only two allowed into the region during the entire operation) from NORWAC (Norwegian Aid Committee) were able to enter the Gaza Strip: Dr. Mads Gilbert and Dr. Erik Fosse, who have recently co-authored a book Eyes in Gaza, soon to be published in English.
Being the only two foreign doctors in the region, the two became common faces on the media worldwide. Seen on Al-Jazeera, BBC, CBS, Fox, Democracy Now, and CNN, these doctors served as a Palestinian voice in a time when it was deafeningly stifled – in addition to serving as lifesavers at the notoriously overcrowded Al-Shifa Hospital. As if witnessing the utter chaos there was not enough, these doctors were soon accused of faking a hospital scene on CNN by an ardent and clearly desperate Zionist Lobby, after which CNN – even the likes of CNN! – rushed to defend the internationally acclaimed doctors. Further, before the Goldstone Report and the like even existed, Dr. Gilbert confirmed the fact that over 90 percent of those he saw in the hospital killed were innocent civilians and there was no doubt that chemical weapons had been used—the likes of which he had never seen before.
Dr. Gilbert also said that this was the most horrific and traumatizing experience he had gone through. This wouldn't be surprising if he was just a regular doctor seeing warfare for the first time, but he's not. Not only is he an internationally acclaimed doctor and recipient of dozens of awards, he has also volunteered in war zones, including Beirut in 1982, and has seen some of the worst man-made conflicts over the past few decades. One might think that this much blood would dehumanize or at least desensitize him, but that's not the case for Dr. Gilbert. It was Gaza that gave him nightmares.
I remember reading about Dr. Gilbert on PULSE, Mondoweiss, and kabobfest from his US campus lecture tours early last year, and I was particularly inspired. It is people like Dr. Gilbert who give us hope that people do exist who are not selfish and self-centered, who have the spirit of self-sacrifice, and who are prepared to speak out against injustice no matter what the cost. True dedication with a self-sacrificing nature is indeed rare to find.
Dr. Mads Gilbert has things to say that are worth hearing. Few eyewitnesses from Gaza have been able to leave as the region remains under a full blockade – enforced both by Israel and its Arab friend Egypt. When reading the synopsis of the campus lectures, I was inspired to make sure that his voice (and thus the voices of the Palestinians under siege) was heard. And so, I embarked on a virtual journey of my own: getting in contact with Dr. Gilbert and organizing a new nation-wide (Canadian) tour in the upcoming year on the one year anniversary of the massacre that left 1400 Palestinians dead with thousands more heavily injured.
It was remarkably easy to get in touch with Dr. Gilbert, and one of the most pleasant experiences I have had to deal with. Through my correspondence with him over the past six months, I honestly feel overwhelmed and amazed. Not only did he agree to take three weeks off of his job on Norway, he refuses to take a penny in honorariums for himself, saying that any money given to him would go to solidarity work for Palestine. He was incredibly agreeable and eager to make this tour a reality. It was also remarkably easy to see his humble nature, as he told me that he hates "bragging exposes" when I showed him our advertising call-out.
Once organizing the tour kicked off, it was hard to curb interest, and the tour just kept growing and growing and growing. I wasn't expecting to organize a tour of more than eight campuses, but the tour currently stands at 15 campuses—reaching all of the major cities in Canada and four venues in the USA. I know that Dr. Gilbert's presentations are going to be heartfelt and truthful and will portray a side of the conflict often shunned or dismissed, the personal stories of the Palestinians in Gaza who were traumatized and left abandoned by the international community, and I hope that you, reading this, will help make this tour a success- and thus give a voice to the voiceless Palestinians who continue to suffer a life under siege and occupation.
Dr. Mads Gilbert will be touring across North America beginning on January 18. For more information on each of the venues listed below, please visit www.sphr.org. Entrance is by donation (suggested $10), unless specified that tickets will be sold for $10.
For more information on the tour, please feel free to email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday January 18th:
University of Ottawa, Fauteux Hall, Room 147B, 7pm
Tuesday January 19th:
Sudbury: Laurentian University, Room A-226 of Laurentian Arts Building, 6:30pm
Wednesday January 20th:
Toronto, Ryerson University, SCC 115 Ryerson Student Centre, 7pm
Thursday January 21st:
Kingston, Queen's University, Stirling Hall Auditorium A, 64 Queens Crescent, 7pm
Friday January 22nd:
Hamilton, McMaster University, Togo Salmon Hall Room B106, 1200 Main Street West, 5:30pm
Monday January 25th:
Waterloo University, Room TBA, 7pm
Tuesday January 26th:
Calgary, University of Calgary, Room TBA, 7pm (Tickets: $10)
Wednesday January 27th:
Edmonton, University of Alberta ETLC Room 1007, 6:30pm
Thursday January 28th:
Victoria, University of Victoria, Room TBA, 7pm
Friday January 29th:
Vancouver, University of British Columbia, WOOD 2, 6:30pm (Tickets: $10)
Monday February 1st:
Chicago (Benedictine University, Krasa A, B, 7pm
Tuesday February 2nd:
Chicago, DePaul University, Room TBA, 7pm
Wednesday February 3rd:
New York, Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, NY, NY 10027, Room 1501 in the International Affairs Building (IAB), 7pm
Thursday February 4th:
New Jersey (Princeton University, Room TBA, 4:30pm
Friday February 5th:
Montreal, McGill University, Room TBA, 7pm (Tickets: $10)