When called to return to Gaza to help out in al-Shifa hospital, doctor Mads Gilbert was denied access with valid papers.
Gilbert told Al Jazeera that he was turned away at the Erez border crossing after Israeli authorities deemed him a “security risk”. After asking for an explanation, Gilbert was threatened with arrest.
Al Jazeera spoke with Gilbert about these events and what is happening beyond the checkpoint.
Al Jazeera: Did you just get a note from the Israelis saying you are no longer allowed to come back?
Mads Gilbert: No, actually, I had been in Gaza in June for three weeks on an assignment for the UN and they had applied for a multiple entry visa for me, which I got from the Israeli army. It was a multiple entry visa valid until the 11th of November. So I went in on that to do the job for the UN, stayed for three weeks, wrote up the report and went home to Tromso in Norway to pick up my call in the helicopter.
It is a week-long call. While I was on call in my helicopter, the bombing started. I went back to Amman over the Allenby Bridge to Erez. I showed my papers in the guard house, and he called up and he said ‘you are not allowed in’. I told him that my papers are valid and he said ‘no, we have a security problem with you and I can’t tell you what’.
When I write my articles and when I do my research and when I publish in The Lancet and when I write my books, this is actually a danger to the Israeli narrative and, in a way, the global reputation of Israel, which is partially falling apart now.,
So I called the commander at Erez and he was very cross and he said ‘we have orders from the higher authority of security and we have a security problem with you’, so I asked if they can tell me what the problem is and he said, ‘it’s none of your business and if you don’t leave the premises we will call the police, I will arrest you’.
So I called my ambassador and I called Tel Aviv. My diplomatic missions there and my minister of foreign affairs called them and they said ‘there is no way he is getting in’.
So I returned to Norway and the Norwegian authorities, my minister for foreign affairs, formally inquired and asked why and they only get the response that there is a security issue from Shin Bet Mossad.
Interestingly, the minister for foreign affairs has been protesting this denial of entry formally; they do not accept it. They have asked Israelis to reverse this denial, citing that it is inconceivable and unacceptable that humanitarian staff should not be allowed in to support Palestinians in a difficult situation on the medical side.
AJ: What do you think the reason is for them not letting you in?
MG: I think the truth is the security risk because when I, as a white medical doctor with blue eyes and white hair, tell the real story of the realities in the sharp end of the Israeli attacks, the Palestinians change from being terrorists to being humans, the numbers change from being numbers to being people, and the children appear as yours and my children.
So when I write my articles and when I do my research, and when I publish in The Lancet and when I write my books, this is actually a danger to the Israeli narrative and, in a way, the global reputation of Israel, which is partially falling apart now.
I have never done anything wrong, I have never been arrested by the Israelis, I have never lied to them and I have always followed the rules. Do I have contact with Hamas? Of course, of course I talk to the Palestinian authorities, they were elected in 2006. When I go on a medical mission anywhere, to Burma or Cambodia, I report to the proper authority, which in Gaza is the ministry of health.
AJ: For outsiders and observers, what do they not know? What narrative are the people not getting?
Gilbert: They are not getting the narrative of people, at one point several million people. They don’t really realise that these are people that have been incarcerated for seven years – that the average age is 17.6 years, that a child ghetto of 1.2 million children and young people are being denied the right to escape the bombs, to fly, because they cannot get out.
They’re denied the right to travel, the right to eat enough for supper and breakfast, that they are chronically malnourished from the siege. They don’t know the horror of the injuries, that the people of Gaza are exposed to and the children and the civilians are seeing.
Because this is concealed, this is concealed in a mist of deviation from the hasbara, from the Israeli propaganda machine that is saying ‘oh they are only terrorists, they are hiding behind the civilians, and they’re shooting at Israel’. What people don’t get is that it is Israel that is attacking Gaza and Gaza and the Palestinian people are exercising their right to resist.
Occupied people have the right to resist. They also have the right to resist with weapons. So if you look at the number of rockets that are going from Gaza into Israel, and the number of shells being shot on Gaza, there is a hugely disproportionate number.
Among the killed Israelis, 95% were soldiers, 66 of the 74 were soldiers, and there were four civilians and one child, one child too many. But among the Palestinians, there were close to 12,000 injured; 3,500 of these were children under 18.
There were 2,100 killed and 521 of them were children under the age of 18. So that’s what people don’t get in this mist of propaganda from Israel. The narrative of Israel is saturating the media, so we have to tell the other story because good people all over the world will not accept this.
AJ: What are you going to do now if they are not going to let you in?
MG: We will find other ways. We have to be patient. The Palestinians have been patient for seven years [during the Gaza siege]. There’s a lot to learn from them: their dignity and their steadfastness.
AJ: What have you experienced there?
MG: I have children myself, I have grandchildren, and you don’t want to see this in the world today. Now everybody is talking about Boko Haram and ISIL beheading people. I saw beheaded children in Gaza, I have pictures.
I don’t show them because they are simply too inhumane, but nobody is accusing Israel of a massacre of children. It is always directed to somebody else who is called under the general term of terrorists.
This, what we see in Gaza, is by definition pure state terrorism. It is people defending themselves against attack from the occupant. How on earth can the occupant defend themselves when they are bombing the occupied people? Even in a semantic world it doesn’t make sense.
AJ: What would you say is the ideal solution?
MG: As a doctor, I say don’t send more bandages, don’t send more drugs, and don’t send equipment. Stop the bombing, lift the siege, treat the Palestinians as humans, include them in the human family, protect them by international law and find a peaceful political solution to the occupation of Palestine. That’s the preventative medicine of this mayhem that is going on.