Israel bans Norwegian doctor from Gaza

28th Nov 2014

Dr Mads Gilbert was banned from entering the Israel following his outspoken criticism of the Israeli Government during Israel’s latest bombardment of Gaza

Elham Asaad Buaras

Israel has blocked Norwegian doctor who has helped Palestinians during conflicts for over 30 years from entering the country and thereby accessing the Gaza Strip. Dr Mads Gilbert was banned from entering the country following his outspoken criticism of the Israeli Government during Israel’s latest siege on the Gaza Strip. Dr Gilbert, one the few foreign doctors in Gaza’s main hospital Al-Shifa’, gave graphic accounts of injuries to the media and accused Israel of “state terrorism at the highest levels.”

Oslo has asked Israel to reverse the decision.

“I was asked by the Norwegian authorities to go down to continue working in Gaza. When we arrived at the Erez Crossing, I was told by Israeli soldiers that I could not go into Gaza. I had to turn back to Norway,” said the 67-year-old.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, described Dr Gilbert as a “Jekyll and Hyde” figure, hiding behind a cloak of being a humanitarian doctor. He said an investigation was under way into Dr Gilbert and that the decision would be reviewed.

But the outspoken trauma specialist hit back dubbing the ban “provocative, unreasonable and totally unacceptable” considering he has “never broken any Israeli laws.”

But Dr Gilbert suggested that his open reporting of the medical situation in the territory had angered the Israeli authorities.

“This is not about me,” said Dr Gilbert. “This is about Israel denying the Palestinian people in Gaza international support. To deny professionals from the medical field the right to go to Gaza is another aspect of the collective punishment. They’re exercising the siege in an increasingly harsh and brutal way. The fundamental reason for the ill health of the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing,” he said.

He also accused Israeli authorities of backtracking November 12, following calls from Norway to reconsider the ban.

“They have a little trouble explaining if I’m banned from Gaza or Israel,” he said, adding that he was allowed into Israel in October but denied entry to Gaza by Israeli soldiers and later informed that the ban was “infinite”.

“They keep changing explanations all the time, so I think they are fairly pressurised by the reaction from the Norwegian Government and from the international outcry over denying entry to a medical doctor just because he’s criticising Israel.”

After Dr Gilbert was turned back in September, the Norwegian embassy wrote to Israeli officials, but received “security reasons” as the only justification for the ban.

Access to the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2006, is possible only through the Erez crossing from Israel, or the Rafah terminal on the Egyptian border.

But Rafah has been blocked by Cairo since a deadly suicide bombing in the northern Sinai on October 24, leaving Erez as the only point of entry to the Palestinian territory.

The Norwegian foreign ministry has said it will challenge the ban.

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