Nordic doctor revives Gaza casualty debate
Ninety percent of casualties brought to Gaza's main hospital during Israel's winter offensive were civilians, according to a new book by a well-known yet controversial physician from Norway.
The book, scheduled to be published this month, recounts Dr. Mads Gilbert's experiences as one of the very few Western volunteers at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital and focuses on patients' stories. The 318-page account surveys events "which call people to politically mobilize," said Gilbert, one of Israel's fiercest critics in Norway.
Gilbert's pro-Israeli critics such as Government spokesperson Mark Regev and Professor Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor downplay his book's potential impact. While Steinberg says his accusations are "untrustworthy," citing his "political motivation" and "unreliability," Regev points out Gilbert's communist affiliations and statements after 9/11 in support of terrorist attacks against the U.S. In 2001, Gilbert told a Norwegian paper: "The White world cannot comprehend that such an act [9/11] could be viewed from another perspective."
"Among the patients killed and injured at Shifa, 80 to 90 percent we saw were civilians," said Gilbert, who frequently visits Gaza and the West Bank. He arrived at Shifa last winter with his colleague, Dr. Erik Fosse, on the fourth day of fighting through the Rafah Crossing.
Gilbert - who does not speak Arabic - said they could tell combatants apart from civilians by asking "the patients who could talk [through a translator] where they had been at the time of the injury and what they were doing." Gilbert and Fosse are both members of the Norwegian Aid Committee (NORWAC), an NGO which focuses on aiding Palestinians.
According to Gilbert, throughout his 10-day stay in January he hardly left the hospital, which was not bombed. According to the IDF, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh operated a command center inside Shifa throughout the operation. But Gilbert says he saw no indication of this. "With our eyes we saw nothing to substantiate the claim, but we are not journalists or investigators," he told Anglo File.
Gilbert concedes that he is committed to politically supporting the Palestinians. "We are not neutral. We chose medical work in Gaza, not Sderot."