Durban — A Renowned Norwegian physician and professor is touring South Africa with the aim of educating, informing, raising funds for medical aid and speaking about his lived experience in the Gaza Strip.
Dr Mads Gilbert was in Durban on Friday to shed light on the ongoing conflict in Palestine.
He, together with other speakers such as former health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela, addressed about 1 500 people at the Natal Memon Jamaat Hall in Overport on the plight of the people in Gaza. Prior to the talks there was art, poetry and food stalls, with proceeds going towards the initiative.
Gilbert, who has helped provide emergency trauma care in Gaza for over four decades, has been providing support from Egypt while awaiting entry into the besieged territory. He has been working in Palestinian health care since 1981 and provided emergency medical assistance in Gaza during past major bombardments.
He also travels to Gaza annually to teach, treat, research and participate actively to improve Gaza's health care alongside his Palestinian colleagues.
Gilbert said the Palestinian people in Gaza were being bombed, killed, wounded, chased, “bled to death and scared to death”.
“My main message is that everyone is needed. I am here to join the united front for Palestine because everyone can make change.”
“Gaza has been under siege for 16 years that has drained the society of everything, from the private sector, schooling, water pipelines, sewerage system.
“The human society of Gaza has been squeezed to the end of survival. The local Palestinian health workers have said they are never giving in or giving up. The situation currently is extreme. There are patients everywhere and in unbearable conditions.
“We have to multiply our efforts to stop this madness, stop the killing and the occupation, and I know one day their plea for freedom will come true,” he said.
Mkhize said the people of South Africa were in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
“No one can tolerate the brutality that we are observing in Palestine, in particular the bombardment of Gaza. It is unacceptable and we condemn the Israeli Defence Force for the brutality with which they have destroyed lives in hospitals, in residential areas.
“We, the people of SA, can identify with the people of Palestine. We understand their pain and struggle. We condemn any form of violence against innocent civilians.
“In this case, what is most painful for us is to know that the bombardment has been targeted at hospitals, residential areas. Of the 11 000 killed, 4 000 are innocent children. We cannot in good conscience just watch. We as the ANC have called for a ceasefire to allow for humanitarian passage so that people can be assisted to get water, food, medicine and some sort of decency as human beings,“ said Mkhize.
He agreed with the ANC that South African diplomats in Israel should be brought back home.
“We are currently discussing the issue of closing down the embassy. We are looking for something to show our disgust,” he said. Mandela said while Gilbert was in SA, they hoped to raise funds for medical care in Gaza.
“The Palestinian struggle is close to our hearts. We call on the ANC-led government to immediately expel the apartheid Israeli ambassador and to intensify our efforts to isolate apartheid Israel through a number of concrete actions.
This must include the intensifying of the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions BDS campaign so that none of us buys any products from Israel and its illegal settlements. I want to call on dock workers in Durban to refuse to handle any ship coming into Durban with fresh produce from the Zionist state of Israel,” he said.
Mandela also called for the closing of all flights from Israel to the country and for South Africans to highlight on social media the genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in Gaza and occupied Palestine.