A false icon

Mads Gilbert may be a good surgeon, but his values are not those of a humanitarian.

By TOMAS SANDELL
January 19, 2009 21:20
3 minute read.

 
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The iconic picture from the current conflict in Gaza has been that of a courageous Norwegian doctor saving Palestinian lives. Here he is, the only westerner in Gaza, who is able to not only save lives but also run his own news agency out of a hospital, informing Western media about what is "really" happening and - here is the catch - who is to be blamed, namely Israel. Like millions of other people I have seen these images on the evening news, and I have read about his eyewitness reports day after day. After all, there were no other "reliable sources" available in Gaza, it was said. At first I watched this new Bernard Kouchner personality with great admiration. But then it occurred to me. Something was not right. Why did the doctor seem more interested in explaining who was right and who was wrong than in saving lives? Most humanitarian relief workers are there to save lives. Most leave it at this. Explaining who is right and who is wrong is not their call, but to save lives and ease the suffering. So I googled 'Mads Gilbert.' The profile I discovered on Wikipedia was not one of a humanitarian icon but that of a political activist with a clear Marxist agenda. His convictions were those of the extreme left; he had accused both the US and Israel of war crimes long before the current military operation in Gaza. IN FACT, the doctor who was trying to alert the world about the human suffering in Gaza had in 2001 the following to say about the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Question: So do you support this terrorist attack on the US? Answer: "Terror is a bad weapon but my answer is yes" (Wikipedia). This had to be a scam. I did what every concerned citizen would have done. I called the responsible editor of the evening news and of the main daily where I live. Did they know? No they did not. Were they going to do anything to correct the news reports? Answer: What is there to correct? We live in a cynical world which is shaped by iconic images. People remember pictures. The first man on the moon, JFK being shot in Dallas and now the courageous Norwegian doctor in Gaza explaining to the world the atrocities of Israel. These are the images that will remain in the collective memory of people for years to come and will shape their perception of the conflict in Gaza. Even a small correction will not do much to change the public opinion which has already been shaped, influenced by the images in the news reports. The false icon will remain. MADS GILBERT may be a good surgeon, but his values are not those of a humanitarian. When he appears in the news as the "accidental hero," we need to learn about his other credentials as well. How trustworthy are his claims? Was he involved in other missions to help the Palestinian people than simply medical work and public relations? We do not know. What we do know by now is that Mads Gilbert and his friend Erik Fosse did not end up in Gaza by accident. They did not come only to help out in a hospital but with a clear political agenda to sell. And they did it very successfully because in Marxist theory the means justify the end. The truth is secondary. But this text is not about Mads Gilbert. It is about how helpless most of us are when we are exposed to world events where it is impossible for us to know who is telling the truth and who is not. Gilbert may be multitalented (running a hospital and a press agency at the same time is no small venture), but he does not have multiple personalities. He can not be a humanitarian one minute and a cynical political activist the next. When he puts all the blame on Israel, he probably does so out of the convictions that the US and Israel are legitimate targets for terrorist attacks as he has stated in his native Norway. But Norway is far away from the news desks in Washington, Paris and London. Nevertheless, I hope they will report the following news item. The Norwegian doctor in Gaza is a false icon. The writer is the founding director of European Coalition for Israel. He has been an accredited journalist to the European Commission in Brussels and is a former director of the European Network of Humanitarian Relief Agencies.

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