Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Madly Yours – The truth about the media’s favourite Gaza doctor

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During the coverage of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, many officials, experts, and other personalities have been called on to offer reports, insights and analysis to the public. Unfortunately and puzzlingly, one such voice making its way into the media has been that of Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert. So just who is Dr. Gilbert?

Gilbert is a doctor, academic, and member of the far-left revolutionary socialist Norwegian Red Party. He is a staunch critic of Doctors Without Borders - an organisation he boycotted due to its willingness to treat the wounded on both sides of a conflict. On top of all these things though - he is a "doctor" who has made a profession of exploiting his medical credentials to defame Israel and defend terror.

He has been a pro-Palestinian activist since the 1970s and travelled to Lebanon in support of the Palestinians during the first Lebanon war in 1982. Gilbert has acknowledged that he cannot separate politics from medicine, stating, "there is little in medicine that is not politics." It shows because most of his comments have nothing to do with the fact that he is a doctor by profession and everything to do with his twisted political leanings.

Accusing Israel of deliberately targeting civilians and "an all out war against civilians" has become a hobby of the doctor. He has used his title to spread slander in each of Israel's previous conflicts with Hamas - rushing to Gaza to offer his politicised take of the situation.

For instance, here was his pronouncement on the Gaza conflict early on:

"Israelis are accusing the Palestinians of attacking them; they have to defend themselves, they claim. Actually, the truth is the exact opposite. Israel is the attacker, the occupant . . . the main problem in the Middle East today . . . it is the Israeli impunity . . . the real oppressor, and the real criminal here . . . it is the State of Israel."
- (interview with Mads Gilbert), Democracy Now, July 14, 2014.

He often uses his status as medical doctor to make blatantly political pronouncements, such as something he said in that same interview:

"As a Medical Doctor, you know, my appeal is: Don't send bandages. Don't send syringes. Don't send medical teams. The most important medical thing you can do now is to force Israel to stop the bombing, and it is to lift the siege of Gaza."

However, in addition to his inflammatory comments about the Jewish state, Gilbert has also acted as a useful spokesperson for Hamas. He has denied repeatedly that Hamas uses the Al-Shifa hospital as a command centre - something that has been well proven at this point with Hamas leaders seen in the halls and rockets being fired from close by.

In a clip played on the ABC's The World Today Gilbert insisted that Hamas' use of Al-Shifa was legitimate:

"EMILY BOURKE: Dr Mads Gilbert is a Norwegian doctor who's spent much of the past three weeks in the main al-Shifa hospital.

In an interview with the BBC he denied that hospitals were being used as a safe haven for Hamas.

MADS GILBERT: Well, of course the ministry of health shows up to see to it that it's working well in Shifa and to listen to the needs of the staff.

I don't see any wrong with a civilian administrator showing up in the hospital that he's responsible for.

BBC JOURNALIST: So that's how you would characterise it, it's a civilian administrator checking up, rather than the hospital being used as a headquarters for Hamas?

MADS GILBERT: Absolutely."

However, the doctor's defence of Hamas shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, as his previous defence of terror isn't hard to uncover. Gilbert has defended the attacks of 9/11 as legitimate. An excerpt from Mr. Gilbert's Wikipedia page reveals his views on the devastating terror attacks, which took the lives of thousands of Americans:

Support for the September 11 attacks
In a statement made to Dagbladet in the wake of the September 11 attacks, Gilbert voiced contextual support for the attacks. His support was met with strong reactions.[2] His statement to Dagbladet was: "The attack on New York did not come as a surprise with the politics the West has followed the last decades. I am upset by the terrorist attack, but I am at least as upset over the suffering that the US has caused. It is in this context that 5000 dead has to be seen. If the U.S. government has a legitimate right to bomb and kill civilians in Iraq, the oppressed has a moral right to attack the U.S. with the weapons they may create as well. Dead civilians are the same whether they are Americans, Palestinians or Iraqis." When asked if he supported a terrorist attack against the US he answered: "Terror is a poor weapon, but my answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned." [41]

Seeing that Gilbert has quite openly expressed views that should set off alarms about his credibility, it is puzzling that he has received more than a fair bit of attention in the mainstream media. So why has the doctor been taken as a credible source and given a platform to spread his slander?

One reason could be that UNRWA has encouraged the media to interview Gilbert. A report from Algemeiner detailed how Chris Gunness, head spokesperson of UNRWA had encouraged the world media to use Dr. Gilbert as a source. In a since deleted tweet Gunness said: "Great interviewee @ Shifa Hosp Gaza right now Prof Mads Gilbert +4790878740 call him 4 fatality & cas figs and atoms RT."

While his appearances on Iranian-state sponsored Press TV, or Qatari owned Al-Jazeera may not come as a surprise, he has been featured in Australia on SBS and ABC, and internationally on CNN among others. It is quite disconcerting that networks and other organisations that strive for credibility and even-handedness in their reporting and publications have promoted the views of a man who lost his credibility a long time ago.

The passing off of Mads Gilbert's highly politicised propaganda as a credible and reliable professional voice is another sad example of lacklustre journalism and lack of professionalism when it comes to reporting on Israel. 

Robert Ellenhorn