1st June 2020
United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) Webinar, SANCTIONS KILL
“HELP RAISE OUR VOICE”
Dialogue with Doctor Medhat Abbas, Gaza.
by Pippa Bartolotti
Pippa Bartolotti: Is there any single moment in time or any single event which sums up for you the hardships and injustice of living under Israeli sanctions?
Dr Medhat Abbas: “I remember the time I was working as a doctor in Shifa hospital, Gaza. The Israeli F16 fighters could be heard overhead, they were firing missiles. A child of little more than 10 years old was brought to me. It was in fact only half a child, because the entire bottom half of his body was missing. The father came running in and cried out “my son!” He knelt down and held the lifeless body, weeping. I too wept, that day. This is what Israel sends us.
Pippa Bartolotti: I was in Gaza about 10 years ago, and saw for myself the cruel hardships your people suffer on a daily basis as a result of Israeli and US sanctions. Can you tell me a little about how Gaza is managing currently, especially with the onset of Covid-19?
Dr Abbas: “Gaza is a tiny strip of land of about 360 kilometres square. 2 million people are trapped inside. There is no electricity most of the time. I have not taken my salary for 6 years. 80% of our people are dependent on international aid for food. There is not enough water.
“Israel is supported every step of the way by the USA. Our hardships are many, and now we have the coronavirus. This virus comes at a time when poverty is the prevailing condition of our people, when we have almost no resources. How can you tell a man who cannot buy bread for his children, that he has to buy hand sanitizing gel?
“This siege we have been under for 13 years is cruel and unfair. On top of the siege we now have coronavirus. Gaza has no harbour, no airport. 50% of our medical supplies are non-existent. However, we have operated a stringent preventative programme to stave off the virus. Every person entering Gaza is under mandatory quarantine, and we have caught every case before it touched the rest of the population.
“The people living in Gaza only want to live in peace on our land, and enable a good future for their children. Instead we have 24 hours of Israeli drones overhead. They are all armed, and we do not know when they will attack, or under what whim. We cannot even tell our children when it will end.
“In July 2014 when the Israeli’s were heavily bombing Gaza, I was working in Al Asqa hospital as the tank shells landed close. Everyone had left in terror. 3 doctors were killed that day. Hospitals are protected by International Law, why are hospitals in Gaza not protected?
“This siege is inhumane. The US sends too many weapons to Israel. Israel is already overflowing with weapons, yet Gazans do not even have enough food.
Pippa Bartolotti: Dr Abbas, how can those of us who are working against sanctions help Gaza?
Dr Abbas: “ We ask you to please help raise our voice. We have children, 70% of whom are anaemic. We have no radiotherapy, no chemotherapy. Cardiac patients die here. Palestinians who can get to Israel for treatment are often arrested at the border and imprisoned in Israel. It is a tragedy for everyone in our country. The tragedy of a fake news programme of disinformation which paints the victims as terrorists and denies us, and the world, the simplest truth. Our reality is that we have no hope to solve our economic and social problems whilst under so much oppression. We need our allies to speak out and broadcast the truth.
“ Please, whoever is reading this, help raise our voice. Help to convey our needs. If the corona virus gets inside Gaza it will be a terrible tragedy on top of an already terrible tragedy.”
Pippa Bartolotti: We will do our best. Already these UNAC webinars on Sanctions, and the efforts of the Sanctions Kill campaign are reaching audiences of tens of thousands across social media. We will magnify this further at every opportunity.
Dr Medhat Abbas has been Director General of primary healthcare in Shifa Hospital and Al Asqa. He spent time in the Ministry of Health International Relations Department and has extensive experience in Health Services Management. Dr. Abbas is at the forefront of the provision of community health services and management of the COVID-19 response.