Forward Thinking

The 'Gaza Doctor' Speaks Out in Anguish

By Jane Eisner

  • Print
  • Share Share
nick kozak
Izzeldin Abuelaish

I spoke with Izzeldin Abuelaish this morning, as fighting raged between Israel and Hamas. His anguished words could serve as a rallying cry for the way forward.

Abuelaish is the Gazan doctor whose daughters and niece were killed by Israeli bombs in the closing days of the last military conflict with Hamas, his desperate cries captured on Israeli TV. I met him after the publication of his memoir, “I Shall Not Hate”, and was impressed by his humanity and stubborn optimism. The book is being issued in paperback in France, and I caught up with him by phone in Paris.

The optimism remains, but you have to search hard for it. He sounds furious that the violence was once again destroying his home and making the kind of coexistence he champions that much more elusive.

“How many Palestinians have been killed, captured, wounded since Cast Lead,” he asks, referencing the 2008-2009 Israeli military operation. “And what are the settlers doing in the West Bank? There is no progress there at all. We’re going backwards.”

Abuelaish downplays both the responsibility of Hamas in this current round of violence, and the importance of its position, which personally I find hard to believe.

“Hamas is just a movement, a party, like Likud or Shas,” he says, referencing Israeli political parties. “Hamas is not the Palestinian people, not all the Palestinian people.” Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is the president of all Palestinians, he argues — a point that would be more convincing if there was a unity government and if national elections weren’t two years overdue.

Much like American Jews latch onto the declarations of some Palestinian leaders as proof of their hatred toward Israel, Abuelaish does the same with Israeli leaders, pointing out blustering statements made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman or Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s suggestion to “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” The parallels remind me of how necessary it is to distinguish between mainstream and the extreme.

Abuelaish is concerned about his extended family in Gaza, and his remaining children back in their new home in Toronto, who remind him every day of the calamity that befell them all four years ago. But he still favors a two-state solution, a peace with Israel and he falls back into being a physician not a politician, one who believes in healing rather than destroying and who frames human conflict in medical terms.

“We have to stop the bleeding,” he pleads. “We don’t want palliative care, we want permanent care. Not to control the fever, but to prevent a relapse. Palestinian blood is human blood. It’s not water!”

“As long as Palestinians are not free, Israelis are not free. I hope this is a turning point,” he asserts. “I hope for a ceasefire. I pray for it. It’s time. How many people should be killed?”

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: israel, gaza, doctor, Izzeldin Abuelaish, palestinian

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach!
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.