Gjesteskribent

Dr. Izeldeen Abuelaish er kvinnelege og tydeligvis en meget flink sådan. Men han hadde kontor et spesielt sted: i flyktningleieren Jabaliya i Gaza. Likevel hjalp han israelske kvinner med fødsler. Dr. Abuelaish er et av disse menneskene med integritet som har hatt kontakt med israelere, med et faglig utgangspunkt, men også noe mer. Legeyrket handler om å hjelpe mennesker og Abuelaish har ikke sett på hvor de kom fra, selv om han er blitt bebreidet av landsmenn: skal han hjelpe Israel med å få flere soldater?

Abuelaish har åtte barn, fra 20 og ned til åtte. Kona døde av blodkreft akkurat da han skulle til å dra til Afrika for EU. Han satt igjen med ansvaret.

Fredagen før Israel erklærte våpenhvile skjedde det Abuelaish fryktet mest av alt: en granat slo inn i huset og drepte tre av barna. Han var selv hjemme og så hva som skjedde.

Abuelaish har vært brukt som stemmen fra Gaza i israelsk tv. Han har fortalt seerne om hva det ville si å leve med krigen. Nå ringte han umiddelbart opp israelsk tv og fortalte hva som hadde skjedd. Programlederen tok det inn over seg, og varslet IDF, som sendte helikoptre og fløy de sårede døtrene til Hadassa-sykehuset. Responsen blant israelerne var stor: dette skjedde i sanntid, det kom rett inn i stua og ga en umiddelbar emosjonell respons. For første gang følte israelerne direkte hvordan det var å være sivilist i Gaza, og ha ansvar for barn.

Historien etterlater mange spørsmål: hvorfor ble det skutt? Svaret er som vanlig at det var blitt skutt mot soldater fra omgivelsene, noe som er umulig å bevise eller motbevise. Det samme gjelder mange andre tilsvarende hendelser. Det er umulig å verifisere fakta. Påstand står mot påstand.

Svaret er neppe å ta den ene parts versjon for god fisk. Når NRKs Øystein Heggen lar en palestiner si at det ikke var våpen på den amerikanske skolen, er ikke det bevis. Det er et utsagn. Hamas ville neppe reklamere med våpendepoter og å avsløre dem for utenlandske medier er heller ikke lurt.

Dr. Abuelaish` historie er forferdelig og tragisk. Det er bare halve sannheten og ikke en gang det, at israelerne satt og klappet for bombingen. Når de fikk lidelsene rett inn i stua, våknet medfølelsen.

first met Dr Izeldeen Abuelaish eight years ago when I made a radio documentary about his extraordinary life and work.

A Palestinian obstetrician who specialises in treating infertility, he lives in the Jabaliya camp in the Gaza Strip, but used to work part-time in Israel helping Jewish women to have babies.

He also had a clinic in Gaza, taught medical school students there and arranged for seriously ill Palestinian patients to be treated in Israel.

He put up with the tedious and sometimes humiliating border checks with dignity and patience.

He stayed calm when one of his own Palestinian medical students told him she was «very, very angry» that he was helping Israelis to have children.

«What if these babies grow up to become soldiers who kill our people?» asked the young woman.

Despite all the suspicion, the hatred and the barriers Dr Abuelaish continued his work.

In 2001, Dr Gad Potashnik was in charge of the IVF clinic at the Soroka University Hospital in Beersheba.

He described Dr Abuelaish as a «magical, secret bridge between Israelis and Palestinians».

But that «magical, secret bridge» is now close to breaking point.

I have stayed in touch with Dr Abuelaish over the years.

Since we met he has had a number of jobs and research posts abroad.

In September 2008 he was about to start working for the European Union in Africa but had to return home after his wife, Nadia, fell ill with leukaemia.

Israeli patients

She died soon after his return, leaving him a widower with eight children aged three to 20.

In the middle of the recent conflict, I interviewed Dr Abuelaish for the BBC World Service’s Outlook programme.

He told me all the glass had been blown out of the windows of his house, he could hear firing and explosions all around and he was desperately worried for the safety of his children.

Then on Friday afternoon, just a day before the ceasefire was announced, his worst nightmare came true.

«My daughters were just sitting quietly talking in their bedroom at home,» Dr Izeldeen Abuelaish told me on the phone between sobs.

«I had just left the room, carrying my youngest son on my shoulders. Then a shell came through the wall.

«I rushed back to find their dead bodies – or rather parts of their bodies – strewn all over the room. One was still sitting in a chair but she had no legs.

«Tell me why did they have to die? Who gave the order to fire on my house?»

In a voice cracked with emotion, he added: «You know me, Lucy. You have been to my house, my hospital; you have seen my Israeli patients.

«I have tried so hard to bring people on both sides together and just look what I get in return.»
Demolished building in Jabaliya Camp, Gaza
Jabaliya Camp was hit repeatedly by Israeli strikes

The victims were Bisan, aged 20, Mayar, 15, Aya aged 13 and the physician’s 17-year-old niece Nur Abuelaish.

«My eldest daughter was five months away from finishing her degree in business and financial management. She was looking forward to the future and I was so proud of her.»

I remember talking to Dr Abuelaish in his house as his children scurried around him asking questions and singing songs.

Bisan was a cheeky, bright-eyed girl, keen to show off her English and read aloud from her school text book.

Audience response

During the recent military campaign, Dr Abuelaish, who speaks fluent Hebrew, had been acting as an unofficial correspondent for a Tel Aviv-based TV station, giving daily updates by phone.

He was determined to let Israelis know as much as possible about the suffering of Palestinian civilians under Israel’s bombardment.

Minutes after the shell hit his house, Dr Abuelaish phoned the station’s presenter, Shlomi Eldar, to describe what had happened.

The Israeli journalist looked awkward and visibly distressed as the doctor’s disembodied voice is broadcast crying: «My daughters, they killed them, Oh Lord. God, God, God.»

Mr Eldar mobilised his contacts in the Israel military to open the border and fly the injured girls by helicopter to the Tel Hashomer Medical Centre, the largest hospital in Israel.

He said thousands of viewers had called the station following the harrowing interview with Dr Abuelaish.

«I think this broadcast will change public opinion in Israel,» said Mr Eldar speaking by phone from Tel Aviv.

«It feels to me as if some of our audience is seeing and hearing about the high price ordinary Palestinians are paying in this conflict for the first time».

Dr Abuelaish’s 17-year-old daughter Shadha is recovering there from an operation which may save her right eye, injured in the blast.

Her 12-year-old cousin Daida is in a critical condition from shrapnel wounds.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said the incident is now under investigation.

«For the time being, all that I can tell you is that our troops fired on the house because they had come under attack from somewhere in the vicinity of the house. Possibly a sniper but I can’t confirm that,» the spokeswoman said.

Speaking from the hospital, Dr Abuelaish denied that any militants had been hiding in or firing from his house.

«Violence is never the right way. My daughters and I were armed with nothing but love and hope.»


Gaza doctor’s loss grips Israelis

Av Lucy Ash, BBC World Service