Friday the 29 August 2014-despite the extreme cold weather, over a 1000 people put aside the comforts of their homes to attend a dinner hosted by Channel Islam International to raise awareness and funds for the plight of our beloved brothers and sisters in Palestine. World renowned umanitarian dorcot and academic Dr Mads Gilbert was the guest of honour.After the success of Purple Bandage’s SyriaDay13 dinner, the CII team, led by CII journalist Azhar Vadi, approached PURPLE BANDAGE requiring assistance in organising and overseeing their fundraising dinner. Their dinner was particularly to raise funds for CII’s “Gaza Ambulance Drive”.
The dinner was held at the well-known Image Lifestyle Centre, and was attended by men and women from different parts of Gauteng- all of whom were eager to learn more about and support the cause for justice in Palestine. But the man who stole the show and attracted many of the guests was the extraordinary Norwegian physician, humanitarian, activist and politician - Dr Mads Gilbert.
Dr Gilbert, a Norwegian anaesthetist and trauma expert – and a veteran of wars in Gaza, describes himself as a “political doctor” and a practitioner of “solidarity medicine”. He has worked many times under siege at Gaza’s well-known Al-Shifaa hospital. According to Gilbert, the hospital is “a place of human greatness, suffering and endurance – and an almost incomprehensible mastering of a situation that seems overwhelming, impossible to deal with." Yet they [the philanthropic medical staff] stand tall, not rejecting a single patient, and in spite of the odds, they perform phenomenal, complicated surgeries with a high level of professionalism.
Gilbert addressed the audience and highlighted the infringements of basic human rights of the Palestinian people. Israel’s attacks are on the Christian and Muslim civilians of Palestine, thus making it not a war on religion, but a struggle against oppression, racism and the stealing of land from a people to whom it rightfully belongs. He explained comparative statistics that proved how the extremity of fatalities and the damage to infrastructure in Palestine is incomparable to that of the minute damage to Israel. He showed strong evidence that stated how the attacks on Palestine are not only deliberate, but that Israel's main target is always the Palestinian civilians- majority of whom are women and children. They target schools, houses and hospitals.
The heart-breaking images, statistics and desperation of a people who fight only to protect the sacred land of Palestine; who want only a chance to live normal lives without having to live under siege- brought tears to all in the audience and was definitely a wake up call to appreciate the freedom and luxury that we as South Africans are blessed with. It inspired many to reach deep within their pockets and donate towards the Palestinian cause- the reason and aim of the dinner.
PURPLE BANDAGE handed over many Palestinian t-shirts to Dr Gilbert- with the intention of having them given to the people in Palestine; just as a simple reminder that Purple Bandage and the rest of South Africa have not forgotten their struggle. And that we, as peace-loving and freedom-fighting South Africans, stand with Palestine and back their cause.
An excerpt taken from an article in The Guardian Newspaper reads: “Gilbert is something of a hero to Palestinian sympathisers... But, inevitably, in the binary world of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he is feted by one side and abhorred by the other.” But, the “‘self-confessed, socialist, Marxist – and human being’, Gilbert draws a clear distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. “I’m a strong anti-racist, there is not a milligram of anti-Semitism in me. But I oppose apartheid and colonialism.” This is “not a difficult conflict, it is an illegal occupation – it continues, it expands and it costs thousands of innocent Palestinian lives. These people have the right to defend themselves, the right to resist. The right to resist implies also the right to resist with arms, if you’re occupied.’”
Our very own hero, Mr Nelson Mandela is quoted to have said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” –Purple Bandage stands by this quote and will always be ready to assist our Palestinian brothers and sisters- Muslim and Non-Muslim- in any way possible.
If you would like to donate towards Palestine, please contact Purple Bandage for more information. You can also read more about Dr Gilbert on www.theguardian.com or by purchasing Dr Gilbert’s book: “Night in Gaza”.
The dinner culminated in quite a success, with people leaving behind donations for the Gaza Ambulance Drive, and (figuratively), a piece of their heart for Palestine. Their struggle is still ongoing. Their resistance is strong. Their faith unshakeable. And as the words of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW (the saviour to humanity) states: “And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and hardship with ease.” -victory will be theirs- God-Willing.
Gilbert comforts a wounded child. Photograph: Abid Katib/Getty Images