* Dr. Abuelaish will be speaking again tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 22) from 7 – 9 pm at his official book launch. The event is being supported by Peace Museum which may have seats remaining for those who book in time. If you’d like to join, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and contact number. Details of the event are available on the Peace Museum website (in Korean only). A map to the location which is the Lecture Room on the 2nd Floor of the Franciscan Education Center can be viewed here. Take exit 5 of Seodaemun Station.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is visiting South Korea to promote the launch of the Korean translation of his book ‘I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity’. He spoke last night at Korean Green Foundation’s Rachel Carson Hall on the subject of huminatarian healthcare as a model for peace. The event was cohosted by South Korean medical humanitarian NGO MediPeace and Palestine Peace and Solidarity and PPS’ very own Teon Kim opened the event with a brief discussion about his visit to Gaza earlier in the year in which he led a medical aid mission.
Born and raised in poverty in Jabalia Refugee Camp, Gaza’s largest refugee camp, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish became the first Palestinian medical doctor to work inside Israel and Gaza at the same time and the first Palestinian to complete a formal residency at an Israeli hospital. From an early age he has worked tirelessly to help others, waking at 3 or 4 am each morning when he was young to work before going to school to help support his family.
While he is now Associate Professor of Global Health at the University of Toronto and has been awarded the Order of Ontario before his personal tragedy he used to travel to and from Israel every week through the Eretz crossing to work inside an Israeli hospital. He recalled that when he first started working, Israeli’s didn’t think of Palestinians as human beings and so he wanted to meet people face to face and hold up his hard work and success as an example to fight this racism.
His own childen worked hard and were high achievers in all that they did. They also attended a number of peace camps and had taken on board their father’s message of peace. But just weeks after their losing their mother to cancer, tragedy struck the family during the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2008-2009 which left over 1,400 Palestinians dead. Their house was shelled by the Israeli Defense Forces and three of Izzeldin’s daugthers and one niece were killed. One of his daughters was decapitated and he described the blood of his daughters on the walls of his home. As no medical support was provided despite his desperate story been broadcasted on live Israeli television, he was left to carry his own children through the streets of a warn torn Gaza.
After the loss of his daughters, he established a foundation in their memory named Daughters for Life and has campaigned tirelessly to spread his message of peace and justice. While his journey has been marked by deep personal pain and suffering, he spoke from the heart and appealed to the conscience. One of his key messages was that silence in the face of injustice equals complicity in that injustice. It is the responsibility of all to speak out against injustice wherever we see it in the world rather than wait until it is directed at us; otherwise how can we expect others to fight for us if we are silent in their oppression?
Most importantly from a health perspective, he sees healthcare as a model for social justice. As all patients are treated equally within the four walls of a hospital, humans too must strive for equality and break down the walls of discrimination. He described hate as a cancer that must be fought against with the weapons of peace and justice.
He is a courageous example of Palestinian resistance and hope. He reminds us not only with his words but with his deeds that Palestinians are not victims of hate and injustice, they are survivors. It is with this spirit that peace will be achieved.