KARACHI: Amid the death and devastation that has been unleashed against Gaza by Israel over the past several months, the thing that perhaps hurts Palestinians the most is the inaction of their Muslim brethren in the Middle East.

 Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish
Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish

“The silence and, at times, complicity of certain Arab countries is indeed disheartening. They mistakenly believe they are immune to the risks faced by Palestinians,” says Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish — a Palestinian-Canadian born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp.

A Harvard-trained fertility specialist and the first Palestinian doctor to work in an Israeli hospital, he is no stranger to tragedy; he lost three daughters when an Israeli tank destroyed his home in Gaza, just months after his wife passed away from leukaemia.

Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize multiple times, Dr Abuelaish subsequently left Gaza with his surviving children and is now a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

Palestinian doctor says Gaza has turned into a place of despair and suffering

In an interview with DawnNews English, Dr Abuelaish — who is currently visiting Karachi on the invitation of Charter for Compassion — described how the situation in Gaza has worsened, turning it into a place of despair and suffering.

“I still have hope in this world, but hope is not just a mere word,” he asserts. “It requires belief and action. We cannot simply wait for things to change; we need to actively contribute to the transformation.”

Dr Abuelaish has stayed in close contact with relatives and friends in Gaza, having visited this summer before the current conflict. “The first thing I do when I return is to visit the graves of my daughters,” he shares, taking a moment to wipe away tears. “I want to ensure they know that they are not forgotten.”

Tragedy struck again on November 7 when an Isra­eli airstrike hit the home where his relatives were sheltering in the Jabalia refugee camp, killing 22 members of his extended family, including cousins, nephews, and nieces.

Despite facing hardships, Dr Abuelaish’s family remains steadfast in their decision to stay, expressing an unwavering determination to avoid another Nakba. “We refuse to be displaced again,” he says, adding that “leaving is not an option”.

Rather than surrendering to hatred, Dr Abuelaish channelled his anguish into an acclaimed book, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity.

“Hate is destructive and contagious,” he reflects. “It is not a feeling or emotion but a disease. It is a poison that impedes rational thinking.”

However, he voiced disappointment in the global community’s passive stance as it witnesses the Israeli bombardment and blockade of Gaza. He deems the world complicit in the loss of innocent lives and finds it disheartening to witness the international community’s failure to uphold human rights conventions.

“Before October 7, the Palestinian issue had become somewhat trivialized in certain regions, but now people worldwide are awakening to the realities faced by Palestinians,” remarks Dr Abuelaish.

He believes that this momentum, fueled by public awareness, has the potential to influence political leaders positively.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2024

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