Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace laureate

There are not many people (with the exception of the courageous people of Gaza) who match the extreme patience and courage of Dr. Sonia Robbins and her co-worker Nicholas Bolos who have been at the Rafah Border crossing for the past 50 days doing everything they possibly can to try and gain access to Gaza. This includes living in a tent, carrying out a week hunger strike, and pleading with the Egyptian authorities, as well as Dr. Sonia’s own British embassy, to facilitate their entry into Gaza to implement their training programme and three other projects with local NGOs.

Wearing her Mercy Malaysia jacket and explaining to anyone who will listen, r. Sonia Robbins explains what she wants to do when she gets to her patients in Gaza. Working with the NGO Mercy Malaysia that have a 3-year training programme planned for the doctors of Gaza, Dr. Sonia is the training co-ordinator, and Nikos Bolos is working with her on this programme. Dr. Sonia has more than a dozen specialists and professors planning to go to Gaza to teach and train doctors there.  

From around the world, many doctors and humanitarian workers, including several burn specialists from Belfast Royal Hospital, arrived at Rafah crossing (Egypt) and Eretz crossing (Israel) only to be refused entry and having to return home.  

Little of the international aid promised to the people of Gaza has reached them on the ground, where life has become harder. Supporters of this programme are rightly upset that Dr. Robbins and other doctors and humanitarian workers who want to stay and actively work in Gaza are being denied entrance, whilst some foreign visitors are allowed to go into Gaza for a couple of days and leave again, giving the wrong impression that normality has returned for the people of Gaza.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dr. Robbins’ training programme is a way of helping the people of Gaza to get better health care through specialized training for their doctors.  Denying medical and health improvement and life-saving surgery to a besieged people is denying them a very basic human right. Both Egypt and Israel continue to deny the basic human rights of the people of Gaza by closing their borders. This is matter for the International Court of Justice to act upon.  Israel is legally responsible, being the military occupier of Gaza, for the welfare of the Palestinians.  It continues to hold Gaza in a stranglehold, by collective punishment of the civilian population, thus breaking the Geneva Conventions and committing crimes against humanity.

I hope President Obama will visit Gaza and see the tremendous humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli war and occupation and funded by his administration to the tune of 10 million dollars a day. It is time for President Obama to demand an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza and occupation of Palestine, and for the US government to refuse to pay the bill for the Israeli government’s genocide of the Palestinian people.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 31 May 2009.

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