CBS, NBC Cite Pro-9/11 Source Who Charges Israel in ‘All-Out War Against Civilians’

Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who has long been a pro-Palestinian activist and critic of Israel, and who, according to an article released by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), once expressed agreement with the 9/11 attacks which he considered to be a justified attack on civilians, has been seen numerous times in the last couple of weeks on broadcast network news shows – primarily on CBS and NBC. Without mentioning his extreme views, anchors and correspondents have treated him as a trustworthy source, as if he were a neutral foreign observer, regarding civilian casualties arriving at Shifa Hospital in Gaza amid the Israeli campaign against Hamas. But, according to CAMERA: "When asked by Dagbladet (a Norwegian publication) if he supported the terrorist attack on the U.S., he replied: 'Terror is a bad weapon, but the answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned.' (Sept. 30, 2001)"

The article "Norwegian Doctors in Gaza: Objective Observers or Partisan Propagandists?" by Ricki Hollander, can be found here.

 On the January 5 The Early Show, correspondent Mark Phillips cited Gilbert’s charges that Israel was conducting an "all-out war against civilians" as "compelling evidence" contradicting "repeated claims by Israelis that civilians are not being targeted." Phillips: "Despite repeated claims by the Israelis that civilians are not being targeted and that they are even being warned by leaflets and phone calls to stay away from target sites, the dead and injured continue to be brought into Gaza's overrun hospitals. And the evidence provided by foreign doctors in Gaza is compelling." Then came a clip of Gilbert: "So anybody who tries to portray this as sort of a clean war against another army are lying. This is an all-out war against the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza, and we can prove that with the numbers."

On the January 7 The Early Show, anchor Harry Smith interviewed the Norwegian doctor live by phone, treating him as if he were as credible as if he were one of the network’s correspondents filing a report on the scene. Smith began the interview: "Just how dire the situation is can be described this morning by Dr. Mads Gilbert, a doctor treating the wounded at Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Let me just get this clear because you just said all of the casualties that you have seen in that hospital are civilian casualties."

Gilbert claimed that he had seen no more than three non-civilian casualties at the hospital: "And I can count the number of fighters that I've seen on my left hand. Three, two, maybe two or three. Of course, there are fighters in a war, but in this hospital, we are receiving civilian casualties and I've been treating a large number, unfortunately, of children and women. Yesterday, we had children, large amount, very severe injuries, and I had children dying between my hands."

The Norwegian doctor has also been seen on the CBS Evening News. On January 5, correspondent Richard Roth showed a clip of Gilbert complaining about shortages of supplies at the hospital, and on January 7, Mark Phillips showed a soundbite of him talking about injured children at the hospital.

On the January 6 NBC Nightly News, correspondent Martin Fletcher devoted an entire story to Gilbert’s role volunteering at Shifa Hospital. After soundbites of Gilbert complaining about shortages at the hospital, Fletcher relayed Gilbert’s claim that he had "counted more than 800 children this week dead and wounded."

MARTIN FLETCHER: The worst part for him is the children.

DR. MADS GILBERT: We've had more children maimed, killed, died, amputated.

FLETCHER: Dr. Gilbert's counted more than 800 children this week dead and wounded. He's been visiting Gaza for 25 years helping the Palestinians. Still:

GILBERT: I have been to many wars, but this is the worst I have seen.

Fletcher concluded: "Shifa Hospital. ‘Shifa’ means healing. Dr. Gilbert can't do much of that. When we spoke to him by phone tonight, he broke down and cried. Martin Fletcher, NBC News, Tel Aviv."

[Update added January 27, 2009: A January 15 article in the New York Times seems to contradict Dr. Gilbert's claims of medical supply shortages, citing Jakob Kellenberger of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The article, titled "Egypt Cites Progress Toward Truce as Gaza Toll Exceeds 1,000," reads: "The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, who spent Tuesday in Gaza City, agreed that the situation with civilians was dire but said that the principal hospital was making do with medical supplies, and that doctors, working around the clock, were mostly coping with the flow of the wounded. 'In general, they did not complain about the lack of equipment or material,' he said at a news conference in Jerusalem."]

Gilbert has also appeared in two reports by NBC’s Richard Engel. On the January 5 NBC Nightly News, Engel recounted claims by "medical officials" that on one day, "at least 35 [were] killed, 20 of them children." Then came a clip of Gilbert, who was presumably one of the sources, complaining about the lights going out and shortages of equipment. And on the January 4 NBC Nightly News, Gilbert was visible in a scene purported to be of him and another doctor trying to resuscitate a deceased boy – a scene which some critics have charged appears staged for the camera. A similar story featuring the same clip that included Gilbert was shown on CNN.

Gilbert has been seen on ABC as well, appearing briefly in a soundbite on the January 6 World News with Charles Gibson complaining that more doctors from the West have not joined him in Gaza. Gilbert: "We are two doctors from the West. Where are the others?"

Below are transcripts of relevant stories from ABC, CBS and NBC that have featured Dr. Gilbert:

#From the January 6 World News with Charles Gibson on ABC:

SIMON MCGREGOR-WOOD: Here, on the Egyptian border, a few lucky injured Palestinians were evacuated today. Hundreds of others are still trapped in Gaza, where doctors are overwhelmed.

DR. MADS GILBERT, VOLUNTEER PHYSICIAN: We are two doctors from the West. Where are the others?

MCGREGOR-WOOD: Forty-five doctors are trying to join him, but for them, the border crossing remains closed.

#From the January 5 The Early Show on CBS, at 7:07 a.m.:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Now to a topic that the president-elect has kept mum on, the violence in the Middle East, where Israeli ground troops are pushing deeper into the Gaza Strip and Palestinian casualties are mounting. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips is near the Israel-Gaza border this morning. Good morning, Mark.

MARK PHILLIPS: Good morning, Maggie. Well, the good news is that the wheels of diplomacy are beginning to creak today. The Europeans and the French president Sarkozy are due to speak to the Israelis. The Egyptians are trying to Hamas, talk to Hamas. The Turks are trying to talk to both. But the bad news is that it was another night of intense fighting. The Israelis expanded their Gaza operation on the second night of the ground incursion, moving into areas in the south of the strip down toward the Egyptian border. It is through here that much of the imported weapons materiel is thought to come. They have effectively sliced Gaza into three zones, moving first into the northern end, then taking up positions around the old abandoned Israeli settlements in central Gaza and now moving into the South. They have stayed out of densely populated areas. It hasn't stopped Hamas from firing its rockets, though. This one landed in the frequently targeted town of Sderot just a few miles from Gaza. And there are plenty of tragic statistics in Gaza. Despite repeated claims by the Israelis that civilians are not being targeted and that they are even being warned by leaflets and phone calls to stay away from target sites, the dead and injured continue to be brought into Gaza's overrun hospitals. And the evidence provided by foreign doctors in Gaza is compelling.

DR. MADS GILBERT, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR FROM NORWAY, BY TELEPHONE: So anybody who tries to portray this as sort of a clean war against another army are lying. This is an all-out war against the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza, and we can prove that with the numbers.

PHILLIPS: That is an opinion that the Israelis, of course, reject. They say that Hamas are using the civilian population as human screens, that they're hiding weapons in public civil places, and that's why those places have to be attacked. Still, the rising number of civilian casualties is one of the factors that is increasing pressure on both parties to move towards talking, at least, about some sort of a cease-fire. Unfortunately, neither side seems ready for that yet.

 #From the January 5 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: As Mark just reported, conditions in Gaza are getting worse by the day. There's no power and little drinking water in Gaza City. And the main hospital is unable to provide relief from the growing humanitarian crisis. More now from Richard Roth.

RICHARD ROTH: At the biggest hospital in Gaza, the emergency is overwhelming the ER. There aren't enough ambulances to carry the casualties who arrive in cars and taxis, too. The beds are all busy at Shifa Hospital. The courtyard's a crowded waiting room. The morgue is full. General manager Hassan Khalaf insists the majority of patients by far are civilians. We reached him by cell phone.

HASSAN KHALAF, AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL GENERAL MANAGER: The latest figure is, the total killed people is 543 at the moment and, well, about 30 percent of them are women and children. The number of injured people is 2,600.

ROTH: Eleven-year-old Lama Alywa was brought in this afternoon. Her home was hit by an Israeli bomb. Her mother and four siblings were killed. Her doctor's Norwegian. Mads Gilbert came to Gaza last week to help out, he says, in a hospital that's short of everything but misery.

DR. MADS GILBERT, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR FROM NORWAY: They have no spare parts. They have no monitors. They have not enough blood pressure machines. They don't have enough trolleys. They lack everything. And on top of this, you have this huge disaster.

ROTH: The word "shifa" means healing, but Gilbert says Shifa Hospital is struggling to live up to its name.

GILBERT: We have to be even harder to select who we can treat, and we have to put aside people who could otherwise die. That is the gruesome fact of this situation. And we are not, we are not talking about the 17th century. We are talking about 2009.

ROTH: One other note, a senior Israeli intelligence official says Shifa Hospital isn't just a refuge for the wounded, he says it's also being used as a hideout for some leaders of Hamas. Hospital officials, Katie, vehemently deny that.

#From the January 7 The Early Show On CBS, at 7:04 a.m.:

HARRY SMITH: Just how dire the situation is can be described this morning by Dr. Mads Gilbert, a doctor treating the wounded at Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Let me just get this clear because you just said all of the casualties that you have seen in that hospital are civilian casualties.

DR. MADS GILBERT, AL-SHIFA HOSPTAL, BY TELEPHONE: We came in on New Year's from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and from that day until now, we have been living and working in the hospital. And I can count the number of fighters that I've seen on my left hand. Three, two, maybe two or three. Of course, there are fighters in a war, but in this hospital, we are receiving civilian casualties and I've been treating a large number, unfortunately, of children and women. Yesterday, we had children, large amount, very severe injuries, and I had children dying between my hands. This is undoubtedly a disaster which will be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza. No doubt.

SMITH: What is the most important thing people outside Gaza should understand about what is going on inside that territory?

GILBERT: You need to understand that this is a territory, very, very small, with one and a half million people who cannot flee anywhere. They cannot move. Unlike other wars, people, civilians, can flee away. The civilians in Gaza are completely locked in.

SMITH: Dr. Mads Gilbert, we thank you for your time. We will let you get back to work. Thank you, sir.

GILBERT: Thank you.

 #From the January 7 CBS Evening News:

MARK PHILLIPS: It was a time to retrieve those bodies of the dead, which could not be collected while the air raids continued, and a time to bury those killed in the Israeli attack on a United Nations school, which has become the single deadliest episode of this war. The Israelis still insist the civilians taking shelter in the school were being used as human shields by a Hamas mortar squad. The UN says it had warned the Israelis the school was full of families seeking refuge.

DR. MADS GILBERT, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR FROM NORWAY: Yesterday we had children, large amounts, very severe injuries, and I had children dying between my hands.

#From the January 4 NBC Nightly News:

LESTER HOLT: Now to our other major story, the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. A day after its tanks rolled across the border, Israeli troops tonight have virtually surrounded Gaza City and are engaged in close-range fighting with Hamas militants. Caught in the middle, civilians on both sides, with Palestinian casualties continuing to mount. NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Sderot, Israel, near the Gaza border. Richard, what’s the latest?

RICHARD ENGEL: Good evening, Lester. This conflict is still very much under way. As we speak right now, I can hear Israeli drones in the sky. We've heard several loud explosions in Gaza City behind me. I just heard another one of them right now. Israel says during its first full day of its ground offensive, its forces killed several dozen Hamas militants. The Israeli military today dug in. Several thousand troops and tanks, backed by helicopter gunships and artillery, blocked the main highways in Gaza, divided the territory in two and surrounded Gaza City. The Israeli air force says it has bombed more than 1,000 Hamas rocket launch sites, safe houses and smuggling tunnels since the offensive began nine days ago.

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We are faced with a Hamas regime that tore up the cease-fire, that initiated rocket barrage after rocket barrage against our civilian population in the South, and we are forced to act to defend our people.

ENGEL: But in the Gaza Strip now, streets are mostly empty, fuel is running out and there's no electricity. Hospital officials say at least 430 Palestinians have been killed, 30 just today, including 12-year-old Mahmoud Basrowi. His family says the boy was playing on his rooftop with a cousin when the house was hit by an Israeli shell or rocket. Two doctors, one a volunteer from Norway, tried to save Mahmoud. Wrapped in a white funeral shroud, Mahmoud was taken by his brother Ashraf, a Gaza-based television producer contracted by NBC News. At his family home, Ashraf told his relatives what happened.

ASHRAF: I didn't believe that. We prevent our children to go to streets because it is not safe to go there. And then just so, we ask them to stay here in the home and play here in this roof because it is safe. We are surrounded with high buildings.

ENGEL: Ashraf buried his brother just hours after he was killed. Tonight an Israeli spokesman said Israel does not target civilians and that Hamas is to blame because it continues to fire rockets from cities. Israelis are taking casualties, too. At least one soldier has been killed, more than 40 injured. And Hamas vows to keep fighting. Its television station yesterday broadcast threats. ‘Israeli soldiers will go home in coffins,' it said. But today Israeli soldiers took over that Hamas TV station and used it to broadcast warnings that Hamas leaders are the ones being targeted. But for the 1.5 million people in Gaza tonight, nowhere feels safe. Israel seems to be preparing for an extended conflict, and today called up thousands more reservists.

#From the January 5 NBC Nightly News:

RICHARD ENGEL: It was a bloody day for civilians in Gaza. Medical officials say at least 35 killed, 20 of them children.

ENGEL: "The Israeli army has no mercy," said one man. "Anything that moves is a target." For the 1.5 million people in Gaza, there's a growing humanitarian crisis. A million people are without electricity. More than a million have no access to clean water. At Gaza's main Shifa hospital, doctors tried to save a 15-year-old boy.

DR. MADS GILBERT, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR FROM NORWAY: Light goes out all the time. They have no spare parts. So this is the best that this patient can get. And now that, despite that, it's not possible to save him.

#From the January 6 NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: We've been talking about this human toll of the 11-day-old military action, the toll on the civilian population. Now we're going to show you that further, and the pictures are rough. They're from a photojournalist we had to hire to get the story for us from inside Gaza at the leading trauma hospital there, again because foreign press aren't being allowed in to see it. Here is why they are calling this a humanitarian crisis. Our own Martin Fletcher has our report.

MARTIN FLETCHER: The doctor says it's okay.

DR.. MADS GILBERT: It's okay, it’s okay.

FLETCHER: It isn't, but he can't tell her the truth.

GILBERT: We are very sad there is nothing we can do.

FLETCHER: Dr. Mads Gilbert from Norway is a volunteer in what must be the most overworked, underequipped hospital in the world: Shifa, Gaza's main hospital. Today it was the worst so far: 30 operations, 150 wounded.

GILBERT: Very difficult condition, the light goes out all the time. They have no spare parts for the equipment.

FLETCHER: The dead and wounded pouring in. Doctors say they're mostly civilians, about half women and children, many victims of today's UN school explosion. Dr. Gilbert arrived in Gaza a week ago and hasn't left the hospital since. He sleeps three hours a night. Dinner last night: a few biscuits and a tomato. He saved this little boy.

GILBERT: Good job, team.

FLETCHER: But the boy's mother died. And then Dr. Gilbert must tell her family.

GILBERT, SHAKING HANDS WITH TWO MEN: We are very sorry. Please, we are very sorry.

FLETCHER: He now says that a lot. He's low on all medicines, low on everything. There's no heat and little food.

GILBERT: They're lacking spare parts, lacking equipment, lacking drugs, and of course the staff is very tired from having worked now for more than a week, day and night.

GILBERT, TENDING TO A PATIENT: I need a bag and a mask. No, child size.

FLETCHER: The worst part for him is the children.

GILBERT: We've had more children maimed, killed, died, amputated.

FLETCHER: Dr. Gilbert's counted more than 800 children this week dead and wounded. He's been visiting Gaza for 25 years helping the Palestinians. Still:

GILBERT: I have been to many wars, but this is the worst I have seen.

FLETCHER: Shifa Hospital. Shifa means healing. Dr. Gilbert can't do much of that. When we spoke to him by phone tonight, he broke down and cried. Martin Fletcher, NBC News, Tel Aviv.