Remembering Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a Gaza Hero

I was very sorry to hear about the passing of Dr. Eyad Sarraj, who was a very courageous individual, committed to both non-violence and speaking truth to power, wherever it was.

photo credit: Flash90

Dr. Eyad Sarraj

I first met him in...Mexico City, at the annual international conference of IPPNW (International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War) in 1993. I came from Tel Aviv as Spokesperson for IPPNW-Israel, and he came from Gaza, and we frequently had breakfast together at the hotel. He had been invited to the conference by members of Physicians for Social Responsibility (U.S.), who had been very impressed by him and his work. The official Palestinian chapter in IPPNW, headed then by Dr. Fathi Arafat, head of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat’s brother, and a dedicated and impressive man himself), was not happy that Sarraj had been invited "over their heads".

He was the first psychiatrist in the Gaza Strip, and his Mental Health Clinic was a much-needed and important institution. And he had no qualms challenging the Israeli Occupation Authorities, and both the PA - Fatah and also the Hamas authorities, and though frequently mistreated by both, he also earned their respect.

When the Palestine-Israel Journal arranged a public event at the Kibbutz Movement headquarters in Tel Aviv about Gaza, he agreed to speak directly from Gaza to the audience via speaker-phone, since it wasn't possible to come in person. I remember that he gave a very moving account of the situation in Gaza, which had a profound impact on the audience.

Talking about Gaza and Sderot - October 29, 2007

Statement by Dr. Eyyad Sarraj - October 29, 2007, in Tel Aviv

When his health declined he received medical treatment at Hadassah Hospital. I had assumed that his situation had improved, but apparently it wasn't to be.

May he rest in peace