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Palestinian doctor Ghassan Abu-Sitta says he was denied entry to France

In News, World
May 04, 2024

The surgeon who helped treat patients during Israel’s war on Gaza was scheduled to speak at the French Senate.

Ghassan Abu-Sitta, a doctor who spent 43 days in Gaza helping treat those wounded in Israel’s war, said he is being denied entry to France where he was scheduled to make a speech at the Senate.

“I am at Charles De Gaulle airport. They are preventing me from entering France. I am supposed to speak at the French Senate today,” Abu-Sitta posted on the social media platform X on Saturday.

“Fortress Europe silencing the witnesses to the genocide while Israel kills them in prison,” the renowned British-Palestinian plastic surgeon who is also rector of the University of Glasgow added.

Abu Sitta was placed in a holding zone at the airport and will be expelled, according to French Senator Raymonde Poncet Monge, a Green party member who had invited him to speak at the Senate.

The president of the Greens’ Senate group, Guillaume Gontard, called the decision to block Abu-Sitta “scandalous”, and said he was negotiating with the interior and foreign ministries to reverse the move. He added, however, that the doctor would “probably” be sent back to the United Kingdom.

Abu-Sitta posted on social networks that he was denied entry in France because of a one-year ban by Germany on his entry to Europe.

Germany denied him entry last month, and France and Germany are part of Europe’s border-free Schengen zone. He posted on X that he was being sent back to London.

The French Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, local police and the Paris airport authority would not comment on what happened or give an explanation.

‘McCarthyite cancer from Germany to France’

In April, Abu-Sitta was meant to speak at the Palestine Congress event in Berlin when Germany denied him entry. He said that he was questioned for hours at the airport before being told he was not allowed to enter the country.

Germany is one of Israel’s biggest military suppliers, sending 326.5 million euros ($353.7m) in equipment and weapons in 2023, according to Economy Ministry data.

There was “pressure from the federal government” to cancel the Palestine Congress, organiser Nadija Samour said at the time, adding that Germany was “actively and illicitly” trying to impede the event.

On Saturday, protesters and critics condemned the EU’s treatment of Abu-Sitta.

“Macron’s France shames us. Ghassan Abu Sitta MUST be able to come to France and bear witness to the horrors seen and experienced in Gaza,” Mathilde Panot, deputy of the French National Assembly said in a post on X.

Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister of Greece who was also denied from speaking at the Berlin Palestine Congress with Abu-Sitta, said that “the McCarthyite cancer has spread from Germany to France”.

“Time to rise up across the EU against this blatant attempt to shield apartheid-Israel from rational, humanist criticism,” he said on X.

He also warned that he is taking German authorities to court since they have refused his lawyers’ demand to inform him of the rationale of his ban from Germany.

More than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed and 77,800 people wounded in the Israeli offensive in Gaza since October 7.

On Friday, Abu-Sitta told Al Jazeera how during his time in Gaza, hospitals had been turned into rubble and “became sites of mass graves of Palestinians murdered in cold blood by Israeli forces, hands tied behind their backs.”

Abu-Sitta had been invited to France by the left-wing Ecologists group in the Senate to speak at a colloquium on Saturday about the situation in Gaza, according to the Senate press service. The gathering included testimony from medics, journalists and international legal experts with Gaza-related experience.

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