This is my response to Lilly Rivlin, who passed along this sad news:
I am 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.
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 (Yasir’s brother, and a dedicated and impressive man himself), was not happy that Sarraj had been invited “over their heads”.
I didn’t realize that he was the first psychiatrist in the Gaza Strip, but 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 about Gaza (Oct. 29, 2007) at the Kibbutz Movement headquarters in Tel Aviv, 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.
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.