A Public Health Catastrophe in Gaza | Crooked Media
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January 30, 2024
America Dissected
A Public Health Catastrophe in Gaza

In This Episode

In less than four months, more than 25,000 people have been killed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of devastation. Abdul reflects on how the way we talk about this will shape how the international community values human life. Then he interviews Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan, a pediatric intensive care doctor with Doctors without Borders and creator of the social medial channel “Gaza Medic Voices.”

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

[AD BREAK] [music break]

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, narrating: Rates of seasonal infectious disease have hit their winter peak as they finally start to trend downward. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute tracks dozens of articles by top executives. The Ohio legislature overturns a governor’s veto to ban gender affirming care. This is America Dissected. I’m your host, Doctor Abdul El-Sayed. [music break] For nearly the past four months, Gaza, that tiny densely packed strip of land not larger than the city of Detroit has experienced an unprecedented bombardment at the hands of the Israeli military. In its scale, scope, and ferocity, it’s one of the most devastating attacks on a civilian population in our lifetimes. Make no mistake, the terrorist attack that kicked this all off on October 7th is a terrible atrocity on its own terms. And as I’ve done and will continue to do, I condemn Hamas and its brutal violence on that day. All hostages must be free. But if we believe in the sanctity of all human life, we have to reject any notion that because one attack was brutal and inhumane, that it justifies brutality and inhumanity, particularly at the scale and speed that we’ve seen it play out in Gaza. 25,000 people have been killed, more than 10,000 of them children, 10,000. Think about that. And that’s in barely more than 100 days. That’s like crashing an airplane full of children every day for 100 straight days. But as we’ve discussed on this podcast, there’s a way that statistics perpetuate a sort of civic violence by sanding away the humanity of the people underneath them. It’s like stacking up a mountain of bodies and zooming out far enough so that you actually believe it’s just a mountain, rather than a mountain built of snuffed out dreams. Every one of those kids wanted to be something when they grew up. They all cuddled their moms and dads and siblings. They had a favorite food. They’re just like our kids, and they’re just the ones who’ve died. Our society has come a long way on acknowledging the mental health of young people, how bullying or neglect can impact a life. Now imagine how watching your sister die in front of you, or losing your parents in a bombing at seven years old might shape your life. Those kids don’t get counted in the death numbers. They’ve just had to create new numbers. As you all know, I’m an epidemiologist. A terrible field of science dedicated to counting people’s misery. We do it in the hope that if we can count and define it clearly, then we can spur change. In Gaza, they’ve taken to counting children’s legs. Since the bombardment began, an average of ten children per day have lost their legs. Perhaps if children’s lives don’t demonstrate the extent of the suffering their legs might. In Gaza there are so many children who are taken to hospitals injured in attacks in which their entire families have died. They created a new acronym for it, ICNSF. Injured child, no surviving family. But there are now far fewer hospitals that can treat ICNSF’s. Every one of Gaza’s 36 hospitals, has come under Israeli fire. Not to mention countless reports of bombed ambulances and health care providers killed. To be clear, any attack on a hospital, ambulance or health care provider is a stark violation of international law, an indirect targeting of the civilians those health care providers are intended to render services to. International outrage has been profound, prompting South Africa to bring a genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice, for which the court formally found a basis in its preliminary ruling on Friday. And yet, all of this has had little to no effect in the single country that has done the most to support this, our own. The devastation of Gaza was underwritten by our political power, our vetoes in the U.N. Security Council, our tax dollars and our 2,000 pound bombs. One of the common refrains you hear from apologists of our government’s actions is that it’s somehow unfair to single out Israel, but what Israel has done in Gaza is singular. It has no parallel in this century. They literally killed 1% of Gaza’s population. The equivalent in our country would be 3.5 million people. And yet we defend, no extend it. And at core, it’s not even really about Israel. It’s about the value of human life. Our failure as a global community, as humans generally, to stop the murder of 10,000 children in just over 100 days, or to hold the murderers accountable, is passive acceptance that this kind of violence can even be justified. It creates a permission structure for genocide that I worry ill intended dictators and would be mass murderers are taking notes on. This violence needs to end. There must be a cease fire. I wanted to understand what it’s like on the ground for the people of Gaza. So I reached out to a friend and a former classmate, Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan, the pediatric intensivist and physician with Doctors Without Borders who served in Gaza and has been communicating with her colleagues there. Here’s my conversation with Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: All right. Can you introduce yourself for the tape?

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: My name is uh Tanya Haj-Hasan. I’m a pediatric intensive care doctor based in Canada. And I work part time with Doctors Without Borders or [?] MSF for short. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Can you tell us about the first time you visited Gaza? 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: Gosh, that was very long time ago. Um. But, yeah, I think the most starking thing was the entry itself. So Erez is the crossing into the Gaza Strip, and it’s, basically like a large prison wall with these watchtowers. And, you go through multiple checks to get into the building, and then once you’re in the building, you’re screened and re-screened, and particularly if you’re like myself and have um, what at least it seemed like at the time, a nonwhite ethnicity, uh to your background, you are taken to a room with a whole bunch of other people who fit that profile, and then you’re questioned even more, and it’s a very long process until you finally get to the other side. And then there’s about a kilometer or so feels like a kilometer where you walk in this cage uh until you finally are welcomed at the other end of it, by our Gazan colleagues, who are the warmest people I’ve had the privilege of working with. Um. Gaza itself, uh is a beautiful city. Not so much because it’s flourishing or um beautiful in the way you would describe Switzerland, for example, but just it just exudes warmth. Um. And it’s on the coast. And people there really love life. You can feel it. You can feel it as you walk along the beach. And there’s like little shanty shacks everywhere, but people are out playing volleyball or football or or swimming and um really making the most out of very, very difficult circumstances. Um. So the first time I went, I think I was just one very shocked at how difficult it is to get to the other side and how much it felt like I was trying to enter a high security prison, only to find not dangerous convicted people, but innocent families making the most out of what are very difficult circumstances. Um. They’re clearly poor for the most part, but really well-educated, very much value education and hard work. And I think that was the third thing that struck me was how committed our students uh that we taught were. So I was teaching at two medical schools and then also teaching bedside teaching in the hospitals. And um just how, like, absolutely determined the students were to learn both the men and women. Um. And we’d take coffee breaks together. And I was also just struck by how warm they all were and how positive they were. I was also very struck at some of the answers they gave me to questions that I asked about what they envisioned as a future for themselves. Um. And I think the majority of them, and I am trying to think if I can remember any different. But, you know, were happy to live at peace if uh you know, if the siege was lifted, they were happy to live side by side with Israelis as long as they were well respected and protected and were given equal rights. And I think for people who’ve never some of them had never seen an Israeli before, you know, they’ve never left the Gaza Strip. And a lot of the wars have been waged uh remotely with, with bombs. And so they hadn’t really seen people outside of the Gaza Strip. But still, despite that, were able to envision a future of peace and cohabitation. That obviously changed year after year that we went, I think, not the sentiments or the warmth. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: When was the first time you went? 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: That’s a very good question, I’m going to have to go back in my phone and look at pictures. We started going to the West Bank, then to the West Bank and Gaza, and then ultimately we felt that the need was higher in Gaza and started going to Gaza alone. But it was probably around ten years ago. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: And you said that over time, just the attitude, the perspective started to shift. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: No, not the attitude or the perspective. In fact, that kind of we love life attitude has always been there and continued to be there. What started to change was the desperation just, you know, after year and year of blockade, they started to have a lot more difficulty disposing of sewage. And so this you’d smell the stench when you crossed over into Gaza. They knew they were getting only a few hours of electricity per day, which means they find it very hard to power a lot of the plants that need to to maintain those standards. Um. Same thing when it comes to clean water. And then just the living situation for so many people was worse. And I remember going on a run with my team and, we uh were talking about the fact that we hadn’t seen dead rats on any of our previous trips, but we had that one time in one of the refugee camps. I think just things were getting worse from a–

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Humanitarian standpoint. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: Humanitarian standpoint. But the the attitudes, at least my, my perspective of it was they hadn’t changed. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: They stayed positive. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: They were still warm, kind, positive and, you know, really trying so hard to love life. Just an excellent sense of humor always. And a warmth and generosity that always surprised us, knowing what they were having to endure. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: And that’s such a contrast to the way Palestinian people and uh Gazan people in particular are portrayed in the media. And, you know, this, this portrayal, uh intense in so many ways or clearly strips away that fundamental humanity, uh that notion that these are people with hopes and dreams and aspirations for themselves and their kids, and that they come to life wanting the same things that that we want. And you went to Gaza to offer medical assistance. And one of the most shocking aspects of uh the current bombardment and genocide of uh Gaza right now is the targeting of health care centers. You started a uh social media channel called Gaza Medic Voices, and you’re in touch with folks. How often are you in touch with them? And can you tell us a little bit about what they share? 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: Um. Daily when communication allows, um as you probably are aware, communication had been cut off for at least 8 or 9 days. And um, during those period, it is really hard to stay in touch with them. I heard from two of my colleagues this morning, and I can at least maybe share what they shared with me this morning. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Please. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: So one of them is a colleague who was based at um al-Aqsa hospital in the middle area of Gaza, and he has been there since the beginning. So over 100 days, as you’re probably aware, it was besieged and uh there was a lot of bombardment and it was marked as a high risk area about a week ago. And so or a little over that. So the NGOs actually, that were based at that hospital withdrew, including Doctors Without Borders, MSF and MAP, Medical Aid for Palestinians. Most of the local doctors remained and then some of them evacuated um forcibly. When the bombing reached the hospital, this particular doctor evacuated south. His family is in the middle area. He wasn’t able to reach them because it’s not safe. So he’s now in the South with no money uh to buy a tent and no family. And is desperately looking for a job or any job, both so that he can continue to have, you know, a sense of purpose and uh offer his services at a time when, like, you know, people are, as you and I are, and I’m sure, just determined to help in any way possible. And also so he can earn some money and buy a tent. You know, this is, a very well educated, well trained doctor who had a decent quality of life. Um. He’s one of the best doctors I know. And uh he’s alone with not even the means to buy a tent. The other colleague I heard from is a female colleague of mine who was describing to me how glad she is that she does not have her own children right now, because she couldn’t imagine being a mother under these circumstances and having to worry about whether or not I could feed my children, or whether or not I could protect them from bombardment, knowing that I couldn’t. She also sent me a very funny video of her brothers dancing, um and said something to the effect of we can’t be sad all the time. So I’m sharing this video with you. It was very funny, but just kind of reinforces this, like warmth and love for life. You know, her trying to make me feel better when you know she’s going through absolute hell, and that I’ve heard that consistently from so many doctors. We’re literally living in hell. End quote. Like that just comes up over and over again, or we feel like the whole world has abandoned us. And they try and describe the carnage. They, they’re they’re incredibly, resilient people. And I say that cautiously because I think, you know, talking about their resilience or the fact that they’re heroes, uh also denies them the inevitable suffering that they’re experiencing. You know, and I think that they have no choice but to continue to be resilient, but to continue and and one of my colleagues told me that a couple of days, I think her exact words were, I don’t have the privilege. I don’t have the privilege of not being strong right now. I don’t have that privilege. I don’t have that privilege for my family. I just don’t have that privilege. And she’s like, sometimes I’m she says I’m broken inside but they can’t know. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Hmmm. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: She went on to describe how she no longer experiences joy, how she feels like nothing matters anymore and like it’s clear that this is affecting her psychologically. But at the end of the day, she feels like she doesn’t have the privilege to even, you know, lean into that or or receive support for it, because she has to continue to be strong for her patients and for her family. Um. So, yeah, it’s horrifically difficult. Most of them say that the most difficult thing workwise is, well, two things. One, working with so little resources in the face of mass casualties that no health care system could accommodate anywhere in the world. And the other is that the human suffering that they witness on a daily basis, particularly the children, and they just described countless children that come in with no identifiable family and that the children call out for their parents. And usually usually they find out later that the parents were killed in the same bombing. Sometimes they find out that the parents were killed in a previous bombing and that the child had survived, and now the child comes in injured in a subsequent bombing. And it’s just I mean, it’s heartbreaking. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I can’t imagine seeing even one of those situations, let alone just being completely inundated with exactly that situation without the ability to really help. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: Yeah, no. And that’s the human element of it. There’s colleagues of mine who returned from Gaza a couple of weeks ago, you know, just described the carnage, like just, you know, children who you cannot resuscitate because you have to triage and and you don’t have the means to try and save the people who are are most injured. And, you know, children who come in with horrific amputations, open fractures. So bone coming out of the skin, burns to the majority of their body crying or gasping. And all they can do is if if they’re lucky and they have morphine or other medications to reduce suffering is they can try and reduce their pain. But at one point they even ran out of morphine and ketamine, and so they could do nothing but hold these children’s hands while they died. And I like, I can’t imagine. What are we, day 110 almost? I can’t imagine doing that for a single patient. Never mind 110 days of it. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I want to ask you, stepping back and thinking about the totality of the devastation. We talked about the fact that hospitals have been targeted. How many hospitals were targeted of Gaza’s total number of hospitals, and to what extent were they targeted? Just to understand the degree to which international norms and and laws were violated in this situation. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: Yeah. I mean, I think it depends how you define targeted, uh targeted in one way or another, 100%. Every single hospital in the Gaza Strip. They’ve been blocked in terms of had patient access to them, in terms of aid accessing them in terms of the supplies that need to access those hospitals in terms of ambulances that have bombarded. Uh just yesterday, the Palestinian Red Crescent uh base in Khan Yunis, in the middle area of Gaza, was besieged. And they wouldn’t let any ambulances go to hospitals or pick up patients. And when anyone moved, they shot at them. Their access has been been targeted 100% of the hospitals, in terms of access to lifesaving supplies needed. You know, that you need to stock these hospitals with, 100% of the hospitals. There are 36 hospitals in Gaza. In terms of the number that have been targeted, as in directly bombed or or sniped at or besieged. I’m not sure. Uh I’d have to go back and look at, our records, but but, uh several I mean, I can name at least five while we’re sitting here. And when I say bombed, it’s not that the whole hospital’s been reduced to rubble the way the universities have. It’s more that parts of the hospital get bombed. And in some cases, and in many of the situations, patients and health care providers die when that happens, as happened at um [?] Hospital where two MSF doctors were killed. Two of our colleagues. And you may have seen the whiteboard where, one of the MSF doctors had written on their, you know, the surgical board where you write the cases and the times for all the cases, it had been wiped clean. They just couldn’t keep up with all the cases. And he he wrote something to the effect of um we we did our best. Remember us. We did our best. And he was killed. That whiteboard, there’s footage that you can see, um from MSF about this. That whiteboard is, was, almost destroyed, but you can still see traces of what had been written before. And there’s a photo of what had been written before, and that doctor was killed. Um. So I think 100% of hospitals have target been targeted in one way or another to put them out of function. And then there are a number of them that have been targeted directly in terms of bombardment. There were several that were besieged where doctors, nurses, patients were not allowed to move in and out of the hospital. They described being sniped at, from the windows when they tried to walk past any of the windows so they would get on all fours and crawl to get from patient to patient. And because the hospital was besieged, they didn’t have access to food or water or for many of them, electricity inside those hospitals. And in, in terms of so that’s kind of direct uh, military targeting of those hospitals, but that’s all 100% of those 36 hospitals were targeted in other ways, including, as you probably remember, in the early days, the cutting off electricity, water and then ultimately fuel, which resulted in the hospitals sequentially unable to operate their ventilators, their dialysis machines, their sterilization uh machines, or have any lighting for the facilities. And then when communication gets cut, what that means is the hospitals cannot communicate with each other. So for the last however many days over a week now, for example, the one maternity hospital that’s receiving the majority of pregnant women in Gaza is in the south. It’s a tiny, tiny little hospital that’s not constructed to handle that volume of patients. And they describe not being able to reach out to any specialists anywhere because communication was cut off, or to any hospitals to see if they could transfer mothers. One mother in MSF described going to hospital and there being them not being able to accommodate her. And so she went home, delivered her baby in the latrine that was near her tent. And um the baby didn’t survive. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I want to talk about the, the death toll, uh which is, is staggering 25,000 deaths and nearly half of them children. It’s almost impossible to calculate. And I actually think we do a profound disservice to humanity when we reflect on just numbers. Right. Because numbers have a way of taking away people’s humanity. And there’s this way when people talk about Palestinians that they are just dying, like whenever you hear about Palestinians, it’s, you know, 66 Palestinian children died today as if that’s what Palestinian children do. And at the same time, you almost can’t fathom what it means when you reflect on 10,000 kids and counting. Um. How do the folks on the ground make sense of that? I mean, is there a way to even make sense of that? 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: So there are two things that you mentioned. One is the figure itself. And two is the, I guess, advantages and disadvantages of talking about things in terms of numbers. To reflect on the second point, we have to talk about these numbers because, you know, I think that the sheer scale of this is unprecedented in modern times. If you just look at, for example, the number of children killed per day at day 100 of the war in Ukraine. The UN described that this being the most devastating war for children since World War Two, at a time in which two children were being killed on average per day, that figure in Gaza is over 100. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Wow. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: We talk about mothers, 48 mothers on average killed per day, mothers, two mothers an hour. That’s two families left motherless every single hour in the time of this interview. And I think reflecting on those numbers is important because it demonstrates the scale, severity and speed at which this massacre has unfolded in a way that I think is important. And I think it’s partly what you know, one of the many reasons that’s prompting people to take this to international courts, because it’s that the numbers speak for themselves. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: But there is a risk, as you said, if we of reducing things to numbers, there’s a risk of desensitization. And there’s a psychological phenomenon that I learned about recently. You know, that essentially your empathy decreases as the number increases. So there’s this reverse. And we see that, we see a decreased interest from the media. We see a decreased interest of engagement globally as this becomes more and more catastrophic. The first point is the numbers themselves. And this has been, you know, a deep sense of frustration for many of us who know Gaza well, um because that number is constantly cast into doubt. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah. Shameful. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: And what I can say is, I suspect it is a gross underestimate. And I think there was a Lancet paper a couple weeks ago that basically showed that, you know, historically and consistently that these numbers have actually been pretty accurate in retrospect, uh when the Ministry of Health has produced them. And if anything have been underestimates. So I think that’s certainly probably going to be the case this time around, because there are so many, you know, I receive daily updates, um uh from colleagues there on the number of people killed per day and what the daily updates uh state every time, there’s a disclaimer that says this does not include those bodies that we were not unable to identify or those that are still trapped under the rubble. So it has to be a gross underestimate. And I I’m genuinely afraid to let my mind imagine what the actual death toll is going to be at the end of this. And then experts are also saying that the likely death toll from uh the living conditions. So starvation and disease are likely to be at least as high when, you know, even once there’s a cease fire. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah. I did want to ask about this. The conditions you have perfect setup for upper respiratory and GI illness to spread. You have a situation where you don’t have clean water, very little sanitation, if at all, and folks are crowded into what little infrastructure exists. And that that’s part of it that we don’t pay attention to. It’s like you count the number of dead who are attributable specifically to a bomb or a sniper bullet. But sometimes we attribute those who are killed because of circumstance as a function of just a death number, that that’s kind of happening rather than a function directly of destroyed infrastructure. Have your colleagues talked a bit about the growing number of infectious disease, illnesses that they’re they’re dealing with and the collapse of public health? 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I can talk about patients in a second, but my colleagues themselves are always sick and they talk about it, they’re like hacking in their voice message to me and they’ll say, sorry, this is one cough over, over after another for the last three months. My colleagues who aren’t from Gaza, who’ve been there recently with MSF, with MAP, with other organizations, say that they’re sick constantly while they’re there, they alternate between respiratory and diarrheal illness the entire time that they’re there. Most of them come back still unwell. So absolutely, like everybody is getting sick, mostly respiratory tract infections and diarrheal disease illness. And we’ve seen recently an uptick in hepatitis A as well. We were talking yesterday with one of the organizations about the dire need for primary health care exactly for that reason that there’s just everybody’s so sick and uh they’re seeing more and more cases of malnutrition. And, you know, children who are malnourished also have significantly compromised immune systems. So they’re more likely to get sick, they’re less likely to recover. And uh when they get sick, that kind of propels that vicious cycle of malnutrition and illness. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: The other part of this we’re not paying enough attention to, only because there’s just so much else to draw your attention is the psychological consequence of this. You have a literally 2 million people who’ve all witnessed a severe trauma and are actively witnessing it. And it’s not a one time thing. It’s they live under circumstances that are trauma inducing every single day, and the psychological toll is going to be profound. And you talked about the resilience of the folks in Gaza. But, you know, at some point, there’s no way to be resilient to watching your cousin die and your uncle die and your child die. Has there been infrastructure to try and deal with the catastrophic mental health consequences of this? And what would it take to try to do that? Obviously, if the violence stopped but but even beyond that to provide the care that people need.

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: Yeah. So there are several, functioning very good mental health programs in the Gaza Strip. There’s been a long history of this, because this isn’t trauma that started on October 7th or 10th, or this is trauma that has been lifelong for most of the people there. You know, if you’re 11 years old, you’ve gone through at least four of these, assaults, obviously, this being the worst. But many of my friends and colleagues there describe having lost family members. And in 2021 or 2014 or 2009, 2008. There’s a reason they’re capable when it comes to, mass casualties and, managing trauma in general. And I hear this over and over again from non-Gazan colleagues who’ve gone there. It’s because they’ve sadly had to do it so many times. But no, I don’t think you can recover from this sort of trauma. That the infrastructure was there, as it was for other types of illness and health issues, but it’s been decimated. I mean, the entire health care system in the Gaza Strip has been annihilated. But I don’t know what that means for the day after in terms of psychological support, in terms of psychological support right now, while this massacre is unfolding, you know, some of the colleagues describe where they are from a mental health standpoint. But what a lot of them will say is I cannot provide that kind of care for my children right now like they they’re hungry, they need food, they need water, they need safety. And then we can talk about the psychological impact that this is having on both of us. And I think that’s kind of what, you know, a lot of people, it’s kind of, you know, I don’t know if you can think back to your life at a time where you went through something that was extremely difficult, but consuming every aspect of your concentration and energy. And as soon as it’s over and you reflect on it, you start to feel the actual weight of what you experienced or what you saw. I know that’s happened to me with some of my previous missions. You’re just so focused on surviving, and I think that’s what they are experiencing right now and are going to need a lot of support when it’s over. What I can say, though, is, you know, and I’m always cautious to talk about resilience when someone is going through something that nobody can or should experience is Palestinians in general have this sense of [?], the sense of patience, resilience that is, really remarkable. And I think it comes from a lot of things. But family structure is very strong in Gaza. Faith is incredibly deep, profound, amongst Gazans. And I think those two things provide them with a support system and a way of thinking about things that really makes them more able to endure, what I cannot fathom ever enduring. But yeah, I think certainly there’s going to need to be a lot of psychological support under their terms. When all of this, I hope is over soon. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Toward that end. I think so many of us have been watching this and feeling, as you talked about earlier on, fundamentally helpless. And you’re somebody who stepped up and said, you know, I’m putting my time and and frankly, my life, on the line to go and help. What can the rest of us do, to help your colleagues and the people in in Gaza more generally. And as you sort of reflect on that, what can we all do to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen in the future? 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: Yeah, that’s a very good question. And what can we do as individuals? Um. There’s so many things that we can do, but the first and most urgent thing is to advocate for for a cease fire. And to do that through every possible means that you have access to, you know, within your family, encouraging other people to do the same. At your workplace in the kind of mobilizations that are happening within your community, writing to your representatives and this kind of a bare minimum, calling your representatives, then there are other people that, you know, take it a step further and are dedicating, you know, the majority of their day. Uh. And I don’t know if you, you know, Jewish Voice for Peace, for example. I mean, there are individuals within that group who have not stopped for 100 days. Um. And I think advocacy is incredibly important right now. So I would say certainly advocacy. Don’t grow despondent watching something on the news that you feel is out of your control. We we all have power. Uh. We just have to, to find it, channel it, and uh, be determined about it. And I think there are very few things in this world that make me more determined than watching a mass massacre of an entire civilian population happening before our eyes. There’s an urgency to it. And I think let that urgency drive uh your action. Um. And then, of course, there’s donations and uh looking at ways of rebuilding Gaza and supporting Gazans as time goes by. Um. And I, I really want to stress that other that second point because I think, you know, the suffering of the Palestinian people did not start in 2023. It’s been going on for over 75 years, as has, you know, 75 years of occupation, 15 years of siege in the Gaza Strip, multiple similar bombardments. And every time that there is something that shocks us, we wake up, we want to help. We’re motivated for for a few days or a week or a couple of weeks, and then we forget about it and we get sucked into our lives. And I think just the two things that I would say people really, I encourage people to do is remember that you have power and use that power right now to advocate for this to stop now. Not tomorrow and not the day after. Now and then the second thing is make a promise to yourself that once the horrific footage is stored somewhere and is no longer being live fed all over your social media and television, that you remember that this is a entire population whose hopes and dreams have been decimated and are going to need your support going forward. And you know, you asked me, Abdul, about the psychological impact. And I just want to add one more thing. You know, I’m a pediatric intensive care doctor. I’m around children who are suffering, sadly all too frequently, and they don’t want to be in pain. And they want the people they depend on that they look to for security and safety to be by their side, usually their parents. And if they feel well enough they don’t want to be hungry. And children in Gaza are deprived of all three of those things. They’re deprived of pain relief. They’re deprived of food, and they’re deprived for thousands of them, of their parents who’ve been killed. And the amount of support that these children are going to need going forward. The amount of global solidarity that we need to muster to make sure that these children are are supported forever, that these widows are supported, that these men who’ve lost their entire family, their wife, their children, their grandparents are supported. I think we have a responsibility to do so. Because we’ve let the Palestinians down for for way, way too long. We can’t continue to fail them. How do we prevent this from happening again? That’s a very good question, because after World War Two, you know, the world had a reckoning. We sat down, we made rules. We made laws. We have the United Nations, the Security Council, International humanitarian law. And look where it got us. There is an exceptionalism that we should not accept. And that’s unfolding right in front of our eyes as we speak. And we need to change the world order so that this doesn’t happen again. Humanitarian law is international for a reason. It’s supposed to apply to everybody. It can’t apply to people who live in certain parts of the world, at certain parts of time, and not apply to anyone else. And I think a lot of people have had an awakening in the last few months recognizing, you know, seeing seeing previous conflicts differently too. Previous wars differently, and realizing that there is an exceptionalism, uh that we’re no longer going to accept as as a world order. And I think there’s so many countries in the world that are emerging right now with strong, courageous positions, particularly in the global South, and that that flip needs to happen. 

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I really appreciate that. It’s one of the things that sometimes folks who are, who haven’t been paying attention to this will tell themselves is that it’s complex, it’s complicated. And I think, you know, the only way that it becomes complex and complicated is if you forget that central to our goals, whether they’re our goals as individuals or our goals as a country or our goals as humans, uh and humanity is to protect uh folks that are most vulnerable like our children. It’s really quite clarifying. And the thing about it is, if we don’t address violence against people we’re told are less than or not human enough or who are suffering, we ignore, it opens up the norm where that kind of violence can happen anywhere. And I just think it’s it’s so critical, uh for folks to step out of the identity questions and ask the humanity questions that come back and clarify the identity questions, because any of us should look at any child and say that kid could be my kid. And if we fail to do that, the consequences are profound. And we’re seeing that in Gaza. And I worry that this is creating a, I hate to say it, a permission structure for the next authoritarian regime to do the next thing and say, look, when it was done to the Palestinians, nobody spoke up. Nobody did anything. So clearly, human life is cheap. And the entire premise of this podcast is that human life ought to be the most cherished thing we have. And I really just appreciate you, making that the goal of your life’s work, your commitment to the people of Gaza and um advocacy on their behalf and, your general good heartedness. Thank you for taking the time. Our guest today was Doctor Tanya Haj-Hasan. She is a physician, a pediatric intensivist with Doctors Without Borders, and she joined us to share her experience working in Gaza and her conversations with her colleagues out there. Thank you so much, Tanya. 

 

Dr. Tanya Haj-Hasan: Thank you so much Abdul. I really appreciate you having me on here. [music break]

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: As usual, here’s what I’m watching right now. Been sick lately? I have again, it’s been a rager for all the viruses and bacteria that cause seasonal illness this year. They’ve been loving their time in our noses, our throats and our lungs. The bad news, and I don’t think I have to tell you all this. This has been a particularly bad year for infectious diseases. Like a really bad year. Right now, rates appear to be near their peaks. As bad as they’re going to get, which is pretty bad. But the good news is that rates of Covid, RSV and flu all appear to be falling, which means that hopefully we can expect some relief here soon. If you haven’t been following there’s been a major [?] shaking up the academy over the veracity of academic publications. Everything from a data manipulation scandal which cost the former president of Stanford his job, to plagiarism allegations, which cost the president of Harvard hers. Now we can add one more hallowed institution to the list. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced that it will retract six and correct dozens of articles coauthored by top executives, after analysis by a British based academic watchdog found that they were rife with duplicated or manipulated data. This moment, it reflects the collision of three trends. The first is how easy technology has made it to analyze past publications for inaccuracies, particularly when it comes to duplications or plagiarism. The second is that there’s been a general academic inflation over the past several years, as the pressure to quote, “publish, or perish” have loosened standards and allowed more mistakes or worse. The third and most dangerous is a general right wing effort to undermine the credibility of the Academy by mining for these kinds of mistakes, and then publicizing them broadly to shake trust in the expertise of those whom they target. I worry that a lot of good people are going to have their careers destroyed by this game of academic McCarthyism, and that many of the bad faith right wing attacks will serve the exact purpose for which they’ve been deployed, to make bona fide experts look like cheaters. And I do hope that this will drive a reckoning in the academic science community that improves the quality and rigor of published science. Against the veto of it’s Republican governor, Ohio’s Republican dominated legislature has moved to ban all gender affirming surgeries and hormone therapies. It restricts gender affirming health care for transgender folks until they turn 18. It also bans trans girls and women from girls and women’s sports through college. As we discussed in a previous episode with Doctor Cullen Baker, gender affirming care that allows trans kids, their parents and their health care providers to make the best individual decision for them, protects them from suicide. It saves lives. Point blank, and I shudder to think about what the implications will be for trans kids in Ohio. More broadly, the law is a massive incursion of government into people’s personal lives and health care decisions. It’s also a profound act of hypocrisy from an ideology which is supposed to be about protecting people from government overreach, not doing it itself. That’s it for today. On your way out. Don’t forget to rate and review. It goes a long way. Also, if you love the show and want to rep us, do drop by the Crooked store for some American Dissected merch. And don’t forget to follow us at @CrookedMedia. And me at @AbdulElSayed no dash on IG, TikTok, and whatever Twitter is called these days. [music break] America Dissected is a product of Crooked Media. Our producer is Austin Fisher, our associate producers are Tara Terpstra and Emma Illick-Frank. Charlotte Landes mixes and masters the show. Production support from Ari Schwartz. Our theme song is by Taka Yasuzawa and Alex Suguira. Our executive producers are Leo Duran, Sarah Geismer, and me. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, your host. Thanks for listening. [music break] This show is for general information and entertainment purposes only. It’s not intended to provide specific health care or medical advice, and should not be construed as providing health care or medical advice. Please consult your physicians with any questions related to your own health. The views expressed in this podcast reflect those of the host and his guests, and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Wayne County, Michigan or it’s Department of Health, Human and Veterans Services. [music break]