Just World Podcasts Podcast Artwork Image
Just World Podcasts
Gaza's Dr. Basem Naim recalls the horrors of Cast Lead. Part 1.
January 03, 2019 Helena Cobban

This episode of our podcast is the third in a special mini-series we’re releasing as part of our “Cast Lead Plus Ten” project, which started last December 27 and is running for 22 days. The project marks the anniversary of the “Operation Cast Lead” assault that Israel waged against Gaza during these same 22 days, ten years ago.  

In this episode you’ll hear the first half of a conversation I had about Cast Lead recently, with Dr. Basem Naim. At the time of Cast Lead, Dr. Naim was the Minister of Health in the Palestinian government in Gaza.  Currently, he heads the Gaza-based Center for International Relations.

 In this episode, Dr. Naim re-lives some of the most painful moments he experienced during Operation Cast Lead —both as the Minister of Health and in his personal life -- from the first moments of the massive air assault on Gaza City that Israel launched in the late morning of December 27, 2008, when Dr. Naim was in Gaza largest medical facility, Shifa Hospital… until when the ceasefire was reached 21 days later. 

He also talks about the very  painful legacies that Cast Lead left in Gaza and the failure of all efforts to hold Israel accountable.

(The automatically generated transcript that follows has not yet been cleaned up and should not be disseminated elsewhere until it has been.)

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:01Hello listeners, I'm Helena carbon, the president of just World Educational, a nonprofit that works to expand the discourse here in the United States and worldwide on vital issues of peace and justice, especially in the long troubled. The Middle East. This episode of our podcast is the third in a special mini series we releasing as part of our costs lead plus 10 project which started last December 27th and his running for 22 days. This project marks the anniversary of the operation cast lead assault that Israel waged against Gaza during these same 22 days 10 years ago. If you're on social media, we're using the Hashtag hash costs lead plus 10 with the 10 in numerals to draw together. The many activities were running on our twitter and facebook accounts, do followers on both those platforms. We also have the earlier episodes in this podcast, miniseries and a lot of other material on our website@wwwdotjustworldeducational.org, so do check back there for regular updates to.

Speaker 1:1:19In this episode you'll hear the first half of a conversation I had about cost led recently with Dr. Bassam naive at the time of cost led Dr [inaudible] was the minister of health in the Palestinian government in Gaza. Currently he had the Gaza based Center for International Relations. In this episode, Dr Naim Relive some of the most painful moments he experienced during operation cast lead both as the minister of health and in his personal life from the first moments of the massive aerosault on Gaza City that Israel launched in the late morning of December 27th, 2008 when Dr Naim was in Gaza, is largest medical facility schiff, a hospital until when the ceasefire was reached 21 days later. He also talks about the very painful legacies that cast lead left in Gaza and the failure of all efforts to hold Israel accountable. So now listen to this first half of my conversation with Dr Berson Nyeem and Gaza.

Speaker 1:2:29Just be aware that there is some background noise on a couple of occasions. Our connection. You've got cut and I'm here with Dr. Berson Naim, who's speaking from Gaza and just as part of our cost lead plus 10 years project. So first of all, Dr. Bess and you were the minister of Health at the time of cost led. So, um, could you just quickly share with the listeners some of your memories of those 22 days. Tell us a little about the situation in the hospitals and the emergency rooms and with the health health infrastructure during coslet

Speaker 2:3:20for you and for all your lists. And I have to say this is one of the most painful moments in my life. Uh, we went and the, we went through money, painful moments here in Gaza, in Palestine in general, uh, sort of like a 19, 67 war, 1970 3:52 fathers different than others, but really this was the most meaningful moment because at that time I was the minister of health and they have the responsibility for the health sector in Gaza at the very, very, a difficult time after two years that have really imposed siege. Second because at the most horrible nightmares we will, will, will not expecting such a climb against old people really accidentally. It was a, as a minister of health visiting Chief for hospital on the 27th of December, 2008, a tool to see or to meet 114 doctors who will, who are the ones who underwent and an exam for, for, for the subspeciality.

Speaker 2:5:01And suddenly we hear, uh, if ever when it goes up and after a few minutes we started to receive and ship house with their buddies, have of people and many people. And I remember after 30 minutes or something like that, one of the journalists asked me, uh, what do you expect of the birth of a, of these drugs? At that time was for me to imagine the maximum 20, 25 maximum filter we will, will be business will be wanted in one hour. We have received in the hospital alone around 300 phineas are formed because 68, 63 little it. And I am sure of that. Um, many of the wanted with people who are running the hospital alive, their lives because of the huge number of cars. One is we will not be able to control the same way. We don't have the capacity to cope with this.

Speaker 2:6:36A huge number of course, what this and second because of the disaster situation and the health sector, local medicine, luckily I suppose the bill and then of course many it needs the problems of fuel. Really. It was again one of the most painful moments of my life, but I have to take the responsibility they have to deal with this and to have to take actions. We spent the whole day dealing with the results or this, the beginning of the 21 days additional, as I said, more than $300. Kim wanted a haunted houses and situations will fully or partially destroyed. We will not sure what's what, what have or the next day is it like what's it like, what happened before or it continue to escalate more and more and the on the second day we discovered that it is a real war against people. As I said, we continued along 21 days after the date. We have received dozens of people killed. Most of them. Many of them are women, children, civilians in the streets and the whole system type events. And to, as I said this, heavens, heavens, why we are suffering over various cs imposed by the slave on it goes on.

Speaker 1:8:29So I'm Dr. Berson, when you speak about shift from hospital, that's the biggest hospital in Gaza, what proportion of the casualties would have come to shift for hospital and what proportion would go to other hospitals?

Speaker 2:8:45You can see him last of the, uh, Gretchen was close to take it mainly on Gaza, north of Gaza Strip, a images on the south of, uh, especially at the beginning was, and that kind of executed, but the text was limited most of the test because they have concentrated on police stations, on a security offices, on civil defense, on some schools. The houses are big things and this is really in the city and the, and the biggest city in the district for most of the [inaudible] work is in a can hurdle to have exact numbers or figures. They can talk about nearly 90 percent or more will, uh, within, within Guzzler Kim to a hospital, which is the more, the biggest medical complex with around one tells them so fundamental in breeze.

Speaker 1:9:57So you also had responsibility for the Ministry of Health. Was the Ministry of Health, one of those that was attacked in the lead.

Speaker 2:10:08Some will follow those situations. A lot of stuff. We have a sum of all doctors and nurses and paramedics, uh, ambulances with top 10. It destroyed some of the hidden gifts into, as I can remember, one or two hospitals were like partially destroyed.

Speaker 1:10:35So after the, uh, after the attacks started, did, were you able to immediately get help from the International Red Cross or from any international, other international organizations?

Speaker 2:10:50And it was for international with clothes and other, uh, until an agency is, they took the initiative to contacted us about our needs and what hell can they help? And they have thought based on what the girls are. So instead of, and based on the budget was located, photographs was like. But uh, honestly this strikes, the aggression was much, much bigger than any budget only store to buy buddy. Uh, some of, uh, international ages. Opiod later on behalf tried to negotiate with their three eaters. I'm also the Egyptians to bring in more support for the health sector, as I said, medicine, disposables, fueling, and other things. A bunch. This doesn't, as I said, with the magnitude of that was their aggression and short. We have lost many lives.

Speaker 1:12:08Could you also speak, you don't have to do this, but if you're ready to speak a little about the situation of your own family during cast lead,

Speaker 2:12:20it's a genital syndrome. Have a fantastic children. Because of the aggression of the very dangerous situation. I wasn't able to see them for 21 days because any Muslim, especially the minister's supposed to Pearson's here and goes, uh, was it put me in a meeting if he was, it was suitable for them. It comes. Remember one of the most, one of the very, very painful moments for me. And, uh, I think on the ninth of January, uh, I wasn't a chef. I was with my brother. He's an addition and his son was a paramedic and he, the, the to the world. He was with other bond index and kids immediately. Yeah, he, he reached the hospital with him and in a very serious situation, hopeless tuition, but on one point I was responsible for the whole situation in Gaza. I cannot even leave my side or my, uh, to uh, express my, my emotions, my feelings towards a, a nice, uh, it was really difficult.

Speaker 2:14:04At the same time his father was doing a search for one was the one that, uh, that allowed to, this is an, a Christian, a supported hospital in Gaza. It kind of leave the theater because it was nearly 9:00 in the night as it was a difficult moment to decide what can I do? I cannot leave the hospital because I am responsible for the situation. His father kind come because he's working in another hospital as an show and he's doing socially, um, the, the uh, his other, his mother, sisters and my Ma Ma, his gun going to come to the hospital at 9:00. It's very dangerous. It's very serious. Have you. It was very difficult to me to. I don't think that anyone around the world can, can imagine. What does it mean for you that you, even, you, you don't have the facility, you don't have the assurance to accept, to accept. Bless your feeding in this very striking moment. The incident.

Speaker 1:15:28I'm so sorry. Gosh, it sounds terrible.

Speaker 2:15:32Yeah. And you are losing one will fuel one. Wonderful. This is one big moments. My house was flooded in at least one or two times where it is. Then it was not sure what I of leave the hospital. What was it? First vote dangerous. But at the same time I'm, I'm wondering about my family will kind of put them if the house destroyed, therefore only indirectly, uh, people coming to the hospitals that sometimes my, somebody was buying my mother a few days. Then the, uh, more toward a goal, the whole tour, another house. I mean during the 21 days they moved from site to site because as I said, our houses is that it tends to be a third and when they moved to a house, to another house, the moon it with it. This is some of the most feminine experiences. As I said, I'm sure nearly all families in Gaza have law says something like this, have been for the moments when they don't have even the chance, except it's no my feelings even. For example, you know, my, my, um, my niece who killed me to it. So you just walk, we quote it in English, the cert we are, will we, we make grants,

Speaker 2:17:24what do we call it? In English?

Speaker 1:17:26The cemetery?

Speaker 2:17:28Yes. Uh, it was so dangerous that you don't have a kind of him and the cylinder theory, uh, and therefore we have to find it if you will meet those affairs, heal them to a better them. Therefore we found a small not by somebody. And then have the second one, a small few meters in a very old, the only a cemetery, uh, which is not used for the big kids.

Speaker 1:18:14So that must have been many people, many bodies sadly to, uh, to barry in those days and many families

Speaker 2:18:24just to manage the, the most, the newest ones near the border, the east of Gaza City sounds. It was getting very dangerous because it's not easy to go there. We have a witness at least the one or two times. Yeah. But that people want, they will put in their religious.

Speaker 1:18:49All right, must have been terrible. I'm sorry to have you relive these memories, but it's important for, for people to understand, you know, what it's like to live through something like that. Um, if we then move to the question of the legacies of cross led, I mean in terms of how the hospitals and the health health structure in general was afterwards. Um, were you able to rebuild and reconstruct what you needed?

Speaker 2:19:23Yeah. I see politically also at the same time the Egyptians, because of the very center of agents and agencies in jewels and so on, they have opened the borders because it was close to Gaza, was under siege from both sides of this alone money into. They want to come to bring different kinds of sports medicine and things, material and so on. What the problem was fixed before you are talking about them two and half years, we'll say seizure on Gaza. We wouldn't need for every every think really fueling medicines. Even so, even really think it was ups and circle, most of the people, they have no cash money. Even if they have the big things, potatoes or what, what they need, they don't have enough money to do it. The point that they're sort of the, has mcsema to some of what's called dual use or Latina goes to come into girls though before you come into the house, but said to me, don't tell the needs for electricity infrastructure or for, for sealing or for windows getting. I can't remember. A sister hospital was damaged nearly all the post and cheerful hospital because they didn't have destroyed the, most of the nearshore falls within immediate video. Those, um, maybe for one year all the windows were closed with the plastic. A 40.

Speaker 1:21:27Yeah.

Speaker 2:21:27Because of abstinence or plus including ICU intensive care unit. It was close by because they're so. He listened and he didn't allow any kind of last to come in. Again. It was so intensive. A seizure focal created the movie from outside. You kind of see what does it mean siege. But if you go into details about what some of the officers on this yet borders, we will conclude how many people are living in Oslo until money. The whole much cuddled is, do we need to keep them alive of the alone food and other needs to come into Gaza. So to cover only the top because the only surviving,

Speaker 1:22:30right? I remember that.

Speaker 2:22:32Okay. You kind of miss that. An officer has to thinking goes up. It didn't. So like a zoo because throwing some, some, uh, some.

Speaker 1:22:51Did you support some of the efforts to get accountability from, uh, from Israel? Like go to the International Criminal Court or what

Speaker 2:23:03was possible? I think. Well you will do very, very sophisticated investigations to accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity and living. You've got to remember at that time the, uh, the secretary general of the UN came to Gaza because they all know what schools, school for medical facilities and even on the wall stone houses and cars and stuff, they have some of their stuff I'm being investigated. They wouldn't think suck up money. The only human rights groups here in Gaza. And some of the buzzing goes on a clean tool to the ICC under the foot at that time, you could remember that they have formed this committee,

Speaker 1:24:14right?

Speaker 2:24:16That's still a long discussions with there. So he is, if she was to allow them to come in and finally the kid in Egypt, uh, of course, what happened after that? Nothing shared the we to, we are suffering here or the facility. And uh, um, I, I see it even until no, we all week and do commenting fish and not many of the crimes committed. We don't have the needed stuff then in the facilities. We don't have any experience how to investigate chemical weapons. The is, we see a white phosphorous bombs. We see a little swollen but helpful to the comment this professionally, we don't have the facilities. I know that some, uh, activists. So they took the spot of the stupidity embarrassment in this, some of the outside of Gaza and we have whatever else. I think from Italy I'm a freelance will the board that, uh, most of the open interest in girls, uh, the, uh, included in arms, have money ever met with a counselor or a leading to many other diseases or infidelity or the boys going in for kids live on a boat again. What's next? Nothing. They often out 10 years little women or those who committed this girl, uh, brought to the, to the court at least accused officially as a work as a family.

Speaker 1:26:40Hi again. So I want to tell you that on January we'll be releasing the second half of this conversation with Dr [inaudible] name in which he talks about some of the political after effects of operation cast lead and then gets into a fascinating and timely discussion of the great march of return, which is the large scale and very creative movement of nonviolence civilian mass action that citizen activists and political factions launched in Gaza in March of last year and which continues until today. Stay tuned for that episode in our miniseries on January six. Also, I know I told you earlier that today we'd be releasing in this podcast miniseries a conversation with social justice activist Joe Patron, who spent three plus years in Gaza from 2011 through four, 2014 and who recently joined just World Ed as our director of outreach. That episode has now been postponed until January twelfth and we're lining up some other episodes too, so y'all have a lot to look forward to hear this mini series on just world podcast is part of our border cast lead plus 10 campaign. You can find more information about the campaign on our website@wwwdotjustworldeducational.org. If you click on the donate tab on the website, you can learn about how you can help support our cast lead plus 10 campaign and the rest of our community education programs. We really appreciate any financial or volunteering help you can give us. Thanks staywell and tune in again on January sixth.

See All Episodes