U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2024 1:59 am

Dutch appeals court orders Netherlands to stop exporting F-35 parts to Israel amid humanitarian concerns
by PBS
Feb 12, 2024 6:43 PM EST

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An appeals court ordered the Dutch government on Monday to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, citing a clear risk of violations of international law.

A trio of human rights organizations brought a civil suit against the Netherlands in December, arguing authorities needed to reevaluate the export license in light of Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

“It is undeniable that there is a clear risk that the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law,” Judge Bas Boele said in reading out the ruling, eliciting cheers from several people in the courtroom.

The exports must cease within seven days.

The decision came as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte traveled to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the conflict. Rutte was also expected to separately meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government would appeal. “It is up to the state to shape its foreign policy,” Geoffrey van Leeuwen, the minister for foreign trade and development said in a statement. In the meantime, van Leeuwen said his office would abide by the export ban.

“We are extremely grateful that there is justice and that the court was willing to speak out on justice,” lead lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told reporters after the hearing.

Oxfam Novib, Pax Nederland and The Rights Forum filed the case in December. They argued the continued transfer of the aircraft parts makes the Netherlands complicit in possible war crimes being committed by Israel in its war with Hamas.

In January, a lower court sided with the government, allowing the Dutch to continue sending U.S.-owned parts stored at a warehouse in the town of Woensdrecht to Israel. The Netherlands is home to one of three F-35 European regional warehouses.

Other countries are also considering restricting weapons sales to Israel. Human rights groups in the United Kingdom have brought a similar suit against their government, attempting to block weapons exports to Israel.

In the United States, Democrats in the Senate are pushing a bill that would require President Joe Biden to get congressional approval before greenlighting weapons sales to Israel.

Late last month, the U.N. top court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza. Although that decision was made after the appeal in the Dutch case was heard, the groups’ lawyers say judges likely considered the legally binding order from the International Court of Justice.

The decision left some room for Dutch authorities to export parts of the aircraft being used in operations other than Gaza.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

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Drone Strike Kills 3 U.S. Troops in Jordan; Risk Grows of Regional War over Israeli Assault on Gaza
by Amy Goodman
January 29, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/1/29/ ... transcript

The Pentagon is accusing Iranian-backed militants of killing three U.S. soldiers in a drone strike at a base in Jordan along the Syrian border, making the troops the first U.S. armed forces killed by enemy fire in the region since October 7. A group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack and said attacks would escalate if the U.S. continues to support Israel during the latter’s destruction of Gaza. President Biden vowed the U.S. would respond. “There will be more of these attacks, for sure,” says Palestinian American journalist Rami Khouri, who lays out the simmering regional conflict and questions U.S. foreign policy running counter to American opinion and strategic goals. “All these actions, are they for the sake of Israel? … Or is this really about U.S. strategic interests?”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The first U.S. troops have been killed by enemy fire in the Middle East since Hamas attacked Israel October 7th. The Pentagon is accusing Iranian-backed militants of killing three U.S. soldiers in a drone strike at a base in Jordan along the Syrian border. The attack reportedly also injured 34 other U.S. troops. On Sunday, President Biden vowed the U.S. would respond, quote, “at a time and in a manner of our choosing,” unquote. The attack comes less than a month after a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed the head of an Iranian-backed militia.

A group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack and released video of the attack it says shows the group attacking the American military base. In a statement, the group said, quote, “If the U.S. keeps supporting Israel, there will be escalations. All U.S. interests in the region are legitimate targets, and we don’t care about U.S. threats to respond,” they say.

For more, we’re joined by Rami Khouri, Palestinian American journalist, senior public policy fellow at the American University of Beirut, his recent piece for Al Jazeera headlined “Watching the watchdogs: The 5 Ds of US Middle East policy: Washington’s delusion, denial, dishonesty, distortion, and diversion have had disastrous consequences for the region.”

Rami, welcome back to Democracy Now! So, if you can talk about this latest attack, three U.S. soldiers dead, 34 wounded, the wounded being medevaced back to the United States? Talk about the significance of who’s claimed responsibility and what this means for a possible escalating regional conflict.

RAMI KHOURI: Thank you. Glad to be with you again, and great to see a show like yours doing such a wide range of coverage of important issues. It’s rare on American TV. I’m happy to be with you.

So, I would say that the significance here is severalfold. First of all, the people who did this attack, the Americans blame a certain group in Iraq funded or backed by Iran. There’s dozens of these groups all over the region. There’s almost as many of these groups around the region as there are American military bases around the region. I think there’s something like 30 or 35 American military bases, with something like 30-40,000 troops. And, of course, when you add the ones that come in on the aircraft carriers, it’s more than that.

So, what you have to see this — you have to see this in the context of a regional situation with many American military installations, some of them killing and attacking Arabs and others, some of them not. And you have to see the groups from Arab countries, official state groups and nonstate actors, like Hezbollah and Hamas and Ansar Allah. That’s the context in which we have to see this.

There are so many potential people who could have done this attack, which should make us wonder about why are there so many people who are potential attackers. It’s because they see the American presence linked very close to what Israel is doing in Palestine. They see this as a threat. And they come right out and say it. The thing about the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, like the Resistance Axis, which is the broader Middle East coalition of Hezbollah, Hamas, Ansar Allah in Yemen, the Islamic groups in — resistance groups in Syria and Iraq, their significance is that they come right out — and they’ve said it so many times — “We’re not scared of being attacked. We’re not put off by the U.S. and Israeli threats. We’re defending our territory. And if we’re aggressed against, we are going to fight back.” This is unusual in this region, but it’s going on all the time.

The Ansar Allah in Yemen have been saying the same thing. The U.S. went in there with — and the U.K., the two great colonial powers in the Middle East of the last century. Both have been attacking Ansar Allah targets in Yemen, and the Ansar Allah people say, you know, “Go ahead. Attack. We don’t care.” And they keep attacking back and hitting ships and trying to fire at other places, as well.

So, that’s the context that we have to look at. And some of it is linked to Gaza. Some of it was there before Gaza, which is another important thing. And the Ansar Allah in Yemen and others have said, “Look, if the U.S. stops actively supporting the genocidal, savage moves of Israel in Gaza, we will stop attacking American targets.” It is significant that this is the first direct strike that killed three Americans, but that’s not as significant as the broader picture that we have to look at.

AMY GOODMAN: Rami Khouri, can you talk about the other countries and their response and where they stand vis-à-vis the United States and Israel? For example, Jordan. I listened to the Jordan deputy prime minister yesterday saying this did not happen on Jordanian soil, it happened in Syria. But, in fact, it looks like it did happen in Jordan. And why that was relevant — because, of course, they’re all very close right there on the border — is he said if it happened on Jordanian soil, they would consider it an act of war.

RAMI KHOURI: Yeah. Jordan tries to stay out of these big conflicts. It’s a small country. It has quite a sophisticated military capability. They spend a lot of money and attention on their security services, both internally and regionally, their intelligence services, their technical capabilities, special forces, things like that. And they try to not get directly involved in large-scale warfare, but to do a little, you know, strategic, pinpoint actions when necessary either to protect themselves or to help their allies, like the U.S. and others.

It’s hard to know exactly where this attack came from. If the U.S. intelligence agencies have the information, they should make it public so people stop speculating. But Jordan is a country with a huge territory on the borders with three, four countries, and it’s very hard to patrol it. By the way, I know that area in northeastern Jordan quite well. I spent many, many days there years ago when I was writing books on archaeology and I lived in Jordan.

And there’s two things I think people should recognize about this area. First of all, if you look at that aerial photograph which you showed of the camp, of Tower 2, I think it’s called — if you look at that photograph and then you go back into the archaeological journals and look at pictures, aerial photographs of Roman and Byzantine camps that archaeologists have mapped in surveys, you find exactly the same thing. And this is a sign that these kinds of foreign military installations inside the region, especially on peripheral border areas, don’t have a long lifestyle, and they will be abandoned, because the local people don’t want them there.

So, the second thing I’d say, that area is really fascinating, because, you know, people call it a desolate desert area. It’s a desert area now because of climate change and overgrazing and things like that, but this was a strategically important region in the beginning of modern civilization as we know it in the Bronze Age. There’s people who think that the Abraham’s Path came through here on his way into what’s known as the promised land, that this is an area developed early urbanism in the Bronze Age, walled large towns, sophisticated water systems, showing the human capabilities that have been in this area for about 5,000 years. So, those are just two little side points I’d like to throw in there.

AMY GOODMAN: I have a last question. Trita Parsi, one of the heads of the Quincy Institute, a well-known Iranian American author and analyst, talking about the U.S. soldiers who died, said, “They didn’t die defending US interests, they died defending Biden’s refusal to press Israel for a ceasefire. Their lives were put at risk by Biden to defend Israel’s ability to continue its carnage in Gaza.” If you could respond to that and, among other things, a thousand Black pastors, across the political spectrum, representing hundreds of thousands of congregants in the Black community in the United States, calling on Biden — who are normally mainly constituents of Biden, supporters of Biden — for a ceasefire? This issue of rather than doing what the Republicans, like Lindsey Graham and Senator Cornyn, are calling for — bomb Iran — are saying, “Go the other way,” as a result of this?

RAMI KHOURI: Yeah, those are two really important points. On the point of the Black pastors — and they represent, I think, around a couple hundred thousand parishioners — they’ve now joined the Arab American and Muslim American groups, located all over the country, with the epicenter in Michigan, who are also telling Biden the same thing, that we’re not going to vote for you if you keep being a part of the genocide in Gaza that Israel is performing. So, this is significant because it’s showing us that American politicians really don’t care about morality or the law. They care about electoral incumbency and staying in power, which is probably what all politicians do, to be fair. Americans are no different.

So, this is a question now that is raised with the death of the three Americans and, I think, 24 injured. And there will be more of these attacks, for sure, because, keep in mind, the Axis of Resistance and these groups, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq and Syria, openly say, “Attack us. We don’t care. You’re not going to frighten us.” And this is unusual.

So, the question is: Are American troops now in the Red Sea, in Iraq, possibly in other places dying for the sake of Israel? Israel wants an American-Iranian confrontation. They’ve openly tried to do it, and the Americans have been thoughtful, unusually, in the Middle East by resisting a full-scale war with Iran. But the question becomes: All these actions, are they for the sake of Israel — and not just Israel, but a right-wing, fascist majority that now has been said by the U.N.'s highest court, the world's highest court, to be involved in genocide? Or is this really about U.S. strategic interests?

U.S. strategic interests have not been well served by the 35, 40 military bases the U.S. has around the region. And remember, this Islamic Resistance in Iraq and Syria, it emerged out of the destruction that happened in Iraq after the American invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein, the chaos that happened after that. It created a lot of these groups. Some of them were tribal, some of them were ideological, some of them were Iranian-linked, and some of them were American-supported. They’re all — you know, they have all kinds of patrons. But all of this goes back to what the U.S. did in Iraq, to a very large extent, and therefore the U.S. really needs to listen to people like Trita Parsi and others, to look at what are we doing in the Middle East.

Is this really the best thing for America’s well-being, or are we serving the interests of Israelis? And if we are, why are we doing that? Is it — and as the Black pastors are suggesting, is it maybe for electoral purposes? Is it for selfish political reasons in the U.S.? These linkages now are becoming much more clear. They’re controversial. They’re sensitive. But they have to be addressed.

And there is a possibility to stop all this militarism, which is the ceasefire that can be installed now quickly, if the U.S. wants, and then moving quickly to a permanent peace negotiation, which will require new leaders in Israel and in Palestine and other places, more credible leaders, but a negotiated peace that resolves the fundamental Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, which will not need 35, 40 American bases and constant, never-ending warfare. And this process is going to go on. It’s going to keep expanding, if we’re not careful. I don’t think we’re going to get a full-fledged war with Iran and Hamas and Hezbollah and others fighting against the U.S. and Israel. That would be a catastrophe for the whole region. I don’t think we’re going to get there. But what we have now is low-intensity, diversified regional warfare, and I think that’s going to continue.

AMY GOODMAN: Rami Khouri, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian American journalist, senior public policy fellow at American University of Beirut, speaking to us from Boston.

Up next, hours after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to prevent genocide in Gaza, another genocide case was brought against the Biden administration. It was heard in Oakland, California. Stay with us.


Palestinians Charge Genocide in U.S. Court; Biden, Blinken Sued for Backing Israel’s War on Gaza
by Amy Goodman
January29, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/1/29/ ... transcript

The Biden administration is on trial in the United States for failure to prevent the “unfolding genocide” in Gaza. On Friday, lawyers for the Biden administration argued the court lacks the proper jurisdiction to decide the case, while Palestinians and Americans testified about atrocities committed by Israel with American support. “I can’t think of another time where, in a U.S. federal court, Palestinians have been on the witness stand, one after the other after the other, describing their experiences under Israeli occupation,” says Diala Shamas, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the case against President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in November. “Being Palestinians in America necessitates our involvement in this case,” says Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian writer who testified in court about her family’s experience under Israeli assault. “It obligates us to do everything we can to take every possible recourse, including legal recourse, to try and put an end to this, since it’s our tax dollars.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Just hours after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire, a hearing in another genocide case began here in the United States. The Center for Constitutional Rights first filed the case in November against President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

For three hours on Friday in a federal courtroom in Oakland, California, Palestinians and Americans testified, in person and by phone from Gaza, about the Biden administration’s failure to prevent what they called the, quote, “unfolding genocide” in Gaza. Lawyers for the Biden administration say the court lacks proper jurisdiction to decide the case, which they argue is a matter of foreign policy. The judge said, quote, “This probably is the most difficult case factually that this court has ever had.”

For more, we’re joined by two guests. Laila El-Haddad is a Palestinian writer and journalist from Gaza who testified in court Friday, author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between and co-editor of the book Gaza Unsilenced with Refaat Alareer, the Palestinian academic and activist killed in December by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, along with his brother, his sister and her four children. Also joining us is Diala Shamas, senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Diala, why don’t you start off by laying out the case?

DIALA SHAMAS: Thank you for having me, Amy.

Yeah, so, we filed this case in November, laying out all of the ways in which the U.S. government, this Biden administration, in particular, President Biden, Secretaries Blinken and Austin, have failed in their duty to prevent an unfolding genocide in Gaza, but also are complicit in a genocide in Gaza. And we, a couple of days after filing our complaint, sought a preliminary injunction, which is essentially an emergency order, saying to the court, you know, the stakes here are so high, the harms to our plaintiffs, the Palestinians, who are plaintiffs in this case — and we have two human rights organizations with staff in Gaza that are plaintiffs, along with a number of individuals, some of whom are Palestinian Americans with families in Gaza, many of whom have been killed and displaced and are suffering all of the conditions that we have all come to know all too well, and we also have plaintiffs in Gaza, Palestinians who are, you know, currently displaced and who have also suffered injuries and loss of relatives. And in our motion for preliminary injunction, we essentially tell the court, unless the court intervenes now and issues an urgent — some urgent relief, the harm to these people, these Palestinians, will be so irreparable, and so we need some urgent action, pending the sort of resolution of the litigation, which always, of course, takes a much longer time. And so, the hearing — and the government filed a motion to dismiss, as well as an opposition to our motion seeking that urgent relief. And we had that hearing on Friday, which you were just describing, a really remarkable hearing.

In many ways, I think, in large part, you know, one of the most remarkable aspects was, as far as I can tell, as far as I’m aware of, we’ve been litigating Palestine-related cases and just been a student of them for decades, and I can’t think of another time where in a U.S. federal court Palestinians have been on the witness stand, one after the other after the other, describing, you know, their experiences under Israeli occupation, uninterrupted, in a way that offers a holistic, complete and complicated accounting of what has been happening to Palestinians, and in this case, not just over the course of the last 16 weeks since the latest assault and this unfolding genocide started, but really kind of placing it in a broader context. Every single one of our plaintiffs got up there and, in order to explain the impact to the court, to the judge, of the current moment and Israeli calls for Nakba now, had to explain the history of the Nakba. I’ve never heard the word “Nakba” be said in federal court so many times. And it was an important part of their telling, because they were there to — they were tasked with, you know, describing the urgency and the harm and the injury that they are experiencing. And it is, of course, a multilayered harm. And in order to explain how they even got to Gaza in the first place, they have to explain their families’ history as a refugee population, the fragmentation of Palestinians. So, there was so much that was really remarkable about the hearing, but that really stands out to me as one of the major aspects.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Diala, if you can quickly say: How did the preliminary judgment of the International Court of Justice in The Hague weigh in and inform the case that you brought, because it happened right after, on Friday, as they said Israel has to prevent a genocide in Gaza? And also, the significance of the judge saying this is the most difficult case he’ll ever have to decide?

DIALA SHAMAS: Yeah, so, as you said, mere hours after the ICJ, the International Court of Justice, issued its order, we — you know, it was 4 a.m. California time. Our hearing started at 9 a.m. We reviewed it as fast as we could, submitted it to the court, because it was, of course, relevant, and hadn’t really had the time to fully process it. But walking into that hearing with the sort of validation, in many ways, although we all, I think, knew exactly — in some ways, we didn’t need the validation, but that the International Court, that the World Court had found that there was a plausible case of genocide, that required the order that it issued with the provisional measures, was significant. The judge took note of it.

And in many ways, we’re in similar postures in our federal court proceeding as that International Court of Justice proceeding, which is the provisional measures at the International Court level also just sought to get these urgent provisional measures at a showing of plausibility. So, we don’t have time to have the full litigation on the merits, because by the time we come around, the damage will be done, and there will be nobody left to save. And so, that’s why we got that order from the ICJ. And we’re making the similar arguments to the court here. We just need this preliminary injunction now, and then we can litigate this down the line.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring — I want to bring in Laila El-Haddad. You’re a Palestinian writer and journalist from Gaza. You are the co-editor of a book with Refaat Alareer, who was killed in Gaza only recently, well-known, acclaimed writer and academic in Gaza. You are the author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between, speaking to us, though, from near Baltimore today. What did you testify in court on Friday, Laila?

LAILA EL-HADDAD: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me, Amy.

I and other plaintiffs, who spoke in a personal capacity, not the organizational plaintiffs, about how this ongoing genocide, and particularly U.S. complicity in it, has impacted our families in Gaza and, of course, our families here, as well. So, I started off by introducing myself — excuse me. As you can see, it’s been a long weekend. My voice is completely gone. I spoke about my family both in Gaza City and in the south of Gaza, in Khan Younis. And I started off by talking about how Israel had killed multitudes of them — on my mother’s side, I believe the number is now 86, and five of my immediate family members in Gaza City — and had displaced the rest of them to multiple locations, and how Israel was responsible for starving them and depriving them of basic human needs and so on, all with active U.S. support, with U.S. weapons and with U.S. financial support and with U.S. diplomatic support.

I spoke about my aunt and my adult cousins and my cousin’s wife in Gaza City. I had finally had a chance, after three months, to get the full details from the surviving brother, who is now — I mean, even his whereabouts now are unknown after a heavy night of Israeli bombardment on Gaza City. But he was telling me how he had to, on his own, retrieve his sister’s body parts, half of his mother, because he couldn’t retrieve the other half, how he had to bury them himself with his own hands in a mass grave, how his sister’s body, my cousin, is still unaccounted for under the rubble, and how he himself was severely injured, and how his brother, my other cousin, bled to death because he couldn’t even access medical care. They couldn’t get paramedics to the area.

So, it was very heavy, very heavy and very painful, but also very urgent. And that was part of the point, is to speak about how we have not had the luxury, as Palestinians, and particularly Palestinians from Gaza, to grieve. We have not had that luxury. And we recognize how being Palestinians in America necessitates our involvement in this case, how it obligates us to do everything we can to take every possible recourse, including legal recourse, to try and put an end to this, since it’s our tax dollars who are being put to work, and American weaponry, as I said, and so on.

AMY GOODMAN: And this latest attack on Khan Younis, as you have any family members there, so many of the people now who are being told to leave Khan Younis, they have moved repeatedly, thinking that each next place was a safe zone, now being forced to Rafah, to the border, to the sea. Where are your family members? And what do you hope will come out of this?

LAILA EL-HADDAD: They are, without exaggeration, everywhere, like everyone else. And I hate to keep saying that, but I sometimes — not to trivialize, but I feel like you look at someone else, and then you say, “Well, at least their situation is a little better,” but truth be told, the entire situation is just beyond description, horrific. And every morning, when I, you know, look at my feed and my WhatsApp and communicate with family members, I try not ask even how they’re doing, but I know that they derive hope from knowing that we are all doing something here to speak out about what’s happening. And that, again, was one of the main motivating factors behind being involved in this lawsuit.

But my family, several of them are actually still in Gaza City. They haven’t left since the very beginning. I have two direct cousins there, and their husbands and all of their children are — one of them is in front of the Nasser Hospital in Gaza City. The others are in Rimal. My one cousin was in the Shifa compound and then decided to go into another neighborhood in Rimal with his family, I don’t even know where, on the street somewhere, because his home was destroyed. My eldest uncle, who’s blind and deaf, with his son and family, are in central Gaza, in Zawayda, near the Maghazi refugee camp. And my mother’s family were in Khan Younis, as you mentioned, and then are now in Mawasi. And so, I haven’t been able to communicate with them for a while. But one of the cousins, I was, and her home in Qarara was destroyed, and she’s now with her four children, literally under a nylon tarp, because they couldn’t even find a tent. And her husband, who has cancer and — yeah, it’s a little — I mean, for those who aren’t familiar, Mawasi is literally a sandy enclave, almost like sand dunes, directly adjacent to the beach, so there’s — I mean, there’s nothing there, beyond the seawater and whatever tents you might have access to.

And now, of course, with aid being cut by several countries, including the United States, which, as it’s been said, Blinken did not hesitate, within a matter of seconds, to shut that aid off. And yet, for more than three months, Palestinians have been enduring an ongoing genocide, which the United States not only has refused to stop, but is actively aiding and abetting, and, despite overwhelming evidence, including President Biden himself acknowledging the attacks have been indiscriminate, or some of the bombings have been indiscriminate, despite overwhelming evidence about — despite the intent by — stated intent by Israeli leaders that there are no innocents in Gaza, that this was intended to make Gaza unlivable —


LAILA EL-HADDAD: — still has not ended that.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to talk about that cutting off of aid to UNRWA in our next segment. I want to thank you so much for being with us, Laila El-Haddad, Palestinian writer, journalist from Gaza, and Diala Shamas, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Next up, we speak to an emergency room physician just back from Khan Younis and with the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland. Norway is saying it will not cut off aid to UNRWA, despite the fact U.S. and 12 other countries are doing so. Stay with us.



Chicago ER Doctor Just Back from Gaza Says Patients, Medical Staff Face Catastrophic Conditions
by Amy Goodman
January 29, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/1/29/ ... transcript

We get an update on conditions in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis area, where displaced Palestinians who fled there to seek refuge are reporting heavy aerial and tank fire as Israel intensifies its ground offensive around two main hospitals there. Dr. Thaer Ahmad is an emergency room physician who spent three weeks volunteering at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. “I thought, 'This can't be real.’ This is not something that I would expect in 2024,” says Ahmad, who worked alongside doctors who have been volunteering without pay for months as waves of Gazans, including their own families, seek help and safety at the remaining hospitals. “They assume that the hospital can be a sanctuary, and time and time again that has been proven incorrect in Gaza.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman.

We turn now to conditions in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis area, where displaced Palestinians who fled there to seek refuge are reporting heavy aerial and tank fire as Israel intensifies its ground offensive around two main hospitals there.

We’re joined in Chicago by Dr. Thaer Ahmad, an emergency room physician just back after spending three weeks in Gaza volunteering at Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, board member for MedGlobal, which has an office in Gaza, is working with the World Health Organization. Dr. Ahmad just returned to Chicago Thursday, where he’s the global health director of his hospital, also an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Dr. Ahmad, thank you so much for joining us. Tell us what you experienced in Khan Younis at the hospital.

DR. THAER AHMAD: [inaudible] hospitals that has surgical capabilities. You have thousands of people sheltering inside of the hospital, families sheltering right around the hospital in the area of the medical complex.

And what I saw was relentless bombing that was taking place, day and night. You saw many people who were injured, many of whom were children. Many were people who were just trying to go about their regular day, looking for where their next meal would come from, looking for where they could obtain water. And in the process of doing so, they were hit by tank shells or by airstrikes or by sniper fire. It was really horrific and overwhelming. I mean, I work at a Level I trauma center in Chicago, and the South Side of Chicago is no stranger to trauma or to gang violence. This was something that was on a level that I don’t think many people in America have ever experienced. Every aspect of life in Gaza has been affected, has been disrupted, has been made harder. And you really felt that while you were in the hospital.

The physicians that I was working alongside have been working nonstop for nearly four months. They also are hungry. They also are concerned about where they can get clean water from. Their families have been displaced multiple times. And they’re being asked to take care of waves and waves of people who are coming in as victims of bomb strikes or tank shellings.

You saw children walking around the complex barefoot. They looked like they were hungry looking for food. They were trying to just find some sort of refuge. They’re not going to school. They’re not getting vaccinated. They’re not going to their regular appointments.

And what we saw on the nights when it was really intensifying is a mass migration of people. I remember looking outside of the hospital window and seeing a 4-year-old girl holding onto her pillow and her dad hurriedly trying to grab whatever he could, and they were going to flee on foot further south, probably would have to walk five or six miles in the middle of the night, 3 or 4 a.m., as you heard F-16s above-head and the relentless bombing taking place. And I thought, “This can’t be real.” This is not something that I would expect in 2024 something to be happening. And I think that part of what we’re seeing is, you know, that these people are consistently being dehumanized and retraumatized.

So, it’s very simple to just say people are being asked to evacuate, people are being asked to go to a safer place. But what I realized very quickly, and what the doctors in Gaza told me, is that there is no place in Gaza that’s safe. There’s nowhere that you can take refuge. No place has been spared from bombing. And just because there might be an intense military campaign taking place in Khan Younis like there was, it doesn’t mean that Rafah, which is further south, would be any safer and wouldn’t be subject to any sort of bombing, and that the people in the north of Gaza were also suffering immensely.

I mean, I was there in the midst of an eight-day telecommunications blackout. And I remember the doctors there who were asked to work these 24-hour shifts, thinking about their families and not knowing what was going to take place, not knowing if they were OK, not knowing if they had eaten for the day. And so, that’s something that I think was traumatizing to really experience secondhand, and I was only there for less than three weeks. This is what they’ve had to deal with for four months.

AMY GOODMAN: Reports are, from the U.N., at least 300 healthcare workers have been killed in Gaza. Also, Al Jazeera, speaking to a doctor at Nasser Hospital, where you were, Dr. Ahmad, in Khan Younis, said 95% of staff fled to Rafah as Israeli forces, quote, “bomb anything in front of them.” So, how many people are taking refuge in Nasser in addition to the wounded? How many dead bodies are piling up? And how many medical staff are left?

DR. THAER AHMAD: Yeah, I mean, that’s something that was noticeably thinning every single day that the military assault was taking place in Khan Younis, that more and more staff had to leave the hospital to go take care of their families and make sure their families were safe. You can say that there was probably two dozen, in terms of medical staff and doctors, as well as nurses.

I just want to point out that none of these physicians or nurses have been paid also for the last four months. They received one payment of $200 in November. They otherwise are volunteering, essentially, and just trying to serve their people. And in the process of that, as you mentioned, many of them have been subjected to violence, have been killed. Many have been arrested, as well.

And so, that was one of the concerns, that when we were in Khan Younis and there was some serious, intense bombing taking place, is you saw that there was this sort of tension that existed. And I remember trying to say, “You know, I think the hospital should be safe.” And they very quickly said, “What would make you think that Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis is any different than Shifa in Gaza City or Al-Indunisi Hospital or any of the other hospitals that have been attacked?”

What happens is, while these attacks are taking place, as you mentioned, people who have been killed, their bodies are left in the street. And it’s very dangerous for any sort of first responder to be able to go and try to retrieve the body or to try to bring somebody who’s wounded, so many people may die in the process. And so, you see healthcare workers digging mass graves to be able to bury some of the wounded there.

And there are thousands of people sheltering in the hospital. Amy, if you were to walk in Nasser Hospital, to go to any floor, you see people in every inch and every corner. They may have this small, thin mattress or a blanket over them, families congregating together, because they assume that the hospital can be a sanctuary. And time and time again, that has been proven incorrect in Gaza.

And so, again, people have no choice. They have nowhere left to go. And the hospital staff are overworked. And I understand that there’s this notion that, you know, the people of Gaza are different. I experienced that. They are so resilient, and they are so impressive, from every single corner or every single angle. They’re able to do so much with so little resources. And they are phenomenal physicians and healthcare workers. But why are we insisting that we keep pushing them to their limit, to the maximum limit? Why do we keep trying to test their superhuman capabilities? That’s something that I found really disturbing while I was there.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Thaer Ahmad, we’re going to ask you to stay after the show, and we’re going to continue our conversation with your eyewitness report on the ground in Gaza, now just back in Chicago, emergency room physician, volunteered at Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.


Despite Looming Gaza Famine, U.S. Halts UNRWA Funding After Israel Claims 12 U.N. Staff Aided 10/7 Attack
by Amy Goodman
January 29, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/1/29/ ... transcript

On the same day the U.N.'s highest court accepted South Africa's case alleging genocide in Gaza, Israel accused 12 employees with the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, of taking part in the Hamas attack on October 7. The United States and at least 10 other nations have now suspended funding to the agency, which retains a staff of over 13,000 and provides essential aid to most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents. “It’s the worst possible reaction to these allegations,” says Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He calls for an investigation but says donors must continue to support aid groups, with UNRWA being the most important. “All of us combined other groups are not even close to being what UNRWA is for the people of Gaza,” says Egeland. UNRWA has responded to the allegations by announcing the group will “immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman.

Palestinian officials and human rights groups are denouncing the move by the United States and at least 12 other countries to temporarily suspend funding to UNRWA — that’s the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees — after Israel accused 12 UNRWA employees of helping Hamas stage the October 7th attack. Nine of the employees have been fired. UNRWA said two of the accused employees are dead.

UNRWA is one of the largest employers in Gaza, with a staff of over 13,000. It provides aid to most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents. The agency has long been targeted by Israel. Since Israel’s assault on Gaza began, over 150 UNRWA staffers have been killed.

Francesca Albanese, U.N. special rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said on social media, quote, “The day after @ICJ concluded that Israel is plausibly committing Genocide in Gaza, some states decided to defund UNRWA, collectively punishing millions of Palestinians at the most critical time, and most likely violating their obligations under the Genocide Convention,” unquote.

Meanwhile, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini condemned the freezing of funds at a time when famine looms in Gaza. He said, quote, “Palestinians in Gaza did not need [this] additional collective punishment. This stains all of us,” he said. And the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has urged donor nations to continue supporting UNRWA.

For more, we’re going to Oslo, Norway, where we’re joined by Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. Norway has decided to continue its funding of UNRWA.

Jan, thanks so much for being with us. Can you start off by responding to the cutting off of funding at a time when, among other things, Gaza is under bombardment and is on the edge of famine?

JAN EGELAND: Yeah, it’s the worst possible reaction to these allegations that some — I mean, maybe a dozen — of the 13,000 UNRWA aid workers betrayed our humanitarian principles of neutrality and independence and participated in the horrific attacks on Israel. That, however, was met immediately with the response of UNRWA by, as you said, firing these staff and now having an independent investigation. What the donors did — the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Italy, Finland, Netherlands, Australia and some others did — was to cut all aid to the children of Gaza, to the women in Gaza, to the completely innocent there. It’s the worst possible move, at a time when this trapped population is under bombardment. Do not punish the many innocent for the sins of the few who did very wrong, it seems.

AMY GOODMAN: Now it will be interesting to see if Israel hands over the evidence for the U.N. to investigate this situation, because we’re talking about an immediate cutoff by many of these nations, suspending weapons. I wanted to read you a clip of the former Israeli official Noga Arbell, who said, “It will be impossible to win the war if we do not destroy UNRWA, and this destruction must begin immediately.” The Prime Minister Netanyahu said there will be no UNRWA in postwar Gaza. Your response, Jan Egeland? And talk about the — you’re the head of large humanitarian aid group. How important is UNRWA to all of the groups, not to mention the people on the ground?

JAN EGELAND: UNRWA is completely essential. I mean, it’s true that I lead the NRC, Norwegian Refugee Council. We’re a large humanitarian group, across the world. We’re on all sides of all conflict lines, for the displaced and the refugees. And we’ve been in Gaza for two decades. We’ve been funded all over the world by the United States and by 40 other donor nations and international agencies.

In Gaza, we have to recognize that all of us combined other groups are not even close to be what UNRWA is for the people of Gaza. UNRWA was the response to the creation of Israel and the 1948 War that displaced so many of the original Palestinian population to Gaza, to the West Bank and elsewhere. UNRWA was then created to give them relief and works. Since then, there has not been a political, peaceful settlement. And that is because the international community has not been able to force the parties, Israel and the Palestinians, to settle this conflict, and thereby we end up by having humanitarian groups like, first and foremost, UNRWA provide for the population.

So, to undermine and undercut UNRWA as extremists, which the Israeli government are doing, is basically to say, “We’re going to punish the women and children, the innocent, on the other side for what some extremists have done, in a situation of utter turmoil and perpetuous conflict, that we’re not ourselves willing to try to settle with talks on a future.” It’s very wrong.

And the international donors must stay with the humanitarian organizations, like Norway did. Norway is a large donor, giving much more per capita to Palestinians than any other donor. We stay with UNRWA, and we say, “Good that you terminated all of those contracts and fired these people, and good that there is an investigation, and then we’ll draw the conclusions what we should do for the future.”

AMY GOODMAN: Jan Egeland, what evidence is there of Israel’s charges? Have they handed over the evidence?

JAN EGELAND: As far as I know, it’s not been received by UNRWA or by the U.N. investigators. I hope they will be received, so that they can do a thorough investigation of this, very serious allegations. I read about them in The New York Times. And if it’s true, again, they betrayed all of our principles, really — neutrality, impartiality, etc. — that is so important for us, who are unarmed humanitarian workers in the crossfire around the world.

But, of course, no one who’s working across the Middle East can guarantee that there are not people within our midst that may, in the end, have hidden agendas. Palestinians cannot do that. Israelis cannot do that. We know of many Israelis who have done very bad things in Gaza, shooting at people with white flags. It’s documented and detailed. They’ve even shot their own people with white flags. They have settler organizations, Mafia-style settler organizations, displacing unarmed women and children and families across the West Bank. Many of these are recruited to the Israeli Defense Forces. They belong in jail, but they are in the Israeli Defense Forces. No one can guarantee that there are not problems. Therefore, they have to be investigated, and there has to be action taken every time something happens. But don’t cut funding to people in great need. It’s the worst possible response.

AMY GOODMAN: Jan Egeland, I want to thank you for being with us, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, speaking to us from Oslo. I’m Amy Goodman. This is another edition of Democracy Now!
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2024 6:28 am

Biden’s Middle East Policy “Leading Us into a War Whose Aims We Have Not Defined”
by Amy Goodman
January 31, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/1/31/ ... transcript

President Biden says he holds Iran responsible for the drone killing of three U.S. soldiers at a base in Jordan and that he has decided on a U.S. response. Tehran has denied any involvement in the attack and threatened to “decisively respond” to any U.S. retaliation. Responsibility for the strike was claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a term used to describe a loose coalition of militias that oppose U.S. support for Israel’s assault on Gaza. “This is leading us into a war whose aims we have not defined, whose exit we cannot envision,” says Trita Parsi, the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, who warns that “continued warfare in Gaza by the Israelis is a direct threat to U.S. national interests.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Iran has threatened to, quote, “decisively respond” to any U.S. attack on Iran following President Joe Biden’s linking of Tehran to the drone attack on Sunday that killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded 40 at a military base in Jordan. President Biden announced Tuesday he had decided how to respond to the drone attack, though he did not say what that response would be. Outside the White House, Biden responded to a reporter’s question on whether he holds Iran responsible for the deaths of the three U.S. soldiers.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I do hold them responsible in the sense that they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it. … I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for.

AMY GOODMAN: Iran has denied any involvement in the attack, which targeted Tower 22, a secret U.S. base in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border. Responsibility for the strike was claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a term used to describe a loose coalition of militias that oppose U.S. support for Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Gulf of Aden shot down an anti-ship cruise missile on Tuesday launched by the Houthis in Yemen, the latest attack targeting U.S. forces in the region.

For more, we’re joined in Washington, D.C., by Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He’s authored three books on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with a particular focus on Iran and Israel.

Trita, welcome back to Democracy Now!

TRITA PARSI: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: If you can talk about what took place at this remote base, the killing of the three U.S. soldiers, injuring of about 40 others, and the drumbeat by Republicans, as well as Democrats, as well as the media in the United States, for President Biden to militarily respond? What would this mean?

TRITA PARSI: It obviously depends on how Biden responds. If Biden is thinking about responding in terms of attacking Iran on Iranian soil, then, as the warning came from Tehran, it’s very, very likely that there will be a forceful response by the Iranians, which will bring the United States right into a shooting war with Iranians, which is something that the administration says that they have been seeking to avoid. They have been repeating that message several times in the last couple of days.

I think it is important to note that all of this was predicted. From the very beginning, it was clear. As long as there was no material pressure on Israel to cease its bombardment in Gaza, this eventually would lead to a situation in which the United States would be faced with an attack that actually had left Americans killed. If you take a look at the statistics, there were about 60 attacks by these Iraqi militias against U.S. troops and bases during the first two-and-a-half years of Biden’s presidency. Since October 17th, however, when Israel went into Gaza, there’s been more than 160 attacks just in these last 100 days. At some point, one of those attacks was going to kill Americans. And the president has essentially accepted this risk, continued to allow Israel to bombard Gaza, in his own words, indiscriminately, knowing very well that the game of statistic was simply such that at some point the Iraqi militias would succeed and Americans would die.

Now we are in that situation, instead of raising questions about this entire strategy as to why we are putting U.S. troops at risk in order for Israel to continue to indiscriminately bomb and kill and slaughter people in Gaza. Instead, there’s been this frenzy about pushing us further into war. And this is how these endless wars begin, tactical responses to attacks by the other side that in the moment may come across as legitimate because, of course, these attacks against U.S. troops are unacceptable, without any recognition, however, that this is leading us into a war whose aims we have not defined, whose exit we cannot envision.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Trita, when you say that these are legitimate questions of attacks on U.S. troops, but what the heck are U.S. troops continuing to do — be in these countries? This Tower 22, for instance, the U.S. troops in Syria clearly have no authorization from Congress to be there. And importantly, in Iraq, the Iraqi government has been calling for the United States to withdraw the few troops it still has in Iraq from the country, but the U.S. is not disposed to even listen to the government of the country in which its troops are located.

TRITA PARSI: You’re absolutely right. These are the moments where these questions should be asked, which is: Why are we there in the first place? As you noted, the troops in Syria do not have any legal authorization to be there by the U.S. Congress. The troops in Iraq, you know, for such a long time we’ve said that they should be pulled out. Nothing has happened yet. And the essential pretext for keeping them there, which is to fight ISIS, has long expired, because ISIS has been weakened. It’s not been completely eliminated, but these countries, who have far greater stake in the defeat of ISIS, are now capable of handling that on their own, without direct U.S. involvement, and certainly direct U.S. presence, in that fight.

So, we have to really ask ourselves: Why do we continue to have a broader policy in the Middle East, in which we are positioning more than 50,000 American troops in various places in the region right now, in which they’re essentially made to be sitting ducks? And tripwires and a single attack against them can lead to several deaths, which then, again, immediately will cause the rise of these calls for a broader war in the region. This is to the detriment of our own interests.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this whole issue of blaming Iran as directly responsible for these attacks? Every time we hear of one of these resistance groups, it’s always with the adjective the “Iran-backed” or the “Iran-financed” group. Is it your sense that these groups have their own independent life, or is the Biden administration correct in ascribing all of the real motivation coming from Iran?

TRITA PARSI: I think there’s two exaggerated narratives here. One is the Iranian one, in which they’re essentially claiming that they have no control over these groups at all and that they’re completely independent. That is not true. But also the other narrative, the Washington narrative, is not true, one that claims that the Iranians completely control these different groups and that they have no agency of their own. Clearly, they do have agency of their own. On numerous occasions they have acted against the express wishes of the Iranians, particularly in the case of the Houthis. And even in the case of these Iraqi militias, what has happened just in the last 48 hours is that, clearly, there’s been a lot of back-door diplomacy between the Iranians and the United States, and now the Iraqi militias have come out and said that they’re ceasing their attacks on the U.S. troops at this point. And it’s clear that the Iranians have put some pressure on them to essentially deescalate.

I would suspect that the option that the president is considering right now is to do some form of attack inside of Iraq or Syria, probably give the other side ample heads-up in order to evacuate those specific buildings, nevertheless be able to say that he has responded, make sure that it’s not too damaging, but sufficiently strong to be able to calm some of the voices in Washington, but then leave it at that and ensure that there’s some deescalation afterwards. In the short run, that may work, and it might not be a bad plan. In the longer run, however, as long as there is no ceasefire in Gaza, it is really difficult to foresee that these attacks against U.S. troops will end indefinitely. As long as there’s no ceasefire, I suspect that they will resume at some point, which means then that a continued warfare in Gaza by the Israelis is a direct threat to U.S. national interests because of the manner that it puts U.S. troops at risk in the region.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, your colleague at Quincy, Bill Hartung, wrote on X, quote, “On the question of Iran’s role in the deaths of three U.S. servicemen, President Biden said 'I do hold them responsible in the sense that they're supplying the weapons to the people who did it.’ Does he feel the same way about the 26,000 deaths caused by U.S. weapons in Gaza?” Bill Hartung asked. Your response, Trita?

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think Bill is absolutely correct. And I think, whether we agree or not with that argument, we have to recognize that is the sentiment throughout the Middle East right now, and probably throughout the larger part of the world, in which the United States is held responsible for what Israel is doing, not just because providing all of these weapons — more than 10,000 tons of weapons have been shipped since October 7th; president has bypassed Congress twice to get them to Israel even faster — but also because of the very active effort by the Biden administration to block a ceasefire. That has twice happened in the Security Council. That means that the large part of the world do see the United States as directly responsible for this. And that, again, is to the very severe detriment of U.S. interest itself and of U.S.’s global standing.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, we want to thank you for being with us, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Coming up, a shocking raid on a Jenin hospital in the occupied West Bank by undercover Israeli forces dressed as doctors and Muslim women in headscarves kills three Palestinians. We’ll speak with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti in Ramallah. Stay with us.


“An Act of Assassination”: Mustafa Barghouti Slams Undercover Israeli Raid on Jenin Hospital
by Amy Goodman
January 31, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/1/31/ ... transcript

In a shocking raid on a hospital in Jenin in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, three Palestinians were killed by undercover Israeli assassins disguised as Muslim women and doctors. Citing no evidence, the Israeli military claimed the three men it targeted were involved in planning an imminent attack and were using the hospital as a hideout. Hospital officials said there was no exchange of fire and that the three men were asleep. One of the men had been receiving treatment at the hospital since being injured in an Israeli drone attack on October 25 and was partially paralyzed. Our guest, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian National Initiative, decries the silence of Western governments in the face of the incident’s brazen and multipronged “violation of international humanitarian law.” It’s part of an extensive pattern of Israeli impunity on the world stage, says Barghouti, while “all the condemnation, all the collective punishment, is directed only at one people: the Palestinians.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Thousands of Palestinians took part in a funeral procession Tuesday in the occupied West Bank for three Palestinians killed by Israeli assassins in a shocking undercover raid on a hospital in Jenin. Surveillance footage from the Ibn Sina Hospital shows around a dozen undercover Israeli forces storming the hospital, guns raised, wearing white doctor’s coats or hospital scrubs and dressed as Muslim women wearing headscarves. One of the undercover troops carried a rifle in one arm and a folded wheelchair in the other.

The Israeli military claimed the three men it targeted were involved in planning an imminent attack and were using the hospital as a hideout, without providing evidence. Hospital officials said there was no exchange of fire and that the three men were asleep, indicating the raid was a targeted killing. One of the three men killed had been receiving treatment at the hospital since being injured in an Israeli drone attack on October 25th and was partially paralyzed.

This is Naji Nazzal, medical director at Ibn Sina Hospital.

NAJI NAZZAL: [translated] They killed the three youth — Basel and Mohammed Ghazawi and Mohammed Jalamneh — in their room while they were sleeping on their beds in the room. They were killed in cold blood with direct gunshots to the head.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed more than 380 Palestinians in the West Bank since October 7th, while more than 6,300 people have been arrested.

For more, we go to Ramallah, where we’re joined by the Palestinian physician, activist, politician Mustafa Barghouti. He serves as general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Dr. Barghouti. If you can start off by laying out exactly what you understand about this assault on the Jenin hospital? Who was killed? Who were these undercover assassins who moved in dressed as Muslim women in headscarves, dressed as doctors and hospital staff?

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, it is clear that those who assassinated the three Palestinians in the hospital are a Israeli military group, a special security group that is called the Arabists here. They usually act and dress as Palestinians in various places, and this is not the first crime they committed. But, by the way, this same group was taking photographs with the minister of internal security, the fascist, Ben-Gvir, recently, and he published that photo, and he praised them as heroes.

What they’ve done is really unacceptable and represents a very serious violation of international humanitarian law in four different issues. First of all, they dressed as doctors, as nurses, as health professionals. And they put one of them, one of the assassins, on a wheelchair and dragged him into the hospital. This way, they are endangering actually all medical personnel, because from now on nobody will be sure that he’s dealing with a doctor or somebody who’s disguising as a doctor.

Second, they penetrated the hospital in an illegal manner, very early, in the very early hours of the morning. And they have no right to enter the hospital without even notification and without any alarm. And in principle, they are not allowed to enter the hospital.

Third, they attacked a patient who was handicapped, who was paralyzed, in his bed, while he was sleeping, and shot him in the head, and shot two others who were accompanying him in the same room — three Palestinians — in an act that can only be called as an act of assassination and illegal execution of Palestinians.

In every aspect of international humanitarian law, they have violated the law. They are continuing that. They are proud about it. They’re praising themselves for doing it. And that is all happening because the world is allowing Israel to be impunitive to international law and impunitive to any law, as a matter of fact.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Dr. Barghouti, I also wanted to ask you what’s going — in terms of what’s going on in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, more than 380 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and civilians, and supposedly there is no Israeli military activity going on in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But could you talk about that other war, that the rest of the world is not paying any attention to?

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Yes. Actually, Israel is reoccupying the whole of the West Bank. I mean, since the 7th of October, not only they’ve killed 380 people, but more than that. They are allowing settlers to wander around with guns, and these settlers are behaving as terrorists, terrorizing Palestinian people. And in addition to that, the Israeli army has arrested, since the 7th of October, 6,300 Palestinians in the West Bank, including no less than 200 children, including women. They kidnap people, and they put them in jail without trial, without any legal process, without even charges. And in addition to that, they have divided the country in 224 small islands, with 650 military checkpoints, each of which has become a point of harassment for people and a very dangerous spot, because Palestinians could be killed for no reason. And the Palestinian Authority has lost any authority. Practically, Israel took over all of the West Bank, although West Bank is not under the government of Hamas, as they claim and regard in Gaza.

But that’s not the only thing. All these violations happen, and instead of punishing Israel or blaming Israel for its violations of international law, we see many Western governments, including United States of America, punishing the Palestinians. And if you’ll allow me to speak about that, I think the whole case of UNRWA was used by Israel to distract attention from the ICJ resolution, which indicted Israel for a plausible genocide. Instead of punishing Israel, they took up this case where Israel is claiming that some workers in UNRWA have been engaging in military actions, without any proof, without investigation. And then you found 12 European countries and United States of America and Canada and Japan cut off support to the only organization that is providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, that is the only bridge to humanitarian aid in Gaza. We are subjected to collective punishment. Palestinians, who are the victims of the Israeli aggression, of the possibility of a genocide, are subjected to collective punishment by these governments, none of whom have condemned this Israeli attack on the hospital.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a clip of the U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller at a briefing on Tuesday. He was being questioned about the Israeli raid on the Jenin hospital by the Associated Press reporter Matt Lee.

MATT LEE: This operation that the Israelis launched in Jenin, the hospital today, what — do you have any comment on that? Is this something that you think is problematic, or is it something that you look at with envy, like this is some kind of great Mission: Impossible mission that we wish that we could also do?

MATTHEW MILLER: So, I’d say that we strongly urge caution whenever operations have the potential to impact civilians and civilian installations. That, of course, includes hospitals. We do recognize the very real security challenges Israel faces, and its legitimate right to defend its people and its territory from terrorism. Israel, of course, has the right to carry out operations to bring terrorists to justice, but those operations need to be conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian law.

MATT LEE: Well, do those operations include going into hospitals and murdering people in their beds, regardless of whether they’re —


MATT LEE: — you know, they are suspected or even known terrorists? Is that OK with you guys?

MATTHEW MILLER: So, there was a lot in the premise of that question. Obviously, they — we did know that they went into —

MATT LEE: Well, you don’t think that they went in —

MATTHEW MILLER: We — well, hold on. We —

MATT LEE: — and killed complete — people who were completely innocent, do you?

MATTHEW MILLER: So, let me say that this —

MATT LEE: Because if you did think that, then you would be condemning it, right?

MATTHEW MILLER: We certainly would, but I would say that Israel has said that these were Hamas operatives. They have said that one of them was carrying a gun at the time of the operation. So, I’m not able to speak to the facts of the operation. You’d have to pass some kind of legal judgment, know all of the facts of the operation. But as a general matter, they do have the right to carry out operations to bring terrorists to justice, but they need to be conducted in full —

MATT LEE: Including in hospitals?

MATTHEW MILLER: So, we want them to conduct their operations in compliance with international humanitarian law.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller being questioned by the AP’s Matt Lee. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, if you can respond to what he’s saying specifically here? And also, overall, then, talk about the attacks in West Bank and Gaza on the healthcare system, going right to Nasser Hospital, which is the largest hospital after Al-Shifa. It’s in southern Gaza, and it has been under siege for the last few days. But start with the spokesperson.

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: There are many things to say here, but let me start by what he said about the proper legal process. Israelis should not have entered the hospital. They should not have disguised as doctors and nurses. This is all violation of international humanitarian law. But even if they wanted, they could have arrested these three guys and charged them and give them a due legal process, instead of executing them on the spot, just on the basis of their suspicion. What is the legal here? What is the legal system here? Israel now can say about anybody that he’s a Hamas terrorist or a terrorist or anything else and then kill him in the street, and nobody will condemn that. United States of America has no right not to condemn this action.

And it is unacceptable that they continue to use double standard because they don’t want to criticize Israel. Why? Because they know that they are participating with Israel in what could be perceived or condemned as an act of genocide by supplying Israel with weapons, by supplying Israel with soldiers even. They’re supplying Israel with advisers in its terrible attacks on Gaza.

And on the other hand, Gaza — Israel has been continuously persistent in attacking all hospitals, not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank. They have subjected Tulkarem hospitals to attacks. They’ve subjected Jenin hospitals to attacks. They’ve subjected hospitals in Nablus to attacks. And they continue to do that in Gaza, where they’re bombarding the hospitals, bombarding the hospitals, killing patients, killing doctors, killing nurses. And add to that the fact that Israel has killed in Gaza, up to now, 304 of our colleagues, medical doctors, nurses, first aid providers. In addition, they injured 300 others while they were performing their medical duties. And they have arrested 90 of these health workers, including the director of Shifa Hospital, who is subjected now to torture in Israeli concentration camp in the Negev near Be’er Sheva.

This is the exact behavior of Israel. Do we hear any condemnation from the United States of America or from the United Kingdom? No. All the condemnation, all the punishment, all the collective punishment, is directed only at one people, which are the Palestinian people. We don’t understand how could these countries that claim that they are struggling — that they claim they support human rights, they claim they support democracy, they claim they support international law, and at the same time not only they are allowing these crimes to happen against the Palestinians, but they are actually participating in them.

That’s what’s happened in Jenin, like what’s happening now in Gaza, where, by the way, 32,000 Palestinians have been killed so far, if we include the 7,000 under the rubble, and more than 65,000 people have been injured. That is more than 4% of the population of Gaza. Had this happened in the United States of America, you would be talking about 12 million people killed or injured in less than three months. Proportionally, the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza after three months is more than all Americans killed in all America’s wars since the 18th century. Is that acceptable? Is that allowable? That is the question that should be directed to Biden administration and to the American administration. How could they continue to allow Israel to be so impunitive to international law? And how could they allow this act of collective punishment against the Palestinian population when it comes to UNRWA and other health, humanitarian services?

By the way, the International Court of Justice decided there should be support to providing humanitarian supplies to Palestinians, and Israel should be responsible for that. What do we see in reality now in Gaza? I’ve been talking to our 30 medical teams working there. They say there is a decline in the amount of support that is coming, in an unprecedented manner. What they get is absolutely not enough, less than 100 trucks daily, while what they need is 1,000 trucks daily, considering the terrible situation. We have people in the north and in the center of Gaza who are calling us, saying they are starving. They have no food. They have no medical supplies. Our colleagues have to operate on people, injured people, without anesthesia. And 600,000 people, according to the World Food Programme now, 600,000 Palestinians now in Gaza are starving. What does the United States of America do about that? Do they do anything, or just protect Israel and provide protection for this Israeli aggression?

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, we want to ask if you can stay with us 'til after break. We're going to talk about that conference that took place in Israel. Almost a third of the Israeli Cabinet was there. A number of the Cabinet members addressed the conference, calling for the Israeli resettlement of Gaza. We’re talking to Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian physician, activist and politician, who serves as general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative. We’ll also be joined by a reporter for +972 Magazine. Oren Ziv will join us from Tel Aviv. He covered the conference of thousands of Israelis. Back in 20 seconds.


Israeli Cabinet Members Join Settler Event of Thousands Calling for Ethnic Cleansing of Gaza
by Amy Goodman
January 31, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/1/31/ ... transcript

We speak with an Israeli reporter who covered a major conference in Jerusalem calling for Palestinians to be removed from Gaza in order to rebuild Jewish settlements. The conference was attended by about a third of the Israeli Cabinet, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, both of whom have long been involved in the extremist settler movement in the West Bank. Conference-goers were greeted by a huge map of planned illegal settlements in Gaza, and the atmosphere was joyful and celebratory, in contrast to what Israeli journalist Oren Ziv with +972 Magazine says is a somber atmosphere in Israeli public life following the October 7 Hamas attack. “This is not just a bunch of extremists; it’s the government,” adds Palestinian physician and activist Mustafa Barghouti in Ramallah.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Thousands of Israelis gathered in Jerusalem Sunday for a major conference calling for Palestinians to be removed from Gaza in order to rebuild Jewish settlements. The conference, organized by the settler group Nahala, was dubbed “Settlement Brings Security in Victory,” was attended by almost a third of the Israeli Cabinet. Among the most high-profile speakers was Israel’s Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

ITAMAR BEN-GVIR: [translated] Today everyone already understands that fleeing brings war and that if you don’t want another 7th of October, you have to return home to control the territory.

AMY GOODMAN: Speakers at the conference called for the Israeli settlement of Gaza and the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank. Another prominent speaker on Sunday’s conference was Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

BEZALEL SMOTRICH: [translated] We were settling our land from width to length, controlling it and fighting terror always and bringing, with God’s help, security to all of Israel. You know what the answer is: Without settlement, there is no security.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Tel Aviv, where we’re joined by Oren Ziv, a reporter and photographer for +972 Magazine who covered the settler conference in Jerusalem on Sunday. His piece is headlined “Turning Zeitoun into Shivat Zion: Israeli summit envisions Gaza resettlement.” Staying with us is Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, speaking to us from Ramallah.

Oren, why don’t you start off by just describing this conference, the significance of it, and what shocked you most as you covered it?

OREN ZIV: Thank you for having me, first of all.

I have to say this is the last event in a series of events and protests of the settler movement calling to what they say is going back to Gaza, returning to the settlements that were evicted by Israel in the 2005 disengagement.

This event was significant because thousands of people took part in it in West Jerusalem. They gathered in a big hall. I could say half of the participants were youth or college students. And you had mostly religious right-wing settlers.

There at the entrance, you had a big map, a huge map, showing the different settlements they plan to establish in the Gaza Strip, some of them literally on top of Palestinian villages and towns that exist and, of course, unfortunately, were destroyed by the Israeli aggression in the recent months.

Inside the hall, we had speeches of, as you said, ministers, parliament members. Four out of five of the — representatives of four out of five of the parties that are in the coalition of Netanyahu’s government were there, 11 ministers and 15 parliament members, so a big support from the government, and also settlers’ leaders and activists.

For me, personally, the most shocking thing was not only the plan to establish the settlements, but the fact that people there were dancing and singing, being happy and joyful. And this is important to understand that in the Israeli public atmosphere, this is something you barely see since the attack of 7 of October. You don’t see public events where people are joyful, not because, you know, most of the Israeli public ignore the horrific reality in Gaza, but because of the war, because of the attack of 7th of October, because Israeli soldiers are being killed every day in the war. You don’t see many of those events. And it shocked even mainstream Israelis to see ministers and people who take those decisions regarding the war dancing, was very shocking for many people. And I think this is because while the vast or big parts of the Israeli public is still in shock, the settler movement see this war as an opportunity to expand their plans to settle in Gaza.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Oren, I wanted to ask you — apparently, the British Foreign Minister David Cameron, I think some reports are saying, reacting to this conference over the weekend, reaffirmed Britain’s position that there must be a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’m wondering your thoughts about how some of these Western countries continue to support the war in Gaza while maintaining a two-state solution that they know the Israeli government has made clear it has no intention of following through on.

OREN ZIV: Yes, I think this conference made it very clear, because ahead of the hearing in The Hague, the ICJ hearing, official Israel, Netanyahu and other members of more the center kind of part of the government, tried to portray a picture that Israel will not stay in Gaza, will not settle in Gaza, this is a temporary war. And this event and the participant of senior members of the government makes it very clear that, A, they don’t want any two-state solution — but this we’ve seen over the years — but, more importantly, that they don’t care about the international law. They don’t care about the ICJ procedure. It doesn’t threaten them to continue to express those opinions.

One could think that after ministers and the prime minister himself were quoted in the South African appeal to the court — this were the evidence, actually, what the Israeli politician, the genocidal discourse they were promoting in the beginning of the war — one could think they will be a bit more careful. But the opposite. This was not — it’s important to mention this was not only a conference talking about settling in Gaza. It was very clear, and most of the speakers talked about what they call is the encouraging immigration or forcing people from Gaza. So it’s very clear that the settlement movement is on the account of the residents of Gaza.

Daniella Weiss, one of the settlers’ leader who was leading the conference, when we asked her, “What would happen to the Palestinians if your plans come true?” she said, “They would leave. They would have to leave. We don’t give them food. We don’t give them water.” She was talking about the siege. And she said, “They would leave. They would have to spread around the world.” Also, Minister Ben-Gvir, who was a bit more careful in his language, said, “We have to encourage immigration from Gaza.” So this was a consensus in the conference.

AMY GOODMAN: Oren, we just played a clip of Bezalel Smotrich, who’s a Cabinet member. I’m looking at a Times of Israel article that says — from a few years ago — that the former Shin Bet deputy chief, Yitzhak Ilan — he was the former deputy head of Shin Bet security service — “reportedly told a political gathering that Smotrich was a 'Jewish terrorist,' who planned to blow up cars on a major highway during the 2005 Gaza disengagement,” when the Israeli settlers were forced out, by Israel, of Gaza. Can you talk about the significance of this today, what, almost 20 years later, who Smotrich is? He was held for three weeks, questioned by Shin Bet, ultimately wasn’t charged. Apparently, they didn’t want to endanger their sources, who talked about him being found with massive amounts of gasoline.

OREN ZIV: Yes, this is true. Smotrich was a security prisoner. He was suspected in that but not convicted. But this shows us, together with Ben-Gvir, that — I personally documented and saw him attacking Palestinians, attacking Israeli left-wing activists along the years, before he became a parliament member and a minister. So, these are people that are well known from the right-wing extreme activities. And unfortunately, today, they decide the policies. They lead Israel.

And I think this is why also Netanyahu and kind of the more center-right part of the government cannot say this is not official Israel, this is not the official line, because we’ve seen Netanyahu, ahead of the ICJ, and we’ve seen other speakers of Israel saying, “Well, they’re ministers, they’re parliament members, but they’re not in the war cabinet. They don’t take the decision.” This is, of course, just rhetoric to protect Israel from being accountable, I think, when we see such a big number of ministers, senior ministers, and parliament members taking part in this conference, that is callingly open to transfer, to displace Palestinians from Gaza.

And maybe more important, I think this discourse, it’s important to say, also encourages soldiers on the ground, right-wing soldiers, settler soldiers, or just ordinary soldiers that hear this rhetoric on Israeli mainstream media, on social media. It encourages them to carry out war crimes. The war itself is horrific enough, but I’m afraid that this rhetoric by members of the government encourages or gives the feeling to the soldiers on the ground they can do anything, because if Israel, according to this conference, will eventually control the Gaza Strip, it means soldiers on the ground — and we’ve seen that on TikTok, on Instagram, on social media — can do whatever they want, because it belongs to Israel. So they can explode houses. They can vandalize. They can steal property. They can do whatever they want, because this eventually will be Israeli property.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to bring Dr. Mustafa Barghouti back into the conversation. Doctor, your reaction to this conference and to these post-invasion plans of the Israeli — of a good portion of the Israeli government?

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are known to be fascists, of course, and sometimes they are described as psychopaths. But they are not really only psychopaths. They are the ones who are deciding the Israeli government policy. And none of their statements, fascist statements, was ever negated by Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel. And these guys are representing what can be called Jewish religious extreme fundamentalism combined with Jewish supremacy thinking. And they believe that the whole of the land of Palestine and Jordan, as well, and parts of Saudi Arabia and Syria are supposed to be Jewish land.

And these guys are practically repeating — confirming, actually, what had happened in 1948, when Israel, as a settler colonial project, committed 50 massacres against Palestinians and evicted people from 520 communities and then razed them to the ground. They want to repeat what Israel did in 1948, another Nakba against Palestinian people. And they are speaking openly about three war crimes simultaneously: the war crime of ethnic cleansing, the war crime of collective punishment and the war crime of genocide. They want to evict everybody from Gaza. And that’s, by the way, what Netanyahu himself called for in the very first days of this war. That’s what Gallant called for when he said that Palestinians are “human animals” and should be treated as such.

And what you’ve seen in this conference, this is not just a bunch of extremists; it’s the government, the Israeli government. Twelve ministers of the Israeli government attended that meeting and supported it. Fifteen members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, attended it. So you are talking here practically about the official Israeli policy, which is directed at ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and then settlements, not only in Gaza. As a matter of fact, also in the West Bank, we are now subjected to settler terror — settlers’ terror, which has evicted already 30 Palestinian communities from their land, from their homes in the West Bank. Sixty percent of the West Bank is now practically forbidden for Palestinians and is allocated to the Israeli settlers.

And we don’t have to go far. All we need — all you need to do is to show the map that Netanyahu has shown in the United States or in the United Nations two weeks before the war in Gaza. He showed the map of Israel including the annexation of all of the West Bank, all of Gaza Strip and all of the Golan Heights. What everybody must understand, that this is the Israeli official government policy. And that’s why it has to be punished. That’s why it has to be sanctioned. And that’s why it has to be exposed. And Israel cannot be allowed to continue to be absolutely unaccountable to international law and absolutely impunitive to international law.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian physician, activist and politician. We also want to thank Oren Ziv in Tel Aviv, a reporter and photojournalist with +972 Magazine.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2024 6:30 am

“The Houthis Are Not Iranian Proxies”: Helen Lackner on the History & Politics of Yemen’s Ansar Allah
by Amy Goodman
February 01, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/1/y ... transcript

The U.S. continues to launch airstrikes on Yemen in response to the campaign of missile and drone attacks on commercial ships along key global trade routes through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden led by Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis. The Houthi strikes have expanded from targets connected to Israel, in protest of the siege and bombing of Gaza, to ships affiliated with the U.S. and U.K. in what the group calls acts of self-defense. “The Houthis have been extremely explicit and repeat on an almost daily basis that their attacks on ships in the Red Sea will stop as soon as the Gaza war ends,” says Helen Lackner, author of several books on Yemen, who describes the history of the Houthis, the political landscape in Yemen, and debunks the idea the group is controlled by Iran. “The Iranian involvement has become greater, but it’s very important to know that the Houthis are an independent movement. The Houthis are not Iranian proxies. … They make their own decisions.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: The U.S. military carried out new airstrikes in Yemen today, targeting 10 drones and a ground control station that it said, quote, “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region.” The airstrikes are the latest targeting the Houthis. The group, also known as Ansar Allah, has waged a campaign of attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since November 19th in response to Israel’s assault on Gaza.

On Tuesday, U.S. Central Command said its forces shot down an anti-ship cruise missile. According to CNN, the missile came within a mile of a U.S. destroyer before it was shot down, marking the closest a Houthi attack has come to a U.S. warship.

Meanwhile, the Houthis said they would stage more attacks on U.S. and British warships in the Red Sea in what they called acts of self-defense. This is Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea on Wednesday.

YAHYA SAREA: [translated] The Yemeni Armed Forces will confront the American-British escalation with escalation and will not hesitate to carry out comprehensive and effective military operations in retaliation to any British-American foolishness against beloved Yemen.

AMY GOODMAN: The Houthi campaign targeting shipping has affected a key route for global trade between Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with several shipping companies suspending transit through the Red Sea. On Thursday, Italy’s defense minister warned the shipping disruptions threaten to destabilize Italy’s economy. This comes as the European Union’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said on Wednesday the EU plans to launch a naval mission of its own within three weeks to help defend cargo ships in the Red Sea.

For more, we’re joined by Helen Lackner, the author of several books on Yemen, including Yemen in Crisis: The Road to War and Yemen: Poverty and Conflict. She’s been involved with Yemen for over half a century, lived there for a total of more than 15 years between the '70s and the 2010s. She's joining us from Oxford, England.

Helen Lackner, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you tell us who the Houthis are and explain what their demands are, the significance of what’s happening in the Red Sea?

HELEN LACKNER: Well, thank you very much for inviting me.

Yes, I think I’ll start with the second half of your question, which relates directly to what has been happening and the various announcements you’ve just made. And the Houthis have been extremely explicit and repeat on an almost daily basis that their attacks on ships in the Red Sea will stop as soon as the Gaza war ends and humanitarian and other supplies are allowed into Gaza, and therefore the Palestinians will no longer be under the threat and the horrors that you’ve earlier described and that most of us have seen on our screens for many, many weeks. So, the important thing is that although the U.S. and the U.K. claim that they’re only defending free movement in the Red Sea and refuse to accept any connection between this and the war in Gaza, for the Houthis it’s absolutely straightforward and explicit that, number one, they’re only targeting ships that have any connection with Israel — whether they’re going to Israel, coming from Israel, delivering stuff owned by Israelis, or whatever, any connection whatever — and that other ships are not targeted — except, of course, now. Since the U.S. and U.K. strikes have started, they are also targeting U.S. and U.K. ships. So, they’re absolutely explicit that all other ships are welcome to travel through the Red Sea and that there is — you know, there is complete freedom of movement for any ship other than an Israeli- or U.K.- or U.S.-connected one. And I think that’s extremely important.

And the reason the Houthis have taken this action in support of Palestine is that one of the very fundamental policy issues or ideological positions that the Houthis have is the support for Palestine and, more directly, being anti-Israelis. The Houthis are — the Houthis’ foreign policy is quite clearly summarized in their basic slogan of “death to America and death to Israel.” They are absolutely — you know, their positions are absolutely straightforward on these points. So, although they are willing to allow other ships through, they are actually, up to a certain point, not displeased at the fact that the Americans and the U.S. are now actually targeting their various launch positions.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Helen, could you give us some background, though? What are the origins of this movement? And how is that they came to play such a prominent role in Yemen?

HELEN LACKNER: Yeah. So, the Houthi movement started in the 1980s, 1990s. I think what you need to understand is that, in terms of religious sects, Yemen is divided into two basic sects: a Sunni sect of — called al-Shafi’is, who basically live in the majority of the country, and a branch of Shi’ism called the Zaydis, who live basically in the mountainous highlands of Yemen. And the Houthis are al-Zaydis. And in that sense — and again, within the Zaydi movement, there’s a certain variety, in the sense that the Houthis, I would say, are extremist Zaydists, and they’ve developed their ideology and their policies to strengthen their own branch of Zaydism. And they basically emerged in response to the rise of Sunni Salafi fundamentalism within their own area in the far north of Yemen. And so there have been conflicts and problems, you know, arising since the 1990s.

Between 2004 and 2010, there was a series of six wars between the Houthis facing and fighting the then-regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. And this ended, basically — each one ended with a ceasefire which was promptly broken. The reason the last one in 2010 was not broken was as the result of the uprisings in 2011 of the — you know, known as the Arab Spring in various places. And that was a moment when the Houthis joined with the revolutionaries and basically took a position against — you know, they continued their position against the regime. So, they then were for — during what was a transition — supposedly, a transition period between the Saleh regime and what should have become a more democratic regime in 2014, the Houthis then changed their alliances, and indeed Saleh changed his alliance, so they operated together against the transitional government. And then, eventually, that allowed them to take over the capital Sana’a in 2014 and then to oust the existing transitional government in early 2015.

And that’s when, really, the war started, which was then internationalized from March 2015 with the intervention of what was known as the Saudi-led coalition, which was basically a coalition led by the Saudis and the Emiratis, with a few other states with minor roles, but supported actively by the U.S., the Europeans and the British and others.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what was the point at which —

HELEN LACKNER: So, those are really —

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Sorry, just to clarify, what was the point at which the Iranians started backing the Houthis? Was it in the moment when the Saudi-led bombing began, in 2015, or was it prior to that? And if you could also clarify the distinction between — as you said, the Yemenis are Zaydi Shias, and to what extent Zaydis are ideologically or theologically aligned with the dominant form of Shi’ism in Iran, and what that has to do with Iran’s complicity or support for Houthis, whether or not now they do as Iran says?

HELEN LACKNER: Yeah. Thank you for these, for bringing up these points. The Iranian role at the time, in 2015, when we’re in the internationalized civil war started, was minimal. The Iranian involvement with the Houthis, and prior to that and since then, has always been connected with, partly, theological connections, but differences. So, in that sense, the Houthis are differentiating themselves from other Zaydis by having adopted a number of the rituals and activities and approaches of the Iranian Twelvers. It’s all a matter of how many imams they trust or they believe in after the Prophet Muhammad. But in practice, the Houthis are getting closer to the Iranians in — to the Iranian Shi’ism over the last decades, but they are still — sorry, the last decade, but they are still, you know, quite distinct. So the alliance is much more a political alliance.

And the Iranian involvement, which was really very, very insignificant at the beginning of this war, has increased over time, and is primarily — you know, has been, for a while, mainly financial and of providing fuel and things like that to the Houthis, but more recently has been much more focused on military activities and primarily on the supply of advanced technology. If you look at the Houthi weaponry — and I’m no military expert — but the Houthi weaponry originally was basically a lot of Scuds and other Russian-supplied materials and also some American-supplied materials to the Saleh regime. And these have been upgraded and improved and changed, to some extent, thanks to Iranian support. So, in that sense, you have more — the Iranian involvement has become greater.

But it’s very important to note that the Houthis are an independent movement. The Houthis are not Iranian proxies. They are not Iranian servants. They don’t do what the Iranians tell them to do. They make their own decisions. If their decisions and their policies coincide with those of Iran, then, you know, there’s no issue. But if they don’t, they don’t do it. So it’s very important, I think, to destroy this myth of Iran-backed Houthis in a single word as if it’s kind of a conglomerate. That is not the case.

AMY GOODMAN: Helen, if —

HELEN LACKNER: I hope that briefly answered your point.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, and we don’t have much time, but I did want to ask you about the Houthi support in Yemen, whether it’s increased, and the Houthi human rights record.

HELEN LACKNER: Yeah, great. Well, yeah, as you said, we haven’t got much time. Basically, the Houthi — the support for the Houthis in Yemen has increased, has multiplied. I can’t even imagine — find a suitable terminology to say it. The Houthis, you know, who run an extremely authoritarian and autocratic regime, which is not a pleasant regime for people to live under, you know, and was lacking support — and you have to remember that the Houthis actually rule and run the lives of two-thirds of the population of Yemen, so, you know, about 20 million people live under Houthi rule, and it’s not a pleasant place to be. There’s no freedom of expression. You know, women are oppressed. All kinds of negative features connected with Houthi rule.

But the Yemeni population are extremely supportive of Palestine. And therefore, this action of the Houthis has, you know, really, really increased their support. If you take a look and you maybe show on your screen some of the demonstrations that happen every Friday in Sana’a and in other cities, they’ve become absolutely massive, because although people may not like living under Houthi rule, they agree with the Houthi actions in support of Palestine. And so, that has increased and improved their popularity an enormous amount, not only in the area they rule, but also in the rest of Yemen, which is, you know, not ruled by them.

AMY GOODMAN: Helen Lackner, we want to thank you so much for being with us, author of a number of books on Yemen, including Yemen in Crisis: The Road to War and Yemen: Poverty and Conflict. She’s been involved with Yemen for over 50 years, has lived there for about 15.

Coming up, an investigative report by the BBC reveals new details of how American mercenaries were hired by the United Arab Emirates to run an assassination campaign in Yemen. Back in 60 seconds.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2024 6:36 am

Dearborn Mayor to Biden: “Lives of Palestinians Should Not Be Measured Simply in Poll Numbers”
by Amy Goodman
February 02, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/2/m ... transcript

President Biden faced protests in Michigan this week over his ongoing support for the Israeli assault on Gaza. Michigan is a crucial swing state that could prove decisive in this year’s presidential election and is also home to the largest percentage of Arab Americans in the United States. Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, who refused to meet with Biden’s campaign manager last week, says it’s inappropriate to consider electoral politics as U.S. policy supports an ongoing genocide. “For us, the lives of Palestinians should not be measured simply in poll numbers,” Hammoud tells Democracy Now! We also speak with veteran pollster James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, who says the Biden team is “cut off from reality” if they believe people will forget their outrage over Gaza by the time of the November election. “The White House is taking for granted that they’ve got support — and they don’t,” says Zogby.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

President Biden traveled to Michigan Thursday for a campaign stop, where he met with members of the United Auto Workers union, which has endorsed him. Michigan is a crucial swing state that could prove decisive in the general election in November. Michigan is also home to the largest percentage of Arab Americans in the United States. In 2020, Biden won Michigan with just 154,000 votes more than Donald Trump, making the Arab American vote a decisive one in the election.

Yet Biden is facing widespread protest over his administration’s support for Israel’s assault on Gaza and his refusal to call for a ceasefire. While the White House did not say ahead of time which town Biden would be visiting on Thursday, only that it was in the Detroit area, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters were waiting for Biden in Warren outside the UAW offices.

Last week, Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chávez Rodríguez, traveled to Dearborn to rally support for the president’s reelection, yet her trip ended when a group of Arab American leaders and elected officials declined to meet with her over the war in Gaza. Among them was the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, Abdullah Hammoud. He wrote on X, quote, “I will not entertain conversations about elections while we watch a live-streamed genocide backed by our government.”

Mayor Abdullah Hammoud is joining us now from Dearborn, which is home to one of the largest Muslim and Arab American populations in the United States. And in Washington, D.C., we’re joined by James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. His new piece for The Nation, “Biden’s Erasure of Arabs Is Part of a Painful History I Know Too Well.”

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Mayor, let’s begin with you in Dearborn. I mean, this was quite a scene this week. When the UAW endorsed President Biden, it was a major rally for him, but a number of people held up Palestinian flags and demanded a ceasefire. He comes back on Thursday. It’s actually in a very small place, as they try to control the possibility of protest inside and out, and we only learned at the last minute where he was going to be. But talk about the stand that you took and what you’re calling on the Biden administration to do, Mayor Abdullah Hammoud.

MAYOR ABDULLAH HAMMOUD: Thank you so much for having me.

You know, the stand that we took was sending the message that this is not a moment that calls for electoral politics. Over the course now of coming close to 120 days, Israel has murdered more than 27,000 Gazans and displaced over 2 million. And for us, the lives of Palestinians should not be measured simply in poll numbers. We want to have meaningful dialogue with senior decision-makers and policymakers who have the ability and the openness to change course in what’s unfolding overseas.

And as you’ve seen at rallies across this country, the position that we’ve taken, one in which we support a ceasefire, is not one just supported by Arab Americans and Muslim Americans. This is supported by over 60% of Americans across the country, over 80% of Democrats and even over 50% of Republicans.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re the first Muslim mayor of Dearborn, also the first Arab American mayor of Dearborn. You refused to meet with President Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chávez Rodríguez. Can you talk about what you told the administration, and her response and the Biden administration response?

MAYOR ABDULLAH HAMMOUD: [inaudible] didn’t communicate it directly back to the campaign. I passed it back to the individual who was trying to organize the meeting. It was a fellow Arab American. And we had all declined simultaneously. So I can’t speak to what that conversation was. But the message that I know that was sent, and generally speaking, was that we believe that community engagement can be powerful, when the conversation we’re having is about saving lives. But again, it has to be with policymakers, and not with campaign staff, in this moment of time.

AMY GOODMAN: Did President Biden meet with any Arab Americans yesterday, that you know of?

MAYOR ABDULLAH HAMMOUD: Not that I know of. I can’t speak to what his itinerary was. But as you saw, hundreds of protesters showed up and rallied outside of where the campaign event was held.

AMY GOODMAN: Jim Zogby, can you talk about the significance of this? You’re president of the Arab American Institute. President Biden had overwhelmingly the Arab American vote in the last presidential election. Talk about how it’s dropped precipitously.

JAMES ZOGBY: It’s gone from 59% in 2020 to 17% end of last October. I daresay it’s even lower now. People have gone from shock and disappointment, now to anger. And I think that the mayor — I’m a big fan of Mayor Hammoud, but I think he speaks very well and clearly toward what the attitude of the community is. This isn’t a time to come and talk about voting for you. It’s a time to talk about what the heck are you doing.

And I have to say that in addition to the policy being so awful, so insensitive, so just genocidal in terms of what it’s been doing, not only in terms of supporting Israel, but the ways we’ve been supporting Israel — in addition to that, they’ve been totally ham-fisted in the way that they’ve dealt with the community. There has not been a single Arab American leadership meeting with officials. They’ve brought in meetings — they say this is a Muslim meeting, and they have excluded the Arab American leadership and brought in some random people that they find to fill a room so they can check the box and say, “We met with people.” But it’s never been substantive, and it’s never produced an outcome.

I think they really don’t care. And they think, as they’ve said to me, “Come November, it’s a binary choice, and your folks will vote for us.” They won’t. I’ve seen it before. We saw it in 2000. We saw it in 2016. They’ll vote for a third party, or they won’t vote at all. And that spells disaster for this White House.

AMY GOODMAN: I heard a number of people yesterday in Michigan being interviewed, Arab American voters, when asked, “Well, do you really think President Trump, with his Muslim ban and promising to do it again, and his much closer relationship with Netanyahu and the far right in Israel, would be better?” And time and again, I mean, you had people holding up signs that said “Abandon Biden,” and when saying they wouldn’t vote for either, saying they would simply write in “ceasefire.”

JAMES ZOGBY: Mm-hmm, and that’s what we’re hearing, and that’s what is happening right now, is a move afoot to vote “ceasefire.” I think they’re voting “uncommitted,” is what the trend is in this primary.

I think that the White House is taking for granted that they’ve got support. And they don’t. They don’t have ears on the ground. People who are doing the outreach for them don’t have ears to hear what the community is saying, or simply don’t want to go back and tell their bosses this is what the community is saying.

The result is, is that they’re cut off from reality. They’re cut off from reality that’s taking place on the ground. I mean, it is a genocide. It is unfolding. They told us they were going to do it. They’ve done it. We’re watching it play out every single day. And yet the administration response is, “Oh, we’re urging them to be careful about civilians, and we’re telling them humanitarian aid needs to come through.” It’s not coming through. Genocide is happening. And yet they live in a world of denial. And they think that we’re going to believe the denial instead of what we see with our eyes.

So, that’s how they’re operating with the policy, but it’s also how they’re operating with the politics: “These folks will come around.” Like I said, it’s insulting. It’s demeaning. It doesn’t respect people’s real feelings. And the result is, is that they’re slow-walking the president into the abyss, and November is going to be, I think, a real problem for the White House.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, when you talk about he’s siloed off, he really hardly is. Everywhere he goes, whether it was the AME Church in Charleston, people interrupting, demanding ceasefire, or yesterday, or the UAW announcement just a few days ago, where autoworkers were holding up signs, because UAW was one of the earliest to endorse a ceasefire, President Biden himself is certainly hearing this. And I wanted to go to a reporter questioning White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Wednesday.

STEVE HOLLAND: The president has faced a lot of criticism in Michigan from the Arab American community. What does he say to — what’s his message to them, those who feel disenchanted by the Gaza operation?

PRESS SECRETARY KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the president is going to continue — continues to believe that Israel has a right to defend themself. They have a right to defend itself, as long as they continue — they — it is done in accordance of humanitarian — international humanitarian law. So, we will continue to have those conversations with them. At the same time — at the same time, he is heartbroken, heartbroken by the suffering of innocent Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Karine Jean-Pierre’s message to Michigan as President Biden went there, is that Israel has a right to defend itself. Mayor Hammoud, will you be voting for President Biden?

MAYOR ABDULLAH HAMMOUD: You know, for me, that question falls back to President Biden. What will he do to earn the trust and respect of the constituency that he’s trying to represent?

You know, I was watching that press conference, and it really is a slap to the face. Every military expert and humanitarian expert across this globe has demonstrated that Israel is not abiding by any international law. That is why the International Court of Justice actually moved forward with South Africa’s case, indicating that it’s very plausible that what is unfolding in Israel — in Gaza, excuse me, by the state of Israel is a genocide, and upheld again by a federal judge here in the United States just this week, in which he dismissed a case of an organization tried suing President Biden. And in the judge’s opinion, he said, “I do believe it is very plausible that Israel is committing a genocide, that is being supported and upheld and defended by these United States of America.”

AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Hammoud, you have constituents whose families are in Gaza. What are they saying to you? And do you think the situation will be very different in, well, almost a year from now, when the election takes place?

MAYOR ABDULLAH HAMMOUD: People feel betrayed. We were promised in 2020 a president who was going to bring back decency to the White House, who led with humanity. And what we’ve seen since October 7th is anything but. We have seen an alignment with Benjamin Netanyahu and the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. And we cannot, for the life of us, understand why — why, understanding that Trump being a threat to our American democracy, is that alignment with Benjamin Netanyahu worth the unraveling of the very fabric of our American democracy. And so, that’s how people are feeling right now.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to an Al Jazeera reporter, Fadi Mansour, who questioned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in his first news conference since he was hospitalized, about U.S. military support for Israel.

FADI MANSOUR: Back in December in your speech at the Reagan Library, you told Israeli leaders they have to protect civilian lives in Gaza. Since that speech, 12,000 more Palestinians have been killed. We’re now at 27,000 killed. Why are you still supporting this war, when this government, that is the most extreme in the history of Israel, led by someone who refuses to recognize any political right for the Palestinians, and with elements that are calling for ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians? Do Palestinians have the right to dignity, as you said in Angola when I was with you on the trip? You said the future belongs to those who protect dignity, not trample it.

DEFENSE SECRETARY LLOYD AUSTIN: Yeah. I said that in the speech at the Reagan Forum. I’ve said that to my counterpart, Minister Gallant, every time that I talk to him, and I talk to him every week. And I emphasize the importance of protecting civilian lives. I also emphasize the importance of providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Lloyd Austin, the defense secretary, being questioned by Al Jazeera. Jim Zogby, if you can talk about what you feel needs to happen right now, and the people you’re polling, you’re talking to, what could make the difference?

JAMES ZOGBY: At this point, in terms of electoral politics, I’m not sure that anything makes a real difference. The wound is too deep. The losses are too great. The hurt is real. And they’re doing nothing to address it.

But at least to have a conversation, they have to make some dramatic changes in policy. The first, of course, is a ceasefire. We had a summit with Reverend Jackson’s Operation PUSH and interfaith collection of organizations a couple weeks back in Chicago. We had three demands: an immediate, sustainable ceasefire; increase in humanitarian aid and reconstruction aid in Gaza; and conditioning U.S. aid to Israel, military aid to Israel, stopping it and then conditioning future aid based on U.S. law. Those are the three essential demands, I think, to move it forward. They’re not listening to us. They’re not even asking us. And yet they want our vote.

And so, I think that you can get a conversation, which is an important thing moving forward. Any community needs a conversation with those in the White House. But getting our vote? There’s a lot of hurt here to get over. It’s sort of like a serial cheat coming home to his wife and saying, “This time I’m going to change.” You’ve got to show it. Even to have a conversation, you have to show it. And we’re not seeing that from these guys now at all.

AMY GOODMAN: James Zogby, president of Arab American Institute, we will link to your article in The Nation, “Biden’s Erasure of Arabs Is Part of a Painful History I Know [Too] Well.” And thanks so much to Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud.

This is Democracy Now! Coming up, we speak with award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay about her new film, Origin. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “I Am,” by the New Zealand Māori artist Stan Walker for the soundtrack of Ava DuVernay’s new film, Origin.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2024 6:37 am

Biden’s Erasure of Arabs Is Part of a Painful History I Know Too Well: For decades, we have faced death threats, political exclusion, and discrimination for our pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian work. It’s long past time for things to change.
by James Zogby
The Nation
January 31, 2024

James Zogby at a press conference in 1990.

On November 1, 2023, in the early days of the devastating violence in Gaza, the White House announced a “US National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia in the United States.” The idea might have been commendable but for the timing (which reasonably suggested political motives) and the opening paragraph of the statement announcing the effort. It read: “For too long, Muslims in America, and those perceived to be Muslim, such as Arabs and Sikhs, have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks and other discriminatory incidents.”

With full knowledge of the exclusion, threats, and violence my community has faced, I took umbrage at the “perceived to be Muslim” line. There is anti-Muslim bias, to be sure, and it often overlaps with anti-Arab bigotry, but they are not the same thing. The Biden administration’s crude effort to subsume the long and painful history of anti-Arab racism in America was factually wrong and deeply hurtful. It ignored the many challenges we have faced precisely because we are of Arab descent or because we support Palestinian rights, no matter our religious background. The White House had effectively erased us.

Having spent my entire adult life dealing with death threats, discrimination, and political exclusion, this is regrettably a topic I know well—and it is a story that needs to be told.

While many of the incidents I’ll relate here are personal, I know from conversations within my community that these experiences have been repeated many times over. The problem is that my generation failed to share our stories of exclusion or hate in large part because many of us assumed it was just the price we were expected to pay for being Arab or supporting Palestinian human rights. For decades, my reaction to discrimination and threats was guilt—the feeling that it was my fault. Time and again, I would say to myself, “If only I had either hidden my ethnicity or been a quiet college professor, this wouldn’t be happening to me or my family.”

A full accounting of this history would take ages. But some events stand out:

In 1978, as a board member of the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA), I was invited to a meeting of ethnic leaders at the White House. Three days after the meeting, I received a call from a Carter administration official informing me that I wouldn’t be invited to the follow-up meeting because Jewish groups had complained about a pro-Palestinian Arab at the meeting.

On separate occasions in 1979 and 1981, two different groups I had been leading (the Palestine Human Rights Campaign and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, or ADC) applied for membership in the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, a Washington-based coalition of peace and human rights organizations. In both instances, we handily won the votes needed for admission. Then, two Jewish groups complained that they would leave the Coalition if the Arab groups were admitted, arguing that our involvement would undercut the effectiveness of the Coalition with Congress. Instead of pushing back, the Coalition leadership asked us to pull out. It was a painful decision to make, but we withdrew.

We faced similar efforts at exclusion led by major Jewish organizations on two other occasions in 1983. The first was when, as executive director of the ADC, I was invited to chair an Italian American-led multiethnic coalition to combat media stereotyping. The second came in reaction to the ADC’s invitation to serve on the steering committee of the 20th anniversary of the March on Washington. What was different was that in both instances, we were defended and we remained—as did the objecting organizations.

Exclusion also followed us into electoral politics. Candidates returned our contributions (Wilson Goode in 1983, Walter Mondale in 1984, and David Dinkins in 1989) or rejected our endorsements (Michael Dukakis in 1988). Others were pressured to fire Arab American staffers.

At the Democratic National Convention in 1988, I was nominated by Jesse Jackson to fill an at-large Democratic National Committee post. Within hours after being informed of my appointment, I was approached by party leaders who asked me to step down because the Dukakis campaign was concerned that Republicans and Jewish groups would attack the party for having a pro-Palestinian member. Soon-to-be-DNC-chair Ron Brown asked me to do so promising that he would make it up to me. Once again, I made the painful decision to step down with the agreement that they would appoint a young Arab American woman in my place. Unfortunately, she became the subject of full-page newspaper ads attacking Dukakis for her presence on the DNC. It was clear: our Arab identity was the issue. (Four years later, Brown kept his promise and appointed me to fill an open seat on the DNC.)

In many cases, the pain of exclusion turned violent. Over the past 50 years, I have received multiple death threats. In 1970, while serving as a graduate teaching assistant at Temple University, I received my first death threat—a letter with words cut out of magazine headlines saying, “Arab dog you will die if you set foot on campus again.” When I took it to the campus police, they asked me what I had been saying to warrant this reaction. A few days later, campus police were called to my class to remove a group of Jewish Defense League (JDL) protesters who were chanting threats outside my classroom door.

In 1980, the Washington office of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign was firebombed. The JDL didn’t claim credit for the attack but issued a statement “approving” of the violence. Six months later, after I launched the ADC and moved to an office in the National Press Building, the JDL’s notorious founder, Meir Kahane, sent a flyer to everyone in that building notifying them of his intention to demonstrate outside our fifth-floor office. He came pounding on our door shouting that he knew we were the same people who had been firebombed, and that although we had “run away” and changed our name, he had found us. The police came and took him away.

The threats, by mail and phone (some to my home), continued. In 1985, a colleague, Alex Odeh, was murdered by a bomb at his southern California office. The then-chair of the JDL said Odeh had gotten “exactly what he deserves.”

In the post-9/11 period, the threats became more intense. A day after the attack, I received an email calling me a “raghead” and threatening to “murder you and slit the throats of your children.” This was the first of dozens of such threats. During the next 15 years, three individuals were convicted and sent to prison for hate crimes and death threats against me, my family, and my staff. In the most recent case, the perpetrator was charged, prosecuted, and convicted by the Justice Department for threatening my organization for our “efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in political and civic life in the United States.”

If not threatened with violence, we were defamed, with our status as Arabs or supporters of Palestinian rights used to deny employment or speaking opportunities. On one occasion, I was fired from a part-time position teaching at a Sunday school in comparative religions because some parents had complained about an Arab teaching their children. On another, I was hired but told that I could only expect to teach comparative religions—not courses dealing with the Middle East—because it might be too controversial to have a person of my ethnic background in that role (this despite the fact that the individual who was teaching their only Middle East courses was Jewish).

Thankfully, most of these efforts at defamation ultimately ran their course and failed. In 1993, then–Vice President Gore appointed me to codirect a program he had launched to support Israeli-Palestinian peace; in 2003 a college named me a visiting fellow; and in 2013 the Obama White House proceeded with my appointment to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. In each instance, the White House and the college received slanderous complaints against my appointment—thankfully, they were rejected. However, I and other Arab Americans did not always fare as well, and I often reflect on the self-silencing that regularly occurred when faced with such intimidation.

Looking back at this painful history of threats, defamation, and exclusion, the pattern becomes clear: because we were of Arab descent and because we advocated for Palestinian rights, we were deemed to be a threat that needed to be silenced.

There is a history that links the past silencing of pro-Palestinian views with its current incarnation. Beginning in the 1970s, there was a determined campaign in the United States to make Palestinian rights a taboo topic. The US government pledged to the Israelis that they would not talk to the PLO or allow official Palestinian representatives into the country. A media campaign was launched glorifying Israel’s creation while vilifying Palestinians as terrorists. The Nakba was denied and Israeli terror and its human rights violations were erased. In the resultant environment, Americans who dared to counter this dominant narrative were defamed, ostracized, or silenced.

As public opinion toward Palestinians began to change during the first intifada and then with the opening that followed the Oslo Accords, Arab Americans and advocates for Palestinian rights experienced new respect and the freedom to have their voices heard. But it was not to be taken for granted. Pro-Israel organizations concerned that they were losing support struck back with a vengeance.

Today, people supporting Palestine are once again being defamed, threatened with loss of employment, and harassed for their views. Thirty-seven states have passed laws or executive orders penalizing individuals or groups who support boycotting or sanctioning Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. And the very same groups who violated our rights four decades ago are now using their clout to demand anti-Palestinian media coverage, silence debate on college campuses and redefine antisemitism to recreate a situation they fear is spinning out of control.

There is a direct connection between the challenges faced by my generation and those faced by supporters of Palestinian rights today. It cannot be ignored. Nor can it be conflated with anti-Muslim bias, as real a problem as that is. What we are experiencing today is not about religion and condemning “Islamophobia” will not address it. It’s about Palestinian rights. And it’s about whether or not we, as Americans, can have open and honest political discourse about our country’s role in the subjugation of Palestinian rights, an injustice that continues to threaten Israeli and Palestinian lives and the future of America in the Middle East.

We have a long way to go, but Arab Americans have the resolve to remain strong. That includes refusing to be excluded or erased because of our ethnicity or our beliefs.

James Zogby is the founder and president of the Arab American Institute and was a member of the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2017.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2024 6:47 am

U.S. & Israel vs. Axis of Resistance: Biden Strikes New Targets in Middle East as Gaza War Continues
by Amy Goodman
February 05, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/5/n ... transcript

As the Pentagon launched airstrikes in Syria and Iraq against Iran-backed militants and carried out new attacks on Houthi forces in Yemen over the weekend, we speak with Narges Bajoghli, professor of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University. She is an expert on the Axis of Resistance, the informal coalition loosely led by Iran that consists of the Iranian and Syrian governments, the Houthi movement in Yemen, militant groups in Iraq, Hezbollah, Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza and the West Bank. She lays out how, despite their different ideologies, the groups are united in their goal of opposing Western influence and control in the region and moving understanding of the Palestinian liberation struggle “out of the narrative terrain of the 'global war on terror'” and “into a language of hegemony and colonialism.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: The United States bombed 85 targets in Syria and Iraq on Friday in retaliation for a recent drone strike by Iranian-backed militants on a base in Jordan that killed three U.S. troops. The Pentagon said it used long-range bombers flown directly from the U.S. in its largest action against Iran-backed groups since the Iraq War.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Sunday on Fox News that the strikes were just the, quote, “first round” and vowed more would follow.

JOHN KIRBY: I’m certainly not going to talk about potential future military operations. What I would say — and this is a really important point — is what you saw on Friday night was just the first round. There will be additional response actions taken by the administration against the IRGC and these groups that they’re backing.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile, on Saturday, Iran’s interior minister denounced the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

AHMAD VAHIDI: [translated] We naturally condemn any move against the resistance front, and we reject and condemn these attacks that will naturally lead to the flames of the resistance. And they must act wisely, which is very unlikely, and we do not see it in the Americans. If they act wisely, they should stop supporting the Zionist regime.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This comes as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports six fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in an overnight attack Sunday on a U.S. base in eastern Syria. Today, Iran’s security chief, Ali Ahmadian, has arrived in Baghdad for talks to address the escalation in fighting.

Meanwhile, the U.S. bombed Yemen again on Saturday and Sunday, targeting sites controlled by Houthi forces who have vowed to keep targeting ships linked to Israel and the United States until Israel halts its assault on Gaza.

For more, we’re joined by Narges Bajoghli, professor of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University. She co-authored the new book titled How Sanctions Work: Iran and the Impact of Economic Warfare and is also the author of Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic. Her recent co-authored piece in Foreign Affairs is headlined “How the War in Gaza Revived the Axis of Resistance.”

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Narges. If you could begin by responding to the latest news over the weekend, the U.S. launching airstrikes in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and the Biden administration vowing more attacks are to come, and, in particular, on Friday, the U.S. striking dozens of targets, for the first time hitting facilities linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Narges?

NARGES BAJOGHLI: Sure. So, with the killing of the three U.S. servicemen in Jordan in Tower 22, that is one of the U.S.'s stated red lines in the region. And that's been something that throughout the past three-and-a-half months, as well as the longer sort of shadow war between Iran, Hezbollah, the U.S. and Israel in the region, that’s been a red line that has been observed quite firmly by the forces that are fighting against the United States and Israel.

Now, with the three servicemen who were killed, it was obvious that the U.S. had to respond. The fact that they responded in the ways that they did, but that Iran very quickly announced that no Iranians had been killed, signals — they are signaling back to the U.S. that they understood that the retaliation had to happen, but that they are not escalating at this moment because their own fighters had not been killed.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Narges, could you explain what were the locations? The U.S. hit 85 targets at seven facilities in Iraq and Syria. What were the locations that were hit? As you said, Iran has said there were no Iranian casualties, but, of course, there were Iraqis and Syrians who died. Talk about the significance of the fact that in the Iranian media it was made clear that there were no Iranian casualties, and also explain the targets that were hit by the U.S.

NARGES BAJOGHLI: Sure. So, the targets that were hit were logistical centers, command centers, spaces that weaponry are stored. And these are sites that are linked to militias that are a part of what is called the Axis of Resistance from — on behalf of Iran and its allied forces in the region. So these are spaces that the U.S. identified and at least stated that they, these locations, are backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and they are belonging to militias that are fighting against the U.S. and Israel in the region.

And the significance of the fact that Iranian media claimed very quickly that no Iranians had been killed in the attacks is because Iran had said that their red lines — they have two major red lines in the region for escalating this into a broader war. One is any kind of strike on Iran’s territorial — within Iran’s territory or on its bases, and the second is the killing of Iranian personnel and fighters. And so, this was a — very quickly after the attacks, they announced within Iranian media that people had been killed, especially Iraqis and Syrians that were tied to these various militias and groups, but that no Iranians had been killed. So that was a very clear signal to say, “We understand your response, but we will not escalate at this moment.”

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, I mean, to talk more about that phrase “the Axis of Resistance,” you have said that Iran-backed groups or Iran proxies has been in the headlines — those phrases have been in the headlines for decades. Is that, in your view, an accurate rendering, especially in light of the fact that you’ve made the argument that in this case, following Israel’s assault and ongoing assault on Gaza, it’s Hezbollah that has really taken the lead, because it recognizes that the core issue now is Palestine?

NARGES BAJOGHLI: So, the Axis — or, what’s called the Axis of Resistance, sort of the seeds of it began after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. And the reason for that was that the U.S. at the time, under the George 2 administration, was very clear and very loud that the next country after Iraq would be Iran. So, what Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces, which are their extraterritorial forces, which at time were under the command of Qassem Soleimani, their strategy became to create militias within Iraq that would, in essence, bog down the U.S. in Iraq and not allow it to turn its focus then on the Iranians.

Eventually, throughout the 20-odd years of the “global war on terror” in the region, as the battlegrounds spread throughout the region, Iran also began to form and give training to and funding to and weaponry to different militias throughout the region, at first mostly sort of Shia militias, but that began to expand into nonsectarian forces. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Lebanese Hezbollah have been very instrumental in creating what is now — what they now term the Axis of Resistance, which includes not only Iran and Hezbollah, Syria itself and militias across Iraq, as well as the Houthis in Yemen, and then, of course, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and civilian resistance groups within the West Bank. These are all sort of under the umbrella of what is called the Axis of Resistance.

Now, I think what’s really important to note is that these are not proxy groups of Iran. From the get-go, the Revolutionary Guard has set up these groups to be decentralized. And then, after the assassination or the killing of Qassem Soleimani by the Americans under the Trump administration in 2020, his successor has decentralized these forces even more. So what that means is that all of these forces are aligned with Iran and Hezbollah’s mission to drive the United States out of the Middle East and to fight against what they deem to be Israeli colonialism, not only just over historic Palestine, but more broadly across the region. So that is first and foremost. But all of these groups are also involved in this axis for their own local interests, because they see the United States and Israel involved within their borders and within the fights that they are involved in locally. So, the axis, in essence, yes, it follows upon Iran’s strategic interest in the region, but it is a decentralized axis. They make their own decisions. They coordinate at the top. But it’s not as easy as Iran says do this, and then the members of the Axis of Resistance follow.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Narges, could you talk about the extent to which you’ve pointed out that neither Iran nor the U.S., as officials from both countries have said, are not interested in escalating, much less in coming into direct conflict — that is, the U.S. and Iran? But many have been concerned that, you know, at this point one false move could set the entire region alight, and especially so given that, as many have said, yourself included, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is actually creating the conditions for the U.S. and Iran to have a direct confrontation. If you could talk a little bit about that and what you think the impact of this might be?

NARGES BAJOGHLI: Yeah. So, at least from the perspective of whether it’s within Iran or Hezbollah, the reading from their perspective of what is going on in the region is that as the Israelis have had a difficult time getting to their strategic objectives within Gaza, there is a desire on the behalf of Bibi Netanyahu to expand this war into one that would drive and drag the United States more fully into it, especially in direct confrontation with Iran, because from the point of view of Israel and Israeli leaders sort of, and this is what Netanyahu has stated, is that Iran is the head of what they call the octopus. Right? And so, their desire is to say that in order to deal with what is going on in the region and this multipronged attack that is happening on Israel from across various borders, Iran needs to be dealt with directly.

Now, the United States does not want to get involved in a direct confrontation with Iran, because it’s not just a direct confrontation with Iran, as the Axis of Resistance kind of makes clear. What Iran’s strategy has been since the start of the “global war on terror” by the United States in the region has been to create a network of spaces in which, if the West were to get involved, it would be not just a war with Iran, it would be a war across the region. That is what makes this moment extremely dangerous, is because, as you said, there could be miscalculation on either end, and it could actually develop into something much larger. So, although the United States is saying that they don’t want to get involved in another large Middle East war, and they instead want to focus on China and sort of on a different part of the world, Iran has also made the same claim, that it does not seek to get into a larger war.

Now, what’s important here is to note that both Iran and Hezbollah, although they are striking back against Israel and different kinds of U.S. forces or sort of bases across the region, what they are trying to do is to put enough pressure on the U.S. and to create enough global sort of outrage about what is going on in Gaza in order to put public pressure on the United States to retreat from the region, because it knows that — you know, Iran and Hezbollah and the other forces know that it will be extremely difficult and they cannot take on the U.S. militarily. But what they are hoping to do is to create enough public pressure, because of what is happening in Gaza, to force the U.S. to reconsider its strategies over these past few decades in the Middle East.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And finally, Narges, you talked about this, the increasing support for this Axis of Resistance in the region. If you could speak, as you did in your Foreign Affairs piece, of the role of the war in another domain, that is to say, in media, and, in particular, social media, that is ongoing now, that is kind of changing the nature of the conversation in the Middle East about this war?

NARGES BAJOGHLI: Right. So, both Nasrallah, who is the commander of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Khamenei, who’s the supreme leader of Iran, have been very clear in saying that their main objective — that they will not get into this larger sort of, what they call, trap that Netanyahu is laying for them to engage more directly with the United States, and instead they want to keep Palestine at the forefront. Now, why are they saying that? Not only because of what is happening in Gaza and their sort of allyship with the Palestinians, but more than that also is the fact that Palestine, as an issue, has become a global issue for the first time in many decades, and because of social media, it has broken through much of the narrative of how conflict in the Middle East more broadly, but especially Israel-Palestine, has been sort of talked about and understood on a global stage. It’s now no longer about fighting Islamic terrorism, but there’s a more global understanding that this is an issue that is related to occupation, apartheid and settler colonialism.

For why is this important for the Axis of Resistance, it’s because, for decades, they have been involved in fighting the United States and Israel in the region, but, narratively, they have just been sort of deemed as terrorists or bad actors or maligned actors that are fighting against the United States. For the first time pretty much in their existence over the past four decades, for the first time the causes by which at least they claim to be fighting for, which is driving the United States out of the region and finishing off Israeli colonialism, for the first time that is being understood globally not in the language of Shi’ism or sort of religious and Islamic ideology, but in the language of human rights and in the language of genocide and international law. So, for these reasons, this has been a really important war for this axis. But also, secondly, Hamas itself has been quite adept at utilizing media very, very effectively in communicating what it is both facing and what it is up against in the region, as well as, obviously, the many Palestinian journalists and influencers within the Gaza Strip and across the region who are tapping into a global sort of moment of deeper and deeper understanding of the kinds of geopolitical forces that are at play both in the Middle East and beyond.

So there’s a confluence of things that are going on, but that confluence in this moment has been to the benefit of the Axis of Resistance. And this is something that they’ve been working on for a very long time to be able to develop multilingual media that essentially is able to utilize social media as a strength to communicate broader ideologies about what is going on in the Middle East and move it out of the narrative terrain of the “global war on terror,” which is the U.S. and Israel fighting Islamic terrorism, and it’s been able to reframe all of that into a language of hegemony and colonialism, and settler colonialism specifically, and apartheid.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Thank you so much, Narges Bajoghli, professor of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University and co-author of the new book How Sanctions Work: Iran and the Impact of Economic Warfare. She’s also the author of Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic. Her recent co-authored piece in Foreign Affairs is headlined “How the War in Gaza Revived the Axis of Resistance.”

When we come back, we speak with Senator Bernie Sanders’ former foreign policy adviser, Matt Duss, and speak with a Palestinian American doctor who just declined to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: “The American Ruse” by MC5. The group’s founding member and guitarist Wayne Kramer passed away Friday at the age of 75.


“Incandescent” with Rage: Matt Duss on Voter Anger over Biden Support for Netanyahu & Gaza Assault
by Amy Goodman
February 05, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/5/m ... transcript

As the White House steps up its shelling of targets in the Middle East amid regional unrest over Israel’s monthslong assault on Gaza, we discuss the possibility of wider war with Matt Duss, a former foreign policy adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders, now with the Center for International Policy. “The Biden administration’s strategy here is failing,” says Duss. Voter outrage over its unwavering pro-Israel stance is “incandescent” and on track to harm the president’s reelection campaign as Democratic Party members pull back on get-out-the-vote efforts, while some may refuse to vote at all. “The issue of Israel-Palestine is not just a foreign policy issue. It is an issue of social and racial justice,” explains Duss. “This is going to be fixed, if it can be fixed at all, by changing policy and ending support for this massacre.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Nermeen Shaikh.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is back in the Middle East as Hamas is set to respond to a ceasefire proposal to pause fighting and release more hostages. This comes after the U.S. launched airstrikes in Syria, Iraq and Yemen Friday in retaliation for the killing of three U.S. soldiers by Iran-backed militants who attacked a base in Jordan.

Meanwhile, President Biden is facing more pressure over his support for Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders has announced plans to introduce an amendment to remove $10.1 billion in military aid for Israel. In a statement, Sanders denounced what he called, quote, “Netanyahu’s illegal, immoral war against the Palestinian people.”

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warner and Brian Schatz have sent a letter to Secretary of State Blinken to pressure the Biden administration to push back against Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution. The lawmakers wrote, quote, “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s explicit departure from that position, both in his statements and in government policies aimed at undermining this internationally agreed upon pathway, is dangerous to both U.S. and Israeli national security.”

For more, we’re joined in Washington, D.C., by Matt Duss, executive vice president at the Center for International Policy. He’s the former foreign policy adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders.

Matt, welcome back to Democracy Now! If you could begin —

MATT DUSS: Thank you.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: — by giving your response to these recent round of U.S. strikes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and what you think may come of this?

MATT DUSS: Well, I think it shows clearly that the Biden administration’s strategy here is failing. Their approach since October 7 in the region has been twofold. One is to, essentially, back Israel’s assault on Gaza unconditionally, and the second was to try and contain the conflict to Gaza. And that second part has clearly, steadily, been failing over the past several weeks and months, but especially now in the wake of the attack in Jordan, you know, with these attacks in Syria, in Iraq and, of course, continuing in Yemen. So, this conflict has steadily been spreading, as anyone should have expected it to, because this kind of violence simply cannot be controlled.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And if you could say, Matt — many have suggested, yourself included, that there are people in D.C., in the D.C. establishment, who have been advocating for a war with Iran for decades. I mean, what are your concerns about where they stand now and how much their voices may be amplified? And how many of —


NERMEEN SHAIKH: — those are Democrats?

MATT DUSS: Right. As I’ve said, I mean, there are people in Washington, in the United States, in U.S. politics, for whom Iran has always been a target. And when we saw this immediately after the War in Iraq, as your previous guest said, there were people who were making clear that their goal was to move on to Iran next. So, any time there is any kind of attack or crisis in which Iran is involved, you see these voices trying to exploit the situation to once again drive the U.S. into an open conflict with Iran, which I think many understand would be an absolute catastrophe. If people thought the Iraq War was bad, they can — you know, we can only imagine what a war with Iran would look like. This is not just me talking; these are military experts in the United States who have repeatedly warned that an open conflict between the United States and Iran would be absolutely disastrous.

But I think there’s a political component here. You always have to take that into account. And unfortunately, you do see voices in Washington who always see a political advantage in bashing the president and kind of promoting this kind of hawkish approach to foreign policy that, I have to say, has failed repeatedly, and yet they continue to make these calls for more war, more escalation, with zero accountability.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And if you could respond, Matt, to this Bernie Sanders announcing plans to introduce an amendment to remove over $10 billion in funding, in military aid to Israel?

MATT DUSS: I support it wholeheartedly. I think, as is so often the case, Senator Sanders is speaking for many Americans and, frankly, I think, a majority of Democratic voters, if you look at the polls of Democratic voters’ opinions of the U.S. approach to the war. This is now an over four-month conflict. This is, I think, clearly a massacre, with close to 30,000 people killed, huge parts of Gaza just obliterated. We’ve seen in the past weeks acknowledgments from Israeli officials that they understand they are not going to achieve the goal of eradicating Hamas. And frankly, no one ever really thought that they seriously could do that. So, the idea that the United States is simply going to continue supporting this conflict with zero conditions as we have been, I think, is absolutely the wrong approach, and I think Senator Sanders’ proposal here is the right one.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And if you could speak, Matt, about the role of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, something you’ve spoken about recently, as well? A poll found in January that only 15% of Israelis want Netanyahu to remain in power after the war in Gaza ends, though many support his strategy of —

MATT DUSS: Yeah, yeah.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: — his Gaza strategy of, effectively, crushing Hamas and —


NERMEEN SHAIKH: — also much of the Palestinian population there. So, in a sense — I mean, Netanyahu is only likely to remain in power so long as this war continues. If you could talk about the impact of that?

MATT DUSS: That’s right. Yeah, that’s right. And I think that is what is particularly dangerous here and gets to the particularly pernicious role of Netanyahu himself. Let’s remember, before October 7th, he was facing multiple corruption indictments. He was facing mass protests, that had been going on for months, against his government’s attempt to undermine Israel’s judiciary. And then, on top of that, now you have a belief by a vast majority of Israeli citizens that he personally failed to protect Israelis, that it was — the atrocities that we all saw on October 7 were the result of his failures. So he knows that as soon as this war stops, so does his political career. And the only hope he has of continuing to stay in power is to prolong and escalate this war as long as possible. And that’s extremely dangerous.

And frankly, I think it’s been a very bad decision by President Biden to tie himself so closely to Netanyahu and to this strategy. And I think we need to detach from them and show much, much more distance from what Israel is doing.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, indeed, Biden’s reelection bid seems also to be in question, given his Gaza policy. And you’ve said that his administration does not seem to understand the depth of the problem arising from his Gaza policy.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: And I’ll just read a bit from this Politico article by Jonathan Martin, where he says, quote, “that a hot war in Gaza this fall may mean 30,000 fewer votes apiece in Madison, Dearborn and Ann Arbor and therefore the presidency.” Biden especially came under criticism last month when he spoke a hundred days since the October 7th attack and failed to mention at all what’s happened in Gaza, the devastation in Gaza —


NERMEEN SHAIKH: — with tens of thousands killed, displaced — and displaced. And all this as a recent YouGov poll found 50% of self-described Biden voters say what’s happened in Gaza, Israel’s attacks on Gaza, constitute a genocide. So, could you explain what you think the possible implications of this are in November? And also, given the Democratic — young Democratic base, why isn’t someone even like Bernie Sanders calling for ceasefire?

MATT DUSS: Well, I think I’m hesitant to ever overestimate the impact that foreign policy will have on a presidential election. But I do think we are seeing that for many Democratic voters, for many progressives, particularly young progressives, the issue of Israel-Palestine is not just a foreign policy issue. It is an issue of social and racial justice. And I think this is something the Biden team simply does not understand or only now starting to really understand.

Again, this is going to be a very close election. If it’s going to come down to possibly a few hundred thousand votes in a few key states, and if a lot of these voters who you were just referencing — I doubt they will vote for Trump; they may simply choose not to vote. But they will almost certainly not work to get out the vote. They will not do the volunteering. They will not do the phone banking. They will not do the knocking on doors that’s going to be necessary to maximize vote turnout for President Biden’s reelection. And that should very much concern them.

And I think what’s going on here, it’s not simply a matter of a difference in policy. I think everyone understands the stakes, what a Trump election or a Trump reelection would mean for this country. But the anger at Biden’s support for this assault on Gaza is really just incandescent. It is a matter of principle for many Democrats, not just Arab and Palestinian Americans, but more broadly, some groups of Democratic voters who simply cannot bring themselves to pull the lever or check the box for a president who is supporting this. And this is not going to be fixed by dispatching a few administration officials to certain neighborhoods in Michigan or elsewhere. This is going to be fixed, if it can be fixed at all, by changing policy and ending support for this massacre.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Matt Duss, thank you so much for joining us, executive vice president at the Center for International Policy and former foreign policy adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders.


After Losing Nearly 100 Relatives in Gaza, Palestinian American Doctor Refuses to Meet with Blinken
by Amy Goodman
February 05, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/5/t ... transcript

We speak with Dr. Tariq Haddad, a Palestinian American leader who refused to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week in protest of the Biden administration’s ongoing support of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Instead, the doctor wrote a 12-page letter to Blinken admonishing the latter for his role in the deaths of nearly 100 of his family members. “I wanted him to see me and see Palestinians as human beings, not as some part of a political game,” says Haddad. He shares stories of some of his lost loved ones and condemns U.S. political and military partnership with Israel. “I just kept looking for evidence that our government actually cares about the lives of my family, and I saw none.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Nermeen Shaikh.

Before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken left for his fifth Middle East trip since October 7th, he held a roundtable meeting Thursday to discuss the situation in Gaza with a number of Palestinian Americans. But some of them refused to attend, in protest against the Biden administration’s ongoing support for Israel’s assault on Gaza.

We’re joined now by one of those who refused. Dr. Tariq Haddad is a cardiologist and member of the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights, who grew up in Gaza. He laid out his reasoning in a 12-page letter to Blinken. Included in Dr. Haddad’s letter were pictures of his family members. One of Blinken’s staff reportedly made sure to print the letter in color. Dr. Tariq Haddad joins us now from Falls Church, Virginia.

Dr. Tariq Haddad, welcome to Democracy Now! Our condolences to you for the many family members of yours who have been killed in Gaza. If you could begin by talking about what you know of what happened in Gaza to your family members, and then explain this invitation that you received for a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and why you declined to attend?

DR. TARIQ HADDAD: Thank you. Thank you for having me. And I appreciate the condolences.

Yeah, I think some context is necessary here to understand why I turned this invitation down. So, I have hundreds of family members in Gaza, both sides of my family, both in the town of Khan Younis and the Gaza City. I’ve had about a hundred family members at this point who have been killed, including physicians, pharmacists, lawyers, engineers, dozens and dozens of children, multiple small babies. I can’t tell all their stories, but I just want to tell a few just for the audience.

October 25th, 10 members of my family, all three generations of one side of my family, were all killed. My cousin Jamal El-Farra, his son, who is a physician, Dr. Tawfiq El-Farra, his wife who was pregnant, two of their beautiful daughters, Reem and Hala, Jamal’s brother Esam, wife Semad, and their daughters, Rusul, Tuqa and Nadian, all, multiple generations all killed in one Israeli missile strike. Tuqa, one of the younger women in the family, her wedding date was the day she was killed. They were all from modest means. They actually built — the three brothers built their home themselves, ironically, the same home that the Israeli strikes destroyed.

Another day, a couple days later, my cousins Hatem and Aziz El-Farra from Khan Younis, who lived literally 20 yards from where I grew up, were killed along with 14 other members of their family, seven of their children. Aziz was actually a pharmacist, and Hatem was just an incredible community figure who always had a smile on his face, always was available to help anybody who needed it. The day before he was killed, Hatem had just gone up to my uncle and asked if he could house five families who were made homeless by the Israeli missile strikes, in our grandparents’ house.

One child, one child out of that whole three generations, survived, Hamza. He had an amputation, was in the hospital. He woke up to find out his siblings, his parents, his uncles and his aunts, his grandparents all had died. Excuse me. And then he died himself in the next day from the trauma injuries from the Israeli attacks, because there wasn’t adequate medical care to keep him alive.

A couple of days after that, November 2nd, my cousins Hani, Huda and Wafaa El-Haddad, all siblings, were killed in Gaza City along with my cousin Hani’s Croatian wife and my aunt. Huda and Wafaa were teachers. Hani was an interior decorator. My cousin Hani initially survived with — as a physician, I can tell you it was a fairly minor leg injury, but then he bled to death the next day, because he had no access to any functional medical facility, since they had all been bombed and destroyed by the Israeli attacks. Hani’s brother Wael survived and then had to witness the horror of seeing his mother buried from the waist up in the rubble, dead. And he saw his sister Wafa shredded into pieces. And this, you know, they’re messaging me and telling me.

My other cousin, Nael, who I grew up with and played with as a kid, literally had to bury all his family members in a makeshift grave, because he couldn’t even access a cemetery. And he’s been going 24 hours at a time with no food or water.

Even those in my family who actually fled what was thought to be dangerous areas to safe areas have been targeted. One of my cousins, Samar El-Farra, died in a refugee camp in Rafah around the time she had completed her doctorate for her Ph.D. And we were about to congratulate her on that doctorate when she was killed.

There are family members who have died from a lack of medical care, an inability to access medical care. One of my cousins, Abdulrahman El-Farra, died because he was unable to reach a functional hospital after he was injured. Four of my family members got killed in an Israeli bombing of their car while they were, ironically, trying to go to the Gaza European Hospital for shelter. And then, a few weeks ago, Sabri El-Farra, one of my cousins, died with seven of his sons. And then, most recently, just a few days ago, a baby in our family, Saber El-Farra, who was 20 days old, froze to death, died from hypothermia in the refugee camp that his family was in. And this is after — this 20-[day]-old just froze to death after nine of his siblings and his father were murdered by the Israeli military strikes a few weeks before.

The ones — the people in my family who have not been killed, arguably, are suffering a fate worse than death. Hundreds of my family are displaced. Not a single one of them is able to stay in their home. All their homes are either damaged or destroyed. One of my family members had to give birth on the rubble of her home that was destroyed, and did not even have clothes to put on her baby. Famine is common. Every one of my family members has mentioned it. They have no access to clean water. They’ve had to recycle water because there’s no access to clean water. And they’ve had dysentery and gastrointestinal illnesses. Famine. One of my cousins messages me all the time saying he’s gone 24 hours without food.

So, to answer your question, knowing all this and knowing what I’ve gone through week after week, month after month, checking every morning to see who’s alive, who’s dead, who’s suffered, who can we help, and as the dead rose to a hundred in my family to 15,000 children all across Gaza, to 30,000 civilians, as I saw the famine happen, I just kept looking for evidence that our government actually cares about the lives of my family. And I saw none. I kept waiting for a ceasefire, that Secretary Blinken had access, has the ability to do, and he refused to do it. I kept waiting for a United Nations resolution to call for a ceasefire, which the United States continued to veto. I kept waiting for something, and all I saw was the opposite. I saw our U.S. strategic Middle Eastern military reserve being used to replenish the Israeli ammunitions for this genocide. I saw, cruelly, just a few days ago, the withdrawal of funding for the United Nations, that was supplying military [sic] assistance to these over 2 million people that are going through famine.

So, getting back to your original question, I sort of — I wrote this letter to Secretary Blinken because I wanted him to see me and see Palestinians as human beings, not as some part of a political game or some sort of, you know, blame game. I wanted him to see us for who we were as human beings. And I wanted him to put himself in my shoes and ask himself, if he saw his family getting killed day after day, month after month, as a direct result of the government’s policies, and he knew that somebody in that government could have done something to prevent those 100 people from dying, the suffering of the remaining hundreds of people, how could you sit in a room, given three minutes to face that person, and face them, knowing that that person has been directly responsible for the death of your family and all the suffering that your family has seen, and do so simply as part of a political grandstanding? And that’s why I just ethically could not be there, because actions speak louder than words. And I just wanted him to see us as human beings, to empathize, and not play politics and not play games.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dr. Tariq Haddad, thank you so much for joining us. And again, our condolences for the horrific — the horrors that your family has lived through in Gaza. Dr. Tariq Haddad, cardiologist and member of the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights who refused to attend a meeting in D.C. with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

When we come back, we talk about starvation in Gaza with Alex de Waal. Back in a minute.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: Annie Lennox performing Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.” On Sunday night, Annie Lennox called for a ceasefire at the end of her performance at the Grammys.


Israel’s Use of Starvation as a Weapon of War Brings Gaza to the Brink of Famine
by Amy Goodman
February 05, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/5/a ... transcript

Israel is accused of using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza, as Israeli forces continue to severely restrict the delivery of humanitarian aid, food and medical supplies to millions inside the besieged territory. “It is not possible to create a famine by accident,” says Alex de Waal, an expert on the subject who serves as the executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University. Despite months of international warnings calling on Israel to open up aid channels, de Waal says famine in Gaza is “inevitable” as those warnings have been ignored and Israel’s war on Gaza is poised to continue.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Nermeen Shaikh.

Israel is being accused of using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza, as Israeli forces continue to severely restrict the delivery of humanitarian aid, food and medical supplies to millions inside the besieged territory after four months of indiscriminate bombardment and mass displacement. U.N. human rights experts warn Gaza’s 2.3 million population is facing severe levels of hunger, with the risk of famine increasing daily.

For more, we’re joined by Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University and author of Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine. His piece for The Guardian is headlined “Unless Israel changes course, it could be legally culpable for mass starvation.”

Alex de Waal, welcome to Democracy Now! Lay out the argument you have in your Guardian piece.

ALEX DE WAAL: So, my argument is essentially that while it may be possible to bomb a hospital by accident, it is not possible to create a famine by accident, and that for some months now, and particularly in mid-December, when the famine review committee, which is sort of the highest level of humanitarian assessment in the world, an independent, impartial, professional and extremely discrete body of experts, said that Gaza is heading towards famine, it is already in catastrophe — and these are very technical terms. And unless there is an end to active hostilities by the Israeli authorities and army and a full spectrum of relief operations, it is inevitable that sometime in the coming months — and they said beginning likely in early February — under the technical definitions, Gaza would be in famine.

So that is fair warning. And the actions undertaken by the government of Israel — and the war crime of starvation is defined thus: “using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supplies.” So the main element of the crime is destroying food, foodstuffs, hospitals, medical care, sanitation, shelter, etc. Unless that is all stopped, Gaza will be in famine.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Alex, if you could clarify? We just have a minute. You say that Palestinian children in Gaza will die in the thousands, even if the barriers to aid are lifted today. Explain.

ALEX DE WAAL: So, a humanitarian crisis is like a speeding freight train. Even if the driver puts on the brakes as hard as he possibly can, it will take many miles for that train to come to a stop. So, the levels of malnutrition that we are now seeing, the exposure to infectious disease through polluted water, through overcrowding and through lack of shelter, will mean that this humanitarian crisis continues. So, this is not something that can be stopped overnight.

And the fact that even after these warnings were issued, even after the International Court of Justice issued its provisional measures instructing Israel that it had to undertake these key actions, that this has continued, and the United States has not stopped it, makes them culpable for the crimes of starvation.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Alex de Waal, if you could speak — you’ve worked, obviously, on the question of famine and of mass starvation in many other contexts. If you could put what’s happening in Gaza in the broader context of what you’ve witnessed, from Sudan to Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Yemen?

ALEX DE WAAL: I think that the key element, key fact about what is happening in Gaza, has been happening for the last few months, is an exceptionally accelerated and concentrated and clearly deliberate, intentional reduction of a population to a state of outright starvation, of a nature that we have not seen in modern times. There is no parallel to this since World War II.

So, if we compare what is happening in Gaza to the other great famines in recent times, in Somalia, in Ethiopia, in Yemen, in the Nigerian Civil War in the 1960s, in China in the late 1950s, many of those were much bigger in terms of the numbers of people who died, because they impacted much larger populations. They were also much slower. They took many, many months or several years, usually, to unfold. They all have in common the fact that it is political or military decision that not only sets in motion starvation, but allows it to proceed without being halted. But this is an extraordinarily ruthless and concentrated example, as I said, without real parallel since World War II.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And could you explain why its intention doesn’t really come into this, why it doesn’t matter whether Israel is deliberately using starvation as a weapon of war, or if it’s a byproduct of its assault on Gaza? Why is that not relevant?

ALEX DE WAAL: So, let’s look at the case that was presented to the International Court of Justice by South Africa recently. And that used the Genocide Convention. And the key provision in the Genocide Convention is Article II (c), which is deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part. Now, the court is going to take a long time to rule as to whether this is genocide or not, because the key element that it has to determine is genocidal intent. Now, there are a lot of senior government ministers in Israel who have made blatantly genocidal statements, but that does not, in itself, prove that there is genocidal intent in the way that the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting their operations.

But the actual facts on the ground are that conditions of life that will bring about the physical destruction of a significant part of the population of Gaza, those are there. Those are actually existing, regardless of what is the intention. And there are different types of intention. So, the war crime of starvation, which is — the focus is on depriving civilians of objects indispensable to survival, which isn’t just food. It’s anything that is indispensable to survival. That can be deliberately intended, in the sense that the criminal, the perpetrator, wants to starve, or obliquely intended, in that the perpetrator is conducting the actions for another reason, like crushing a military adversary, but it has that outcome.

Now, the key thing about starvation is that it doesn’t stop just because you stop doing your action. And it continues, when you are being — and if you continue doing it even though you were warned of the outcome, you are also responsible. And that is the key here. The key is that Israel is knowingly creating these conditions, because it has been warned, and warned repeatedly, and yet it has continued. And so that makes it culpable. And regardless of the intent, the crime is being committed. And those who are arming Israel, supporting Israel and undermining the relief capacity, which is particularly the UNRWA, are complicit in this.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, another point that you make in your Guardian piece — I’ll just read a short sentence. You write, “Never before Gaza have today’s humanitarian professionals seen such a high proportion of the population descend so rapidly towards catastrophe,” you say. And this as residents in the north, northern Gaza, are reportedly eating grass and drinking polluted water. UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, said today a food convoy expected to move into northern Gaza was targeted by Israeli forces. So, Alex, if you could talk about that, and, of course, this coming as there are — you’re warning of famine, these are the conditions on the ground, and donor countries are considering defunding UNRWA?

ALEX DE WAAL: So, if we go back to what the Famine Relief Committee came up with back in December — and this was based on the data that they gathered primarily during the humanitarian truce at the end of November. They have a five-point scale of food stress, going from phase one, which is normal; phase two, which is stressed; phase three, crisis; phase four, emergency — and in emergency, this is when children start to die in significant numbers; and phase five, which is catastrophe or famine, depending on exactly how the different metrics and indicators work out. And the current, as of early December, was 17% in catastrophe, phase five, 42% in emergency, phase four. The projected, which was for this week, early February, was 26% in catastrophe or famine, and 53% in emergency, so three-quarters of the population in emergency or catastrophe or famine. And that is quite extraordinary, given that right at the beginning of the crisis, the population was under stress, but then the rates of severe acute malnutrition were actually pretty low. The number of children who suffered from wasting because of deprivation of food was about 1% or thereabouts. So, just to reiterate, this train of catastrophe is moving extremely fast.

Now, there is a principle that was adopted by international humanitarians and by the United States government some 12, 13 years ago in Somalia, which is broadly called “no regrets” programming, which is that if you see a catastrophe unfolding, you must set aside the strict criteria in two regards. First of all, how closely and clearly do you actually know how bad it is? You should operate on a worst-case assumption. It’s better to waste some — quote, “waste” some resources by feeding people who may not actually be starving to death. And secondly, you also need to work with authorities, or you have to have a humanitarian carveout that means you can work alongside or with authorities that you don’t fully trust, knowing that some of your aid may be diverted. In the case of Somalia in 2011, it was the terrorist group al-Shabab, because unless you worked with them, there was going to be a famine in the areas they controlled. And so, it was agreed we will have a humanitarian carveout.

Now, this “no regrets” principle is being inverted today in Gaza, in that the slightest suspicion that some members of UNRWA, which is the only capable relief organization able to deliver assistance at scale, the slightest suspicion that some of them, small number, are associated with Hamas and its actions, is leading to a potential major cutoff in funding. And that makes international donors doubly complicit in what is going on.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You also wrote in your piece — just to put what’s happening in a comparative frame, you wrote, quote, “Many wars are starvation crime scenes. In Sudan and South Sudan, it’s widespread looting by marauding militia. In Ethiopia’s Tigray [region], farms, factories, schools and hospitals were vandalized and burned, far in excess of any military logic. In Yemen, most of the country was put under starvation blockade. In Syria, the regime besieged cities, demanding they 'surrender or starve.' The level of destruction of hospitals, water systems and housing in Gaza, as well as restrictions [of] trade, employment and aid, surpasses any of these cases,” you write in your Guardian piece. So, if you could elaborate on that?

ALEX DE WAAL: So, what the Israeli Defense Forces are doing is not the full range of starvation crimes. For example, we don’t see them pillaging. We don’t see them stealing en masse. But what we do see is this relentless destruction of essential infrastructure. And this goes far beyond any proportionality. The laws of war are very clear, that if you are conducting a war in an area that is inhabited by civilians, that you have to have the — the damage to civilians, the deaths of civilians must be proportionate to your military objectives. And even the Israeli former Chief Justice Aharon Barak actually has said in a judgment, actually relating in this case to torture, that a law-abiding state or a democracy must — and I quote — “must sometimes fight with one hand tied behind its back,” because the fact that there are combatants embedded within a civilian population does not mean that that civilian population loses its civilian character, its protected character, according to the war. And what we are seeing in the case of Gaza is that the Israelis are essentially treating the entire population as a combatant population. That is de facto what we are seeing. And we did not see that with this intensity in any of these other cases.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Alex, if you could put this all in the context of ongoing U.S. support for Israel, and also U.K. support, but principally U.S. support? To the extent that Israel is guilty of creating the conditions for famine and already inducing mass starvation in Gaza, is the U.S. also complicit?

ALEX DE WAAL: I think morally, clearly, it’s complicit. And it could be legally liable in two ways. One, first of all, would be if the International Court of Justice does indeed find that Israel was — is responsible for genocide. And then the United States could be complicit in that crime in, certainly, the element of inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. But even if the ICJ doesn’t find that, or it takes a long time to find that, the International Criminal Court prosecutor is also looking into war crimes and crimes against humanity, which have essentially the same provision, without the genocidal intent. And I think this would not be difficult to prove, that the same outcome is being — is occurring with just the intent to destroy these things, without the direct intent to cause starvation or to cause genocide, so starvation being the predictable outcome.

Now, if the prosecutor of the ICC were to begin to issue arrest warrants for Israeli officers or commanders or politicians, then the U.S. might find itself, by implication, complicit on those grounds, too. So the U.S. lawyers need to be very, very attentive to that as they give the administration its advice on whether it should continue in its current policy, which, as your correspondents have been saying, appears to be unconditional support for Israel.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We reported in our headlines that Belgium summoned the Israeli ambassador after Israel bombed Belgium’s development agency in northern Gaza. The bombing reportedly occurred on Wednesday after Belgium announced it would not pause funding for UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. So, Alex de Waal, could you respond to this? And if a direct link is established, though I’m not sure how that would be, what does it mean that Israel is carrying out this kind of retaliation against a humanitarian agency?

ALEX DE WAAL: That would be just an extraordinary violation, not only of international humanitarian law, but of international criminal law. And if it could be proven, it would mean that those responsible could and should end up in court on trial for those crimes.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Alex de Waal, now we want to turn to — you know, you’ve done a lot of work in Sudan. So, if you could talk about — you recently wrote a piece for Chatham House on the situation now in Sudan. If you could elaborate on that?

ALEX DE WAAL: Well, let me actually take a little step back, because what we’re seeing in the Horn of Africa and in Yemen is something that we have not — in my almost 40-year career of studying food crises in these countries, we have not seen before, which is four major simultaneous food emergencies unfolding at the same time. So we have — in Sudan, we have about half the population. It’s a country of about 45 million people, and about half the population is in need of emergency assistance because of the war. In Ethiopia, we are seeing, in the northern part of the country, a rapid descent into famine conditions — are not yet there, but they are heading there — due to a combination of the effects of the war in northern Ethiopia, which unfolded over two years, came to an end a year ago, combined with drought. In Somalia, the continuing insecurity and conflict combined with severe drought, and now, in recent months, severe floods related to climate change. And in Yemen, the impact of the protracted war and siege, which just came to an end last year, which is now being exacerbated by the hostilities between the U.S. and the Houthis, and the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization.

So we’re seeing four massive food crises unfolding in parallel, at a time when two other things are happening. One is that the price of of food aid has shot up because of the Black Sea crisis and also the Red Sea crisis. It’s just the cost of shipping, the cost of insurance, getting food to these countries has gone up. And also, the budget of the major agencies, such as the World Food Programme, has been massively squeezed. And that’s primarily because there is a standard allocation from the U.S., the major donor, but then what we — what the World Food Programme and what USAID need is a supplemental allocation, and the supplementary budget is held up in Congress.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Thank you so much, Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University and the author of Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine. His new piece for The Guardian is titled “Unless Israel changes course, it could be legally culpable for mass starvation.” To see Part 1 of our conversation with Alex de Waal, go to democracynow.org. This is Democracy Now! I’m Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks so much for joining us.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

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Dissent Grows Inside Biden Administration over Gaza Policy as Blinken Holds Talks in Middle East
by Amy Goodman
February 06, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/6/b ... transcript

Secretary of State Tony Blinken is on his fifth trip to the Middle East since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, reportedly pushing for a pause to Israel’s assault on Gaza and for Hamas to release all remaining hostages. Blinken’s trip to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank comes in the wake of U.S. strikes in Syria, Iraq and Yemen against militant groups across the region. “There’s not a lot of goodwill or faith right now for the U.S.,” says Akbar Shahid Ahmed, senior diplomatic correspondent for HuffPost, who lays out where diplomatic negotiations stand today in the Middle East. “The longer there’s a delay here, the more it seems that this deal isn’t achieving what the Palestinians or Hamas might really want.” Ahmed also reports on the different position of Arab states on Palestine, the “culture of impunity” Washington grants Israel, and why the Biden administration is insulated from growing U.S. dissent on Gaza.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Nermeen Shaikh, joined by Amy Goodman. Hi, Amy!

AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Nermeen. And welcome to all our listeners and our viewers around the country and around the world. Well, I’m not a NOVID anymore. For four years I somehow avoided getting COVID, but I ended up getting it. Asymptomatic. I’m at the tail end of it. I just have to go from positive to negative. It’s not exactly in my nature to go negative, but I’m really working on it. Until then, Nermeen is there, and I am here. And most importantly, on with the show.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We look forward to having you back, Amy.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken is heading to Qatar and then to Israel and the West Bank, after holding talks in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This comes as Israel threatens to launch a ground invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where over half of all residents of Gaza have sought refuge. Palestinian health officials say Israeli attacks killed 107 Palestinians over the past day, bringing the Palestinian death toll to over 27,500, including over 11,500 children.

This is Blinken’s fifth trip to the Middle East since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7th. The State Department says Blinken is pushing for a pause to Israel’s assault and for Hamas to release all remaining hostages seized nearly four months ago.

On Monday, Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, where they discussed a potential deal involving Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for Israel agreeing to a pathway for a Palestinian state. Saudi Arabia is also seeking a new military pact with the United States and U.S. assistance with its nuclear program. This comes as Hamas is reportedly reviewing a truce and hostage deal negotiated in part by mediators from Egypt and Qatar.

Blinken’s trip comes just days after the United States bombed 85 targets in Syria and Iraq in retaliation for a recent drone strike by Iran-backed militants on a base in Jordan that killed three U.S. troops. The U.S. has also repeatedly bombed Yemen over the past two weeks, targeting sites controlled by Houthi forces who have been targeting ships linked to Israel and the United States to protest Israel’s assault on Gaza.

We begin today’s show with Akbar Shahid Ahmed, senior diplomatic correspondent for HuffPost based in Washington, D.C.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Akbar. We are very happy to have you here. If you could first respond — tell us what’s most important about the meetings that Blinken had already with the crown prince and his meetings today in Egypt. What’s at stake?

AKBAR SHAHID AHMED: Thanks for having me, Nermeen.

Secretary Blinken is hoping that Arab officials will finally believe the U.S. is serious about an end to the carnage in Gaza. It’s a hard ask, because a lot of Arab diplomats, a lot of regional diplomats who are worried about the spiraling conflict feel the Biden administration has no real interest in pressuring Israel to stop. And you’ve got repeated comments from Israeli officials, most recently Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just yesterday, saying, “We want to see Hamas leaders killed. We want to see months more of war, if not a year,” and ideas for a resettlement of Gaza — extremely controversial proposals.

So, Blinken, on the one hand, is dealing with Israelis who are not saying what Arab diplomats and the U.S. want to hear, he’s representing a president who has a policy of near-total support for Israel, and he’s getting flak from Arab diplomats. Blinken is, of course, a skilled foreign policy official, a skilled mediator, but it’s a very hard task for him, Nermeen, because there’s not a lot of goodwill or faith right now for the U.S.

AMY GOODMAN: Akbar, if you can talk more about what you think took place before the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and Blinken, and the significance of what exactly Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel are proposing? The Hamas attack on October 7th took place just around the time that Saudi Arabia was going to normalize relations with Israel. Talk about what that would mean and exactly what these proposals are and how possible you think they are.

AKBAR SHAHID AHMED: Absolutely, Amy. So, prior to the October 7th attack, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Israel were talking about this kind of tripartite deal that would involve the Saudis giving Israel recognition from Saudi Arabia, which is a huge win for Israel, right? After many years of conflict, feeling threatened by its Arab neighbors, this would be the biggest, most important Muslim-majority country in the world, essentially, saying, “We recognize Israel,” and, importantly, without Israel having to make significant concessions on the Palestinian file.

So, that’s where this whole process, while it’s been beneficial for the U.S., for Saudi, for Israel, the Palestinians and their advocates have been saying, “Where are we in this conversation?” So, prior to October 7th, there was already huge anxiety about these talks. There was dissatisfaction. And then the attacks happened. And, you know, no one less than President Biden has said they see that U.S.-Israel-Saudi process as part of the reason for the October 7th attacks, right? It was a way, in part, for Palestinians to kind of bring this issue back on the negotiating table. However, since then, what we’ve seen, four months into this war, is that rather than considering, “Well, maybe this approach got us to conflict,” the Biden administration has doubled down on the U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal. So they’ve taken the Gaza war, and they’ve tied it to what they were doing before the Gaza war.

Their new proposal is we’ll rebuild Gaza using Saudi money. This will be part of the whole package that will get the Israelis to make some significant concessions to Palestinians. It’ll get the Saudis to have the American commitments they want. But in terms of feasibility, it’s quite, I would say, at best, contentious, right? The U.S. officials I talked to within the government, one described this as, quote, “delusionally optimistic.” You’ve got so many parties involved. You do not have a serious commitment from the U.S. to get Palestine anything major — right? — beyond economic guarantees or the reconstruction of Gaza. And then you’ve got what you referenced earlier, Nermeen, the strikes by Iran-backed militias. There are a lot of what’s called spoilers, a lot of other forces around the region who don’t like this deal, who certainly see the deal, especially between Saudi, Israel and the U.S., opponents of Iran, as very risky for Iran and its network.

So, in terms of the actual feasibility of something being approved, I’m skeptical. And it’s important to remember there’s a very short runway now prior to the election. And if the Biden administration wants to get a security treaty with Saudi Arabia through the Senate while they still have control of the Senate, I mean, they’ve only got six months to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, can you talk about what’s happening today with Tony Blinken in Cairo and Qatar before going to Israel and then the occupied West Bank?

AKBAR SHAHID AHMED: Absolutely. So, the Egyptians and the Qataris are critical mediators, because the U.S. does not speak directly to Hamas, which the U.S. lists as a terror organization. So any messages from the U.S. have to go through Qatar and Egypt. And Israel also doesn’t really like directly dealing with Hamas. So, Blinken is in Cairo, and he was in Doha, kind of hoping to get those governments to pressure Hamas.

Now the “yes” is on Hamas’s side. Israel has kind of tacitly agreed to a truce and hostage release. But the longer there’s a delay here, the more it seems that this deal isn’t achieving what the Palestinians or Hamas might really want, right? So, you’ve seen Prime Minister Netanyahu come out and say, “I want to kill Hamas leadership.” That raises the stakes for Hamas, if they’re saying, “Why would we agree to a two-week deal if, after that, you’re just going to come back, invade Rafah, kill our leadership?” So, I think there’s — the prospects of a deal, to me, seem low right now.

Some of the other important sticking points are, of course, there’s broad agreement that the hostages, particularly civilians, particularly older people and children, should be released. That’s kind of generally agreed upon. But the question is: How many Palestinian political prisoners is Israel willing to release in return? There’s a certain Palestinian leader called Marwan Barghouti, really seen as a unifying Palestinian figure, and Hamas has said they want him out of jail. Now, for a lot of Israelis who don’t want to see a kind of unified Palestinian movement, that’s a no-go.

So there are a lot of sticking points here. And it’s up to Secretary Blinken to kind of push everyone towards a median. I think the Qataris can certainly play a very helpful role here with Hamas, but any indication of U.S. seriousness is what’s needed, and we haven’t yet had that, certainly not from President Biden.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Akbar, I mean, as you said, the issue of the release of Palestinian prisoners is something that Netanyahu, at least, has ruled out, as well as the creation of a Palestinian state. So it’s unclear how, you know, these positions can be reconciled, because there’s no incentive for Hamas to go along with this. But I wanted to ask: I mean, Saudi Arabia is also pushing minimally for the minimal condition of the creation of a Palestinian state, but where do other Arab states stand, including Egypt and Qatar, who are the negotiators, as you said, the mediators? Where else do Arab states stand on this? And is it important at all?

AKBAR SHAHID AHMED: You know, it’s critical. I love how you phrase it, Nermeen, because the Saudis certainly want us to think they are pushing for the creation of a Palestinian state, but the language is sort of shifting, right? Sometimes they say “creating a Palestinian state.” Sometimes they say “a pathway towards a Palestinian state” or “irreversible steps.” So, that goalpost is shifting all the time. And I think for the Saudis, in particular, who have, especially under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, really expressed disdain for the Palestinian cause in recent years and the sense that it’s been a burden for the Arab world, and a deep enthusiasm for relations with Israel, for the Saudis, I’d say, kind of limited Palestinian concessions would be acceptable, if they can get some kind of Palestinian window dressing of approval. And I’ve heard from my sources that there are quite conversations going on between the Saudis and maybe some friendly Palestinians who might be willing to bless whatever the Saudis can get.

In terms of other states, Qatar is one of the firmest in terms of wanting to see a resolution here. I think for a lot of states that maybe were not taking the strongest position earlier — so, think about the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Arab countries that have made deals with Israel — I think, after this war and after the spiraling tensions — right? — the risk of a huge Middle East war, those countries are feeling more and more we need a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is meaningful.

For Egypt, I think that desire is there, particularly because, because of the strikes you mentioned by the Houthi movement in Yemen, shipping is not going through the Suez Canal as much, and for Egypt, that’s an economic lifeline, right? So they want the war over so the Houthis stop attacking shipping. At the same time, it’s really critical to remember Egypt helped Israel with its blockade of Gaza — right? — for the last 16 years. Egypt has not, for years, wanted to see a strong, independent Palestinian presence. So I think they’ll be weighing that quite cautiously, and they won’t necessarily be such firm advocates for serious Palestinian statehood.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Akbar, you’ve written extensively — at the moment, we see Netanyahu being, you know, singled out as the person who is responsible for the present situation. He certainly hasn’t made it any easier and, arguably, of course, much more brutal. Although as you point out, it’s important to look at the long-term context in Israel and, in particular, U.S. support for Israeli policies, whatever form they’ve taken. So, if you could elaborate on that and what distinctions you see between Netanyahu and his predecessors on the question of Gaza?

AKBAR SHAHID AHMED: Absolutely. So, Netanyahu is an easy bogeyman from a U.S. political standpoint. You’re already seeing Democrats who are kind of struggling, scrambling to defend President Biden’s policy here. They’re saying, “Well, it’s not really about Biden. It’s about Netanyahu.” And given that Netanyahu was so close to former President Trump, opposed President Barack Obama so vocally, for Democratic voters, yes, Netanyahu is an easy bogeyman.

But, absolutely, we have to look at the context. And for the first three years of the Biden administration, two of those years they did not have a Prime Minister Netanyahu. They had a different Israeli government, slightly more moderate, certainly including non-Netanyahu figures. And in that moment, the U.S. did not, Nermeen, try to pursue any kind of progress, right? President Biden didn’t even reverse policies that President Trump had imposed that were anti-Palestinian and pro-Israeli.

So, to me, the thing that needs to be questioned in this moment, certainly, Netanyahu, personally corrupt, attempting to hold onto power for as long as he can, but as one Israeli analyst put it, there’s a, quote, “culture of impunity” — right? — in U.S.-Israel relations. And that’s what really needs to be analyzed right now.

So, if you think about the broader Israeli political establishment, the person who would take over, if Netanyahu were to be unseated in weeks, months, later this year, is someone called Benny Gantz. He’s a former Israeli general. The military is understood to be a bit more pragmatic on the Palestinian issue, just from a strategic and security standpoint, than politicians are. All that said, even a Prime Minister Benny Gantz might not be willing to accept statehood — right? — might not be willing to give Palestinians security control in Gaza.

So, the actual culture of the U.S. and Israel, unfortunately, over decades, has become one in which even these small steps towards progress are so difficult. It’s like pulling teeth. And I just draw people back to the last few examples of effective U.S. leverage over Israel. Interestingly, they’ve been under Republican presidents, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, to some extent. But we haven’t seen that in the last 10 or 15 years, and certainly not under Presidents Biden or, really, Obama.

AMY GOODMAN: Akbar, I wanted to talk about the level of dissent in this country and in other countries that are supporting Israel right now. You just wrote a piece about over 800 government officials in the United States and Europe that have anonymously signed a statement that their own governments’ support for Israel is in violation of their values. If you can talk more about that, and also the level at the grassroots in the United States, right up into the White House and the State Department? In fact, let me play a clip. We interviewed Josh Paul, a high-level State Department official, when he quit. You were the one who broke the story about Josh Paul.

AMY GOODMAN: I just have to ask before we go, Josh Paul. We spoke to you soon after you resigned from the State Department in October. This was, of course, in the midst of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which came after the October 7th surprise attack on Israel that killed 1,200. Can you talk about the response of your colleagues at the State Department? Have others resigned in other parts of the government?

JOSH PAUL: So, we have seen, certainly from the U.N., a U.N. senior official, Craig Mokhiber, resign. We have not seen, to my knowledge, significant resignations within the U.S. government. But I have heard, and continue to hear, from many of my former colleagues who are really trying to find what mechanisms they can use to slow this down, to change the policy. I fear that their efforts at this point continue to be in vain. I think we need to see a policy change from the top. But I know a lot of good people are continuing to make the argument.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Josh Paul, who quit the State Department. And he is not the only one. And I wanted to get a sense from you how aware is President Biden of the enormous, as our guest yesterday said, Matt Duss, “incandescent” kind of rage in the Democratic base, but also in high levels of the government. We just — Nermeen just read headlines. In Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, over a hundred people, led by Jewish Voice for Peace, were arrested, demanding a ceasefire and much more. Talk about all these levels of dissent in the United States and outside and what effect it’s having. Is Biden fearful that his very reelection is in jeopardy?

AKBAR SHAHID AHMED: Absolutely, Amy. I’ll start with the letter you mentioned, because it’s a fascinating statement, more than 800 officials in the U.S., in European institutions, in the Netherlands, France, Britain. I just heard from another European official yesterday who just signed the letter. So, the numbers on that letter are just going to keep growing. It’s not closed yet.

I’d say the dissent is — it’s striking because, given the initial attack, there was such deep sympathy for Israel, which is a close U.S. partner. There was such a sense of “We want to do something to help.” But I think it became so clear, within three or four days, to people that President Biden’s approach to helping Israel was not going to be measured or strategic or involve planning, consultation, all of that. It was just, full tilt, whatever they want, whatever the consequences. And I think that’s where you see a lot of dissent come from. It comes from moral reasons, certainly, for some folks within government, from people in the Democratic base, also from strategic considerations — right? — also from a sense of is the U.S. tearing up goodwill and shoving away the good work that we have done over years and decades, particularly after former President Trump, to reestablish America’s reputation in the world, right? Is that all moot now? And I think that’s only grown since October, because President Biden has not been willing to shift in any tangible way.

In terms of his own awareness of that, what’s so striking about this moment, too, is there is a huge national security establishment here in Washington, as I know you both know, so many layers — counterterror, State Department, Treasury. But this policy is being controlled in a group of, I would say, 20 to 30 close officials around the president, right? So, what’s really important to remember there is there is a real filtering of information. And it’s indisputable, of course, President Biden is going to campaign rallies and events, and he’s seeing the protesters. But to what extent is he aware that many of the actual foreign policy and national security experts within his government, who are nonpartisan, are opposed to this policy, I think that’s a little questionable, right? Because advisers around him have their own priorities. A gentleman called Brett McGurk, the top White House Middle East official, who I’ve reported on extensively, is really pushing that U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal, and President Biden has been going along with that.

I think there’s very heated debates in the president’s close circle, but because especially the State Department has been so frozen out at this moment — and the way I’ve heard it from State Department officials is they’ve literally been told, “We understand your concern. Why don’t you try to work on another part of the world? You know, why don’t you look sort of the Pacific or Latin America? Just apply your skills there.” I think that kind of dismissal of this really reasoned dissent, and response to it of listening sessions and town halls and “we feel your pain” — people don’t want their pain to be felt. They want to see a shift. So I think you’ll see even more pushback from within government, certainly from within the party base.

I think one of the important things — and maybe this is how the message will get through to the president — is not necessarily from his White House national security team of Jake Sullivan, Brett McGurk, Tony Blinken, but maybe through his political contacts. Right? You’ve seen multiple Democratic senators, Chris Van Hollen, importantly, of Maryland, but many others, Chris Coons even, of Delaware, who’s personally close to the president, they’ve publicly started to say, “OK, we need to see a shift from Israel.” So, once those lawmakers, once governors, once others who are actually elected officials start standing up, you might see a shift from the president. But right now there’s still a wariness even on those fronts. I reported yesterday that this new bipartisan border package that was unveiled had Democratic senators agreeing to defund the U.N. agency for Palestinians. That’s a reversal from the Biden administration’s own policy, a reversal from Democrats, a triumph from Republicans. So, I think as soon as elected Democrats kind of find that assertiveness, that’s when you might start to see a shift from the president.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, we’ll just be speaking to a doctor who’s recently returned from Gaza, where we’ll discuss what’s happening with UNRWA in Gaza. Thank you so much, Akbar Shahid Ahmed, senior diplomatic correspondent for HuffPost, based in Washington, D.C.


“Unconscionable”: American Pediatrician Who Worked in Gaza Hospital Recalls Horrors of Israel’s War
by Amy Goodman
February 06, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/6/p ... transcript

Democracy Now! speaks with Dr. Seema Jilani, a pediatrician who spent two weeks in Central Gaza volunteering in the Al-Aqsa Hospital emergency room. “I saw the fall of a hospital before my very own eyes,” says Jilani, who shares recorded voice notes from her time in the besieged territory while trying to save children in a health system collapsing under Israeli pressure and bombing. “I have never treated this many war-wounded children in my career.” Finally, Jilani shares why she continues to serve as a doctor in war zones with the International Rescue Committee. “It is the absolute honor of my life to serve the people of Gaza,” she says. “It is all of our responsibility to consider those orphans, consider those families who are completely bereft of any and all human dignity that has been taken from them. … Their fate will sit with us.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We spend the rest of the hour with an American doctor who just spent two weeks in central Gaza. Dr. Seema Jilani is a pediatrician who volunteered in the Al-Aqsa Hospital emergency room as part of a team of doctors with the International Rescue Committee, where she’s senior technical adviser and leads their emergency health responses globally. The team included doctors from both IRC and Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Before she joins us, we’ll play some of Dr. Jilani’s voice notes that she recorded in Al-Aqsa Hospital’s emergency room and also at night in the compound housing the emergency medical team.

DR. SEEMA JILANI: We’re in the resuscitation room in Al-Aqsa Hospital. It’s a mass casualty, where the site of the mass casualty was a school. Of the five casualties, four are children. So, he was injured in the first day of the war.


DR. SEEMA JILANI: And now we’re day 82.


DR. SEEMA JILANI: And he’s waiting.


DR. SEEMA JILANI: I’m so sorry.

I can hear the — I can hear the airstrikes coming in now. It’s about 2 a.m. And this is the sound of drones right outside my window, and also overhead flying more airplanes, I believe. I can’t sleep, so I decided to do this voice note. It’s a very specific hellscape that exists here in Gaza when you’re cursed enough to hear the words from a doctor that say, “Whose body part is that? Don’t carry it through the halls. I don’t want children seeing that.” And that is a quote from one of my colleagues in the emergency room, where we saw a leg being carried, a lower leg with the boot still on, sock still on. And it was being carried through the emergency room.

We have arrived here at Al-Aqsa Hospital emergency room. And what I’m seeing here is children lying on the ground, a double amputation on one child. And there are no beds available, so people are literally just on the ground seeking treatment. We’ve already had three parents come up to us and ask — they see the stethoscope, and they ask me, “Can you come see my child? Can you come see my child?” And I’m waiting for the local doctors to come in to be able to guide us through what we need to do and do a handover. There is one child that I’m looking at, approximately 8 years old, at the — lying on the ground. Next to him is a woman in a wheelchair who’s waiting to be seen. The one on the ground has bandages on bilateral lower extremities going all the way up, and looks like he’s been brought in overnight.

And we’re hearing right now that it was a terrible, terrible night because of the bombing in al-Maghazi, where people had been told to evacuate and then, subsequently, were bombed. There are definitely more people here than yesterday, and yesterday was very full. So, no beds available. As I said, people — there’s not really room or space for us to breathe or think. There’s a gentleman here that’s sobbing in front of me and being comforted by maybe his son, maybe a stranger. I don’t know. But he’s an older gentleman with a bandage on his head, and he’s just sitting and holding his head in his hands, crying and head hung low. And then there’s one, two, three, four, six children in my line of sight right now in the corner that need medical attention urgently, one of whom is crying, a little boy around 6 or 7 years old, wiping his tears. I can’t see the injuries clearly, but we’ll get started to work today to see how we can support and help them through this — through their tragedy.

UNIDENTIFIED: Rockets. They’re rockets. And they’re nearer than they were before.

DR. SEEMA JILANI: That feels very close.

UNIDENTIFIED: Because you don’t get to hear — you don’t get to hear much whistle before it comes.

DR. SEEMA JILANI: One morning, we arrived to a nurse who was quietly sobbing in the corner. His colleague had been killed the night before, and he had tried to resuscitate him in the emergency room. He is dignified in his grief. I asked, “Should we leave?” But instead, he just thanks us for our presence and asks us to see a few patients on his behalf. He just could not face the grueling work and the patients outside the room right now. I felt rewarded if I could be helpful to this one person in this one moment. As I was rounding about two hours later, I raised my head from a patient to see him, again, right back at work, as if nothing had happened.

The next day, we see a 23-year-old patient with his lower leg blown off so badly, it’s disconnected from its upper leg, floppy. I look down to plant my stethoscope on his chest, only to find him still wearing his UNRWA, or U-N-R-W-A, vest as a staff member. The only comfort I can provide him is to wipe the dried blood off his face, to moisten his dry lips as he yearns for some water, quietly lifting his neck for a little more. I quieten his fear with a wet washcloth to his forehead and some whispers of sweetness, of calm. None of these interventions are morphine. He died on the floor of a Gaza emergency room with little more than my hand in his hand and a washcloth to his forehead.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Those were voice notes recorded by Dr. Seema Jilani, a senior emergency health technical adviser and pediatrician who traveled to Gaza to volunteer in the Al-Aqsa Hospital emergency room as part of a team of doctors from the IRC and Medical Aid for Palestinians. Dr. Jilani previously worked in Gaza and the West Bank in 2005 and 2015. She’s also a freelance journalist who was nominated for a Peabody Award for her 2006 radio documentary, Israel and Palestine: The Human Cost of the Occupation. She joins us now from Brussels.

Dr. Seema Jilani, welcome back to Democracy Now! Those were immensely haunting notes, voice notes, that you made. If you could talk about your journey to Gaza in December, where you went from, how long you stayed, and what you witnessed?

DR. SEEMA JILANI: We departed Cairo on December 25th as part of an emergency medical team with the IRC and Medical Aid for Palestinians in partnership. From Cairo, we arrived through the Sinai, which itself is a militarized zone, and then El-Arish, and then — overnighted there, and then, following that, completed the two-day journey to Rafah and crossed over into the Gaza Strip as a team and later went to our guesthouse. And the drive from the Rafah border all the way up to the guesthouse, which should only have been a few kilometers, maybe 10 at most, maybe seven, took several hours, two to three hours, if I recall, because everyone was leaving and evacuating from the north.

There were people piled into cars, vans, if they were lucky, because fuel is such a precious commodity. There were babies falling asleep. There were pets and cats and dogs and families and blankets and mattresses, any food items you can imagine piled into donkey carts, and people hanging off, trying to evacuate. It was a sea of human tragedy coming straight to the border, straight into southern Rafah. And it was quite a harrowing scene, people that were barefoot, looking for shelter, looking for garbage bags to put up tents, looking for lumber. Quite, quite something. And I’ve worked in several areas of conflict, and it was quite staggering.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Jilani, it must be just incredible for you to listen back to what you were saying, so immediate, as you whispered into your microphone, whether you were holding the hand of a dying man or with a baby or in the barracks where you were staying. The place where the doctors slept, does that even exist anymore?

DR. SEEMA JILANI: Our guesthouse was bombed shortly after I left. And I am not sure of — it’s certainly not functional or able to be resided in. I don’t know of how it looks anymore. But certainly, it has been bombed, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And one of the people you describe helping on the floor of the hospital — and I was wondering if you can talk about the significance of Al-Aqsa, and what does it mean for so many hospitals not to be functioning — was wearing an UNRWA vest. It is the center of controversy right now. Netanyahu talks about getting rid of UNRWA the way he talks about getting rid of Hamas. Talk about the central role UNRWA plays, whether we’re talking about education, whether we’re talking about hospitals.

DR. SEEMA JILANI: I worked at Al-Aqsa Hospital, which was one of the last remaining hospitals in the middle part of Gaza, or central Gaza. It was a lifeline hospital providing critical, critical services. And from the time that I arrived to the two weeks, I saw its decline. I saw the fall of a hospital before my very own eyes. And, you know, in war, we’re used to talking about the fall of cities, the fall of Mosul or Saigon. And suddenly, we’ve normalized, somehow, the fall of Al-Shifa Hospital and the fall of Al-Aqsa Hospital. We’ve normalized the fall and complete dismantling of healthcare infrastructure, totally paramount to saving lives not only in a war zone, but in an otherwise high-functioning, high-capacity society. And it’s unconscionable that we continue to watch this unfold.

In terms of UNRWA, it provides services throughout the region. I have worked in the West Bank and in Gaza. I’ve worked in Lebanon, in Shatila refugee camp, in Burj al-Barajneh. They provide schooling services. I’ve been to their schools. They provide health services, education. And so, the thought of defunding such an organization that provides jobs, education, healthcare, other services that are not otherwise available, really is deeply disturbing, as we’re now producing a generation of orphans, a generation of children with new disabilities, who will then have no access to healthcare, education or other services that would be able to, in some way, help relieve some of their pain and get them back to a functioning society.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Dr. Jilani, you have spoken about the fact that many patients may not have survived, but their pain would certainly have been eased, if the proper medical supplies were made available, if, minimally, medication — you spoke specifically of morphine — could be administered to ease their pain. I mean, if you could explain, you know, how you work under conditions where you don’t have access to even minimal medical supplies, and what it is that you’re calling for?

DR. SEEMA JILANI: Well, it’s the doctors and nurses and healthcare staff of Gaza who have displayed just absolute colossal bravery in how their see their patients, many of whom haven’t been paid, many of whom are themselves displaced, four or five times over, scavenging for food, water, shelter, and then showing up to work, as I mentioned in one of those notes, strenuously to serve their communities, and then coming to a workplace that doesn’t have what they need to be able to treat their patients with dignity. There is no death with dignity in Gaza on the floor of an emergency room.

At the beginning of my time in Gaza, we did have access to morphine. But by the end, there was no access. And at that point, it becomes a very cruel and inhumane situation to have someone actively dying without any pain — or, comfort to offer them. There was, I recall vividly, a young boy that had come in, not for a life-threatening injury, but for stitches because of some deep lacerations. And we would usually use ketamine in a situation like that, because it’s safe, and in children it provides both pain relief and amnesia, so they’re not retraumatized from the procedure. Of course, we didn’t have ketamine. And so I tried any distraction measures I could with this young boy. I have sort of flashing lights in my arsenal as a pediatrician. I have some toys. And he just was screaming through the pain.

And then, when I tried to ask him questions and engage him to distract him, because that’s a mechanism, a coping mechanism, we can use, you know, every question is a landmine. What I would typically say in the U.S. is, “Who’s your best friend?” Well, his best friend probably or might be dead. “What’s your favorite food?” I don’t know the last time this young child ate, and would probably retraumatize him further. You know, “Are you closer to your mom or dad?” She came in as an orphan with only extended family members. There is no part or no prism or facet of their life that has been left untouched. It is completely devastated and in a cataclysmic situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk more about being a pediatrician in a war zone, and also people seeing you as a foreigner coming in? And you — parts we didn’t play — talk about people just coming up to you and saying, “Ceasefire.”

DR. SEEMA JILANI: Yeah, absolutely. People, as the days went on, more and more crowded into the hospital seeking safe shelter. And so you would see entire families perched on blankets. And so, you would — they would recognize us as foreigners. And their little blankets served as their bedroom, their coffee room, their breakfast room, their kitchen. Just in the hopes that the hospital would keep them safe, and they would see us and turn to us and see us as foreigners and say, “Ceasefire?” or, even more heartbreakingly so, “Take me with you.” Well, where can we go? Where is safe?

In terms of being a pediatrician, I’ve worked in war zones. I’ve worked in refugee rescue boats off the coast of Libya. I’ve worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and Egypt. I have never treated this many war-wounded children in my career. No system is built to withstand what these people are going through.

On one day, as you saw, four out of five of the children whom we were actively resuscitating, which means trying to bring back from the brink of death, four of five of my patients were under the age of 15, so children. And the extent of the injuries, the scale and magnitude and severity, especially in terms of burns, is also something that I’ve not witnessed, borne witness to before. We had an approximately 11-year-old girl whose face was completely charred black, and her arms were flexed and contractured and sort of waxy because the burns had penetrated all the way down to the very flesh of her. And the smell of burnt flesh permeated the entire emergency room and will stay with me for a very long time.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dr. Seema Jilani, we only have a minute, but if you could say — it’s already so unbearable to just hear accounts of what you’re saying — why do you do this work? And what has it been like for you, from one war zone to the next, and now in a place like Gaza, as you say, where you’ve never seen so many children in an emergency room of the hospital?

DR. SEEMA JILANI: It is the absolute honor and privilege of my life to be able to be let into people’s moments, whether they are tragic moments of death and pain or whether they are a new baby being born and counseling a new mother on breast-feeding. It is the absolute honor of my life to serve the people of Gaza. And I am so lucky to have served alongside these towering heroes that are nurses and doctors and people that are serving their communities. And that’s why I will keep going back and keep doing this work.

And on the flip side of that, I would say it is all of our responsibility to consider those orphans, consider those families, who are completely bereft of any and all human dignity, that has been taken from them. And it sits with us. Their fate will sit with us.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dr. Seema Jilani, thank you so much for joining us. Dr. Jilani, senior technical adviser at the International Rescue Committee, where she leads their emergency health responses globally. She’s recently joined an emergency team of doctors from IRC and Medical Aid for Palestinians who went to central Gaza to volunteer in the Al-Aqsa Hospital.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2024 6:54 am

Former Israeli Negotiator Daniel Levy: Only U.S. Pressure on Israel Can End Gaza Assault, Lead to Truce
by Amy Goodman
February 07, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/7/i ... transcript

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Nermeen Shaikh in New York, joined by Amy Goodman. Hi, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Nermeen. Welcome to all our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Hamas has put forward a detailed plan for a new ceasefire deal aimed at ending Israel’s assault on Gaza. The plan is a response to a proposal drawn up two weeks ago by the U.S., Israel, Qatar and Egypt. The Hamas counterproposal, which was introduced late Tuesday night, envisions three phases of 45 days each.

In the first phase, Hamas would release all female Israeli hostages, males under 19 and elderly and sick people in exchange for Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails. Israel would also withdraw from populated areas in Gaza, cease aerial operations, allow far more aid to enter, and permit Palestinians to return to their homes, including in northern Gaza.

The second 45-day phase, to be negotiated during the first, would include the release of all remaining hostages, mostly soldiers, in exchange for more Palestinian prisoners, and Israel would complete its withdrawal from Gaza.

In the third phase, the sides would exchange the remains of hostages and prisoners.

President Biden commented on Hamas’s counterproposal on Tuesday, calling it, quote, “a little over the top.”

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There is some movement. And I don’t want to — I don’t want to — let me choose my words. There’s some movement. There has been a response from the — there has been a response from the opposition. But —


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes, I’m sorry, from Hamas. But it seems to be a little over the top. We’re not sure where it is. There’s a continuing negotiation right now.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel overnight after meetings on Tuesday in Egypt and Qatar. He will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, among others, to discuss Hamas’s response to the proposed deal. Blinken will also meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later today.

As the negotiations continue, Israel’s assault on Gaza is entering its fifth month. Over 27,500 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 67,000 wounded since October 7th. While the vast majority of Gaza’s population have been driven from their homes, much of the territory has been destroyed or severely damaged, and a quarter of the population is facing starvation.

For more on the ceasefire negotiations, we’re joined by Daniel Levy, president of the U.S./Middle East Project and a former Israeli peace negotiator under Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin.

Daniel Levy, welcome to Democracy Now! If we could just begin with your assessment of the negotiations, how they’ve been proceeding so far, and what you anticipate Israel’s response might be to the counterproposal offered by Hamas?

DANIEL LEVY: Well, we do now have a detailed position that has been put out in the public domain. You referenced that. I think a crucial thing to say about this is that what Hamas have said is that it’s not that we can do phase one, move on to phase two, move on to phase three, is that there has to be an agreement upfront that this is going to deliver a final ceasefire.

Now, we’ve heard not detailed counterproposals from the Israeli side — we don’t have that. What we have heard is Prime Minister Netanyahu making clear that he will not accept a permanent ceasefire, he will not redeploy his troops out of Gaza, and has also been circumspect on what kind of Israeli prisoner exchange would be on the table. That suggests that the parties are still really quite some distance apart, that there’s an element of blame game, not being attributed with blame, and there’s an element of where more could one take the negotiations.

I think, Nermeen, that will be partly dependent on three factors — firstly, the balance of forces on the battlefield. This has not gone as Israel had anticipated, as Israel had hoped, as Israel’s maximalist war game — war claims had set out. Israel is, yes, operating in Gaza. We’ve seen the terrible destruction. You’ve gone through that, the level of death, of civilian death, of child death, the disease and starvation now. But we are not seeing Hamas’s resilience wane. So, on the battlefield, that is still something of a stalemate.

The second vector is internal pressure. Now, there is internal pressure inside Israel from the families. There are some inside the war cabinet who have said this needs to change direction.

The third vector — and here’s where we get to the Blinken visit, Nermeen — the third vector is what are the external dynamics of pressure. We have had what South Africa has done at the International Court of Justice, which I think was very significant. What we do not have is an American secretary of state empowered to use leverage, to put on the table a disincentive, a cost structure for Israel to continue this, and therefore, I think we’re stuck. What you instead have — curiously, perhaps — is an attempt to almost do an end run and to tie in postwar plans with the ceasefire. Now, that could be a good thing, right? This didn’t begin on October 7th, four months ago today. There are root causes that absolutely need to be addressed, if Palestinians or Israelis are going to have to have security in the future. But Blinken seems to be putting on the table some pretty magical thinking, which has partly been set out in articles by Tom Friedman and David Ignatius and, I think, are going to cause more problems. And maybe that’s something we can touch on.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Daniel Levy, if you can talk about the role of Qatar, the role of Egypt in these negotiations? Right now Blinken is meeting with Netanyahu. And what, ideally — and you, as a negotiator, know the significance of negotiations — Blinken needs to say to Netanyahu? While Blinken has continually said he’s heartbroken and gut-wrenched over the fatalities in Gaza, what he’s continued to do is provide weapons to Israel, an end run around Congress twice to ensure artillery shells go to them. So, whatever he feels or says he is feeling, the significance of what the U.S. is doing in shoring up Netanyahu?

DANIEL LEVY: That is crucial, Amy, because some may have heard the president say, “Well, it seems like the Hamas position is a little too much.” Some may consider the provision of 2,000-pound bombs by the U.S. to Israel, after everything we’ve seen, a little too much. Some may consider that when there is a plausible case for genocide at the International Court of Justice and you’re ignoring those provisional measures, a little too much.

So, what we have is a Qatari and Egyptian party — because there are no direct negotiations with Israel, between Israel and Hamas. So you have the mediators from the region who are talking to Hamas. They can try and lean on Hamas. If Hamas does not feel that it has to concede further, it will not. The question is, as you have noted: Will the U.S. lean on Israel? Now, it seems that rather than coming and saying, “There’s a cost for you to do this,” what Secretary Blinken is attempting to do is say, “You know what? I’m going to reward you. You know what I’ve got in my back pocket? I’ve got Saudi normalization.” Now, the Saudis have poured some cold water on this in a statement that they issued overnight to contradict something that spokesman Kirby said. But Blinken is hoping that this could somehow push a deal over the line.

I think this demonstrates, first of all, naivety. We’ve had normalization with the UAE and others in the past, and it only encouraged Israeli extremism. It’s layers and layers of make-believe, the idea that you can have Western-appointed Palestinian technocratic leaders somehow run the Palestinian side with no credibility on their own people, these limited measures against Israeli settlers that the administration took, when the problem is not a few bad apples. The problem is the state structure of occupation and oppression.

So, it seems that there’s another effort here by the administration to say, “We can stop ethnic cleansing. We can stop this displacement.” But — and here’s one of the big problems, I think — what is on offer is not Palestinian statehood. It’s not that anyone is saying, “Israel will withdraw. The army will be out. You’ll have recognition of a viable state that’s actually going to exist, with Jerusalem as its capital. Then we can deal with refugees and other things.” What is apparently on offer is a little bit of verbiage in exchange for Saudi normalization.

And what this is, really, Amy, is this is an attempt to reentrench, to refreeze the existence of a Bantustan, and the use of partition as a tool of violence in ensuring a future apartheid. And I think that’s a pernicious thing to offer Palestinians: You can either have ethnic cleansing or apartheid. Because what is not on the table is justice or genuine peace. And to be quite honest, if the U.S. administration wants to make a deal with the Saudis to export more arms, maybe have some companies do well over a civilian energy program, as a geopolitical move to try and slow down de-dollarization, don’t pretend that this is a peace move to end the horrors in Gaza, because this is a geopolitical maneuver, not a genocide avoidance maneuver.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the role of Qatar and Egypt in this, and how you feel this is going to play out, in the midst of these so-called negotiations, that are coming close to yet another — Blinken won’t use the word “ceasefire,” he talks about pause — the threat of a ground invasion of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled? What, something like 2 million Palestinians are there, just on the tip of Gaza, on the Egyptian border.

DANIEL LEVY: Well, as you say, Palestinians have been moved from one location to the other, and then, every time, the area they’re told to move to, that becomes bombed. That’s the story with Khan Younis today. That’s the story with Rafah tomorrow.

Qatar can, and has — and we saw the first pause, and we saw releases. So, there’s magical thinking that there’s a non-negotiated path to saving the hostages. Unfortunately, those numbers are smaller than what was previously talked about. There is a negotiated path. But Qatar and Egypt can only work with what they have from the Israeli side. And if they have something that is woefully falling short of what is needed — because on the Israeli side there is division, there’s an unwillingness to make those hard decisions — they are not going to be able to deliver on the back of that.

Now, Egypt has another concern, which is that Israel still hopes and holds a plan for the mass displacement of Palestinians in Gaza into Egypt, given the horrendous conditions there. And if Israel takes over the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, I think that exacerbates those concerns. You’ve had Egypt make statements to the effect of that not being something that can happen, as far as they are concerned.

So, you have the role of the mediators. Perhaps what Netanyahu is hoping is that he can get some of the hostages out — because there is pressure — without having to concede on the other issues. So, perhaps they’re hoping that phase one happens. I don’t think it’s going to happen at that low cost. What the Americans seem to hope is that they can drive a wedge between Netanyahu, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, and that Netanyahu, if faced with the opportunity, for instance, of a deal with Saudi Arabia, will not be able to stand down public pressure. I think this is more American naivety, American failure to learn the lessons of history, because I think Netanyahu will turn around and say, “I can get a better deal, maybe not now, maybe not with this president. But, look, I got those Abraham Accord deals while giving nothing, and I’ll get something this time.”

So, again, what does it boil down to? It boils down to whether this administration, this president, actually wants to create circumstances in which Israel has hard choices to make, in which genuine American leverage is on the table. If not, we’ll continue to depend on battlefield dynamics, which aren’t going well, on Israeli internal pressure, and we risk further regional escalation, which has gone up again in the last weeks. And America is apparently willing to risk being further entangled yet again in Middle East wars, because it is unwilling to stare down an Israeli leader who has his own political survival at stake — perhaps that’s true of the president here, as well — and who is insistent on maintaining his apartheid regime.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Daniel Levy, I want to go back to a comment that you made about Saudi Arabia, the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel being one of the principal incentives being offered. But there are also questions being raised, which I’m sure the Saudis are aware of, that the U.S. promises to Saudi Arabia are not likely to be accepted by Congress, even if this goes ahead, including a defense pact, as well as technical support to Saudi Arabia to develop a nuclear power industry. And it’s also unclear, as has been reported, that Netanyahu sees Saudi normalization and the continuation of U.S. support as essential to his survival. I don’t know if you agree with that. Do you think that’s true, since it does seem clear that his principal objective, Netanyahu’s, for reasons that we’ve covered on the show, his principal aim, is to remain in power?

DANIEL LEVY: Prime Minister Netanyahu is a leader who now has the legacy of October 7th hanging over him. [inaudible] in court facing criminal charges. Does he — can you still hear me?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Go ahead, Daniel.

DANIEL LEVY: Thank you. He is, therefore, making a daily calculation of how does he keep this going. Now, right now it is more important for him to maintain his coalition rather than to go on this journey to Saudi normalization — something he wants, but not at any cost. And as I have said, he can turn around to the Israeli public and say, “Don’t worry, the Americans want me to give up things which are too much for Israel to give up. My parliamentary opponents are willing to give them up, but not me. I will get a better deal.” So that’s on the Netanyahu side of things. He does not feel that he is in a corner yet.

On the Saudi side of things, the Saudis, of course, why not, if you’re in their position, say, “Let’s see what more we can get from the Americans. Let’s see what more they will put on the table. If there’s enough on the table, maybe there are circumstances under which we will do this. And if not, at least we’ve already now got an American offer, which we can use in the future and see where else this can go”? So, what you have is an Israeli side quite effective at playing the administration, a Saudi side quite effective at playing the administration — and, you know, I don’t take joy in saying this — but a very weak, very ineffective and self-harming government in Washington, D.C.

AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Levy, I want to go back to something you said. You referred to an apartheid regime, being the Israeli government. You also talked about the Bantustan. Now, this is very significant, given who you are, a former Israeli peace negotiator under Prime Ministers Ehud Barak as well as Yitzhak Rabin, we’ll remind people, was killed by a Jewish extremist, was assassinated. Explain what you mean by “Bantustan.” And then talk about where you see this going, and how painful it was to see President Biden yesterday. He couldn’t remember the name Hamas, really cognitively stumbling there, but then saying Hamas’s proposal is “over the top.”

DANIEL LEVY: Look, on that latter point, I can’t comment on — oh, I can comment, but I have no special insight into the decision-making that has a reality in this country where that is the nature of the candidate being put forward. I imagine, and my assessment would be, that that community of people, a sizable community, who see a significant, massive importance in an outcome in the election in which Donald Trump does not return to the White House — I imagine they would see it as crucial that everything be done so that the alternative to Trump is a president who is someone as broad a coalition as possible can vote for, certainly amongst those who previously voted for him. And therefore, I hope that those other groups, who have such a strong interest in that Trump outcome not materializing, would be pressuring the administration to change its policy on aiding, abetting and arming what the highest court in the world, the International Court of Justice, has plausibly said is a genocide, rather than beating up on people in Michigan and elsewhere who say, “I can’t. I cannot vote for this man.” So, that’s on the American side.

In terms of what I have witnessed previously as a negotiator and the assessment I made with regard to the apartheid reality and the offer of a Bantustan, there was a two-state option, which was an incredibly good deal for Israel, not the partition plan that the U.N. voted on in 1947 to allow this Jewish state entity to come into existence — that partition plan voted on by a U.N. with virtually none of the decolonized states, right? You didn’t have an African, Asian, Global South, as we would call it, presence at the U.N. then to create the Jewish state. That gave Israel about 53, 54%. Today Israel has 78%. That was the basis on which the two-state negotiation took place.

Rather than grabbing this with both arms and saying, “My goodness, how do we — how do we go the extra mile so that we can get this remarkable deal?” rather than going there, the Israeli negotiating position over time — and I don’t know what would have happened had Rabin not been assassinated — but the negotiating position on the Israeli side, when the Palestinian leadership, the PLO, was ready to accept that, was to keep draining this Palestinian state, meaning not only would there be nothing on the refugees, not only would there be no truth and reconciliation, there would have to be an end of all claims, there would be demilitarization, there would be islands of Israeli settlement in this state — those islands kept getting bigger with every iteration of the map — nickel-and-diming on Jerusalem, on border crossings, on everything.

What we are left with, a quarter of a century after the deadline for completing those negotiations, is something that factually, legally, accurately resembles the Bantustans that existed under that apartheid regime. There’s no perfect symmetry, but the legal definition of apartheid, I think, has been strongly proven in the reports by the human rights organizations.

And so, what the Americans — and I think this is the difference between Biden and Bibi, if you like. Bibi is saying, “I’m not offering them a state. I’m offering them a Bantustan.” And Biden is saying, “God damn it, man, can’t you just call it a state?” We all know that it’s not a state, because what you have there is partition being used to create these tiny islands of Palestinian limited self-governance, so that the envelope of control is an Israeli regime which makes sure the Palestinians cannot have equal rights, cannot have security, cannot have a future. And that is always going to be a recipe for insecurity and an explosion, whether that’s one that impacts Israelis or one that impacts Palestinians. And to try and come out of this crisis and say the solution is to go back to squeezing things into that box, I think that is criminal.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Daniel Levy, we just have a minute, but if you could say what you think the significance of — you mentioned it earlier — dissent within the Israeli war cabinet, however minor, and popular opposition to the war continuing, to what extent that might actually make a difference with respect to the negotiations and what Israel is willing to concede?

DANIEL LEVY: Very important, Nermeen. So, first of all, you do have a camp inside Israel that is anti-apartheid, anti-occupation, amongst Jewish Israelis, who do see a different future, and Israelis will ultimately need a landing place in which they have a future and a home, just not at the expense of Palestinians.

You have a different camp, that’s not that camp. You have a parliamentary, a political and a much larger camp, which was against Netanyahu in that huge protest movement before October 7th, which continues not to trust Netanyahu, which believes that the release of the hostages should be a priority, and which, as was expressed by one of the ministers, Gadi Eisenkot, who lost a son in this war, believes that the goal that you can totally decimate Hamas is not realizable, and that Israel — he didn’t use this language, I will — should cut its losses.

So you do have strong internal pressure. Unfortunately, that is not enough yet to drive an end to this war, and it’s not being matched by the kind of external pressure we should be seeing from the U.S. administration.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, thank you so much, Daniel Levy, president of the U.S./Middle East Project and a former Israeli peace negotiator under Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin.

When we come back, journalist Jeremy Scahill on “Netanyahu’s War on Truth.” Stay with us.


Jeremy Scahill: Israel Has Waged a “Deliberate Propaganda Campaign” to Justify Brutal Gaza Assault
by Amy Goodman
February 07, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/7/i ... transcript

The United States and more than a dozen other countries quickly moved to suspend funding to UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, a vital lifeline for millions of people in Gaza, shortly after Israel accused a handful of the agency’s staff of taking part in the Hamas attack on October 7. But the U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 obtained the intelligence dossier on UNRWA that Israel shared with allied countries, and found “no evidence to support its explosive new claim.” The Financial Times and Sky News also reviewed the materials and came to the same conclusion. Israel’s claims about UNRWA are just the latest example of what journalist Jeremy Scahill says is a “deliberate propaganda campaign” to justify its brutal assault on Gaza. “This is one of the most epic frauds in modern history, reminiscent of the lies told to explain and justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq,” says Scahill, senior reporter and correspondent at The Intercept.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Nermeen Shaikh, with Amy Goodman.

A key Israeli intelligence document used by over a dozen countries, including the United States, to justify defunding UNRWA, the primary aid group for Palestinian refugees, contains no evidence to back up Israel’s claims, according to several news reports. The allegations made in the Israeli document include accusations that several UNRWA employees participated in the Hamas attack on October 7th. Britain’s Channel 4 obtained the document and found that it, quote, “provides no evidence to support its explosive new claim that UNRWA staff were involved with terror attacks on Israel.” The Financial Times, which also reviewed the materials, came to the same conclusion, as did Sky News. Now the aid agency, which is critical to providing humanitarian support in Gaza, says it will run out of funds by March as a result of the funding cuts.

The allegations made by Israel are just the latest in what journalist Jeremy Scahill calls, quote, “Israel’s information warfare campaign,” which is aimed at, quote, “flood[ing] the public discourse with a stream of false, unsubstantiated, and unverifiable allegations.” In his latest article, published today in The Intercept, Scahill writes, quote, “Nearly every week, sometimes every day, the Israeli government and military have unloaded a fresh barrage of allegations intended to justify the ongoing slaughter.” He adds, quote, “The tactic is effective, particularly because the U.S. and other major allies have consistently laundered Israel’s unverified allegations as evidence of the righteousness of the cause.”

Jeremy Scahill is a senior reporter and correspondent at The Intercept. His latest article is headlined “Netanyahu’s War on Truth: Israel’s Ruthless Propaganda Campaign to Dehumanize Palestinians.” He joins us now from Germany.

Jeremy, welcome back to Democracy Now! If you could just begin by laying out the case that you make in your latest piece?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, in the early morning hours of October 7th, members of Hamas from the Qassam Brigades, the Nukhba, their elite special forces, as well as members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, led a multipronged attack in Israel. Everyone is familiar with this. And the initial targets that they hit constituted almost the entirety of Israel’s infrastructure in what Tel Aviv calls the “Gaza envelope,” and they were able to actually quite swiftly overpower the Gaza Division, the main entity of the Israeli state responsible for enforcing the prison conditions of the people of Gaza, for carrying out drone strikes, for waging war, for conducting all manner of warfare against the people of Gaza. And then the militant Palestinian fighters made their way into a series of settlements in the area.

And the intent was quite clear: They were trying to take hostages captive so that they could negotiate the release of their own prisoners. But what they did on that day was nothing short of shattering the paradigm, of sending a message that the big lie that is promoted by Israel — not just under Netanyahu, but certainly under Netanyahu — that Israelis could somehow live in peace a stone’s throw away from what is effectively a concentration camp filled with 2.3 million people that are deprived anything vaguely resembling a human existence, that that is tenable.

And Israel was, by all accounts, caught off guard, despite the fact that its own intelligence analysts had been warning that it appeared that Hamas was preparing and training for something that was quite spectacular, and not simply some small, one-off attempts to fire rockets or even do a minor incursion into Israeli territory. And by all accounts, those were overlooked and dismissed.

And what we saw happen then, as the Palestinian fighters made their way across these various Israeli communities and overtook the Gaza Division and took many, many military personnel prisoner and brought them back to Gaza, was the Israeli government engage in sustained counteraction, including with Apache attack helicopters, with drones. When the military did finally arrive in some of these communities — and, mind you, it was hours and hours before any official Israeli security forces were responding to some of these civilian areas — they engaged in widespread firefights. At Kibbutz Be’eri, we know that eyewitnesses have said that Israel forces shelled a house, likely killing at least a dozen Israelis who were being held captive by Palestinian fighters. And so, the Israeli government then was reeling from the shock of having these crucial military bases overrun, communities being flooded with Palestinian fighters.

And within hours of these attacks happening, the Netanyahu government began to craft a very deliberate propaganda campaign to sell the United States, other Western leaders and the global public on a scorched-earth war of annihilation against Gaza. And this campaign kicked into such high gear immediately. And what they did, what was central to this, is that the Israelis began showing President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, the heads of state of NATO countries and other Western nations images and videos that they then proceeded to tell an unverified story about what they depicted. And the characterization from Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was that this was the greatest act of violence against Jewish people since the Holocaust, that the tactics that Hamas used included rape, beheading of babies, mutilation of bodies, torture of families, the bounding of children in groups, including in a nursery in one of the kibbutzes, and then engaging in mass execution of small children, setting children on fire. And President Biden, Secretary Blinken and many Western leaders then started to repeat these claims.

But what happened is that when the Israeli social security agency began to actually document the deaths on October 11th, they documented 1,139 deaths; 695 of them were civilians. And we started reviewing the public documentation of the deaths. It turns out that there was only one infant that was killed in all of the attacks combined on October 7th, a 9-month-old baby named Mila Cohen. And she was hit by a bullet during gunfire while she was in her mother’s arm. There were also — I think there were 36 children under the age of 19 that died that day. Fourteen of them were actually killed in Hamas rocket attacks. So, when journalists started actually looking then at the official death toll — and you can go — the Israelis have published the stories, the photos of many, many, many of the victims — you realize that these were all lies. It was a massive fraud that was perpetrated on the world, particularly this business about mass decapitation of babies. And Joe Biden, on numerous occasions, said that he saw actual photographic evidence of the beheading of babies and the bounding and burning alive with kerosene whole families.

And what I discovered in my research was that these stories appear to have ended up in the heads of Biden and Blinken and others based on the totally fraudulent version of events on October 7th that was offered by private Orthodox rescue operations — the most famous of them is Zaka — telling stories, you know, about a pregnant woman who had a fetus cut out of her body, and then the fetus was decapitated in front of the woman and her two children. There’s no evidence whatsoever to indicate that that happened. In fact, there’s no documentation that any pregnant woman died on October 7th. There was one pregnant woman who was shot while in her car on the way to deliver her baby. She was a Bedouin woman. And the doctors were able to save her life. They tried to deliver the baby. The baby died some hours later. But that wasn’t Hamas cutting a baby out of a stomach. And yet these lies were sold. And some of the most obscene things that Israel said, that we now know are false, were repeated by Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, in testimony in front of the Senate, by Joe Biden himself. And this has gone on and on and on. I’ve just given you a couple of the most graphic examples of this.

But what’s clear is that the Israeli government understood that they needed to sell this as like the worst crime against humanity in modern times, in order to justify a long-planned siege of Gaza that Benjamin Netanyahu — he represents the most extreme and violent version of the Israeli state project. And it’s very, very clear that they sold this fraud, and the White House laundered it, and that’s why we’ve seen — and I think 27,000 people killed in Gaza is a conservative estimate. I think it’s much greater than that, because there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home. So, this is one of the most epic frauds in modern history, reminiscent of the lies told to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, I’m wondering if we can jump for a moment to the beginning of this segment, from October 7 to the UNRWA story, that something like, what, the Israeli government was alleging 12 — and then that number got larger — members of UNRWA, which has something like 13,000 workers in Gaza, were involved with the October 7th attack. Talk about, if you will, the way you do in your piece, take apart, as Channel 4 did, as a number of news organizations have, the evidence for this, that has been used by now almost 20 countries to defund this essential organization that supports the hospitals and the schools of Gaza for over 2 million people.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, UNRWA is nothing short of the most important humanitarian organization operating in Gaza. In fact, it was explicitly established in 1949 during the Nakba, where 750,000-plus Palestinians were forced from their homes in an extermination/annihilation campaign that then paved the way for the establishment of the state of Israel in the aftermath of World War II. And the mandate of UNRWA was to care for those Palestinians and ensure that their right of return to their homes and land was going to be protected. And so, the Israeli government, certainly under Netanyahu, but under other heads of state, as well, has always wanted UNRWA eliminated, because this represents a very serious problem for the Israeli agenda of eliminating Palestinian territory in its entirety. So, just to give that context.

But then, the Israelis decide that — immediately after the International Court of Justice rules in favor of South Africa and orders provisional measures that include the prevention of genocidal acts, the stopping of killing Palestinians, that the court recognized as a protected group, and to allow, with immediate effect, the entry of aid sufficient to confront the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the Israeli war on Gaza, the Israelis then choose to open a new front and just blast the public and the ears of Western leaders with a propaganda campaign aimed at trying to get them to join the crusade to eliminate UNRWA. And Israel then prepared what it called an intelligence dossier, alleging that 12 employees of UNRWA — it has 13,000 or so employees in Gaza, 30,000 employees spread out across the Middle East where displaced Palestinians reside.

And the response from the Biden administration was to immediately announce it was suspending all funding to UNRWA. And Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted publicly that the United States had not even done its own review or investigation of these assertions that 12 members of a 30,000-member organization had some link to the October 7th attacks.

And then what happened — and this is so reminiscent of Judy Miller, The New York Times, the mushroom cloud, Dick Cheney, build-up to the War in Iraq — they go to The Wall Street Journal, and the Israelis provide the The Wall Street Journal with what the Journal then advertises as a dossier, an intelligence dossier. And they go further than the 12. They say that a full 10% of UNRWA’s Gaza staff, 1,200 employees, are connected to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and they say this is not just a few bad apples.

Well, this laundering of Israeli propaganda in the form of an article for a major American newspaper was — the lead author of that article was Carrie Keller-Lynn. She’s a new contributor to The Wall Street Journal. I started digging into who is this person, because she didn’t have a full bio on The Wall Street Journal website. Well, it turns out that she is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces. She was a militant opponent of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement when she was at university in the United States. And her close friend, who she did a joint interview with for an organization that takes American grad students to Israel, she credits her with, during the 2009 Gaza war, creating the social media strategy for the Israeli Defense Forces. This is the reporter that was the lead journalist writing this UNRWA story for The Wall Street Journal.

And once we started to draw attention to that and put photos of her in her IDF uniform and talking about her ties to someone she said helped create the social media strategy for the IDF during a previous war in Gaza, then these organizations she was affiliated with scrubbed all of these articles and photos from the internet. The Journal has locked her Twitter account.

But this was very, very clearly a sophisticated propaganda campaign, where they knew which journalists to go to, they knew which governments would buy into it. And what they got is the Biden administration now being actively complicit in violating the orders of the International Court of Justice, which has Israel under watch for potential plausible genocidal actions in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Jeremy, do you think, on the October 7th investigation, that it wasn’t simply enough for Israel to say over a thousand Israelis and other people, majority of them civilian, were killed in the Hamas attack, was not enough of a justification to go into [Gaza] and then multiply that over 27,000 [sic] times — 27 times, to more than 27,000 dead today?

JEREMY SCAHILL: The Israelis, particularly the civilians who were killed that day, deserve the truth about what happened. The Israeli government responded with very heavy firepower. There’s indications that the Hannibal Directive may have been invoked, which says that it’s better to injure and possibly even kill Israelis than let them be taken hostage. They also made sweeping allegations about sexual violence being systematically committed by Hamas, that they have provided no proof that such a systematic campaign took place. The victims in Israel deserve the truth. And the 30,000-plus Palestinians who have been murdered with American bombs, whose deaths have been justified by the killing of those Israelis, possibly including by their own government, they also deserve the truth, and they deserve justice.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Jeremy, I’m afraid, I’m sorry, we’re going to have to leave it there. Jeremy Scahill, senior reporter and correspondent at The Intercept. His latest piece, out today, “Netanyahu’s War on Truth: Israel’s Ruthless Propaganda Campaign to Dehumanize Palestinians.” And that does it for the show. I’m Nermeen Shaikh, with Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.
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