Monday, May 20, 2024

Iraq snapshot

Monday, May 20, 2024.  Julian Assange has a legal win, the ICC talks of issuing arrest warrants, Joe Biden's cool reception at Morehouse, and more.

Starting with legal news.  Tariq Tahir (THE NATIONAL) reports, "Julian Assange has been granted the right to appeal against extradition to the US to face charges in connection with WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of files relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."  Ben Quinn (GUARDIAN) notes:

 Assange had been granted permission to appeal only if the Biden administration was unable to provide the court with suitable assurances “that the applicant [Assange] is permitted to rely on the first amendment, that the applicant is not prejudiced at trial, including sentence, by reason of his nationality, that he is afforded the same first amendment [free speech] protections as a United States citizen, and that the death penalty is not imposed”.

Legal argument on Monday focused on the issue of whether Assange would be allowed first amendment protections. Assange’s team did not contest the assurance around the death penalty, accepting that it was an “unambiguous executive promise”.

The decision means Mr Assange will be able to challenge US assurances over how his prospective trial would be conducted and whether his right to free speech would be infringed.

Mr Assange’s lawyers hugged each other in court after the ruling.

Earlier on Monday, the 52-year-old’s wife Stella Assange told the BBC that it would be a "decisive" day in the protracted legal battle.

In other legal news this morning,  and Madalena Araujo (CNN) reveal:


The International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the October 7 attacks on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza, the court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Monday.

Khan said the ICC is also seeking warrants for Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as two other top Hamas leaders — Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, the leader of the Al Qassem Brigades and better known as Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader.

The warrants against the Israeli politicians mark the first time the ICC has targeted the top leader of a close ally of the United States. The decision puts Netanyahu in the company of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom the ICC issued an arrest warrant over Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

A panel of ICC judges will now consider Khan’s application for the arrest warrants.

[. . .]

 The charges against Netanyahu and Gallant include “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict,” Khan told Amanpour.     

Sunday,  US President Joe Biden spoke at Morehouse College.  CNN has video hereREUTERS notes, "Some students wore keffiyehs -- the black-and-white head scarf that has become an emblem of solidarity with the Palestinian cause --  around their gowns. A handful of students turned their backs to Biden in silent protest. Morehouse's valedictorian also called for a permanent and immediate ceasefire, garnering Biden’s applause."  John Bowden (THE INDEPENDENT) adds, "When he began speaking, one student held up a Palestinian flag and a handful turned their chairs away from him.  One faculty member was seen turning her back to him and raising a fist, while standing in silent protest."  POLITICO notes, "Some walked out when Biden was presented with an honorary degree. Many kept their heads down as he spoke and declined to stand or applaud."  NDTV reminds, "A number of Morehouse students had called for Biden's speech to be canceled over the Gaza war but the ceremony went ahead without disruption."

Today, Nandita Bose (REUTERS) reports, "Several top White House aides say they are confident protests across U.S. college campuses against Israel's offensive in Gaza will not translate into significantly fewer votes for Joe Biden in November's election, despite polls showing many Democrats are deeply unhappy about the president's policy on the war."


Well that's good to know.  Then I don't have to vote for the Democratic Party nominee whomever it is, as I announced here last year that I would.  Good to know my vote's not needed.  I can do other things with it and with my time.

You do get that's the reaction you're going to sew.

Either this is an important election where every vote will count or it's not.

You don't get to tell the public that it's an important election and also that their feelings about an important issue don't matter.

It appears Joe Biden's campaign if staffed with idiots who have no clues.

The war in Gaza rages on while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces mounting pressure from abroad and within. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan called on Netanyahu and other key Israeli officials in Jerusalem on Sunday, stressing the need for Netanyahu to agree to a “day after” plan for the Gaza Strip that he’s been long evading. As my colleagues reported, the Biden administration sees a strategic failure in Israel’s decision to invade the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah — a move long opposed by both Western governments and international humanitarian organizations — and fears Netanyahu’s current course “is not worth the cost in terms of human lives and destruction, cannot achieve its objective, and will ultimately undermine broader U.S. and Israeli goals in the Middle East.”
Netanyahu has scoffed at calls for plotting peace while fighting the war, arguing that it distracts from fully defeating Hamas. Experts warn that may be an impossibility and Israel’s own security establishment is getting increasingly vocal in its frustrations with the prime minister’s prevarications. On Saturday, Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s erstwhile rival and current member of the country’s war cabinet, threatened to quit if the prime minister did not come forward with a “comprehensive” plan by next month prioritizing the release of hostages and an alternative governing structure for the territory, among other things.  

Saturday, Laura Barron Lopez (PBS NEWS WEEKEND) explained, "Tonight, there is turmoil within Israel's government. Benny Gantz, a centrist in Benjamin Netanyahu's War Cabinet is threatening to quit if a government does not adopt a new plan for the war in Gaza by June 8th." AP noted, "His announcement on Saturday escalates a divide within Israel’s leadership more than seven months into a war in which it has yet to accomplish its stated goals of dismantling Hamas and returning scores of hostages abducted in the Oct. 7 attack."  Daniel Estrin (NPR) added, "The ultimatum by Benny Gantz, a former army chief and current minister in Israel's three-member war cabinet, reflects growing discontent among Israel's leadership about the protracted war in Gaza and Netanyahu's far-right political partners. The move could pose a significant challenge to the stability of Netanyahu's government." Christy Cooney (BBC NEWS) provided this context, "Mr Gantz was speaking just days after another war cabinet member, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, urged Mr Netanyahu to state publicly that Israel had no plans to take over civilian and military rule in Gaza."

Saturday also saw some US doctors leave Palestine.  KITABAT notes that 20 American doctors arrived in Gaza at the start of the month and the closing of the Rafah crossing (by the government of Israel) left the doctors stranded.  17 of them were able to leave Saturday.  YENI SAFAK reported:

The doctors were part of a group of international doctors trapped at the European Hospital near KHan Younis in the Gaza Strip after Israel's closing of Rafah crossing.

Speaking at a briefing, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said those "who wanted to leave" came out on Friday. He did not provide further details.

"I won't speak for the other three, but just I can assure you that any of them that wanted to leave are out now," he told reporters.

Dr. Ammar Ghanem was one of the 17 trapped in Gaza.

The doctor is also one who returned to the US.  Marnie Munoz (DETROIT FREE PRESS) reports:

Dr. Ammar Ghanem, who went to Gaza on a medical relief mission and had been stranded by an Israeli blockade there since May 6, returned on Saturday and was greeted as a hero by a crowd of family and friends at Detroit Metro airport.

Ghanem of West Bloomfield Township immediately embraced his children, who said they had been eagerly waiting at the international arrivals gate for his last flight home from Frankfurt to land.

"It was the best day of my life," his daughter, 10-year-old Haneen Ghanem, said of the moment she learned he would be able to safely return.

Some doctors on the the medical mission chose to remain in Gaza, despite escalated danger with Israel's latest military assault, Ghanem said.

"Those are the real heroes," he said.

ABC NEWS notes, "Tamer Hassan, a registered nurse, Dr. Jomana Al-Hinti and Dr. Adam Hamawy were the only ones out of a group of 20 American medical professionals who stayed behind to help treat patients."  One of the three,  Adam Hamawy,  spoke with NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED Saturday:


We begin tonight's program in Gaza, where, despite aid trucks now coming ashore from a floating pier, the humanitarian situation remains dire. One area where that's especially true is medical care. Supplies are low, and doctors are scarce. Adam Hamawy is an experienced combat surgeon and U.S. Army veteran who is currently in Gaza. He refused an evacuation when he realized he would have to leave colleagues behind. In a statement released today, he had strong words for U.S. leadership. Quote - "I want our president to know that we are not safe." He added, "as a doctor, I cannot abandon the remaining members of my team, and as a former soldier, I cannot abandon my fellow Americans."

We reached Dr. Hamawy earlier today via WhatsApp. Doctor, welcome.

ADAM HAMAWY: Thank you very much for having me.

KURTZLEBEN: Of course. I'm hearing some background noise there. Tell us where you are right now.

HAMAWY: I am right across the street from the European hospital. There's a nursing college here, and this is where most of the doctors and staff stay when, you know, their families are elsewhere, just so that they could be close to the hospital and not have to travel at night.

KURTZLEBEN: I do want to talk more about this statement that you made. It's really powerful. And in it, you call on President Biden and other world leaders to, quote, "use their full influence to ensure medical personnel can continue their critical work without being put in harm's way," end quote. Now, we know that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Biden aren't always in agreement on Gaza. So to you, what does a change in policy here look like? What would that help look like?

HAMAWY: It's basically abiding with our international agreements that have been in place for a long time. There are no - there's no one that argues that - you know, there's the Geneva Convention. There's like, the rules of war where like, once you have medical personnel involved, any combatant who's injured, anyone who's providing medical care should be allowed to do that safely. And that's something that we have tried to honor in the past. That's something that we try to enforce on others when they don't do it. So this should not be the exception. Here we have doctors that have been consistently been targeted. We have hospitals that have been consistently been targeted.

The mood here in the hospital, especially since many of the Americans have left, is that there's a sense of fear now because there's a risk that is not unprecedented that this hospital is going to be next. And already since the last two days, there have been people leaving. There's less patients coming, and there's plans to move operations to other locations in the near future, especially when the remaining humanitarian workers like myself leave the hospital at some point.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. I did want to ask you about the mood in the hospital among the patients you're treating, their families. How much hope or, on the other hand, fear are you hearing from them?

HAMAWY: Everyone is asking us. Everyone is asking, are you leaving? Are you leaving also? Everyone's asking about the ones who left by name. Like, when I tell them that, yes, they did leave, and we're still here with you, they just go silent because everyone knows that this is not going to be a long-term thing. And everyone understands that there's a limit and this won't go on forever. So they don't have to say anything. You could just see it in their eyes. And you could feel it. I mean, the halls are much emptier now than when I first came, and, you know, a little bit more empty now than it was two days ago.

 Let's drop back to Friday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

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

Israel is intensifying its bombardment of the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, destroying dozens of residential buildings in heavy airstrikes overnight and pushing residents to flee to other parts of the city. This comes as Israel is vowing to escalate its ground attack in the southernmost city of Rafah, with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant saying Thursday additional troops would enter Rafah and that military operations will intensify in the city. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said Thursday, quote, “The battle in Rafah is critical,” unquote.

One-point-four million Palestinians — over half of Gaza’s population — had been displaced to Rafah seeking shelter. Now more than 600,000 have fled Rafah over the past week and a half since Israel launched its ground offensive there. Since then, no food, fuel or other aid has entered the two main border crossings in southern Gaza, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. Some 1.1 million Palestinians are on the brink of starvation, according to the U.N., while a full-blown famine is taking place in the north, this confirmed by the World Food Programme.

The developments come as the International Court of Justice has wrapped up two days of hearings in The Hague after South Africa’s request last week for emergency measures to halt Israel’s assault on Rafah. It marked the third time the U.N.'s top court held hearings on Gaza since South Africa filed a case in December accusing Israel of committing genocide. On Thursday, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusimuzi Madonsela, urged the court to order Israel to “totally and unconditionally withdraw” from the Gaza Strip.

VUSIMUZI MADONSELA: When we last appeared before this court to halt this genocidal process, to preserve Palestine and its people, instead, Israel’s genocide has continued apace and has just reached a new and horrific stage. Israel has sought to hide its crimes through the weaponization of international humanitarian law. It pretends that the civilians it ruthlessly kills, through its 2,000-pound bombs, through its targeted airstrikes, through its artificial intelligence systems, through its executions, are human shields. This whitewashing of Israel’s genocide misses the key and fundamental element, that of the massive and still mounting evidence of Israel’s genocidal intent.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel presented its defense at the World Court today and denied it’s carrying out a genocide in Gaza. This is the head of the Israeli delegation to the court, Gilad Noam.

GILAD NOAM: South Africa presents the court yet again, for the fourth time within the scope of less than five months, with a picture that is completely divorced from the facts and circumstances. Israel is engaged in a difficult and tragic armed conflict. South Africa ignores this factual context, which is essential in order to comprehend the situation, and also ignores the applicable legal framework of international humanitarian law. It makes a mockery of the heinous charge of genocide.

AMY GOODMAN: The International Court of Justice today ordered representatives for Israel to submit more information about humanitarian conditions in its so-called evacuation zones in Gaza. This comes as foreign ministers from 13 countries have signed onto a letter warning Israel to halt its ground operations in Rafah and to get more aid to Palestinians. The letter is signed by all G7 members minus the United States.

For more, we’re joined by longtime Israeli journalist Amira Hass. Born in 1956 in Jerusalem, her parents Holocaust survivors, she’s the Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, based in Ramallah. She’s the only Israeli Jewish journalist to have spent 30 years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. Her books include Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege. Amira Hass is the recipient of the 2024 Columbia Journalism Award. And on Wednesday, she addressed the graduating class of the Columbia Journalism School here in New York. She now joins us in our New York studio.

Amira, welcome to Democracy Now!

AMIRA HASS: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Congratulations on your award, but more importantly on your reporting. You are so unusual in Israel as the only Israeli Jewish journalist who lived in the Occupied Territories for the last 30 years. As you gave your address to the Columbia Journalism School, a number of its students threatened by New York police to even step outside the school when they were trying to cover the Gaza Solidarity Encampment outside, as police moved in, and, ultimately, I think, the number of arrests on campus numbered more than 200. Can you talk about the coming together of the issues that you cover, and what you feel it’s so important that journalists should understand about their role in society?

AMIRA HASS: As I said in my address to the students, it is — if I want to sum it up not in a professional way or like a teacher-like way, is to resist the normalization of evil and of injustice, because we are so used to so — there is so much injustice in this world, not in — everywhere. And we have to use our — the unwritten social contract between us and citizens the world over to scrutinize, to monitor, to challenge power, centers of power, the abusive power. Any power can be abusive or is abusive, only we have the power to at least try and restrain it. I think this is — this should be the role — not the only role, but this should be a main role of journalists, to restrain power, wherever it is being manifested.

AMY GOODMAN: Ever the journalist, in your J school address, you quoted a friend in Gaza. This is particularly important as —


AMY GOODMAN: — what happened just feet from where the school is. If you can tell us who he is —


AMY GOODMAN: — and what he said?

AMIRA HASS: Yeah. Just a few — two weeks before the address, I received a WhatsApp from a friend called Bassam Nasser. I met him in the early '90s when he was still a student. And we haven't been in touch for many years. He’s a father of four. He’s heading a aid institution or center in Gaza. He was displaced, like so many others, from Gaza to Rafah to save his life. His house, I know, is in ruins now in Gaza. And now he had to flee again with his family from — and the institution, from Rafah to Deir al-Balah in the center. And he sent me a very — he, from time to time, writes something on WhatsApp in English, and I guess he shares it with some others, and he shares his thoughts and feelings. And he shared with me something concerning the demonstrations and protests in American campuses. And I thought, of course, fit to bring it to the — to read it. So I can read it now. Sorry. And this is from the talk and what I — the quote that I brought on Wednesday to the students.

“A glimmer of hope emerges from university students demonstrating the enduring presence of humanity. Panicked, hypocritical politicians swiftly resort to force in order to quell the movement, fearing its global expansion. Repression is enacted to stifle voices challenging the status quo. Police and National Guards are deployed, arresting students who were expelled just hours earlier for speaking out against the violence in Palestine. From Gaza to New York and other major cities worldwide, I want to express deep gratitude for these voices. While you may not be able to save every child in Gaza or restore our shattered lives and dreams, and your efforts won’t prevent the next devastating airstrike that will wipe out our entire family, on behalf of every Palestinian, I want to express heartfelt appreciation for raising awareness to our plight.” And I know he’s not the only one. I mean, I know that if there was some kind of, really, a ray of hope in people’s life in — people’s hell — it’s not life — in the last month, are those demonstrations and protests.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, I wanted to go to someone else talking about those protests. You gave your graduation address on Wednesday at the Columbia Journalism School. The president, Minouche Shafik, had canceled the main graduation ceremony because of the protests. But yesterday, faculty, to say the least, completely exhausted, organized a People’s Graduation. Columbia students and faculty celebrated an alternative People’s Graduation as they gathered for a ceremony just nearby at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, with many students wearing their blue graduation gowns. On the stage with the professors was the Reverend Herbert Daughtry, the New York civil rights leader who was an early mentor to now-Mayor Eric Adams, who’s claimed the protests at Columbia were, quote, “coopted by professional outside agitators.” But among the speakers who addressed the students was the poet Fady Joudah, who read his poem, “Dedication,” about Palestinians killed by Israel; the Palestinian American lawyer and human rights activist Noura Erakat; and the award-winning journalist Mona Chalabi, who has rejected her 2023 Pulitzer Prize and has been highly critical of Gaza coverage by mainstream U.S. media outlets. In her address, she paid tribute to the student journalists in the audience who covered the Gaza encampment, often while facing arrest themselves.

MONA CHALABI: Hi, habibis. I’m just going to talk to you for two minutes, because I have the huge honor of acknowledging my fellow journalists in the room. So, as many of you know, our institutions have failed us these past seven months, and long before that. Writers and editors at some of the most respected newsrooms have told lies about what is happening in Gaza. They have said that death threats falling from the skies are evacuation orders. They have described forced displacement as migration. They have issued warnings to their staff, telling them not to use words like “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide.” In short, they’ve used their reporting to minimize the suffering in Gaza and maintain a status quo. And they’ve had that reporting honored by the Pulitzers. They’ve even sought to —


MONA CHALABI: They’ve even sought to discredit or ignore Palestinian journalists, like Hind, who face death every day.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I heard what happened last month. A reporter at The New York Times was told that something seemed to be happening at Columbia University. Students appeared to have claimed a lawn as theirs. So, like any breaking news story, a select channel had been created for the journalists to discuss details and assign stories. This is what they do at The New York Times. When this reporter joined the select channel, they were surprised to find that it had been titled “Antisemitism on Campus.” They had decided what the story was before they even took a train uptown.


MONA CHALABI: Meanwhile, journalists on campus have had a very different perspective. You had begun reporting before a single tent was assembled. You have not only witnessed the encampments, you listened to the chants, you read the signs, and you spoke to the organizers. You did the work, and you did it so well that journalists like me off campus turned to your words, your Instagram accounts, and we listened to your radio stations if we wanted the truth.

And you did that truth telling while cops harassed, assaulted and arrested you and your fellow students. And you did it all while trying to graduate and to grieve. That is true for anti-Zionist Jewish students who were having their faith questioned by those who want them to fall silent. It’s true for students whose parents look like the mothers and fathers being killed every day. And it is especially true for the Palestinian students who continue to report the facts while navigating unbearable grief. I am so proud to call you my colleagues. Would the journalists in the room please stand?

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the award-winning journalist Mona Chalabi, who just won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize, though she rejected it. At the award ceremony, Mona called out fellow journalists for their unwillingness to say the word “Palestine.” She donated her $15,000 prize money to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate to help fight what she talked about as the asymmetry of information that elevates Israeli voices over Palestinian ones in the mainstream media. She was addressing the People’s Graduation yesterday at St. John the Divine for the Columbia and Barnard students.

Amira Hass, as you listen to Mona and you think about also the Palestinian journalists who have died in Gaza, the astounding number of journalists who have died —

AMIRA HASS: Who have been killed.

AMY GOODMAN: Who have been killed.


AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that, then. And do you feel that they were directly targeted, so often wearing the press vests and the helmets?


AMY GOODMAN: I remember one Palestinian journalist, as he heard about his dear friend just having been killed, ripped off his press and helmet and said, “Why are we wearing these? They just make us a target.”

AMIRA HASS: Yeah. I guess, you know, one part in me wants to think that this is not true, I mean, that they were killed because they are in places which are dangerous and because they circulate a lot, I mean, move around in times when people try not to move around. I think there is what we call a finger — I think, a fingerprint targeting or profiling, because anybody who uses a drone, even for filming, for photographing, is considered by the people behind the Israeli assaulting drones, or Predator drones, as somebody who is part of the fighting units, so they kill them automatically without checking if they are only taking photos. So, I think there is a variety of excuses or explanation that Israel would give. But certainly, in some cases, they were connecting journalists to the 7th of October or to other activities completely not as journalists and wanting to take revenge of them. But this has to be checked, and I think it is being checked by several venues, each one case.

But certainly, when there are so many people, so many journalists killed, it shows that there is a pattern. And our role is to discover the pattern. But there are patterns of other things. There are patterns of whole families who are being killed, so 40, 30, 35. So, you can say that you are targeting one of the family, which means that you allow the killing of — let’s say that this one person is very dangerous to the security of Israel. Then it means that you allow yourself to kill 30 people, 40 people, 25 people, including children, including babies, for one person. So this is a pattern. We can learn about it from the reality. We don’t need to have secret documents for it. But it was so. There is a very important investigation by Yuval Abraham of +972, who did talk to intelligence, soldiers in the intelligence, and proved that there is an Israeli OK to kill so-and-so many for one person.

AMY GOODMAN: And we interviewed Yuval —


AMY GOODMAN: — on Democracy Now! talking about the AI programs Lavender and Where’s Daddy?

AMIRA HASS: Yes, yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you have the killing of journalists and then the banning of journalists. And I wanted to go for a moment — I think it was two days after World Press Freedom Day that Israel banned Al Jazeera inside —


AMY GOODMAN: — the country, police officers raiding the network’s Jerusalem bureau, seizing broadcast equipment. Over the past seven months, Al Jazeera, one of the only international outlets with reporters on the ground inside Gaza — a few of whom were killed. This is a prerecorded video message by Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan from East Jerusalem.

IMRAN KHAN: If you’re watching this prerecorded report, then Al Jazeera has been banned in the territory of Israel. On April the 1st, the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, passed a law that allowed the prime minister to ban Al Jazeera. He’s now enacted that law.

Let me just take you through some of the definitions within the law. They’ve banned our website, including anything that has the option of entering or accessing the website, even passwords that are needed, whether they’re paid or not, and whether it’s stored on Israeli servers or outside of Israel. The website is now inaccessible. They’re also banning any device used for providing content. That includes my mobile phone. If I use that to do any kind of news gathering, then the Israelis can simply confiscate it. Our internet access provider, the guy that simply hosts, is also in danger of being fined if they host the website. The Al Jazeera TV channel, completely banned. Transmission by any kind of content provider is also banned, and holding offices or operating them in the territory of Israel by the channel. Also, once again, any devices used to provide content for the channel can be taken away by the Israelis.

It’s a wide-ranging ban. We don’t know how long it will be in place for, but it does cover this territory of the state of Israel.

Imran Khan, Al Jazeera, occupied East Jerusalem.

AMY GOODMAN: And that was his last report from occupied East Jerusalem. Now Al Jazeera reporters say, when they’re reporting from, for example, Amman, “We are banned from Israel.” But interestingly, Amira Hass, you don’t have the same thing happening with CNN and MSNBC. No, they’re not banned from reporting in Israel, but they are not allowed by Israel to go into Gaza. And each time they have a report outside of Gaza, they don’t say, “And we want to remind you, we are not on the ground in Gaza because the Israeli government has prevented that.”

AMIRA HASS: I cannot — I don’t watch them when I’m in Ramallah. But I want to say that when it comes to the Israeli public, it doesn’t matter if Al Jazeera are inside Israel or not inside Israel. The general Israeli public does not want to know about what’s happening in Gaza. And the Israeli media does not show anything. I mean, they show very, very, very few images of the destruction. They give very little information and footage of the death, of the wounded people. I mean, there is no relation between what is happening and what is shown on Al Jazeera and what the Israeli media shows.

But it is not — it is not a dictate from above. It is not state censorship, unlike with Al Jazeera. It is a decision of most of the Israeli venues, most of the Israeli media venues, especially the TV, of course, not to show those horrible scenes, that might give some sense to some Israelis that this is, not morally, but this is — logically, cannot produce — cannot produce a change in Palestinian attitudes or a change for accepting Israel or accepting Israeli right to exist, etc., etc., for eight months it launches such an onslaught of revenge and supremacy against them. But the Israeli public is not looking for it, is not searching for it, in general. I mean, of course there are exceptions, like the Israeli left wing, Israeli activists, Israeli human rights activists, political leftist activists. Of course, there are exceptions, so it’s not the entire society. And, of course, there are the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. But the banning of Al Jazeera is not the reason why Israelis do not see — do not see the reality in Gaza. And this is not the reason. This is the choice not to know.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, hostage families — you don’t even see in the U.S. media hostage families saying, “End this war.” You certainly see them talking about the horror of —


AMY GOODMAN: — their loved ones being held in Gaza. But the second part of it, for a number of these hostage families, are “End the war now.”

AMIRA HASS: Yeah, number, not all, but number, yes, of course. But this is the American media. I mean, it’s not — we do know that there are families among the hostage families that do speak differently than the choir.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the Nakba, about what happened in 1948 and what’s happening today, when we come back from break. We’re speaking with longtime Israeli journalist Amira Hass, Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She’s based in Ramallah. And she lived in Gaza for three years, wrote a book called Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege. She’s the only Israeli journalist to have lived in the Occupied Territories for decades. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Composer and pianist Vijay Iyer performing “Kite” during the People’s Graduation Thursday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. He dedicated the song to the Palestinian writer and poet Refaat Alareer, who was killed in December by an Israeli airstrike along with his brother, sister and four of his nieces, children.

This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with the longtime Israeli journalist Amira Hass, the Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She’s now based in Ramallah, the only Israeli Jewish journalist to have spent 30 years in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. Among her books, Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege, and editing her mother’s memoir from Bergen-Belsen, from the concentration camp. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

Talk about what happened 76 years ago this week, May 15th, Amira, and talk about what’s happening today.

AMIRA HASS: I’ll start from with today, because I think that we — look, there is a country with two peoples, Palestinians and Jews. And we can have a long discussion, historiographical discussion, and debate about how it came about that there are two peoples in this country and why in 1948 there was a state for Jews established, while the U.N. resolution about a state for Palestinians — Arabs, as they were called — was not established. It doesn’t change the fact that there are two peoples. And it doesn’t change the fact that people want to live in their homeland. It doesn’t change the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, Palestinian refugees, who were — or hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were chased out of the country, of their homeland, in 1948, and that, by now, with their children and grandchildren, there are several millions, and they see this country as their country, as their homeland. And it doesn’t change the fact that there are Israeli Jews who see Israel and the country as their country.

And there is a decision that has to be made. Do they want to live, do they want their grandchildren to live, and live well, in that country, in justice? Or do they want to send their grandchildren and children for wars forever, that will force some people, who have the money, who have the talents, who have the contacts, to emigrate, and for others to remain and to live in destitute and in hunger and in ignorance for the rest of their lives and their — I don’t know — for the end of the generations, or until the world expires? So, this is why we feel that we still live the Nakba and the outcomes of the Nakba, because there is no —

AMY GOODMAN: The Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe.”

AMIRA HASS: For “catastrophe” — because there is no acknowledgment that you cannot live in this unbearable injustice, that one people has the rights and one people controls and dictates the life of the other people in the land. The thing is that we have to acknowledge there are two peoples in the land, and peoples have rights. And right now we deprive the Palestinians of their very basic rights, not only the basic right of life, as we see going on in Gaza right now, but on the normal days of occupation, we deprive them of water, freedom of movement, land, housing rights, planning, travel, living with their families, choosing their university, developing their economy, prospering, investing, all these things. At any moment, Israeli soldiers can confiscate millions of dollars from Palestinians for one pretext or another. Israeli settlers carry out Israeli policies, but in much more zeal, and confiscate land, take over land. I mean, Palestinians’ life is never — they are never safe. They never live in security, for more than 75 years, in both sides of the Green Line, both in Israel and the territory occupied in ’67.

So, there has to be a decision by Israeli people: Do we want to live for — we came — Israel was established so that Jews will feel secure and live normally. This is not normal life. They pretended that this is normal life, that we can occupy another people and feel normal. No, on the 7th of October, with all the atrocities and the enormous suffering that families and the casualties and the victims on 7th of October are living through, all this suffering and the, really, trauma, terrible trauma and cruelty, but this was a kind of a very expected answer by Hamas and by Palestinians to yearslong atrocities perpetuated by Israel and perpetrated by Israel.

And the main thing is the refusal, refusal to accept and to acknowledge the national rights of Palestinians for statehood. They were ready for it in the '90s, I know. I know that the Israelis try to switch everything around and say that they sabotaged the Oslo agreement. Not correct. And this is one of the things that I followed very closely, how Israel did everything, from the beginning, under the guise of a peace process, did everything possible to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian side alongside Israel. And there is a — you know, we go back all the time to this, because all the time Israelis say that it's the opposite. But they completely avoid all the evidence.

So, Israel did — what Israel did during the last 30 years is to prove to the world and to the Palestinians that the Palestinians were right from the beginning of the '30s and the ’40s, when they said that Israel is a colonial entity or a settler-colonial entity. Israel had the chance in 1993 to stop its settler-colonial activity in the West Bank and Gaza and to say, “OK, we don't go back to '48. Let's start for now and build a different, a new phase, a new historical phase.” It did the opposite. It continued with its bans on Palestinian construction, on Palestinian development. It disconnected Palestinians from each other, disconnected Gaza from the West Bank, started to fragment more and more the West Bank by roads that are meant only for Jews. And this is in the '90s. This is in the ’90s. Rabin said himself he did not want — he was not opting for a state. So this is the question of Israeli settler colonialism. It's Israel that proved that it’s settler-colonial.

And we live with it now with all of this abnormalcy. Israeli Jews wanted to live normally, happily. You go to Tel Aviv, you think you are in New York or you’re in London — and 40, 50 kilometers away, Palestinians live in cages, in cages disconnected from each other, and everything is dictated by Israel — the quantity of water. In my place, in my home in al-Bireh, in summer, we have — the water quantities are rationed, because there is not enough water. But when you go to a nearby settlement, it’s lush. It’s green in so much water they have. Israeli ranchers take over by violence, take over hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of dunams, something that built settlements could not do. And they do it by violence and by the assistance and silence or indifference or encouragement of the Israeli authorities — the police, the army, the prosecution, everybody.

So, this is — when Palestinians say that the Nakba is ongoing, they don’t only mean — they mean Gaza, of course. And for many people, as I know, they feel that what’s the carnage in Gaza now is much worse than they experienced in 1948. But it’s also the — Israel took the Palestinian life and liberty and freedom as hostage for the past 70 years, 75 years, all over, in many forms. Inside Israel, Palestinians do not dare to speak out, because then they will be — if they just say a word, like if they say the word ”shahid,” which is “martyr,” and they mourn the deaths of so many Palestinians in Gaza, they might be taken. They might be arrested for incitement. So —

AMY GOODMAN: If they use the word “martyr”?

AMIRA HASS: Yeah, like on Facebook. I don’t — in Facebook, you see that they — or “martyr” or something like this. I mean, it’s just an example of how people are afraid to use words that are very normal. Even a sentence from the Qur’an can be taken as a proof that they are — that they support Hamas. So —

AMY GOODMAN: As you talk about Gaza and the West Bank, let’s talk more about the West Bank. Thousands of people have been arrested. Hundreds have been killed since October 7th. You talk about what you call the Smotrich plan. Bezalel Smotrich, now the minister of finance since 2022.

AMIRA HASS: Yeah, and he is a minister also in the Ministry of Defense, and he’s responsible on the settlements, actually, on the development of the settlements of the West Bank.

AMY GOODMAN: Both he and Ben-Gvir are settlers.

AMIRA HASS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. He published in 2017 something called the Decisive Plan, which actually says that the Palestinians have to accept that they will never have a state, that we will never be equal citizens in this country, and they can enjoy their individual rights. If they don’t want, they can go, they can emigrate, which is, of course, the preferable option for him. And then, if they refuse both and they resist — sometimes he says “violently resist,” sometimes he says “resist” — they will — the army will know, or the security apparatus will know how to deal with it. And it was, in one way or the other, interpreted as, “OK, they will be killed.” He rejected when people — people assumed that he meant that civilians will be killed. He rejected this.

But anyway, we see now that what is happening is the implementation of the Decisive Plan. But it shows that, all over, Palestinians are targeted for any — as a message that if you want to live in peace, I mean, normally, or seemingly or quasi-normally, you have to be silent. You shouldn’t say anything. You certainly should not demonstrate. You certainly shouldn’t take arms. You certainly shouldn’t convene, do something to show support. Even defend yourself, protect yourself from settlers’ violence can cause you an arrest.

So, this message — and Smotrich would not have succeeded to such an extent if the state has not prepared the ground and has not really been in the same position for the last 20 years at least. So, it’s not that Smotrich is such a genius that he can — or so powerful that he can impose his position on the rest of the government. In a way, he is, because, I mean, he knows where Netanyahu is vulnerable. He knows how much also the Orthodox Jews want this government to continue. But the fact that, in practice, all Israeli authorities are part of the repression of the Palestinians, in so many ways, and in such a way that is so similar to Smotrich’s plans, shows that it has been in the DNA of the system of this deep state for so many years.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up this discussion, where do you see what’s happening right now? Just as we sat down, Israel finished its defense for the emergency appeal by South Africa to prevent it from a full-scale ground offensive in Rafah, Israel insisting that aid is coming through with ease at all the entry points, and South Africa saying they must be stopped. How do you see this ending?

AMIRA HASS: Right now I hope that the judges will move, because the way that Israel has been able for almost six months to play and to drag it into — and how the Western countries allow this to continue without putting leverage, that they have, on Israel in order to stop the carnage and the famine and the starvation, and the deliberate starvation, our hopes now are with the judges, that they will see that Israel is lying.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about with the United States? I mean, you have President Biden now announcing $1 billion of military weapons in the pipeline for Israel, including $700 million for tank ammunition, $500 million in tactical vehicles, $60 million in mortar rounds. The significance of what position the U.S. takes and what Biden is doing?

AMIRA HASS: He supports Israel to continue the war. I mean, I see no other explanation to this. I mean, all his words that he’s worried about Rafah or famine or whatever, so it’s such hypocrisy that I feel almost speechless. You think, on the one hand, they are sending aid, or they say that they are sending aid, but it takes so long, and it is so little. And on the other hand, they encourage Israel to continue with the war against Gaza, where we see that already Israel is defeated. I mean, it’s defeated. If such a huge military power is still fighting Hamas after eight months, it doesn’t give anything good to the Israelis, I mean, except of some groups that want it to continue. But —

AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.

AMIRA HASS: Yeah. But for the majority of Israelis, it’s clear that the majority of Israelis understand, even though they support the war, on the one hand, they understand it’s against them, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Longtime Israeli journalist and author Amira Hass, Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

Gaza remains under assault. Day 227 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  THE NATIONAL notes, "Gaza death toll reaches 35,456, with 79,476 wounded."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:


On bodies trapped under rubble, ALJAZEERA notes this morning:

We’re talking about a three-storey building that housed not only residents but also dozens of other displaced Palestinians in Rafah that made it to Nuseirat three days ago.

I met the neighbours. I met the family. I met one of the relatives of people still trapped under the rubble earlier today. They were telling me heartbreaking things.

Imagine escaping the air strikes in Rafah, looking for a safe space but being killed after three days of evacuating – not only being killed but being trapped where the Civil Defence teams do not have any equipment to remove or pull these people from under the rubble.

I saw Civil Defence teams doing their best to pull people from under the rubble. They were digging with their bare hands, with very basic tools. This was not the first time we have seen this scene. We have been seeing this for more than seven months now.

Unfortunately, it may come to a point where the Civil Defence teams will give up on this house because there are more people being targeted every single hour across the Gaza Strip.

April 11th, Sharon Zhang (TRUTHOUT) reported, "In addition to the over 34,000 Palestinians who have been counted as killed in Israel’s genocidal assault so far, there are 13,000 Palestinians in Gaza who are missing, a humanitarian aid group has estimated, either buried in rubble or mass graves or disappeared into Israeli prisons.  In a report released Thursday, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that the estimate is based on initial reports and that the actual number of people missing is likely even higher."

As for the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."

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