June 17, 2021

Amira Hass: Israeli Bombs Are Wiping Out Entire Palestinian Families. It’s No Accident.

10 min read

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we continue to look at Israel’s attack on Gaza. We’re joined now by longtime Israeli journalist Amira Hass, correspondent for Haaretz in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She’s the only Israeli Jewish journalist to have spent over 25 years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. Her latest piece is headlined “Gaza Lives Erased: Israel Is Wiping Out Entire Palestinian Families on Purpose.”
Amira Hass, welcome back to Democracy Now! as you join us from Ramallah in the West Bank. Yesterday, there was a general strike, a protest in Gaza, in East Jerusalem, inside Israel, in the West Bank and around the world. Four Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, where you are. Can you talk about the situation overall?
AMIRA HASS: Hi, Amy and Juan.
Well, as you described it so well over the past 20 minutes or so, it’s a whole — it’s [inaudible]. It’s one country where the Palestinians are being attacked, on the one hand, but, on the other hand, they are rebelling, so — all over. And I think that we should not underestimate the political and military achievement of Hamas to paralyze Israeli normal [inaudible] for the past 10 days. It’s terrible, because we think about the hell through which people in Gaza live because of the Israeli offensive, but at the same time we have to remember that it was a calculated decision by Hamas to respond to Israeli escalation in Jerusalem during the Ramadan month, to respond by a military ultimatum, and then by the launching of rockets, which do put Israelis in a state of fear.
And this is — when we think about the balance of power, it’s an achievement for Hamas, and it is seen by — [inaudible] achievement by many a Palestinian. It’s a way to say to Israel, “You have not listened to — you have not responded to Palestinian requests for a just solution for addressing Palestinian demands in a diplomatic way or to Palestinian popular unarmed uprisings. So we escalate, because you escalate and because you don’t listen.” And I think this puts Hamas as the main Palestinian political actor in the region and in the world.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Amira, you’ve been writing also about the Palestinian families obliterated by the Israeli bombings. You wrote in Haaretz today, “The numerous incidents of killing entire families in Israeli bombings in Gaza — Parents and children, babies, grandparents, siblings — attest that these were not mistakes. The bombings follow a decision from higher up, backed by the approval of military jurists.” Can you elaborate on that?
AMIRA HASS: That’s right. Israel has all the information about every Palestinian family, whether it is in the West Bank or Jerusalem or Gaza, let alone Palestinians in Israel. So it has control over the Palestinian registry of population. Actually, no detail in this population registry is valid without Israeli approval. So Palestinians update regularly, update the Israeli authorities about any newborn. So Israel must know, or Israeli authorities and the Israeli military must know, that in a certain house there are three children, one of them was born just half a year ago, and there are two women and two elderly women. So, all these details are there.
And when Israel decides to or the Israeli army decides to bomb such a house without bothering to tell the people to leave it, it means they take into — they had a calculation that their military target is more important or is worthy — excuse my language — is worthy of killing 10 children and five women. It’s just an example. This was the characteristic of the war in 2014. There were 142 families which number between three to more people who were eradicated by Israeli bombings. And so far, there were, I think, 15 families in this current offensive, 15 families that were killed in a similar way. So, we can say maybe once one family or two were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But when it is persisting and when we know that these people were killed before dawn in their own homes, it means that somebody just decided that this was OK.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you about the role of the United States, on the one hand, clearly preventing the U.N. Security Council from censuring Israel, and President Biden publicly saying that Israel has a right to defend itself, but then his aides claiming to the press that, privately, he’s being a lot tougher with Netanyahu, telling him he’s only got — his patience is wearing thin and that the attacks have to stop. This has happened so many times in the past, where the United States publicly says one thing but claims to be privately a lot tougher. I’m wondering your assessment of the U.S. role right now.
AMIRA HASS: You know much better than me. And I must say that in the last days also, I hardly followed international news, or I’m most of the time following what is happening in Gaza. But in principle, and as usual, you know, it is very disappointing, because we’ve heard that in other terrains, the Biden administration did manage to cut off from the traditional former government, former administrations, and certainly the administration of Trump. But here again, this absolute loyalty to Israel tells us that they have a lot of — that all of these military interests, common interests, still benefit the Israeli occupation machine. We do hope — we know that there has been a change in American public opinion, but we see it’s not enough and that the power of Israeli — or the appeal of Israeli military know-how and military expertise and military arms is still stronger than the voice of the people with common sense in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: While Biden has said he supports a ceasefire, he hasn’t demanded one of Netanyahu and has actively, at the U.N., prevented resolutions from getting passed at the U.N. Security Council. What difference would that make? And can you talk about how this conflict serves Netanyahu — who’s on trial for corruption, could not form even a coalition government — keeps him in power, that it’s in his interest, as he says, to continue the bombing into the future?
AMIRA HASS: First of all, if there is a ceasefire, we know that Palestinian lives will be saved. So every minute is precious. And this is — and we are all anxious for this to happen. And we all know that we will mourn the people that might be killed if the delay — if there is a longer delay. And it seems [inaudible]. I don’t know.
I mean, but, certainly, for Netanyahu and for the right wing, in general, the war — and usually wars, I think, benefit the right wing and benefit the oppressors. Of course, it completely erased the possibility that a different government will be formed here. It brought closer together the different right-wing factions that before maybe had some disagreement because of Netanyahu. I don’t know.
You know, some people, some Israeli journalists say that it was all calculated on the part of Netanyahu. I doubt it, because the big picture is that it is in the whole Ramadan — the Israeli policies in Jerusalem during the Ramadan, the repressive policies, are all in the same thread or the same logic that has been practiced here for so long, which is to repress the Palestinians and to dislocate them forcibly, and not only in Sheikh Jarrah. We hear about Sheikh Jarrah, but so many Palestinian communities in the West Bank are in danger of being dislocated by Israeli authorities and have been dislocated forcibly.
So, yes, but it has benefited so far the Israeli right wing. Israeli right-wing settlers — I mean, they’re all right-wing, but settlers from the West Bank are joining the forces inside ’48, inside Israel, and intimidate Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel and instigate clashes and attack them. Palestinians have done — some Palestinian groups have also expressed their anger in different ways, including vandalism, but for different reasons, because they had to express their anger about Israeli policies and Israeli repression.
So, so far, it has benefited Netanyahu. We don’t know how it will be in the longer run. But I care less about Netanyahu [inaudible] as I care about strengthening of the Israeli chauvinistic and, what I would say, the forces in Israel that advocate — how would I say? — the repetition of the Nakba, the repetition of a ’48 expulsion, who take this as an opportunity to promote these policies of ethnic cleansing. This is more worrying. And so far, it seems that this is what is happening. It’s not that the Israelis learned a lesson of fear and of having their life disrupted and say, “OK, let’s find a political way to get out of it.” It seems to me —
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Amira —
AMIRA HASS: — here from Ramallah, not totally —
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Amira, what I wanted to ask you precisely about this issue is — what we’re seeing here is, clearly, in terms of within Israel itself or the Palestinian communities within Israel, for the first time really expressing clear actions and solidarity with the rest of the Palestinian people. You don’t have a sense that this is giving — making the regular Israeli population feel that it is untenable to continue this oppression of the Palestinians in general, that in the long term Israel cannot be victorious in this?
AMIRA HASS: I want to believe, but so far, from — maybe we are still — maybe it’s too early. But so far, when I listen to the news — and I must say that I listen very little to Israeli news, because it can drive you mad how one-sided and [inaudible] aligned it is. But from the little that I read and I see, people still do not connect the dots. They do not connect it to ’48, to 1948. They do not connect it to the ongoing settler colonialism in the West Bank mostly. They do not connect it to the fact that Gaza has been under blockade and siege and closure, not just for the last 14 years, as people say, but since actually the beginning of the 1990s. Israel placed Gaza under a regime of very strict — very strict restrictions of movement. So, still I don’t see that this awareness is strong enough. There must be something much stronger, like an international intervention, political intervention, an economical intervention, to bring more sense to the Israeli mind. That’s my impression now. And I really hope I’m wrong. I really hope that once this is over, Israelis will understand that this is untenable, that the repression regime is untenable. But right now the attitude is that Israel is being attacked, not vice versa. This is the main — this is the main message that I receive from the little that I know, I must say, because I am here in the West Bank.
AMY GOODMAN: Amira, you put out the book of your mother, Diary of Bergen-Belsen, about the sole surviving diary of a Holocaust resistance fighter written from inside the Nazi concentration camps, about your mother, Hanna Levy-Hass. Can you talk about what we’re seeing on the streets in Israel now, where you have Jewish mobs attacking Palestinians? In one case, on live TV, they thought the person was a Palestinian; in fact, they attacked a Jewish driver. But can you relate this back to — because so much of this, certainly as it’s conveyed in the U.S. media, is always going back to the Holocaust and the persecution of the Jews, but similarities you see with the persecution of Palestinians?
AMIRA HASS: I’m reluctant to make, you know, these parallel — I could think more about Afro-Americans in United States or the position — the Palestinians here are much — have agency much more than the Jews during, like you said, the concentration camp, than my mother had when she was in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and much more than Jews had in Germany in 1934 or 1935.
So, I think that while we are all shocked by the horror scenes of attacks, let’s not underestimate the strength and the power and the unity that Palestinians now demonstrate and their political awareness, that young Palestinians, who feel that they don’t have a leadership, but nevertheless are united by their common experience. I think this should not be underestimated and overlooked.
And you had cases. You had cases in Israel where also Palestinians attacked Israeli civilians — Jewish civilians who did nothing wrong to them. I think there is a big difference, because the — again, because this is a community that has been repressed for so long, and it has to take it out.
I would say that what — if I want to say something about my family’s past, it’s not this one-to-one parallelism, but the lessons that I got from my parents and the principles that people are equal and should be equal and people’s rights and people’s — people should enjoy the rights to freedom and to development and to fulfillment, and that any oppression, without being compared to the oppressions, I don’t know, in South Africa or in the Soviet Union or whatever — every oppression, every supremacist oppression is wrong, and their perpetrators are our enemies.
AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, I want to thank you so much —
AMIRA HASS: This is my lesson. The oppressor is my own enemy.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us, a Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestine Territories. She is speaking to us from Ramallah.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Andrew Brown. The verdict from the DA is in. Police officers who killed him in North Carolina will not be charged. We’ll speak with family attorney Bakari Sellers in 30 seconds.