Chapo Trap House - 771 - The Crossing feat. Mohammad Alsaafin (10/10/23)

Episode Date: October 11, 2023

Journalist Mohammad Alsaafin returns to the show to cover the unprecedented new developments in the Israel-Gaza conflict. The piece from Séamus Malekafzali mentioned in the episode: The playlist of AJ+ videos on Palestine Mohammad recommends at the end of the episode:

Discussion (0)
Starting point is 00:00:00 Music Hello everybody, it's Tuesday, October 10th. This is your chop-o. It's Felix and I today. I apologize for the delayed episode, but obviously the events that transpired over the weekend and are now ongoing in Palestine, I think, demanded a serious episode to discuss what we've all been seeing happen over the last, like over the weekend and what is currently happening now. So joining us to talk about what's happening in Palestine right now is a journalist we've spoken to before It's Muhammad al-Safan with AJ plus Muhammad. Thank you for being on the show. Thanks so much for having me guys So yeah, like obviously the news has been completely taken over by what is going on right now in the Gaza Strip in Palestine
Starting point is 00:01:21 Sometime like over the weekend Hamas launched a coordinated raid into Israeli territory. And, uh, since then, like, there's basically been, and we've seen a massive escalation of the ongoing war on Palestine. So I mean, I guess I just want to begin with just discussing what happened over the weekend and like what we know about what's going on right now. So Muhammad, because you speak to the operation launched by Hamas, like what did they do? How did it happen?
Starting point is 00:01:47 And what is the state of play in Gaza and the West Bank right now? Okay, so Friday night, around 12th, just before midnight, Eastern time would have been just after dawn in Palestine. Getting in bed, checking my phone, and I'm seeing a lot on my feet of people in Gaza tweeting that something big has just happened. Most of them seem terrified talking about massive explosions. A lot of people say it feels like the earth has just turned upside down.
Starting point is 00:02:17 My initial thought, my heart dropped, I have family in Gaza. My initial thought was that another massive Israeli surprise attack had been launched on the Gaza Strip. However, the next few minutes, it was clear that that hadn't happened. What had happened instead was thousands of rockets seemed to have been going up from Gaza into Israel. And this was unprecedented, not only because of the scale
Starting point is 00:02:41 of the attack, but also because of the surprise nature of the attack. In the scale of the attack, but also because of the surprise nature of the attack. In the past, surprise attacks, especially at scale, have kind of been exclusively kind of performed by Israel. And my thought was that this is only happening because Israel must have assassinated someone very senior in Palestinian resistance groups. And so this was kind of like a response to that. Within about an hour, I've seen things that genuinely shocked me. And that was footage taken by Israelis inside the towns near Gaza of what appeared to be Hamas fighters driving into these towns, walking into these towns,
Starting point is 00:03:27 fully armed, and essentially taking over. And this is unprecedented. This was unprecedented in the entire history of this conflict. At first, I genuinely did not believe it. This had never happened before, but more and more footage seemed to be coming from different sources confirming that that was indeed happening. It's a huge shock because for those who don't know, Gaza has been under a hermetically sealed blockade for 16 years, 17 years. Nobody can go in and out without, you know, a tough detainment from the Israelis, the vast majority of gossips haveans have never been allowed out. And then to see dozens and hundreds of heavily armed men
Starting point is 00:04:10 strolling through Israeli streets across the boundary line with shocking, especially since the Israelis had spent billions of dollars building a, what they called when the most sophisticated high-tech fences separating them from gauzeans, keeping gauzeans locked in. Over time it had transpired that what happened was Hamas launched under that barrage of rockets launched a surprise attack on all the Israeli military posts and bases surrounding Gaza every single one. Again the
Starting point is 00:04:40 thing that shocked me was just how completely they managed to dismantle the Israeli military presence during that time. Footage released by Hamas shows that in every base that they attacked, they were able to get through the fences, break through, and kill or arrest all these release holders in those bases. And then footage side of the appearing, showing Israelis being pulled
Starting point is 00:05:05 into the Gaza Strip again unprecedented right. Taking Israeli hostages has been a goal of Hamas for decades. They've been wanting to do that to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. And they've only managed to get five in the last 20 years or so. Five Israelis, two of them believed to be killed in action during previous invasions into Gaza, and the Israelis had essentially refused to countenance a prisoner swap, deciding that keeping those Israelis in Gaza was not worth the price paying, or releasing the Palestinian prisoners on the other side. As time went on during the day, it became clear and clear what was happening after breaking through the defenses and overrunning the Israeli
Starting point is 00:05:57 military bases and posts around Gaza. Hamas fighters had gone into the Kibbutzes and the towns around Gaza. They were going door to door, entering people's homes in cases and taking more, more off-sages. It also became clear that eventually hundreds of Israelis were killed in this attack. Again, number is absolutely unprecedented in the entire history of this conflict. The current estimate is now over 1,000 dead Israelis.
Starting point is 00:06:26 Within hours, the Israeli response began with massive bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Within the first day, I think 200 Palestinians were killed. That number has now reached over 800, around day four. And what is terrifying is that anyone who could potentially put any kind of pressure to pull back from the brink here, that is the U.S. administration, western governments that support Israel diplomatically and militarily have instead given full-throwed support to Israel's stated intention of obliterating the Gaza Strip.
Starting point is 00:07:02 The Israeli Defense Minister has ordered all food, water, electricity, and fuel to be cut off from the two million people stuck inside Gaza. Described and described them with, I think it's not an exaggeration to call it genocide of language. He said we are dealing with human beasts and entire neighborhoods in Gaza have
Starting point is 00:07:26 now been wiped out. What we have so far is what we know is that the Hamas fighters managed to stay inside Israeli territory for at least three days. Some of them reaching as far as Rahat and the Neghav Desert, which is about 50 kilometers east of Gaza, and over the last few days, despite the bombardment Hamas says its fighters have made repeated raids onto military bases around the Gaza Strip. So it's a very fluid situation on the ground, but it's also from a humanitarian point of view, absolutely horrifying. A lot of people have been killed and it seems like a lot more will die before this gets anywhere close to being resolved. Yeah, we've seen some familiar tactics from Israel specifically with airstrikes. It's
Starting point is 00:08:21 not new for them to necessarily hit high rises and densely populated civilian zones, but there seems to be a special attention paid to striking ambulances specifically this time, which is again, something they've done before, but it really seems like they're going all out on high rises, ambulances, and telecoms. Just in the midst of cutting off all supplies and water and everything. And you would need even normally they're suffocating everyone. Medicine as well.
Starting point is 00:08:56 Medicine is cut off, you know, already to hospitals that lack basic supplies thanks to the sanctions and the blockade. Yeah, I mean, what we're seeing now, and we can talk maybe later on about strategic outcome of all this, what we're seeing now is nothing we haven't seen before from the Israelis, but it has been increased in terms of scale. And I think people in Gaza, journalists, citizens, family members who are still alive and are able to actually communicate with the outside world. And those numbers are dwindling as electricity runs out and communications are being knocked out,
Starting point is 00:09:35 are saying that despite the utter horrors of previous rounds of Israeli bombardment, they haven't seen anything like this before. The Israelis themselves in the past would always take great care, especially when speaking to a Western audience to say that they are selectively targeting Hamas targets and that any civilians killed are collateral damage that they don't intend to target. I think Israeli military officials and political officials right now are have dispensed with even the pretense of that now. They're talking about causing as much destruction as possible. And I think in addition to the factor of revenge here for the hundreds of
Starting point is 00:10:19 Israelis killed, there's also a factor of trying to return the to to build back the deterrence of the Israeli army, which, you know, in this attack by Hamas was completely embarrassed. Let's talk a little bit about that. The deterrence factor of the Israeli military and the previous aura of invincibility that they may have had. I myself, and I've seen other people say this, that I don't think we're really going to know the full extent of their failures and why they happen for a few years, as is the case with most conflicts. But if I had to pick one thing for short right now, to pick one thing for sure right now, I probably would say that in the Iron Dome era, we've seen an acceleration of open genocidal policies and language on the part of Israel's and increased cowardliness by Western politicians and what is and is unacceptable. I think that the Iron Dome genuinely made them think that they were untouchable.
Starting point is 00:11:27 I think even if you do have world-class signals, interception, and everything, and the best technology money can buy, thinking your invincible can really set you back. But how do you account for just how unprecedented the scale of the Hamas' operation is? I mean, we've really never seen this before. I just know one expected this. Not at all. At least of all of the Israelis. I think it's right that you point out that kind of the iron dome era has, I think, I think Israeli military establishment has gone complacent. The rockets that are fired out of Gaza in rounds of conflict like this tend to number in their hundreds and thousands, but the impact is relatively small compared to their number, even if they're able to damage buildings and property a lot more than they were in the past.
Starting point is 00:12:29 The number of Israelis killed by these rockets is still very minimal. I think the Israeli establishment is willing to pay that price. I think the other factor, as you said, Israel kind of seems to have believed its own. There's definitely a factor of hoopers here. The Israelis are always confident that they know exactly what's going on in the Gaza Strip. It is one of the most heavily surveilled places on Earth, a tiny strip of land where Israel knows everything or thought, everything that was happening. And you know, in 2014, the last time there was a major war, Hamas was able
Starting point is 00:13:08 to use underground tunnels to conduct quick fire raids on some of the surrounding military bases. And those were seen as game changers, right? Even though many of those operations lasted only a few minutes or hours, what we've seen here is something far, far, far exceeding that scale. I think for years, the Israelis felt that any threat was going to come from the tunnels and instead what we saw was Hamas fighters literally walking through the fence or flying over it in paragliders, driving through it in broad daylight, not even at night. And I think if you allow me to quote a friend of the show,
Starting point is 00:13:51 Shemus Malik-Avzali, he wrote something really, really interesting on the day of the attack. He wrote, there is a fundamental flaw in the perception of Western powers, and I think we can group Israel in this. There's a fundamental flaw in the perception of Western powers. And I think we can group Israel in this. There's a fundamental flaw in the perception of Western powers towards the Middle East in general and Arabs in particular that because the groups fighting with Israel or the United States are irregular, bereft of highly professional uniforms and dedicated gigantic military headquarters that they do not have the same ability to strategize and to confront the forces that are occupying their countries. But Hamas has military strategists of its own, ones that understand the asymmetric situation
Starting point is 00:14:33 they're dealing with, and ones that understand what the actual capabilities of Israel are versus what their perception is. And I think that sums it up right there. I think the Israelis, their allies, we're very confident that this enemy will be a lot weaker than it turns out to be. A lot at the same time, the other side has been building up this capabilities and its strategies and its fighting power for years.
Starting point is 00:14:57 Yeah, we'll link to choose this piece in the episode description. It's really great in the loose states, a lot of points and clarifies a lot of things that need clarifying. But I think in aspect of that, I think you're absolutely right that overestimation, underestimation
Starting point is 00:15:17 of mirroring capabilities is a huge part of it. It also seems like this is a military that has been purposed entirely for internal security and humiliation and hitting the softest of soft targets. And when actually pressed, they seem to crumble. I mean, this is kind of what people said in Lebanon 16 years ago, but no one really expected it in Palestine. But yeah, and I think to tie that, it feels to tie that in as well to some of the political developments in Israel.
Starting point is 00:15:54 It seems like a lot of the military installations around Gaza were staffed at minimum levels because a lot of soldiers and a lot of assets were moved into the West Bank, where the current Israeli government has designs on annexing the West Bank, crushing Palestinians over there, and kind of, you have genocide-all fascist ministers and people like Benic Beer and Bezal al-Smortrich, who have these messionic views of, you know, taking over the West Bank. And their frequent provocations and incitement to pogroms have led to a very, very unstable situation over there, far more violent than it's been in years. And I think the Israelis felt that Gaza, ironically, was actually a safer front for the time being.
Starting point is 00:16:47 Mohammed, I wanted to go back to the unprecedented nature of this attack and the Hamas' military operation. You mentioned that the high-tech security fence that cordons off Gaza from Israel proper and certainly the West Bank. It's not just a security fence there's a perimeter that extends quite a bit of ways out that if you approach you will be shot how did hamas how were they able to breach that security perimeter so thoroughly and so swiftly in one fell swip like how are they able to get close enough
Starting point is 00:17:20 to get through these fences i think there's a couple of there's a couple of of reasons one reasons. One is using drones, what they seem to have done, and they've published footage of this, is they've used loitering drones to drop bombs on top of watch towers, the remote operated machine guns, and the communications towers that run communications and power for this fence and perimeter. The second thing that they seem to have done
Starting point is 00:17:47 is actually the first target was the Ares military base, which is on the north side of Gaza. It's the only way in and out for people to travel between Gaza and Israel and it's heavily staffed with Israeli intelligence operatives. The last time I was there, I was a child, but A is this very intimidating fortress with you know 16 meter high concrete walls, double doors,
Starting point is 00:18:11 you hardly ever see Israeli soldiers, they speak to you through speakers, you go through concrete corridors and tunnels separated from anyone else, it's it's very, very isolating. It's built like, like I said, like a fortress. But they seem to attack that first, and that seems to have been a node that was critical in kind of the overall perimeter around Gaza. They attacked that. They completely overran it and took several.
Starting point is 00:18:42 They killed many soldiers in there. It took several intelligence officers hostage in Tegasa before moving forward. I think the other thing is these Israelis were so confident that their defenses were impenetrable, that a lot of the the cameras, the security systems looked inwards in Tegasa and not necessarily behind the perimeter. So once they were able to breach that and they breached that I think in more than 20 places up and down the Gaza Strip, it took a long time for the Israeli army to realize that a major encouragement took place.
Starting point is 00:19:16 Yeah, I was very shocked on the day of how long it was out of Israeli military control? It took them a very long time to establish anything there. Yeah, I took them until I think the next day before they began to reclaim some areas and then it was into, I think, late into Sunday before most areas were back under control. And again, I think part of that goes back to the fact
Starting point is 00:19:42 that the majority of Israeli army assets in the area were taken out in the first minutes of this raid. So it took a long time to replenish that and get troops down there. And there was a lot of, and because so much of the security apparatus and intelligence apparatus was taken down as well, it took a long time for the Israelis to kind of understand exactly what was happening on the ground. But that was in the initial hours of this raid. Where are things now? Like, I mean, the Hamas forces like took and like seized territory for a little bit, but have they receded back to within the Gaza Strip, or they're still ongoing,
Starting point is 00:20:16 like, you know, holding of territory outside of the Gaza security perimeter? So it seems that any territory that was held has been recovered by the Israelis. It's unclear how many Hamas fighters died and how many were able to retreat. We know many of them did because they came back with hostages and they came back with Israeli military assets, you know, vehicles, et cetera. But how many actually continued on and fought, you know, fought to the death is unclear at the moment. Hamas has said even today that they have sent more fighters infiltrate some of the bases around Gaza, but those seem to be quick raids.
Starting point is 00:21:00 But it's clear that Israel still doesn't have full control on the ground. Either that or the damage done to the security perimeter is so extensive that they haven't been able to repair that while the fighting is ongoing. That's allowed fighters to continue going across. I want to talk in a little bit. I want to talk about essentially what's to come or what we can expect on ongoing escalation of this conflict. But I wanna get back to what you said about how this essentially caught everyone by surprise. And it caught me by surprise,
Starting point is 00:21:32 but I think it particularly caught people for whom the history of this conflict begin and end anytime in Israeli is killed. I think it really shocked and horrified them. But here's my question, how shocked should anyone be by what just happened? It's understandable that you're shocked because of the number of Israeli skilled, because again, that is completely unprecedented.
Starting point is 00:21:52 Even as the Palestinian death thaw has risen to over 800, that's still lower than the Israeli death thaw. And that has never happened, ever. I mean, we're talking about, you know, the last major escalation and war between Gaza and Israel led to 2,500 Palestinians killed, including 500 children on the other side, three Israeli civilians were killed, as well as 64 soldiers. And that was considered one of the, let's say, least-lopsided ratios in the history of this conflict. So, the Israeli death toll is exponentially more massive than it ever has been before. So in terms of death toll, that is absolutely shocking.
Starting point is 00:22:30 And we know that it's unclear exactly what happened once the fighters were able to overtake the Israeli military bases and go into the compote seam and the villages around and the towns around Gaza. It's been very hard to get independent media verification or human verification from human rights organizations. There's a lot of very thinly sourced information out there of atrocities that have been committed or supposed to have been committed. We don't know any of that yet. That hasn't stopped the general media from going with it in a lot of places. But this is, it's clearly a very fluid situation in terms of the actuality of what happened. We do know that the numbers are huge.
Starting point is 00:23:13 But in terms of, is this something that could have been predicted? Yes. And it should have been predicted. It should have been something that everyone knew what was happening would happen. And I think going back to earlier when we were talking about the Israelis and their allies and the hubris they have over, you know, the total control they have of Palestinian life, you know, they felt that they could manage this conflict, that they could keep 2 million people in Gaza caged indefinitely, and that they would be able to suffer very little
Starting point is 00:23:46 repercussions for that. I think, you know, there's been warnings by Hamas, by analysts, by human rights advocates, by the UN that the situation was untenable and would likely result in an explosion, but I think considering how much this differs from previous rounds of violence, nobody really saw the scale of this happening, but it strategically does fundamentally change a lot of things, I think, down the line. Yeah, it appears that, like, for at least less 30 years, the Israeli calculus and the calculus of their Western supporters has been that they can just keep up the occupation indefinitely and at a shockingly low cost. And that may have been true years ago, but it certainly is not now.
Starting point is 00:24:38 Yeah, Israeli officials have said in the past that, look, our policy in Gaza is to maintain this each. And if the price of that is that, you know, every every other year, there's a there's a slight flare up in violence and the Palestinians kill a couple dozen Israelis, and that's a price we're willing to pay. And this is why fundamentally this changes things because we're talking over a thousand Israeli debt. That never factored into any Israeli calculation. Yeah. And going back a little bit to could this have been predicted? Yes. I mean, you know, obviously, like this is, you can only push people so far for one thing,
Starting point is 00:25:20 but like this specific attack, we are seeing that Egyptian intelligence specifically warned Israel and Netanyahu specifically about this. And I don't, I don't really buy into the conspiracy theory that I've seen people push around that you see it less now, but you saw the day of that like they deliver everything that happened. Israel deliberately let it happen so they could, reify their control and bomb Gaza, which is, you know, we,
Starting point is 00:25:52 they've never needed justification to do that before. I don't know why this time would be different, but also I just, I could not ever believe that they would willingly give up that many hostages. No. That is just a gigantic embarrassment, but I think it really just may come down to the imposite, like you said. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:26:15 No, it is. I mean, I feel like I'm repeating myself a bit by saying again and again how unprecedented it was, but the fact that it was so unprecedented is what makes this so notable because these rallies for decades have been able to deal with Gaza and Palestinians in general very comfortably, right? I mean, the main focus of, if you go back to say the 90s,
Starting point is 00:26:42 the focus on Israel and Palestine was on getting some kind of peace deal that would end the conflict. In recent years, especially from late Obama into Trump and now the Biden administration, the focus has been on managing the conflict, reducing any blowback from the Palestinian issue, and just normalizing and integrating Israel into the Middle East with the other US allies in the region. And I think the Biden administration, Jonathan Goyer at Vox has done a great job of kind of collating all the statements and speeches made by Biden's Middle East team, by his national security team, by his State Department over the last year or so, talking about their plans for the Middle East or their vision for the Middle East.
Starting point is 00:27:31 And Gaza and the Palestinians are very rarely mentioned. What's talked about a lot is the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the integration of these two US allies together in some kind of official military alliance, you know, looking forward to a different Middle East where everyone can safely ignore the Palestinians. Clearly this blows all of that up. Mohammed, what do you, I mean, like, what do you make of the strategic analysis that part of the, part of the planning behind this attack was to scuttle, uh, uh, negotiators or deals, particularly between Israel
Starting point is 00:28:05 and Saudi Arabia. This now makes that much more difficult for Saudi Arabia and a broader kind of regional peace deal that would, you know, have peace in the Middle East and just as you said at the price of everybody just ignoring Palestine. Yeah, I mean, it's tough to see where this goes. I think the both from the Israeli side and the Saudi side as well as the Americans as they're kind of, you know, everyone wants this deal to happen still. So, how this plays out will delineate when it does happen. I still, I don't think that this is going
Starting point is 00:28:39 to be just kind of like four days in. I don't think what we've seen is enough to completely take this deal off the table, but I think it does change the optics a lot. But beyond that to answer your initial question, I don't think this was planned necessarily with that in mind. I think this was more of a byproduct result because I think people genuinely don't understand how horrific the conditions in Gaza are. And I think they also frequently remove the context of 56 years of occupation, 78 years of displacement that people in Palestine are dealing with.
Starting point is 00:29:17 Yeah, and, you know, like, deal or no deal, whether the Abraham Accords happened or not or whether Saudi Arabian Israel end up normalizing relations or they don't That suffering has been for the most part, you know completely Ignored and after King Faisal. He was probably the last Gulf monarch to really offer anything besides like Monthly statements and even he really couldn't, you know, long before the two-state solution died, even he couldn't make that happen. Yeah, I mean, with the Saudis, and you know, I'm not an expert on Saudis, and I think under things are very fluid, but it's clear that he sees Israel as a very valuable military and intelligence ally and a bulwark against Iran. It'll be interesting to see how many nations or how many countries still see Israel's
Starting point is 00:30:17 kind of intelligence apparatus as this wanted apparatus after their massive failure in this attack though. I think that's sort of an underrated thing here. Like previously the common knowledge with Israel and Saudi Arabia, you know, it's been acknowledged that they have unofficial communications and have coordinated on a few things even though relations are not normalized. But the common knowledge was that Israel was so competent and organized that like if shit really hit the fan They would be this amazing bulwark against Iran and yeah, you just cannot count on that anymore
Starting point is 00:30:52 Yeah, I think that that reputation has served Israelis very well Not just with the Saudis with the Emirates as well But even with some of the countries that deal with Israel under the table while refusing to publicly acknowledge that, whether it's in the Gulf or elsewhere, but also in places like India, which is becoming one of Israel's strongest allies under Modi. This aura of Israeli military invincibility and intelligence prowess is going to take a bit of a hit after this. Yeah. Well, as you said, early days of this conflict, but like pregnant is the pot, like, you know, in the contained with it is the possibility of a much larger regional conflict should things get further out of hand.
Starting point is 00:31:35 I mean, we have already seen the Israeli military announce their intentions to do some kind of land invasion of Gaza. And I've also seen news reports that they have hit targets in southern Lebanon, which would you know, mean that the possibility of Hasbala entering this conflict. What do you mean? And then also, many, many attempts in the Western media to link Iran to Hamas as like funding this military raid. What do you think about the possibility of Israel, a land invasion of Gaza,
Starting point is 00:32:06 and then what that could possibly mean, for instance, has Bala getting involved in this conflict? So I think we should separate the two because a land invasion doesn't necessarily mean a reoccupation, and previous rounds of fighting Israel has attempted land invagings, just hold on territory, I think it's more of an issue of, you know, look, the Israelis never, as much as some of their more fascist loud mouths on the right call for it, the Israelis have no intention of ever reoccupying Gaza, right? The reason that they have two million people caged in that place is because they don't want to deal with those two million people. And they don't, so they have no interest in going back in.
Starting point is 00:32:50 It's important to always contextualize the reason they left as well in 2005. They were forced out by a Palestinian resistance in Gaza, which at the time was a lot smaller and a lot less sophisticated than it is now. So my mind, any ground invasion would be temporary, it would be more about, you know, scorched earth tactics in limited areas, maybe in the northeast, in the north and the east of Gaza, where it's less populated. As to, you know, the potential chance of a broader regional war, One thing we know for sure is that the alliance between Hamas and Hezbollah has gone a lot stronger over the last few years. There's a lot of coordination. A lot of Hamas leaders have ended up now in Beirut over the last couple
Starting point is 00:33:42 of years. And when I say in Beirut that means obviously under the protection of Hezbollah. It's not just that the Israelis are shelt southern Lebanon. Hezbollah has attacked, I think, a military outpost in the north of Israel. Israel also on, yeah, as you can say, Israel is also killed or Hezbollah has announced that three of its fighters were killed in clashes in the last couple of days while the Israelis have admitted that three of their soldiers were killed also. So I think what's happening up there is a very cagey tit for tat between Hezbollah and Israel. I think Hezbollah is trying to send messages
Starting point is 00:34:26 that it could get involved without necessarily putting its foot all the way in. And I think the biggest the biggest impediment to Hezbollah getting involved isn't actually any kind of desire on their part or any any military weakness, but I think it's Lebanon. Lebanon is in a state of collapse as a country. And I think they know that further Israeli bombardment of Lebanon would be very hard to stomach for a lot of Lebanese. So I think that's the one thing that's probably stopping his ball from getting involved. So like, I mean, obviously like sitting here in America, just receiving news of this through your television or the internet, it's largely dictated by the Western press
Starting point is 00:35:11 and the country, the EU governments and the American state. Have you seen, over the last week or so, have you seen any indication that the Western media narrative is shifting ever so slightly in terms of what it is willing to acknowledge about the occupation and about decades of unchecked military aggression against the Palestinian people? I mean, is there any, do you see any cracks in the facade of the media sort of blockade and sort of enforced cone of silence about what the occupation
Starting point is 00:35:46 is or what Gaza actually is. No, sadly, I think actually the unprecedented Israeli death toll has given a lot of Western media kind of carte blanche to go the other side. It feels a lot to me like the days after 9-11. Absolutely. It's been sickening to me to feel bad again. Any critical thought, any attempt to place things in their proper context is met with Oganhossilian origin. I think in previous rounds there might have been a slight shift, but definitely not this time. I think the reason that there was a shift in the past was because for the most part, the
Starting point is 00:36:34 death hole was so lopsided. I'm sad to say this. I think a lot of people in the West are very comfortable seeing Palestinian dead or dead Palestinians. They're very comfortable seeing Palestinian dead or dead Palestinians. They're very comfortable seeing dead brown people. I think for a lot of them, that is the natural state of affairs. And you know, you can always sympathize with a lot with dead people, but as long as they're not, as long as they're docile, as long as they haven't harmed the people who look more like you, then it's safe to kind of start criticizing ever
Starting point is 00:37:06 so tapety. We see it in the conventions of headlines where like Israelis are killed, Palestinians die. Like it's a fucking natural disaster or something. Like it was a flood that killed it. And like, well, you said that what that does, it inculcates in the sense of this is the natural order of things. Palestinians, they just die. They're not like the active victims
Starting point is 00:37:25 of specific acts of violence carried out against them. Yeah, and I think one thing that Westerners in general, not just Americans, we'll never understand, is the horror of living under airstrikes or dying under airstrikes, right? Which is kind of the modus operandi of the Israeli and American militaries, especially. You're dropping tons of explosives on top of people's heads and their buildings
Starting point is 00:37:51 and their apartment buildings, their schools, their offices, their markets, you're killing dozens and dozens of people. The that is clean warfare, right? They don't look at the impact on the ground. Whereas a fighter with an AK-47 going into a community and shooting people that feels a lot more visceral and horrific. And I think a lot of Western journalists identify on a human level with Israelis in a way that they never could with Palestinians. Regardless of the fact that Israel is an apartheid state, regardless of the fact that Israel has committed massacres and ethnic cleansing frequently throughout its history. A lot of Westerners in the media and the political class still see Israelis as people they can make a human connection with or see them as
Starting point is 00:38:51 one of us. I mean, the homaday. I was going to say that's something that they could never kind of extend to Palestinians. I've been sort of shocked because I've, from what I've seen from Western politicians and American politicians, and I think they're going to accept further. And I'm thinking specifically about Richie Torres' comment that this was like, oh, this was 10 times worse than 9-11 for Israel, which is an away saying that Israeli lives are actually worth more than American lives when they're killed by terrorists. Yeah, yeah. I think Murtaza Hussein of the intercept pointed out that for someone like, say, Josh Hawley, you know, it's been
Starting point is 00:39:25 cast as this anti-war Republican who because he's been frequently calling for an anti-A to Ukraine. I mean, his thing was let's actually take that A to Ukraine and give it to Israel. And and Murtaz, Murtaz's point was that this sort of kind of a displaced nationalism for a lot of American politicians. It's, it's go-shin, it's difficult to express like a, a, a, hyper-American nationalism. And so for a lot of them, they place it on Israel. And a lot of them act like,
Starting point is 00:39:57 and a lot of them act like Israeli deaths, the Israeli state. That is something that they identify and value more than American lives in the American state. Just the fact that, for example, the Biden administration, I mean, Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, deleting tweets, calling for a ceasefire, and instead replacing them with tweets saying, we'll give Israel whatever it wants to do, whatever it wants. At the time when the Israeli government is using explicitly genocidal language, yeah,
Starting point is 00:40:28 it's scary. It's scary. Yeah, I think the immediately after 9-11 comparison is incredibly apt. I mean, it's sort of been swept under the rug in Western coverage, how openly genocidal the language from Israel has been in recent years. I just really click the New York Times excise the comment by the member of the Israeli government that said there's what we're going to do to Gaza, their animals. The New York Times excised his comment comparing Palestinians to animals.
Starting point is 00:41:01 Yeah, I mean, in what other contexts with someone who has F-16s tanks artillery under his control saying something like that? And what are the other contexts would that be excised? It's shocking. Yeah, I mean, you mentioned Holly and the fact that he wants to take all the money and we're giving to Ukraine and give it to Israel. I mean, has it gone unnoticed the juxtaposition
Starting point is 00:41:27 between the rights of Ukrainians to resist military aggression through violence and Palestinians? Like, I mean, has that gone unnoticed in the world or in the media? I mean, at AJ+, we actually, one of the things we did early in the days of the Russia Ukraine war was published, kind of a comparison, a side-by-side comparison of how US media and US
Starting point is 00:41:53 politicians talked about Ukrainian resistance to Russian occupation versus how they talked about Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. And this was, this was, you know, a year ago, who we're not talking about, even this current round of fighting. You know, I think Ukrainian, as a Palestinian, I think Ukrainians have a right to fight people who are trying to occupy their country. What's crazy to me is that the analogy,
Starting point is 00:42:18 rather than being Ukrainians and Palestinians, on one side of the analogy, it's been flipped around, you know. You have CNN reporters saying, tweeting about how the Palestinians are the Russians to the Israeli Ukrainians. It's absolutely wild. There's just a complete kind of irrationality in how this is being cast. But even things like, last week you
Starting point is 00:42:46 guys were talking about the SS Waffen guy who got a round, who got a standing ovation in the Canadian parliament, right? No, it was okay for him to volunteer for the Waffen SS to resist the military invasion of his country. That's okay. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, he was allowed to be a Nazi, but then the Canadian government will come out week later and condemn Palestinians fighting occupation of their land. Muhammad, I guess the other thing I noticed just in what little I've tried to avoid of the Western media in this, I did notice a number of interviews that took place on cable news with members of Palestinian civil society.
Starting point is 00:43:24 And I guess it was surprising to me that they got past the bookers at all. But in all of these interviews, like the host essentially like can't even really push back against what they are saying, but what they will say is even if everything you say is true, hasn't what's happened now, don't you condemn Hamas, but hasn't what's happened now? Isn't that going to just only increase the violence and death toll for innocent Palestinians? Isn't this going to make life so much harder for people who are in the West Bank or Gaza strip?
Starting point is 00:43:53 I mean, like, what do you say to that? Yeah, I think you see that in the media. And you see it among some regular folks as well. And I think for them, that might come from a place of genuine horror and fear for what might happen to the Palestinians. But I think for a lot of people who ask that question or make that demand, it's pretty insidious. Won't this make things worse to the Palestinian people?
Starting point is 00:44:17 I don't think anyone who asks that question could survive a day in Gaza. I don't think they comprehend the horror of living life in a human warehouse. You know, borders closed, surveilled, surveilled day in light from the sky. A lot of people don't know this, but Gaza skies for more than 20 years have been the sound of Gaza skies, this loud buzzing, which has been the sound of Israeli drones that have been surveilling the Gaza skies and firing missiles down from the sky for more than 20 years. What does that do to your psyche
Starting point is 00:44:51 when death is imminent at any moment? People don't understand just how what that this siege means. You fall sick, but the hospital doesn't have enough medicine because the supply of medicine is limited. The supply of medicine allowed into Gaza is limited by Israel. Your child has cancer.
Starting point is 00:45:15 There's no chemotherapy wards in Gaza. So you have to apply for a permit with the Israeli military and intelligence to get your kid to go abroad so they can get received treatment. And often that permit is delayed for months and months and years and never is never granted. And your child dies of something completely curable and preventable. There's been cases where the permit has arrived the day after someone has died as well. You imagine the horror and the anger and the vengeance that drives people. Even people who granted permits to escape
Starting point is 00:45:49 are often blackmailed at the exit point. We talked about the areas crossing that fortress at the north of Gaza. Oftentimes, a lot of people would be blackmailed as they're going through by Israeli intelligence officers who are trying to get them to become informants and collaborators against their own people. And if you refuse, you're often turned back with your sick child or your sick parent. There's no drinking water in Gaza. 97% of Gaza's waters is contaminated.
Starting point is 00:46:17 There were a few wells that were bombed by the Israelis in 2014. The power plant was bombed in 2006 and hasn't been allowed to be fully repaired since then. Over the past several, you know, massive Israeli assaults in 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021, tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, tens of thousands, and building materials to rebuild them has been severely limited. The only way actually some of the only way some people got to rebuild was through this insane mechanism, where at the UN, you would apply to the UN, who would pass your personal details, your family details,
Starting point is 00:46:56 the coordinates of where you want to live, two Israeli intelligence who then would approve or deny how much material you get and that gets imported into Gaza for you to build. There's no economy because Israel controls what gets imported and exported, you cut off from the world. Early on in the siege, I think around 2012, the Guardian reported that the Israeli government actually had calculated how many calories it would allow into Gaza
Starting point is 00:47:25 to keep people just above starvation levels, but not more. This is the siege that we're talking about. People do not understand just how depraved the siege has been. It's been almost two decades of this. I don't know, not only that, but from like, I guess from like a Western or even like liberal or left perspective, I think like we like to tell ourselves
Starting point is 00:47:45 that that kind of violence and oppression like incurs a kind of, I don't know, moral status to the people who are the victims of it instead of like imagining what you would, like how that would do, what that would do to your brain to experience that level of fear and horror every day. Absolutely.
Starting point is 00:48:01 You would make you a better person or a worse one. I mean, absolutely. I mean, this is, when people have been living through this for decades, you know, and I think a lot of the people moralizing or armchair strategizing from thousands of miles away couldn't stomach living in Gaza for a few days, let alone for decades. And genuinely, I think there are many people, even on the left, like you said, who mean well when they say this will only make things worse for Palestinians. And I think it's far more comforting for a lot of us. I have family in Gaza, even for myself.
Starting point is 00:48:31 It's more comforting for me to feel like, okay, they're still alive, right? And that's better than being bombed. But I think that's because when there's no air strikes, it's easier for us to look away. And I was born in Gaza, family there, but even for me, it's easier not to have to think about the people there when they're not being bombed. So I think we all prefer it that way. Yeah. The closest thing that we could compare Gaza to is it counterfactual. It is, I guess, if the third Reich had been able to occupy the Eastern
Starting point is 00:49:08 Front for 70 years, there's just nothing in modern memory that approaches this kind of treatment for this long. Americans already have such a difficulty envisioning the terror of precision airstrikes and and and sanctions and just basic materials that we take for granted not being there. But that turned up past a scale that we've ever seen that people have no concept and no appreciation of it. And those of us who are watching in America were very lucky that our encounters with death and misery are questions of money or inconvenience or time or emotional pain that we'll never have to know what we would do if our entire family had been wiped out that everyone we know had been killed and that hospitals didn't even have enough gauze.
Starting point is 00:50:09 Yeah. That boats coming in from Turkey to try to give you even basic supplies were shot down by the military and no one cared. Yeah. I mean, just this morning, an aid convoy, a trucks that were trying to enter from Egypt, from the only crossing that Gaza has with, that's not with Israel, it's with Egypt. Israelis bombed the border crossing and told the Egyptian government that if the trucks get closer, they're going to bomb them as well.
Starting point is 00:50:41 One thing that stood out to me, watching some of the footage, the Hamas fighters filmed of themselves, is that I think a lot of people don't comprehend this. As much as Israel controls every aspect of life in Gaza, most people in Gaza have never seen in Israel. It's something crazy to think about when we think about kind of dystopian, you know, future where we talk about people being warehouse or ghettoized high-tech. You could have been born, that you could have been born after the 2014 war, like lived under the fear of that, without having never actually seen the people doing it to you.
Starting point is 00:51:20 Is yeah, is this, yeah, that is, that is a sci-fi dystopian. This breathtaking. Yeah. Not, not even the 2014 war will. Gaza has been under a policy of closure since 1991. Yeah. The Israeli Army or the Israeli government decided that anyone wants to enter a leave Gaza would needed a special permit.
Starting point is 00:51:40 I used to visit Gaza as a child. You used to spend summers there. I remember my mother would spend the entire summer going from office to office trying to get one permit to get us in and then one permit to get us out. For most people, that permit was almost impossible to receive. And this was a decade and a half before the siege happened, for it was Titan.
Starting point is 00:52:03 And everything was the suffering was increased exponentially. So we're talking about an entire generation of people who only know Israel through, uh, airstrikes, through the limitations on their physical freedom, the borders, sniper fire, and the fact that whether they get sick, whether they can't get a job, whether they can't go abroad to get an education, all of that is determined by some faceless bureaucrat behind a high tech fence. And so these fighters who entered the Israeli military bases and killed Israeli soldiers and then moved on to Israeli towns and then we're interacting with Israelis in their homes.
Starting point is 00:52:48 This genuinely was the first time they'd seen a Israeli, you know. It's absolutely mind blowing to think about. That is astonishing. I mean, we know that the Israeli policy towards Palestinians and specifically towards Gaza has been, you know, utter dehumanization. But it goes both ways, not in that the Israelis are dehumanized by someone else, but they've done it to themselves. They are portraying themselves to their captives as, it's like love, crafty, and uncaring idiot gods of death. It is just one of the most astonishing things you could even imagine. I mean, I guess the last thing I want to say about this is that like certainly over the last couple days,
Starting point is 00:53:37 like if you are, you know, in the West, you have been intreated to share how outraged your conscience is by all this violence, particularly in light of the fact that for the first time ever, the death toll is lopsided in the Israeli direction. But I guess I was just asked, for people who are horrified by all of this, what avenues towards non-armed conflict are left to the people of Gaza or any Palestinian at this point? Because I mean, all, it just, like, all legal political avenues, like, and even if you go back to like, previous iterations of Palestinian resistance,
Starting point is 00:54:12 like the deals made by the PLO to like, you know, seek a two-state solution, all Israel had to do was ramp with Stop its Occupation and the Stop its annexation of territories. They have not done that for even a second over the last 30 or 40 years. And they've done it with the complete approval of the American government and every government
Starting point is 00:54:31 in the EU minus maybe Ireland. So like what, like for the people who demand like non-violence, like what would you do? Like what is left? And if you'd like a non-violent solution, what can be done to done to make that possible? Yeah, I mean, the main criticism and the main kind of fault line between Hamas and other groups who fight Israel and between the Palestinian Authority, which is kind of the accepted
Starting point is 00:54:57 Palestinian representative to the West, to the Gulf States, et cetera, is that the Palestinian Authority conceded a lot to Israel, right? They conceded that the lands that Palestinians were forced out of in 1948 that that should remain Israel. And all they asked for in return was self-government or a rule in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and that Israel removed the settlements from there. Instead, since that deal, the number of Israeli settlers has quadrupled. The annexation of the West Bank has become kind of like this de facto annexation. And even kind of like the feeble attempts at reaching out to whatever is left of international institutions to hold Israel accountable are met with this crazed
Starting point is 00:55:47 kind of screeching. Like when when the Palestinian Authority tried to apply to become a member of the International Criminal Court to potentially bring charges against Israel for war crimes, it was announced as diplomatic terrorism. How can terrorism be diplomatic? Right? Words like law fair. You know, there's diplomatic terrorism, there's law fair. If you want a boycott, then it's economic terrorism. If you march, then it's, I don't know, walking terrorism.
Starting point is 00:56:21 I don't know. You know, in 2018, in Gaza, for an entire year, the great march of return, yeah? Every Friday, they were unarmed. What happened to them? Every Friday, people would go in their thousands and their tens of thousands, they'd march to the Eastern boundary. They would, there'd be plays, they'd be dancing,
Starting point is 00:56:40 and music, cookouts, families would gather, there'd be, you know be political speeches, and people would try to get closer and closer to the fence. Because remember, for most people in Gaza, that land across the fence isn't a foreign land to them. It's where a lot of them came from. A lot of people in Gaza are refugees or the descendants of refugees who have forced that from the surrounding areas by Israeli forces
Starting point is 00:57:05 and never have been allowed to return. So to them, that's their land, right? And for a year, they would march to the border or to the fence. And do you know what happened? Every single week, Israeli snipers stationed at the fence would shoot. So many people were shot in the knees, that kind of produced the phenomenon of an entire generation of amputees walking around Gaza and crutches. There was a famous headline by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that had a quote from an Israeli sniper who said, I took 42 knees in one day. Those were just Christ. Yeah, those were just the amputations. You know, hundreds of people were killed.
Starting point is 00:57:45 Tens of thousands were injured. Medics were attacked, including famously a young volunteer medic called Rosanna Najar, who was shot as she was walking with her hands up, with her medics uniform, to reach a man who'd been injured closer to the fence. And what was the result of that? And by the way, and some of this was covered quite extensively in the international
Starting point is 00:58:05 press. But what was the global response? Week after week for an entire year, what pressure did it result on Israel to end the siege to allow these people to live? There was not. And I think people who advocate for nonviolence, I mean, it would be lovely. It would be amazing if no one had to die and no one had to fight for this thing to be resolved. But that's not what happens, unfortunately. The thing that I have found particularly maddening has been people who have said, well, you know, good luck now, you know, you've alienated me from your cause. You've alienated everyone from your cause. What were you in America going to do?
Starting point is 00:58:47 The people who I have seen said this are like, Dan Carlin, the pop history podcaster, were you going to make a podcast so good that it was gonna result in a two-state solution? What, like even if there was widespread western sympathy, where did that bring us? Yeah, I think, I think, you know, one thing, the last time we spoke, you mentioned something on the long lines.
Starting point is 00:59:13 I feel like, I think it was you who said that, you know, I think you think the Palestinian cause is just going to eventually become one more thing that liberals talk about without doing anything about. And I remember thinking the back of my mind, if that happens, then a lot of people will be self-congratulated, will congratulate themselves. Showing the world a passing insuractual humans, but my family and gossars are still going to be under siege. No one's going to stop that. And I think Hamas, when they decided to undertake this attack, and I think they are not stupid, they understand the value of kind of like how you're seeing public perception in the West.
Starting point is 00:59:55 But I think they decided that it means nothing anymore, and people are too desperate. people are too desperate. And I think, you know, and if the reports about, you know, hundreds of civilians being killed in addition to, seemed like hundreds of soldiers as well, including high ranking officers killed, as, you know, as that becomes confirmed, I think it's clear that Hamas decided to do that. There was, there's a psychological element here, right? And I think it's clear that Hamas decided to do that. There was a psychological element here, right? And I think Hamas decided that we need to change the rules of the game. Yeah.
Starting point is 01:00:33 Because this Western sympathy is not getting us anything. Celebrity is tweeting about free Palestine. It's not freeing Palestine. Yeah. I think a lot of the negative response you see to just even the concept of armed resistance is that if the end goal of this isn't the ideal of like a liberal Zionist
Starting point is 01:01:00 or even like a self-professed, you know, a American pacifist, where Israel keeps existing as it does, and there is like an impoverished Palestinian Rome state that gets to have a president now. It would be the end of Israel as we know it. It would be the end of Israel as an ethno-state project if they're successful here. I mean, just to jump in, one thing that I really want to emphasize is I feel this is getting lost. This is a apartheid state, right?
Starting point is 01:01:33 Yes. Like, this is not, this, this, it's now become kind of accepted international human rights or the community that Israel is practicing apartheid. It's become accepted amongst a lot of elected officials in the West as well, right? But they're still standing up for Israel's right to do what is doing in Gaza. They're still not putting any kind of pressure on it to end the occupation or even end the partite regime. So how far is is Western sympathy really going to take us? And Muhammad, another fact that you know in
Starting point is 01:02:06 and whether you want to just state israel is in a part i'd say whether you were allowed to in the media which you're certainly not for the most part but the fact that gets lost in all of this is that Palestinians are the majority population of the like board of within the borders that israel controls Palestinians are the majority population and there is no way that you can dispossess them people the people the majority population of not just their political and civil rights but their homes and lives without engaging in genocide of some kind
Starting point is 01:02:35 which is i mean i think what we're gonna what we're seeing now yeah yeah i mean but what's interesting to me just watching kind of the the u. the US meter reaction to this is contrasting it with what I've seen from the Israeli media. And I haven't watched enough Israeli media to make a major claim here, but we're seeing at least voices in the Israeli media that you'd never see in the American media. We got an editorial in Hot Arrest where the the headline is Israel can't imprison two million gauzeins without paying a cool price. Israelis know this, right?
Starting point is 01:03:09 Israel is just simply decided that The price was low enough that they were willing to pay it. Does this change things? And we'll see, but it definitely does you know completely up into calculus that was governing the area before that. Yeah, I have been curious to see. I mean, if Israel decides that is a price that they want to pay now and in the future and maybe if they decide to even kill the hostages, I'm curious to see if Israel rips itself apart
Starting point is 01:03:44 or comes together as America after 9-11 or Germany in 1937. I think for Israel, I think one of the downsides of having repeatedly bombed Israel to the Stone Age as a former Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz has said, who's kind of hailed as a liberal in America as well, is that there's not much more that you can do, right? So what we're seeing now is what we've seen in the past, but just on a greater scale. But the result is the same. They're not degrading Hamas' ability to fight. I mean, Hamas today launched several hundred rockets from underground rocket silos that it has in Gaza.
Starting point is 01:04:25 Israelis have not been able to stop that from happening. And what is going to happen eventually, I think, whether there is a limited ground in curagen, whether there is a partial reoccupation, whatever, at the end of the day, Hamas is still going to be there. And this time, it's going to have several dozen or hundreds, several hundred hostages with it that Israelis are going to have several dozen or hundreds, several hundred hostages with it that Israelis are going to have to negotiate over. Right?
Starting point is 01:04:48 And one way or another, there's going to be massive pressure from the Israeli public to fix that situation. So we'll see where that goes. And Felix, unless you have anything more, I think we could leave it there. No, I think we've about covered everything that's pertinent today. Muhammad, you've always provided just a irreplaceable voice on the show. And as always, we're very thankful to be able to cut through
Starting point is 01:05:22 the coverage that we see in America and the West at large. Thank you again so much. Thank you. If I could say one thing, just on kind of like the squeamishness that a lot of people have when it comes to kind of the bombing of Gaza, a lot of people say, well, you know, how do you know those are Hamas or those are civilians know, these are civilians, they're separate from Hamas. And then you get a lot of people replying saying, well, they support Hamas or they elected them.
Starting point is 01:05:50 And it is true that a lot of Palestinian support Hamas and they support Hamas for one simple reason because Hamas fights Israel. You remove Hamas and people will support whoever's left that's fighting Israel. And now it's not going to change until Palestinian zone have a reason to fight Israel until occupation is dismantled until apartheid is ended and people are allowed to live
Starting point is 01:06:11 in freedom and equality. And I think genuinely that is not a very complex point to understand, but I think a lot of people kind of bend over backwards and twist themselves and knots to not understand that. And just related to that, I think that the solution to this conflict is simple. People can live together in peace if there is justice and equality between them, and I don't think that's impossible to have. Mohammed, thank you for your time joining us today. And obviously, we extend all of our
Starting point is 01:06:40 thoughts to you and your family right now as well. Thank you guys. I appreciate that. If I could say that if anyone wants more information at AJ Plus, we have some really good coverage and contextual videos about what's been happening past sign over the last few years. So we have a playlist for you guys want to share that. We will link to that as well as a shameless piece. Awesome. Thank you guys so much. All right, thank you.
Starting point is 01:07:02 All right, till next time, bye. you

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