“Massacre”: Analyst Slams Israeli Military Raid That Frees 4 Hostages, Kills 270+ Palestinians

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

For more on the Israeli attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp that freed four Israeli hostages and killed at least 274 Palestinians, wounding over about 700 people, we’re joined by Omar Baddar, a Palestinian American political analyst, member of the National Policy Council of the Arab American Institute. He’s joining us from Washington, D.C.

If you can, overall, respond to what took place, and then, because you’re in D.C., Omar, talk about the Biden administration response?

OMAR BADDAR: Sure, Amy. There’s no question that what unfolded in that operation is a massacre. I mean, we’ve seen just the bodies of hundreds of people littered everywhere, including the bodies of children. We’ve seen absolutely horrific scenes at the hospitals of weeping parents and bloody children. I mean, to look at a death toll of this scale and then to celebrate this kind of operation as some sort of success, you would basically have to openly say that the lives of Israelis are more valuable than the lives of Palestinians. That is the message that is sent by celebrating this operation.

Now, there is no surprise at the fact that an apartheid government like Israel’s would see it that way. They’ve made very clear that they have absolutely no regard for Palestinian life, that they don’t see Palestinians as equal human beings deserving of the same dignity and rights that Israelis enjoy. But what’s really disappointing is looking at the way that the Biden administration has reacted to all this, where the massacre is reduced to a footnote while the focus is primarily on the lives of the hostages who have been rescued. That kind of contrast, this declaration from the Biden administration that the lives of Palestinians matter less than the lives of Israelis, is just absolutely outrageous and completely indefensible. It speaks to a fundamentally broken dynamic with American foreign policy towards the region for a very, very long time, in which Israel is treated like a country that is above the law and above any rules, and their lives simply matter more, and they can do whatever they want, so long as it favors Israel, at the expense of the people around them.

And that kind of approach has actually guaranteed that we’re going to be living in a situation of perpetual conflict, because any time you treat Palestinians the way Israel treats them, put them under indefinite military occupation, rob them of their rights, of their land, treat them the way Palestinians are treated day in and day out under this brutal occupation, you are creating fertile ground for conflict. And that’s why we’re in the situation that we’re in, in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: Omar, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said on the Sunday talk shows, quote, “Innocent people were tragically killed in this operation. The exact number we don’t know, but innocent people were killed. And that is heartbreaking. That’s tragic.”

OMAR BADDAR: Yeah. Amy, just imagine. Imagine if it was the other way around, right? Imagine right now, as you and I are speaking, there are thousands of Palestinians who have been kidnapped out of Gaza. They’re placed in Israeli detention centers across the border. And the treatment that they are witnessing day in and day out has been absolutely horrifying. There’s a report in The New York Times from just a few days ago outlining the daily sexual abuse that these prisoners are actually undergoing, the torture. And we know for a fact that dozens of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli captivity over the past several months, since October 7th to this day. And if you were to imagine a scenario right now in which Hamas conducts an operation, kills several hundred Israelis and then rescues four Palestinians from Israeli detention, would anybody even know the names of those four Palestinians who had been rescued, or would the entire world and our discourse be condemning the massacre that had taken place? Would that be what’s dominating the headlines? We know the answer to that. And we know that we would not be reducing the massacre to nothing, had it been the other way around.

So, yes, maybe Jake Sullivan can talk about how tragic it is that people are dying, but when push comes to shove, the United States is providing the military funding that is allowing for these casualties to occur on a regular basis. At this point, every major human rights organization in the world is describing Israeli conduct in Gaza as war crimes. They are describing the deliberate starving of children. Several of them have died of starvation, as well. We are witnessing that the International Court of Justice effectively has found that Israel is plausibly committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. And in light of all this, for the Biden administration to continue providing unlimited and unconditional military funding for Israel to carry on this genocidal slaughter in Gaza, while expressing regret at the fact that some civilians are dying in the process, I mean, just who are they fooling? They are responsible for it in a direct way. If they do find it tragic, there is a very, very easy solution to it. And that is to put an end to U.S. military funding for Israel, until Israel starts abiding by international law and stops this indiscriminate onslaught on the civilian population in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to President Biden during a joint press conference with the French president, Macron, on Saturday.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: But before I begin my remarks, I want to echo President Macron’s comments welcoming the safe rescue of four hostages that were returned to their families in Israel. We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached. That is essential to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what about this ceasefire? What about this deal? What about Israel and Hamas? The U.S. focuses on Hamas, whether they will accept the deal. President Biden introduced it as an Israeli deal, and yet Netanyahu has not approved this deal.

OMAR BADDAR: Amy, I think it’s really important for your audience to actually understand a bit of the merits of that ceasefire proposal. There has long been tension between the Israeli position — which is effectively a temporary ceasefire, a return of all the hostages to Israel, and then a continuation of the war, of this onslaught on Gaza, that has so far killed nearly 40,000 people and just destroyed the overwhelming majority of the Gaza Strip — and the Hamas position, on the other hand. They’re saying they’re willing to give up the hostages, but they need an end to this onslaught. They want a permanent ceasefire.

And the proposal that Biden put forward effectively presents two phases. Phase one is a temporary ceasefire, and phase two is the permanent one. And in between, he’s left it vague about what needs to be negotiated in order to get to the permanent ceasefire bit. And Netanyahu — I mean, both sides are suspicious for different reasons, right? Hamas is suspicious of that kind of deal, because they’re afraid they’re going to be forced to give up nearly all the hostages at phase one, and then the war is simply going to continue. And from Netanyahu’s perspective, he’s worried that when the war is halted in that temporary ceasefire, that the U.S. is going to apply significant pressure on Netanyahu to turn it into a permanent ceasefire.

Now, Netanyahu immediately came out and effectively rejected any idea that the Biden plan is going to end the war, because he said all Israel has offered is a plan that allows us to continue this war until Hamas is completely destroyed. So he’s effectively openly rejected that deal. And the Biden administration, as it always does, then turns around and applies all the pressure that they want to on the Palestinian side. Now they’re trying to pressure Qatar into potentially throwing out Hamas, the Hamas leadership, out of Qatar if they don’t accept that deal.

So, time and again, we see this pattern where, when push comes to shove, the Biden administration is unwilling to apply any meaningful pressure on Israel. They threatened it here and there. They talk about potentially withholding some weapons. And the second there’s any bit of criticism of the Biden administration from right-wing politicians — and, frankly, some establishment mainstream ones — about how Biden is not backing Israel sufficiently, Biden immediately panics and just throws another unlimited supply of weapons in Israel and says that Israel can do whatever it wants.

That dynamic is not going to lead to anything positive. We can’t get an end to this onslaught if Biden is afraid to apply meaningful pressure on Netanyahu or on Israel. That has long been the core of the issue, by the way, not just in reference to this particular ceasefire effort, but it really is about the broader dynamic of Israel and the United States, where the impunity that Israel enjoys to continue this occupation, to entrench the occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza, and the fact that Biden has always offered unconditional diplomatic support and unconditional military support, that allows extremism to fester within the Israeli government. And that’s what pushes their policies in a more and more extreme direction, where there is no possibility right now for a genuine, long-lasting, just peace, because the Israeli government rejects that completely out of hand. And the only thing that can change that is a shift in American approach and to start saying that America will not be complicit in these kinds of atrocities, will not be complicit in entrenching apartheid and occupation, because that is not a recipe for a stable region or for any kind of long-lasting peace or justice in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Omar Baddar, we want to thank you so much for being with us, Palestinian American political analyst, member of the National Policy Council of the Arab American Institute.

When we come back, we’ll be joined by two Israelis. One, near Tel Aviv, lost his parents on October 7th. He says Israel’s war is not the answer. The other, here in New York, is the head of Idealist.org. Back in 20 seconds.