This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Henry Kissinger has died at the age of 100. To many in the Washington establishment, Kissinger will likely be remembered as one of the most influential diplomats in U.S. history. But around the world, including in Chile, East Timor, Bangladesh and Cambodia, Henry Kissinger is remembered as a war criminal whose actions led to massacres, coups and even genocide.
Kissinger, who was born in Germany, served as U.S. secretary of state under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford from 1973 to 1977. He also served as national security adviser from 1969 to 1975. He’s the only U.S. official to ever simultaneously hold both posts. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 with his North Vietnam counterpart Le Duc Tho.
During his time in office, Henry Kissinger oversaw a massive expansion of the war in Vietnam and the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia, where as many 150,000 civilians were killed in the U.S. strikes, as Kissinger told the military, quote, “Anything that flies or anything that moves.”
In South Asia, Kissinger backed the Pakistani military genocidal war against East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh.
In Latin America, declassified documents show how Kissinger secretly intervened across the continent, from Bolivia to Uruguay to Chile and Argentina. In Chile, Kissinger urged President Nixon to take a, quote, “harder line” against Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. On September 11th, 1973, Allende was overthrown by the U.S.-backed General Augusto Pinochet. Kissinger once said, quote, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”
AMY GOODMAN: In 1975, Henry Kissinger and President Gerald Ford met with the Indonesian dictator General Suharto to give him the go-ahead to invade East Timor, which Indonesia did on December 7th, 1975. The Indonesian military killed a third of the Timorese population — one of the worst genocides of the late 20th century.
Kissinger also drew up plans to attack Cuba in the mid-’70s after Fidel Castro sent Cuban troops to Angola to fight forces linked to apartheid South Africa.
At home, Kissinger urged President Nixon to go after Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg, who Kissinger called “the most dangerous man in America.”
The historian Greg Grandin once estimated Kissinger’s actions may have led to the deaths of 3 million, maybe 4 million people. While human rights activists have long called for Kissinger to be tried for war crimes, he remained a celebrated figure in Washington and beyond, serving as an adviser to both Republican and Democratic administrations.
We turn now to Greg Grandin. He’s the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor of history at Yale University. His books include Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. His new piece for The Nation is “A People’s Obituary of Henry Kissinger.” He also wrote the introduction to the new book, just out, Only the Good Die Young: The Verdict on Henry Kissinger.
Greg, welcome back to Democracy Now! So, give us this people’s history of Henry Kissinger, as we see in the mainstream media he’s hailed as the man who opened communication with China, led to a détente with Russia. What is your version of events?
GREG GRANDIN: Well, I think you summed up very well the version of events, the number of war crimes that he was involved in. You know, Kissinger’s life is fascinating, because it spans a very consequential bridge in United States history, from the collapse of the postwar consensus, you know, that happened with Vietnam, and Kissinger is instrumental in kind of recobbling, recreating a national security state that can deal with dissent, that can deal with polarization, that actually thrived on polarization and secrecy and learning to manipulate the public in order to advance a very aggressive foreign policy.
I mean, we can go into the details, but I do want to say that his death has been as instructive as his life. I mean, if you look at the obituaries and notes of condolences, they just — I mean, they just reveal, I think, a moral bankruptcy of the political establishment, certainly in the transatlantic world, in the larger NATO sphere, just an unwillingness or incapacity to comprehend the crisis that we’re in and Kissinger’s role in that crisis. They’re celebratory. They’re inane. They’re vacuous. They’re really quite remarkable. And if you think of — just think back over the last year, the celebrations, the feting of his 100th anniversary — 100th, you know, birthday, his living to 100 years. I think it’s a cultural marker of just how much — how bankrupt the political class in this country is. So his death is almost as instructive as his life.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, we had you on, Greg, when he turned 100, when Kissinger turned 100.
GREG GRANDIN: Right.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: In that interview, you said that the best way to think about Kissinger isn’t necessarily as a war criminal. Could you explain why?
GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, because that is the way — I mean, Christopher Hitchens popularized thinking about him as a war criminal, and that has a way of elevating Kissinger, in some ways, as somehow an extraordinary evil. And it’s a fine line, because he did play an outsized role in a staggering number of atrocities and bringing and dealing misery and death across the globe to millions of people. But there’s a lot of war criminals. I mean, you know, this country is stocked with war criminals. There’s no shortage of war criminals.
And thinking about him as a war criminal kind of dumbs us down. It doesn’t allow us to think with Kissinger’s — use Kissinger’s life to think with, to think about how the United States — for example, Kissinger started off as a Rockefeller Republican, you know, a liberal Republican, an adviser to Nelson Rockefeller who thought Nixon was far out of the mainstream and a dangerous sociopath, I think, as he put it. And yet, when Nixon won — and he actually helped him win by scuttling a peace deal with North Vietnam — he made his peace with Nixon, and then went on, you know, into public office. And he thought Reagan was too extreme, and yet he made his peace with Reagan. Then he thought the neocons were too extreme, and he made his peace with the neocons. Then he even made his peace with Donald Trump. He called Donald — he celebrated Donald Trump almost as a kind of embodiment of his theory of a great statesman and being able to craft reality as they want to through their will. So, you see Kissinger — as the country moves right, you see Kissinger moving with it. So, just that trajectory is very useful to think with.
If you also think about his secret bombing of Cambodia and then trace out that bombing, it’s like a bright light, you know, a trace of red, running from Cambodia to the current endless “war on terror,” what was considered illegal. I mean, Kissinger bombed Cambodia in secret because it was illegal to bomb another country that you weren’t at war with in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s his old colleagues at Harvard, who were all Cold Warriors, none of them peace liberals, who marched down to Washington. They didn’t even know about the bombing. They went to protest the invasion of Cambodia. And now, you know, it is just considered a fact of international law that the United States has the right to bomb countries that — third-party countries that we’re not at war with that give safe haven to terrorists. It’s just considered — it’s just considered commonplace. So you could see this evolution and drift towards endless war through Kissinger’s life.
You can also — Kissinger’s life is also useful to think about how, you know, as a public official, first national security adviser and then secretary of state to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Kissinger created much of the chaos that would later necessitate and require a transition to what we call neoliberalism. But then, out of office, as the head of Kissinger Associates, Kissinger helped to broker that transition to neoliberalism, the privatization of much of the world, of Latin America, of Eastern Europe, of Russia. So you see that, you know, that transition from a public politician or public policymaker and then going on to making untold wealth as a private citizen in this transition.
So, you know, there’s many ways in which Kissinger’s life kind of maps the trajectory of the United States. You know, they celebrated him at the New York Public Library as if he was the American century incarnate. And in many ways, he was. You know, he really — his career really does map nicely onto the trajectory of the United States and the evolution of the national security state and its foreign policy and — you know, and the broken world that we’re all trying to live in, as your last two segments —
AMY GOODMAN: Greg, I —
GREG GRANDIN: — showed so —
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Henry Kissinger in his own words. He’s speaking in 2016, when he defended the secret bombing of Cambodia.
HENRY KISSINGER: Nixon ordered an attack on the base areas within five miles of the Vietnamese border, that were essentially unpopulated. So, when the phrase “carpet bombing” is used, it is, I think, in the size of the attacks, probably much less than what the Obama administration has done in similar base areas in Pakistan, which I think is justified. And therefore, I believe that what was done in Cambodia was justified.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Henry Kissinger in 2016. He was speaking at the LBJ Library. The late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain once said, “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia — the fruits of his genius for statesmanship — and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milosevic.” If you can just respond to that? And for a —
GREG GRANDIN: Yeah. Well, that quote contains more moral and intellectual acuity and intelligence than the entire political establishment, both liberal and — both Democrat and Republican. It’s morally correct. It’s intellectually correct. And, you know, it’s more accurate than most diplomatic historians, who trade on making Kissinger more ethic — morally complicated than he was.
In terms of Kissinger’s quote himself about Cambodia, there he’s playing a little bit of a game. So he’s lying. I mean, he carpet-bombed Cambodia. The United States massively bombed Cambodia and brought to power within the Khmer Rouge the most extreme clique, led by Pol Pot. You know, when you massively bomb a country and you destroy a whole opposition, you tend to bring to power the extremists. And that’s exactly why Kissinger is responsible, to a large degree, for the genocide that happened later on under Pol Pot. The bombing brought to power Pol Pot within the Khmer Rouge, which previously was a larger, broader coalition.
But Kissinger isn’t wrong when he links it to Obama’s bombing of Pakistan. That was the point I was trying to make earlier. You know, Kissinger just had to do it illegally back — covertly back then, because it was illegal. It was against international law to bomb third countries, you know, in order to advance your war aims in another country. But now it’s accepted as commonplace. And it is true, he’s not wrong, when he cites Obama’s drone program and what Obama — and, you know, the continuation of the logic in the “war on terror” that started under George W. Bush. He’s not wrong about that. And that’s the line that — that’s one of the lines that you can trace from Vietnam and Cambodia and South Asia to today’s catastrophe that we’re living in.
AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin, we want thank you so much for being with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor of history at Yale University. He’s author of Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. We’ll link to your article in The Nation, “A People’s Obituary of Henry Kissinger.”
Happy belated birthday to Deena Guzder! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: As we continue our coverage of Gaza, we’re joined by Raji Sourani, the award-winning human rights lawyer and director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights. He’s a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. We last spoke with Raji Sourani after Israel bombed his home in Gaza City. He joins us today from Cairo, Egypt.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Raji Sourani. If you could begin by talking about how you managed to leave Gaza and how you got to Cairo?
RAJI SOURANI: Well, it was very hard and very heartbreaking for me, I mean, to leave Gaza, I mean, the place I lived all my life, one-way ticket in it. And that was very hard and very tough. But really, I mean, after I was targeted for the second time, after we talked, I was advised very strongly, I mean, not to be at that place and to leave the northern of Gaza. And I left with my family, who didn’t want to leave me alone. I mean, so we left together to the south for a few days, and thanks for the help of great friends, I mean, who managed to get me there, because in two previous attempts it was mission impossible, when tens of people died either on the beach road or at Salah al-Din Street in front of our eyes, when the Israelis shot and bombed, I mean, people who were advised to leave to the safe haven in the south. But that wasn’t, I mean, the case. So I managed to leave to the south, finally, on my third attempt. And from there, I managed to move to Egypt.
There was, I mean, quite a lot of friends who wanted, in a way, the voice, I mean, of Gaza, the voice of the voiceless, about the horrendous genocide taking place at [inaudible] to be reported to the outside world. And there is quite a lot of things to do with the ICC, which greatly disappointing us, and there’s quite a lot of work to do with the ICJ. And there is quite a lot of work to talk, speak to power in European countries about this new Nakba, which is in process, and Israel creating it, and to stop their complicity, their absolute political, legal, military support for belligerent criminal occupation, who’s doing suicide — genocide at the daylight, who’s doing ethnic cleansing, war crimes, broadcasted there live at the real time. But it seems deep in their mind and hearts, the colonial, racist Western governments don’t want to see, don’t want to know, and they are insisting, I mean, in supporting blindly the Israeli belligerent occupation in the crimes they are doing in Gaza and the Occupied Territories at large.
AMY GOODMAN: Raji, if you could look straight into the camera lens as we speak to you now in Cairo? Thank God you’re OK. When we were speaking to you the day after your house was bombed, you described your son moving you and your beloved wife from one room, saying, “Let’s going into the hallway,” and then the place was destroyed. If you could say in more detail what it was like to make your way north to south, what you saw along the way? We also had reports that those who wanted to return to their homes north — so much of the bombing, it may surprise people, is happening actually in the south, where people are directed to go, before this ceasefire. Is it true that people were shot trying to go home in the north? The Israeli military had said, “Don’t do this.”
RAJI SOURANI: Well, we have to understand the context, the context of what the Israelis really want. In simple words, Prime Minister Netanyahu, the criminal Netanyahu, said in simple words, “Gazans should leave Gaza.” He said, “Gaza should be deserted.” And the Minister of Defense Gallant, in a clear, simple way, he said, “For Gazans, there will be no food, no electricity, no fuel.”
And so, what does that mean? I mean, if you say Gazans should leave Gaza, to go where to? It’s obvious and clear. If you are starving and cutting electricity, food, medicine, you are bombing shelters, hospitals, ambulances, if you are killing hundreds of entire families, I mean, being erased, if you are bombing bakeries, if you are bombing water infrastructure and desalination plants, if you are, you know, bluffing, I mean, the entire streets in the Gaza, if you are not allowing people even to reach hospital, if you bomb the civil defense system and the people who are working on it, what do you want from that? If you make no safe haven in entire Gaza, what’s the purpose of that?
They want to push the north to the south. This is the first stage. And they pushed many as a million people, I mean, to the south — Gaza already one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. And they push them while Gaza suffers 17 years of blockade, suffocated the life socioeconomically, passed through five wars against them, and in the eye of the storm the civilian and civilian targets. And now you are doing all that. You are killing almost 30,000 people, because many, many, Amy, still, I mean, under the rubbles, many still under their destroyed houses, and civil defense unable to recover. You are talking about thousands of people. You are talking about thousands of people in the streets in some areas nobody can get to.
The rationale, the behavior of the Israeli guidelines, the outcome of this pushing people to the south, and then from the south toward Sinai, that’s a new Nakba. As simple as that. They want us out, out of Palestine, out of Gaza, out of the West Bank. This is, I mean, the ultimate goal, Amy, for the Israeli government. And this coalition of Netanyahu and the right wing, the basis of their governmental agreement, the coalition agreement to do that, this was said at day one of this war, of this genocide war. And I think yet the Israelis so determined, so willing, and they want to do that. They want to do that.
They finished, I mean, the first stage, and now they want to go to the second stage. And after they finish up with Gaza, it won’t be a new brand of apartheid in East Jerusalem and West Bank. They will do the same, I mean, there. So, what was lack of their plan in 1948 in the Nakba, they want to implement it completely now, so Eretz Yisrael would be clean, and they will have the purity of the Jewish state. And by that, they will accomplish, I mean, their mission. This is simple, clear for any who want to see beyond the details. This is really what Israel want to do.
And that’s why we call it, from the second day, this is genocide, this is ethnic cleansing, and these are first-class war crimes. It’s against A, B, C of international law, international humanitarian law. And it’s against Geneva Convention. It’s against Rome Statute. And we see, from the wall to wall, support by many European countries, doing that willingly and giving full legal, political and military support for the state of Israel, plus U.S.
AMY GOODMAN: Raji, as you talk about international law, can you make that comparison between what happened in Ukraine, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, immediately the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court opening an investigation, especially against children — I think there were something — against what happened to the children. Five hundred children have died in Ukraine over almost two years, up to a thousand dead or maimed. And you compare it to the few weeks of the bombardment of Gaza, 5,000 to 6000 children alone dead, over 15,000 people dead. What do you want Karim Khan to do? And finally — and we just have a few minutes — right now Blinken just met with Mahmoud Abbas. He just met with Herzog on his, like, fourth trip to the Middle East, the U.S. pushing hard to give more weapons aid to Israel. Your response to that? What do you want Biden to say to Netanyahu? And how much power does he have?
RAJI SOURANI: I don’t think yet there is decision by U.S. to stop what is going on. They can simply stop all these crimes. We are bombed with F-35, F-16s, the American tanks, the American artillery, the American ammunition. We are killed with that, with some small amount of European arms. Now, if U.S. want to stop that, they can do that. And they can do that simply. But they are supporting, Amy, really, what Israel is doing. And if we are talking about the next stage that — attends. Hello?
AMY GOODMAN: We can hear you fine. Just if you can just look up into the camera. We see you. Ah, we may have just lost Raji Sourani. Raji Sourani is the world-renowned, award-winning human rights attorney, won the RFK, Robert F. Kennedy Award, won the Right Livelihood Award, has lived in Gaza for decades, speaking to us from Cairo, Egypt. He just got out of Gaza. His home was bombed, with this wife and his son and him it.
Next up, we’re going to talk about Henry Kissinger. He has died at the age of 100. We’ll speak to the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Greg Grandin, author of Kissinger’s Shadow. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “The Right to Live in Peace” by Víctor Jara, the great Chilean musician who died in the days after the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet came to power, U.S.-backed, Nixon-backed, Kissinger-backed Pinochet, leading to the death of thousands.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Israel has agreed to extend its truce with Hamas for a seventh day to facilitate the exchange of captives. The extension was announced just minutes before it was set to expire on Thursday morning, prolonging a reprieve for Gaza’s 2.3 million residents after 47 days of relentless attacks by Israel spawned a massive humanitarian crisis. On Wednesday, Hamas released 16 hostages. In exchange, Israel released another 30 Palestinian women and child prisoners.
Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank, two Palestinian children were shot dead by Israeli forces during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp on Wednesday. Fifteen-year-old Basil Suleiman Abu al-Wafa died in a hospital after he was shot in the chest. And 8-year-old Adam al-Ghoul was shot in the head as he ran from Israeli forces, in a killing captured on video. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Israeli soldiers blocked medics from reaching the camp to treat the wounded.
In Khan Younis, in the south of Gaza, Doctors Without Borders surgeon Dr. Hafez Abukhussa described how his hospital is overwhelmed.
DR. HAFEZ ABUKHUSSA: The patients that we see, the majority of patients, they are female and children. But what hurts me a lot, when I see a child, an innocent child, injured, and he need a major surgery. He lost his limb. And he’s the last child. He’s the only remnant of his family. And when he woke up from anesthesia, he asked to see his family. So, this is really a heartbreaking situation.
The difficulties that we face here is the lack of supplies, the lack of instruments. In the hospital on normal days here, there’s 300 patients. Now it’s more than 1,000 patients. The patients, they are homeless, because many of them are refugees within Gaza, and the other people, they have — their houses were destroyed. They don’t have the access to potable water, or there’s a lack of food, a lack of [electricity]. And some of them just get out from their houses with the clothes that they are wearing. We know that we are in danger, in danger anytime, but we will keep doing the same.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Avril Benoît, executive director of Doctors Without Borders.
Welcome back to Democracy Now! If you can talk about what is happening right now in Gaza? I mean, as we are broadcasting, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken is meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, and he just met with Netanyahu. There is a ceasefire, not clear it was going to be extended even one more day. Minutes before the end of that ceasefire, it was announced it would continue. What have you learned about the devastation?
AVRIL BENOÎT: Well, thanks for having me.
From the medical humanitarian perspective of what we have seen from the beginning, after the appalling attack on October 7th, has been a collective punishment of the people in Gaza. And that’s why you’ve seen such a disproportionate number of civilians killed. The devastation on the hospitals is near complete. There are a few hospitals in the north that are really not much more than shelters right now, with still medical personnel trying to stay with patients, but they have no more equipment, they have no electricity, they have no water. They’re holed up.
And it’s a very high-risk evacuation route. We know from our own experience of our team that was stuck there with their families, after having made the decision for the medical doctors to stay with some of the patients in the hospitals, that they came — they were subjected to crossfire. A couple of the members of the evacuation group, the family members were killed in that. Our vehicles were destroyed, the ones that we were intending to use to be able to evacuate these staff and families after they retreated from what seemed to be imminent risk of death, that proved to be fatal in the end.
And so, what we’re seeing is this surge of patients in the south. As you just heard, hospitals, from the beginning, have been completely overwhelmed, but now they’ve got patients who really require much more complex medical care. They require, really, referral — ideally, medical evacuation in a safe way to a third country, for example, where they can receive the level of care that will save their lives and prevent further damage.
Just to mention another thing, because of the lack of antibiotics, medicine, wound dressing equipment, we have a very high risk of high numbers of people dying of infections. And that is something that should never happen under international humanitarian law, the norms of war. People should have access to medical care in a conflict like this. And that is just not being guaranteed in terms of the way this war is being conducted.
AMY GOODMAN: Can I ask you if you’ve heard about this report of al-Nasr pediatric hospital in northern Gaza and the premature babies, five of them, discovered, the remains of the babies? The reports were that they were left to die after Israeli forces blocked access to the intensive care unit.
AVRIL BENOÎT: I don’t have the details on that, I’m sorry. What we do know is that it was a harrowing decision for the medical staff when ordered to evacuate, knowing that sometimes you’re only given a couple of hours, which is completely unacceptable. Even in the context of this pause, this truce — which we certainly hope will continue and become an actual ceasefire — it’s very complicated to transfer a patient that is in a vulnerable state, in a machine that no longer has any electricity — as you probably know, the lack of fuel has meant it’s near impossible to run ambulances — and because of the violence, all these checkpoints, where it seems that people are waiting for hours and hours. You can imagine you’ve got people who are transferred from an intensive care unit stuffed into an ambulance because it’s one of the only ones running, and then at the checkpoint they’re stopped for up to seven hours. And then there’s violence, and they feel they have to retreat. It’s a very harrowing, high-risk kind of thing to organize.
And that’s one of the reasons that we’re calling for this killing to stop, for there to be a proper ceasefire, and, furthermore, for there to be medical evacuations, so that people can receive the care they need in a safe way, with, of course, the right to return if they so wish, and then also for there to be unconditional humanitarian aid that is allowed to enter, because we know people are in places where the aid cannot reach, and they cannot reach the hospitals. They don’t feel it’s safe. And so they are at risk of dying and suffering lifelong consequences if they don’t receive the medical care right away.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Avril, could you speak about the — during this pause, how much medical equipment, supplies, medicine, as you were speaking about earlier, the acute shortage, which many people have mentioned — how much medication is coming in, medication and equipment is coming in, during this pause, into Gaza?
AVRIL BENOÎT: The specifics are unclear, to be perfectly honest. We see that every day there are a certain number of trucks. They move at a snail’s pace. What we would really like to see, of course, is for that to be faster and of greater volume. Before this conflict, before October 7th, there were 500 trucks that would cross daily into Gaza, and that was during a blockade, so not enough. The hospitals were already at a deficit of the equipment that they needed, of the replenishing supplies. All the stocks were always threadbare. And so, then compounded with the fact that we have an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 wounded people, not to mention those that are now coming in with fevers, gastrointestinal situations, acute watery diarrhea — maybe it’s cholera; we don’t know, because we don’t have the testing facilities and labs available to check — what we’re seeing with this truce is that there is no way to be able to support the hospitals that continue to stand. Of course, many of them have been damaged in the fighting. They have been attacked systematically. The World Health Organization has been tracking this.
And for us, this is such an obvious violation of international humanitarian law, to attack hospitals, to attack medical staff, to kill them while they’re at the bedside of patients — and our own colleagues have been killed — and to just go after these facilities as if there’s some excuse that is legitimate, when it’s not, and there’s no evidence that’s been offered to really prove that they should be targets, really nothing — nothing — to substantiate that at all. They are protected spaces.
And so, the truce has allowed perhaps some stocks to go in for us to facilitate to do some movements, to check on some hospitals and clinics to see what their stocks are like. But what you really needed was to pre-position everything, to have it already in place at the starting blocks, in a warehouse, ready to be distributed to the places that need it most, that still have medical staff. And that wasn’t done because of the total siege over the last many weeks.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Avril, I’m not sure — I’m sure you’ve heard that the World Health Organization earlier this week warned that more people in Gaza could die from disease than have already died from the bombing. If you could talk a little bit about that?
AVRIL BENOÎT: Yes. Well, certainly, I mentioned infections earlier. When you have children coming in who have more than 50% of their bodies burned from explosions, they are, in the best-case scenario, in the fully equipped hospital with all the means to control the infection, really it’s a life-or-death situation. So, now we have so many of these children that we cannot treat properly. We don’t even have the proper gauze in the stocks to be able to do it.
The other thing that the World Health Organization was pointing out, which is entirely plausible, is this whole question of dehydration. So, young children, infants are coming in severely dehydrated. And where is the water? Since the siege began, this is one of the things that this collective punishment has honed in on to say, “We’re not going to give you access to water or food or medicines” — all the things that are needed just to stay alive. So, that’s a huge problem right now.
Then you just think of the people with chronic illnesses. And this is always a concern for us. Somebody who’s on heart medication, or they have diabetes, they have any number of chronic illnesses — think of all the cancer patients — where are they supposed to go to replenish? The hospital system that is barely functioning at all in the south, for example, their focus is on the severely wounded that are coming in, trying to keep people alive, patch them up, do the amputations really quickly, not in the proper way even to allow for prosthetic devices after. They’re just trying to do the most triage very urgently. And the ones who need safe place to give birth, the ones who need their heart medication, the children who are severely dehydrated, and there’s nowhere really to look after them in a hospital like that, these are the ones that are likely to be the other casualties of this war, not only the ones who are killed by the direct violence that is seemingly affecting civilians so much more than anyone else.
AMY GOODMAN: Avril Benoît, if you can talk about Netanyahu’s threat to — in resuming the bombardment? You’ve got Blinken, who reportedly is urging more surgical strikes. But they’re talking about bombarding the south. This is where they forced — what is it? — a million Gazans, Palestinians, to go from the north. So, talk about what this would mean if this temporary ceasefire ends.
AVRIL BENOÎT: It’s a horror show for us. Just think about it. A third of the injured people already were injured in the south, which was the place that everyone was told to go. That was the place. You were supposed to leave the north, go to the south. And then they got killed there.
So, for us, this is the worst, because what we have is, on the one side, the talk of “We would like humanitarian law to be respected. We would like civilians to be considered. Limit the collateral damage of civilians,” and yet, what we have seen time and again is there are no consequences evident for not doing that. And so, we have, with the looming end of this truce — and, it seems, not enough political will to really have a ceasefire — what we would regard as a kind of talking one thing but no consequences. So we can tell the Israeli forces, the Netanyahu government, “Please try to limit the killing of civilians, start doing that,” but we’re not really seeing any consequences if they don’t.
And we do know that the United States is providing billions in aid, its military aid. And so, you know, it seems that that aid could well be used, with no consequences, to violate international norms, the Geneva Conventions, international humanitarian law. And for us, that’s just unacceptable.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And finally, Avril Benoît, MSF International President Christos Christou posted this update on Tuesday, that while he was visiting the MSF team at the Khalil Suleiman Hospital in Jenin, the Israeli army conducted an incursion on the refugee camp.
AVRIL BENOÎT: Yes. And one of the most difficult things about that is that —
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to play a clip. We’re going to play a clip —
AVRIL BENOÎT: OK.
AMY GOODMAN: — of Christou right now.
AVRIL BENOÎT: Sounds good.
CHRISTOS CHRISTOU: It’s been already two-and-a-half hours that we are trapped in our hospital here in Jenin, while the Israeli forces are operating in another incursion in Jenin camp. There is no way for any of the injured patients to reach the hospital, and there’s no way for us to reach these people. There’s nothing worse for a doctor to know that there are people there needing our care, and they cannot get it.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Avril Benoît, if you could comment on that and also the fact that two children were killed in Jenin just today?
AVRIL BENOÎT: Yes. Well, as Dr. Christou, our international president, said, if people cannot access a facility in the West Bank, already you can see the grave concern that we have. Under humanitarian law, anyone should be able to reach a hospital. And to have a hospital surrounded, blocked, so that no one can actually bring their injured children, bring their wounded to that hospital, for us, is a complete outrage. It’s been happening systematically in Gaza. And for us to now see it elsewhere is something that we, as the international community, should never accept.
And that is one of the reasons that we are speaking so loudly and in a united voice with the humanitarian aid agencies for a ceasefire, a proper ceasefire, to stop the killing, stop the siege, and allow aid to come in unconditionally and for the people to be helped, saved, and to be able to resume their lives in some shape or form.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you, Avril Benoît, for joining us. This ceasefire, we will see, goes day by day, those children in Jenin killed yesterday. Avril Benoît is executive director of Doctors Without Borders.
Coming up, we’ll be speaking with the acclaimed Gazan human rights attorney Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. He’s going to be joining us from Cairo, after his house was bombed in northern Gaza. We will find out about his journey south. Then we’ll speak with the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Greg Grandin about the death of Henry Kissinger. Stay with us.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
President Biden and Jill Biden, Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined other current and former leaders to pay tribute to former first lady Rosalynn Carter at her memorial service on Tuesday. All living first ladies were there. Ninety-nine-year-old President Jimmy Carter, now in home hospice care since last February, was also in attendance in a wheelchair.
Rosalynn Carter served as a longtime political adviser and strategist for Jimmy Carter, who went from rural state senator to governor of Georgia in 1970 and president of the United States in ’76. As first lady, Rosalynn Carter joined White House cabinet meetings, served as an envoy to Latin America. In 1979, Time magazine declared her to be the second most powerful person in the United States. She and Jimmy Carter also worked for years with the charity Habitat for Humanity building homes for people in need.
This is their grandson Jason Carter speaking at Tuesday’s memorial.
JASON CARTER: And again, a special thank you, Secretary Clinton, Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Trump and Dr. Biden. Thank you all for coming and acknowledging this remarkable sisterhood that you share with my grandmother. And thank you all for your leadership that you provided for our country and the world. Secretary Clinton and Dr. Biden, we also welcome your lovely husbands.
AMY GOODMAN: The audience laughed as Presidents Biden and Clinton looked on. Rosalynn Carter’s son James Earl Carter III, known as Chip, eulogized his mother at Tuesday’s memorial service.
JAMES EARL ”CHIP” CARTER: My mother was the glue that held our family together through the ups and downs and thicks and thins of our family’s politics. As individuals, she believed in us and took care of us. When I was 14, I supported President Johnson for president, and every day I wore a Johnson sticker on my shirt. And periodically, I would get beat up, and my shirt torn and the buttons pulled off and my sticker always destroyed. And I would walk the blocks during lunch from school down to Carter’s Warehouse, and my mother would have a shirt in a drawer already mended, buttons sewn on and the LBJ sticker still applied. Years later, she was influential in getting me into rehab for my drug and alcohol addiction. She saved my life.
AMY GOODMAN: After leaving the White House, Rosalynn Carter campaigned to expand U.S. mental health services. This is an excerpt of a video tribute featuring her words.
ROSALYNN CARTER: I’ve worked on mental health issues since my husband was governor of Georgia, which is a very long time. I worked on stigma and tried to overcome stigma because it holds back progress in the field. People don’t get help when they need it because of stigma. We have a great opportunity to change things forever for everyone with mental illness. The solutions are truly within our reach. We can overcome stigma, and we can make services available to all who need them, and offer every individual the chance to create a happy and fulfilling future.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by the award-winning investigative reporter Aaron Glantz. His new piece for NPR is headlined “Rosalynn Carter’s mental health advocacy changed journalism — and journalists.” Aaron is a two-time Peabody Award-winning journalist, Pulitzer Prize finalist, who currently serves as senior editor at The Fuller Project, the global nonprofit newsroom focused on women. Aaron was a Rosalynn Carter Fellow for Mental Health Journalism at The Carter Center from 2008 to ’09 and used the fellowship to write his book, _The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans_.
Aaron, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s so great to have you with us. You know, we’ve featured much of your reporting on Iraq on Democracy Now! We’ve had you on a number of times. Talk about how that connects to this fellowship you had with Rosalynn Carter. And even though the fellowship was named for her, did you actually get to meet her?
AARON GLANTZ: I did get to meet her. And that was a big surprise. I didn’t necessarily expect it when I applied.
Your longtime listeners and viewers of Democracy Now! will remember that I was in Iraq after the invasion. I covered the 2004 siege of Fallujah. I covered the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the attack on Najaf and a number of other incredibly difficult circumstances where a lot of people died. And then I came home, and I started to cover the experiences of American veterans who were returning home to a country that denied them the healthcare that was promised and the benefits that were promised, you know, basic parts of the social contract, that if you got blown up by a roadside bomb and couldn’t work, that you would get disability benefits. And yet I kept interviewing people who were sleeping in their trucks or on the streets or couldn’t get access to promised mental healthcare. And I was filing story after story about that, some of it for Democracy Now! And I wasn’t — I just have to say, like, we weren’t really moving the needle.
And so, in 2008, I applied for this fellowship at The Carter Center named for Mrs. Carter. And in the application for this fellowship, I had to write about how the work that I was going to do was going to address the issue of stigma, the stigma associated with mental illness, and make an impact. And I recall even when I was filling out this form, that it was the first time that anyone had ever asked me, you know, how my work would make a difference.
And then, when I got accepted to the program, I went to Atlanta. Mrs. Carter attended the entire fellowship training. I came to Atlanta multiple times, and every time I was there, she was there, too, listening to us, giving us notes. And I write in the piece that was published this week that she took me seriously, which made me take myself more seriously, that when you have the first lady of the United States putting expectations on you, that your journalism should matter, you start to think a lot more strategically and intentionally about how you’re going to move the needle.
And so, for example, at that time, the Department of Veterans Affairs was maintaining that there was no way to even count the number of veterans who were dying by suicide after returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. And in the year after I received the mental health fellowship from The Carter Center, I set to work to use public health records. And so now there’s this statistic: 22 veterans die by suicide every day. And it’s incredibly troubling. But now that the VA is tracking that, you know, they can try to address it.
And so, to imbue this kind of thinking in every single story I do, which I’ve now been doing for 15 years, is a direct result of the guidance and influence that Mrs. Carter had on me. And hundreds of other journalists have had the same experience.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Aaron, she also had an enormous impact on legislation and policy, as well, in the area of mental health. She led the President’s Commission on Mental Health that eventually was instrumental in passing the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. And could you talk about her work in trying to lobby Congress to provide more assistance from medical insurers to those who needed mental health assistance?
AARON GLANTZ: A lifelong priority of Mrs. Carter’s was the issue of parity in insurance, that the same health benefits that you get if you break your arm or your leg or have cancer, that you should have parity and be able to get those same benefits for any mental health issue that you might face, and that treating mental health and physical health on equal footing from an insurance perspective would go a long way to making sure people got the care they need, and also go a long way to making sure that people felt comfortable asking for help and seeking help.
And this is something that she talked about when I was at The Carter Center in 2008 and ’09. It’s something that ended up being passed into law during the administration of President Obama. And even now The Carter Center, in the last few years, has launched a new initiative with journalists to figure out how well that is actually going. So, you know, a lot of people in politics come and go on certain issues, but, you know, Mrs. Carter, this was something that she worked on from her days as first lady of the state of Georgia, before her husband was even president, all the way through, you know, until very close to the end of her life.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we have less than a minute, but if you could talk about some of the other fellows that you worked with at the — in that fellowship and what they were able to accomplish?
AARON GLANTZ: I mean, I think the first important thing is that there were hundreds of fellows that were inspired by Mrs. Carter, and that has led to a sea change. When Mrs. Carter established this fellowship program in 1996, you would still see stories that said people were insane or crazy. And there was no established beat for mental health in journalism. And she has utterly changed that. There is now a whole movement of journalists.
And since she’s died, you know, I’ve reached out to a number of people who had this fellowship. And the one that really sticks with me in terms of really showing Mrs. Carter’s legacy is I had a chance to talk with Soreath Hok, who is a Cambodian American journalist in Fresno, who got the Rosalynn Carter fellowship to explore the long-term psychological impacts of genocide of the Khmer Rouge on her refugee community. And it was only after she got this fellowship in 2002, when Mrs. — sorry, 2022, when Mrs. Carter was already too sick to attend the fellowship in person, that she learned that way back in 1979, that Mrs. Carter had traveled to Thailand and visited Cambodian refugees in camps at a time when this was an active war zone, and then led the campaign to bring — allow Cambodian refugees to come to this country. And it was so meaningful —
AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds, Aaron.
AARON GLANTZ: — to both Soreath and to Mrs. Carter’s staff that they were able to come full circle. And I really think it shows how her virtuous work over the entire course of her life built upon itself —
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, investigative journalist Aaron Glantz, remembering Rosalynn Carter.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in New York, with Juan González in Chicago.
We turn now to Sudan, where fighting between rival military factions continues to tear apart the country. Since April, the fighting has killed over 12,000 people, left over 6 million people displaced. Earlier this month, human rights groups say members of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group carried out a massacre of around 1,300 Masalit people over three days in Sudan’s West Darfur region. Survivors of the massacre say RSF fighters went house to house looking for men to kill.
NAZIFA IBRAHIM: [translated] If they see a Black person, they call him a fighter and kill him. If a Black person is just walking, they kill him. There are people who hid inside their houses in fear, so they broke in with weapons and killed everyone. Some people tried to flee. They were caught, tied, taken out to the street, killed and left there dead. These are all civilians and not fighters dressed in khaki. Even the women and young unmarried girls were killed. I saw them. I just came from Ardamata yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, a top Sudanese general accused the United Arab Emirates of arming the paramilitary group RSF.
We’re joined now by two guests. Marine Alneel is back with us. She’s a Sudanese activist, joining us today from Kampala, Uganda. And Mohamed Osman is with us, a Sudan researcher in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, joining us from Berlin, Germany. Human Rights Watch has just published a report titled “Sudan: New Mass Ethnic Killings, Pillage in Darfur.”
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Mohamed, let’s begin with you in Berlin. Talk about what you found.
MOHAMED OSMAN: So, Amy, really, this research we released is part of our ongoing investigations in the events in West Darfur, which started in April, just a few days after the start of the conflict in Khartoum. This last piece of research, in particular, we’ve been interviewing survivors who managed to flee to eastern Chad.
The overall picture that survivors drew to us is horrific, is exactly what you just noted, in the spree of killing, house to house, people fleeing. We talked to several people who just described streets littered with dead bodies. Some of them managed to be buried in big square in the main camp in the area, but others have been left there for days. We looked into the satellite imagery we could analyze that also showed the level of destruction and arson that’s been done by the Rapid Support Forces and their allied militias. Also cases of sexual violence continue to be reported from that area. But, of course, the overall impact is the near-complete removal and uprooting of the Masalit community, among the other non-Arab groups, from El Geneina, West Darfur, to eastern Chad.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mohamed, could you talk about the — even though this has been portrayed largely as an internal civil conflict, there are regional powers that are funding and arming both sides. Could you talk about the role of the United Arab Emirates, of Egypt and Saudi Arabia and these other countries?
MOHAMED OSMAN: So, I completely agree that there has been an issue with the framing of the conflict itself, even prior to the outbreak of the war in April, when the U.N. and other actors continuously used the term “intercommunal violence,” “intercommunal conflict,” in a way to reduce the participation of government forces.
But looking into the situation now, I mean, we have extensive media reporting in the last weeks and months that point clearly to the role of the UAE, in particular, in terms of shuttling weapons and support to the Rapid Support Forces, largely through Chad but also through Uganda and Kenya. Darfur, in particular, witnessed an increasing use of drones, which indicate that some sort of an actor would be able to supply this kind of weapons. Darfur is under arms embargo from the U.N. since 2004, so the UAE stands as a big suspect in terms of providing these weapons. Meanwhile, Egypt, on the other side, has been at least politically supportive to the Sudanese Armed Forces, at least historically, but, you know, clearly throughout the conflict.
So, we are yet to establish clear evidence on the level of support, but I think there is enough news out there to suggest at least some sort of investigation and responsibility and accountability should be addressed towards the UAE and Egypt, in particular.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what about other regional powers, like Kenya and Uganda?
MOHAMED OSMAN: So, just looking into the regional response of the conflict, which has been, you know, unfortunately, almost nonexistent, the Sudanese Armed Forces have previously accused Kenya and Ethiopia of siding with the Rapid Support Forces, which has of course created an issue around the credibility of the African Union and the IGAD organization to respond to the situation. But I think, from our end, has been no evidence of clear support from these regional countries, but clearly to say that Kenya has been hosting equally also some of the commanders and advisers to the Rapid Support Forces.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring Marine Alneel, speaking of Uganda, into this conversation, Sudanese activist who’s in Kampala right now. Marine, we’ve been speaking with you throughout this conflict. Go back to talk about how this began, how civilians are caught in the crossfire. And, you know, what is the government of Sudan and these Rapid Support Forces that are fighting its military?
MARINE ALNEEL: So, on the morning of April 15th, people in Khartoum and several other cities, we woke up to the shelling. We woke up to the fighter jets by the Sudanese Armed Forces. And I think this, at the time, has been expected, that the power-sharing agreement is really not going to be sustainable. We have, at that time, lost hope in a transition of power to the civilians. And having the military in power, but also having two militaries in power, inevitably was going to lead to this war.
So, the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary force that has been legitimized by the previous government prior to the revolution of 2019, and has been legitimized by the Sudanese Armed Forces, and was also legitimized, actually, by the transitional government, that included civilians, between 2019 and the military coup that was conducted by the Sudanese Armed Forces in October of ’21. And ever since April 15th, the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces have been fighting in the capital [inaudible] inhabitable, and fighting in other states and regions, including Kordofan and the five states of Darfur.
Recently, the Rapid Support Forces have been making a lot of advances on the ground. They have all but taken complete control of the five states of Darfur. Officially, they have one major city, al-Fashir, that they have not taken over. But news that we have from people on the ground is that, practically, they have already also taken over that city.
And what we’ve been seeing, perhaps in the last 10 days, that the fighter jets, that the violence that is happening of aerial bombardment has increased. And there are reports that the Sudanese Armed Forces have been receiving more support when it comes to the ammunition and the weapons that are being used to strike Rapid Support Forces. And this really increases the concerns for the people that this is not going to be ending soon, that — like the army has expected, and it’s actually going to escalate more in the coming months.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Marine, can you talk about the sexual violence that women and girls are experiencing, and also why you left in June?
MARINE ALNEEL: Yes. So, there are documented incidents of sexual violence in Khartoum and in Darfur states. And we also know that the documentation is a major underrepresentation of what is actually happening on the ground.
For me, I also left Khartoum for — it became uninhabitable. But also I think a big factor was threats of rape and sexual violence that you just received daily passing by checkpoints of the RSF.
And this is something that we are continuing to see now. There are also incidents of kidnapping and trafficking. But that has been very difficult to document. And I think this is something that we need to keep in mind when talking whether about the fatalities, talking about the sexual violence, that what we know is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the violations that the people are facing day to day, because it’s been very difficult for journalists, for even investigating the violations that are happening to refugees and people who have left areas of conflict, violations and the withholding of their rights as refugees. We’ve been hearing investigative journalists saying that they’re worried that if they publish their reports, actually, that this might detrimentally affect the refugees and the internally displaced people. So, we know for a fact that we don’t know enough about the conflict in Sudan.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Marine, I’m wondering — here in the United States, the American people now for decades have been receiving news and information about conflict and war in Sudan. And most people don’t understand that there was a period, not too long ago, in the 1960s, when Sudan had one of the most vibrant democracies in that section of the world, and a largely secular democracy. It boasted one of the largest communist parties in the Arab world back in the ’60s. But then, of course, the United States was very much against the governments in that period of time, until there were dictatorships that took power. I’m thinking of Jaafar Nimeiri in 1969 and his coup, and then, of course, the decades under Omar al-Bashir. Could you talk about the role of the United States as conflict has continued to grow, internal conflict in Sudan?
MARINE ALNEEL: So, whether we’re speaking historically, like you said, that the United States was on the wrong side of history when it comes to the history of Sudan, we’re also seeing it now. So, recently, in recent days, the Sudanese government has requested that the U.N. mission for the transitional — to support the transition be terminated. And even during the transitional government, the UNITAMS, and also supported by the Troika, the U.S. being part of it, was supporting the framework agreement, an agreement that a lot of the civil powers and also the resistance committees, the real mobilizers on the ground, and the platform that the people can actually speak through to decision makers, were not supportive of the UNITAMS. They were not supportive of the framework agreement. It was obvious that this is not something that will lead to stability.
And I think it was the entire world that was shocked when the war broke out on April 15th, but it was something that was expected for the Sudanese people, although we were hoping for the best, but we were expecting this worst-case scenario, because the international community was supporting the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces instead of supporting a genuine transition of power to civilians.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mohamed Osman, what is Human Rights Watch recommending at this point? Who has to be involved here to end this horrific conflict?
MOHAMED OSMAN: Yeah. I mean, I think the good start is understanding that doing nothing is not an option. There has been a lot of inaction from the global and regional community to Sudan. I mean, just Marine mentioned a few points that highlight the chronic failure of the regional and international community to respond.
But I think when it comes to the recommendations, that we can relay just what we noted in our report, is seeing the U.N. Security Council actually stepping to its responsibility, seeing the members of the Security Council undertaking visits to eastern Chad, meet with the refugees, listen to their stories, listen to the survivors, victims of the atrocities that has happening, you know, expanding the arms embargo to go beyond Darfur to all over Sudan, seeing rolling out of targeted sanctions against the key responsible perpetrators, notably within the RSF and SAF equally. And the accountability front is also a crucial point to see more response to it. We want to see the Security Council members proactively reaching to the International Criminal Court, to the U.N. fact-finding mission in Sudan, asking them what do they want, and provide them with the political backup and resources. There is a lot to be done, and, unfortunately, not much has been happening.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohamed Osman, we want to thank you very much for being with us, Sudan researcher in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. We’ll link to your new report, “Sudan: New Mass Ethnic Killings, Pillage in Darfur.” And Marine Alneel, Sudanese activist, today speaking to us from Uganda.
Coming up, we remember former first lady Rosalynn Carter and her decadeslong advocacy for mental healthcare. Back in 30 seconds.
AMY GOODMAN: Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks performing a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” at Rosalynn Carter’s memorial service yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Dubai, which is hosting the United Nations climate summit known as COP28, Conference of Parties, that starts Thursday, after a year that’s likely to be the hottest ever recorded. This is expected to be the largest summit yet, with some 70,000 delegates, and world leaders and senior officials from nearly every country coming to the United Arab Emirates.
President Biden has attended the last two COP summits, and just this month he called climate change “the ultimate threat to humanity.” But it has recently been announced he won’t be attending this year.
Pope Francis was set to be the first head of the Catholic Church to attend, but will instead join remotely due to health concerns. Doctors say he has the flu. Hundreds of Catholic institutions worldwide, but none in the United States, the world’s top oil and gas producer, have announced plans to divest from oil, gas and coal since the pope called for a break with fossil fuels in 2015.
The president of this year’s climate summit is also head of the UAE oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, or ADNOC. Sultan Al Jaber is the first CEO to be a COP president.
SULTAN AHMED AL JABER: We in the United Arab Emirates take this task of hosting COP28 with humility, with a deep sense of responsibility, and we also understand and fully appreciate how urgent this matter is. It has become a top priority for our leadership. I want everyone to know that we have the full political will to support a successful COP28.
AMY GOODMAN: But leaked briefing documents obtained by the Centre for Climate Reporting reveal how the COP28 president — and CEO — planned to use his role in order to strike oil and gas deals with 15 countries. For China, the documents showed ADNOC said its, quote, “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG” — that’s liquefied natural gas — “opportunities” in Mozambique, Canada and Australia. Documents also outline plans to tell Colombia that ADNOC, quote, “stands ready” to help develop its oil and gas reserves.
For more, we’re joined by Ben Stockton, investigative reporter at the Centre for Climate Reporting, where his new exposé is headlined “COP28 president secretly used climate summit role to push oil trade with foreign government officials,” with a related piece, “Inside the Campaign That Put an Oil Boss in Charge of a Climate Summit.”
Ben, this is great reporting. Thanks so much for joining us. Well, why don’t you start off by talking about how the head of one of the largest oil companies in the world has become head of the U.N. climate summit, the largest one ever held? Democracy Now! will be there all next week in UAE covering this climate summit. How did this all take place? And then talk about the leaked documents.
BEN STOCKTON: Sure. So, I think what’s really at the heart of this latest controversy goes back to the beginning of this year, which is when the UAE chose Sultan Al Jaber to be COP president. And like you say, he is not only the president of this year’s U.N. climate summit, but he is also the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. He is a man who is actually very interesting. He’s someone who wears many hats. Not only is he COP president and ADNOC CEO, he’s also chairman of a UAE state-owned renewable energy company called Masdar, and he is also a UAE cabinet minister. So he really has many, many roles that he fulfills alongside his climate envoy role, which is why he is, you know, currently serving as COP28 president.
And I think what really led to this position — and what we looked at in our piece with The Intercept was really how we got to the point where not only a CEO, but a CEO of a fossil fuel company, became COP president. You know, he is someone who over the past 15 years has really worked to push his international image and his green credentials. He has worked with major PR agencies to help shape that image, perhaps no more important than the American PR firm Edelman, who has worked with Al Jaber since the mid-2000s and continues to work today on COP28. So, it has really been a long-term, meticulous, really, campaign that has led us to this point.
And the point that we arrive at today is with these latest revelations that we worked on. We obtained more than 150 pages of internal COP28 documents. And they are briefings that are prepared for Al Jaber ahead of bilateral meetings with foreign governments. And I think the remarkable thing about these documents is that many of them include talking points that have been obtained from ADNOC and Masdar, the two companies that Al Jaber is involved in running. And we’ve obviously seen these revelations really spark a controversy, and many, many news outlets have picked up on this story. We worked on this initial story alongside reporters from the BBC, and we’ve seen, yeah, this piece just really spread around the world.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ben, in terms of some of the most shocking aspects of these communications with some of the major, major countries in the world that are producing fossil fuels, could you talk about what most surprised you?
BEN STOCKTON: Yeah. I think that those examples that Amy picked out about China and about Venezuela were particularly interesting. And that’s something we picked out in our reporting. A number of the documents mention the value of the sales and trading that ADNOC does with these countries. This can, you know, stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars.
And like Amy said, there’s mention of strategic partnerships, of potential opportunities for further international fossil fuel projects. As well as those Chinese and Venezuelan briefing documents, we also saw a document for a briefing — for a meeting with the Brazilian government. And what that showed is that it appears that Al Jaber planned to ask about a deal that was ongoing where ADNOC had actually made a bid for a Brazilian petrochemicals company called Braskem.
So, the specifics of these documents, I think, is what is really interesting. It does get into some kind of quite minute detail in terms of the business interests of ADNOC and Masdar in various countries around the world.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And can you talk about the involvement of advisers like Mohammed Al-Kaabi and Oliver Phillips in COP28 and their ties to the national oil company?
BEN STOCKTON: Sure. So, Al Jaber has quite a large team around him, and some of those people appear to be people who he has worked with across the course of his career. What we’ve been told previously by the COP28 team is that staff from — staff for COP28 are independent. But, actually, when we started asking about one particular individual, Mohammed Al-Kaabi, as you mentioned, he is registered as the director of government affairs for COP28, but some of the internal records that we’d seen seem to suggest that he had some ongoing role at ADNOC, which we thought was very interesting, given those previous statements that the COP28 team had given us. So, when we went back to them asking questions about Al-Kaabi, they actually told us that he was somebody who worked across Al Jaber’s entire portfolio. And like I said before, Al Jaber is someone who has many different roles, and seems to at least raise questions about the independence of the COP28 team from other entities in the UAE, particularly the oil company.
Oliver Phillips is another man that we’ve written about before. He has played a key role in steering the PR efforts around COP28. And he also at least previously had a role at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. When we approached COP28 for comment on Phillips some time ago now for that Intercept piece, they told us that he was “now working full-time” on the conference. But they didn’t tell us when that employment with the oil company ended and when his employment with the COP28 team started. Our evidence at least would suggest that there was at least some crossover between his role at ADNOC and his role on the COP28 team.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben, just before we went to broadcast, we saw a press release that said Al Jaber had stepped down as head of the COP [sic], not head of the Abu Dhabi oil corporation. And then there was a news conference, actually. But it turns out this is all fake.
BEN STOCKTON: That’s right. So, I think there has actually been quite a bit of misinformation around this conference. It’s something that some other outlets have written about quite extensively. There was an instance earlier this year where the UAE was accused of, essentially, using fake Twitter bots online to defend Sultan Al Jaber and the COP28 — and its role as host of COP28. I’ve also kind of looked a little bit at some of the movements online to boycott COP28, which seem to be associated with some fake Twitter profiles. So there really is quite a lot of misinformation around COP. And this latest press release that I’ve heard about going around this morning certainly seems to be part of that misinformation campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: And just to be clear, this fake news — this fake press release said he had stepped down as head of ADNOC but would still head the COP. But again, this apparently is fake.
I also wanted to turn to what you reported in September on the United Arab Emirates’ plans to counter and minimize criticism of the UAE’s human rights abuses at COP28. This is a clip of leaked audio you obtained from an exploratory meeting between senior UAE officials and the country’s COP28 team. We hear the COP’s head of communications, Sconaid McGeachin.
SCONAID McGEACHIN: It came up with Qatar with the World Cup. And, you know, we need to look at — they will use this opportunity to —
UNIDENTIFIED: Yeah, to bring into the issue. Absolutely.
SCONAID McGEACHIN: — attack the UAE. And at the end of the day, we’re, you know, hosting the COP28, and we’re acting on behalf of the presidency, but we need to preserve the reputation of the UAE and to look at how can we protect that and enhance the reputation and to try and minimize those attacks as much as possible.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben Stockton, can you talk about the significance of this?
BEN STOCKTON: I think it points to some of the accusations that the UAE is using COP28 as a chance to kind of boost its international reputation and improve particularly its president Sultan Al Jaber’s — or, the COP President Sultan Al Jaber’s international standing.
Like you said, we obtained this recording between — of a conversation between COP28 staff and senior UAE government officials. And what that recording showed was basically the UAE attempting to deflect, or at least setting plans to deflect, criticism of its human rights record, which we know the spotlight will be on during this conference. A number of the human rights groups have spoken out about political prisoners in the UAE and a record of human rights abuses in the country. And I think it really talks to — this recording really talks to the issue of how the country might look to actually just not engage on those issues at all over the next couple of weeks, much to the annoyance, I’m sure, of the human rights groups who will be watching.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ben, how do these revelations affect the credibility of the entire COP process? And what’s been the response of experts and U.N. figures like António Guterres?
BEN STOCKTON: Yeah, I think it’s been a reaction of astonishment, really. We’ve heard from a number of senior people who have said that, obviously, these revelations do call into question the integrity of COP28. We’ve also heard from former Vice President Al Gore, who has been someone who has raised concerns about the conflicts of interest surrounding the COP presidency with Sultan Al Jaber’s role as both COP president and CEO of an oil company. And he described these revelations as really the realization of some of those conflict of interest concerns that had been raised, you know, back in January, when Al Jaber was first announced as COP president.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Ben, are you going to be going? And are you concerned about reporters who are there — I mean, there are going to be 70,000 people there — but who step into these forbidden realms of questioning?
BEN STOCKTON: I’m not going to be attending. I’ll be staying in New York during the course of COP28. Like you mentioned, there are various concerns about digital surveillance and kind of invasive practices, media freedom particularly. From what I’ve seen so far at COP, it does seem the reporters are absolutely free to ask questions. There has been questions about our revelations earlier this week. But like I said, I’m planning to stay here in New York for the duration of COP.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben Stockton, investigative reporter at the Centre for Climate Reporting. We’ll link to your exposé, “COP28 president secretly used climate summit role to push oil trade with foreign government officials,” and your other pieces. And Democracy Now! will be there all next week in the United Arab Emirates covering the largest U.N. climate summit ever. Stay tuned.
Coming up, we look at the crisis in Sudan as Human Rights Watch documents new mass ethnic killings in Darfur as fighting continues between rival military factions. Stay with us.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
Israel is continuing to detain the head of Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza. Last week, the Israeli military detained Muhammad Abu Salmiya as he was evacuating patients south from Gaza City.
Israel raided Al-Shifa, claiming Hamas ran a command and control center under the hospital, but Israel has yet to provide any hard evidence to back that up. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak recently spoke with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. He admitted Israel built the bunkers decades ago underneath Al-Shifa.
EHUD BARAK: It’s already known for many years that they have in the bunkers, that originally was built by Israeli constructors underneath Shifa, were used as a command post of the Hamas in a kind of a junction of several — several tunnels, part of this system. I don’t know to say to what extent it is a major. It’s probably not the only kind of command post. Several others are under other hospitals or in other sensitive places. But it’s for sure had been used by Hamas even during this conflict.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Well, when you say it was built by Israeli engineers, did you misspeak?
EHUD BARAK: No, no. Someday, you know, decades ago, we were wanting the place, so we held them. It was decades, many decades, ago, probably five, four decades ago, that we helped them to build these bunkers in order to enable more — more space for the operation of the hospital within the very limited size of this compound.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, that was the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
We’re joined now by Jeremy Scahill, senior reporter and correspondent at The Intercept, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. One of his most recent pieces for The Intercept is headlined “Al-Shifa Hospital, Hamas’s Tunnels, and Israeli Propaganda.” Jeremy is joining us from Germany.
Jeremy, can you talk about what he just said?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah. Well, first of all, Amy, the Al-Shifa Hospital, originally, going back to the years of the British Mandate in the 1940s, it was a British military barracks, and then it was converted into a hospital, under both the Israeli and the Egyptian occupations of that area. And then, in the 1980s, the Israelis began to do extensive construction on it. In fact, I was looking at the Israeli Architecture Archives that were set up, and you can go back and look at [inaudible] from that era, and two Tel Aviv architects oversaw the expansion of the Al-Shifa Hospital. And by 1983, they had finished the construction of underground facilities at the hospital.
Now, we should also say, it’s not uncommon for hospitals the world over to have underground facilities for a variety of reasons. But when you’re in an active war zone, it’s very common. In fact, Israel has many underground facilities at its hospitals throughout Israel and has been using them since October 7th, certainly. They’re considered more secure places to hold vulnerable patients.
And so, what we know about Israel’s construction is that they at least built an underground operating room. They built a network of tunnels. And, in fact, during some of the construction, the son of one of the Israeli architects who designed the underground facility said that when Israel was building these in the 1980s, they hired people from Hamas as security to guard the construction project to ensure that it wouldn’t get attacked.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jeremy, could you talk also about the thousands of prisoners that Israel has been holding, many of them without any trial for extended years, and yet the Netanyahu government refers to all of them as “terrorists”?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah. I mean, Juan, I went through — and this connects also to the narrative around Al-Shifa. But just to directly answer your question, Israel released a list of 300 names that it said were fair game for a hostage-prisoner handover because of the truce with Hamas. And I went through all 15 pages of those names. I read each of the individual dates of birth, the dates of arrest, what the nature of the charges were — if there were any charges. Some of them don’t even list any actual charges against them. And what I discovered is that of the 300 names, 233 of these prisoners — most of them are teenage boys, some are — there’s a teenage girl who’s 15 years old — the 233 of 300 have not been convicted of anything. They haven’t been sentenced for anything. And Israel is the only country in the so-called developed world that tries children in military courts.
And so, you know, the Israeli narrative is that these are all hardened terrorists, because Palestinians are not allowed to have any context. Palestinians are not treated as full human beings. So, when a child — maybe his brother was killed by the Israeli forces, maybe his mother was killed by the Israeli forces — throws a rock at a soldier, their houses are often then raided at night. They’re snatched. They’re taken to interrogation without the presence of a parent or a lawyer. And then they’re pressured into pleading guilty under threat of spending years in a military judicial process.
Now, I say this relates to Al-Shifa because the colonial narrative always — and you can look at the British with the IRA, you can look at the position against Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress — is that those who are victims of the occupation have no rights to legitimate struggle. And so, the prisoners that Israel are holding, overwhelmingly, are people that are accused of committing political acts of violence. And that context also bleeds into Israel’s narrative about Al-Shifa: Al-Shifa is not really a hospital.
Al-Shifa — look, I don’t know if you guys have the video, but if you do, you should play it. Israel puts out a video to justify the siege of Al-Shifa Hospital, the most important hospital in Gaza, where you had dozens of children that needed incubators. Israel had knocked out the power supply. You had the most vulnerable patients there. They put out a video, the Israeli Defense Forces, that is this high-tech three-dimensional rendering, they said, of an underground, what I just call a Hamas Pentagon, and they imply that this is where — this is the central facility where Hamas is planning its terror operations.
When Israel finally then lays full siege to it, with the backing of the Biden administration and Biden himself — they co-signed all of that. They said that hostages had been held under the hospital. They said that it was used as a command and control center. When Israel finally starts to access the hospital, they take embedded journalists on these propaganda tours. And what they found was essentially nothing of any major significance. They go in, and they say, “Oh, look, we found these rifles behind an MRI machine,” which is ridiculous for anyone who knows the technology of an MRI machine and the magnetism of it. They’re all conveniently placed, neatly arranged. There’s one Hamas vest with a Hamas logo on it. So that gets ridiculed, and skepticism is expressed even by corporate media outlets that historically print Israel’s propaganda as just established fact.
So, then they finally gain access to a tunnel in the area. They go down there, and they say, “Oh, this tunnel is X number of meters long, and there’s a blast-proof door that has a hole so that the Hamas terrorists can fire at us. So we need to take some time before we blow it open. And then on the other side is going to be this command and control center.” So, finally, then, last week, they blow the thing open. They go in there. And what do they find? They find three rooms, basically. One looks like a kind of very old-school, 1980s-style exam room from a hospital. There’s a sink somewhere in there. There’s two toilets. And then you have this utter clown from the IDF who has been made a fool of himself by doing these tours. It’s like Geraldo Rivera looking for Al Capone’s vault. He’s running around, saying, “Aha! There’s electricity in here. This is a Hamas command center. Aha! They had an air conditioner in here.” You know, the pipes are rusty. Many of the electrical wires aren’t even connected.
Now, I don’t know for a fact that Hamas guys weren’t under there. It wouldn’t shock me if at some point Hamas did have people under there. But we were told this was like a Hamas Pentagon and that it was so dangerous that it justified laying siege to a hospital filled with the most vulnerable people. This is akin to sort of the George H.W. Bush administration lies about the Iraqis pulling babies from incubators. It’s an utter lie that was co-signed and promoted by President Joe Biden and his administration, and they should be made to answer for this, because it wasn’t just Al-Shifa. They did it at the Indonesia Hospital. They did it at other hospitals. Of course Hamas has networks of tunnels underneath Gaza, 150 to 300 kilometers, by some estimates. Israel is waging a targeted assassination campaign against them, and they live in a confined area waging a guerrilla war. That’s not news. But Israel tried to rebrand something that anyone who’s followed this already knows, and tried to make it seem like it’s a smoking gun. And, in fact, it was a lethal lie.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, we want to thank you for being with us, senior reporter, correspondent at The Intercept. We’ll link to your pieces on Al-Shifa and Palestinian prisoners at democracynow.org.
Coming up, we remember the life and legacy of Pablo Yoruba Guzmán, who co-founded the New York chapter of the Young Lords. Back in 20 seconds.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Burlington, Vermont, where three Palestinian college students were shot on Saturday as they were walking to dinner at the home of one of the students’ grandmothers, who lives near the University of Vermont. Two of the men were wearing keffiyehs, and they were speaking Arabic at the time of the attack. The young men have been identified as Hisham Awartani, a Brown University student; Kinnan Abdalhamid, of Haverford College; and Tahseen Ahmad, a student at Trinity College. They were all 20 years old — they’re all 20 years old and graduates of the Ramallah Friends School in the occupied West Bank. Two of the students remain hospitalized. Hisham Awartani, who was shot in the spine, has reportedly lost feeling in the lower part of his body and may never walk again.
Authorities have charged a 48-year-old white man named Jason Eaton with three counts of second-degree attempted murder. He’s being held without bail. He pleaded not guilty on Monday. He reportedly shot the students from his porch as they walked by. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the FBI is investigating whether the shooting is a hate crime.
The shooting comes just weeks after a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was stabbed to death near Chicago by his landlord.
Tamara Tamimi, the mother of one of the students, Kinnan Abdalhamid, told ABC News, quote, “To us, it’s decades of dehumanizing policy and rhetoric from U.S. leaders towards Palestinians and Arabs, including from the Biden administration, which has caused our children to be in the situation that they’re in,” unquote.
On Monday, relatives of the men shot in Vermont joined local authorities at a news conference at Burlington City Hall. This is Rich Price, the uncle of the Brown student, Hisham Awartani.
RICH PRICE: We speak only on behalf of the family because the family can’t be here. I want to say that these three young men are incredible. And that’s not just a proud uncle speaking, but it’s true. They are — they have their lives in front of them. …
I moved here 15 years ago, and I never imagined that this sort of thing could happen. And my sister lives in the occupied West Bank, and people often ask me, “Aren’t you worried about your sister? Aren’t you worried about your nephews and your niece?” And the reality is, as difficult as their life is, they are surrounded by incredible sense of community. And “tragic irony” is not even the right phrase, but to have them come stay with me for Thanksgiving and have something like this happen speaks to the level of civic vitriol, speaks to the level of hatred that exists in some corners of this country. It speaks to a sickness of gun violence that exists in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Rich Price, the uncle of Hisham Awartani, one of the three college students of Palestinian descent who were shot Saturday in Burlington, Vermont. And this is Kinnan Abdalhamid’s uncle, Radi Tamimi.
RADI TAMIMI: Kinnan grew up in the West Bank, and we always thought that that could be more of a risk in terms of his safety, and sending him here would be, you know, the right decision. And we feel somehow betrayed in that decision here. And, you know, we’re just trying to come to terms with everything.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by two guests. In Burlington, Vermont, Wafic Faour is with us. He’s a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, has lived in Vermont for years. He’s a member of Vermonters for Justice in Palestine. And in Bethesda, Maryland, Joyce Ajlouny is the former director of the Ramallah Friends School, the school where all three of the students shot in Vermont graduated from. She’s now the general secretary of the international Quaker social justice organization American Friends Service Committee. She herself is Palestinian American.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Wafic, you’re in Burlington. Let’s begin with you. Where were you on Saturday when you got the news that three young Palestinian students, all 20 years old, best friends, visiting one of their grandmothers for Thanksgiving, were shot?
WAFIC FAOUR: I was at my house in Richmond. Thank you, Amy, for inviting us. I was at my house. We were organizing many activities and rallies because of what is happening on Palestine and this genocide war against our people over there. Definitely, I was shocked. And our community here are terrified and angry.
But, Amy, we should talk about what brought this atmosphere of hate. And this is a hate crime, and we should call it as is. From the federal level, the actions of Biden administration’s and Secretary of State Blinken and the defense secretary, they’re supporting Israel unconditionally and talking about the Palestinian victims and questioning the numbers of the Palestinian Health Ministry. This is on the federal level. And here in Vermont, for the past two years we have living under siege, too, from attacks from institutions here. When we brought resolution to talk about Palestinian rights, human rights and the protection of the Palestinian people, we found attacks from administrations in UVM, University of Vermont in Middlebury, and, unfortunately, from many faith-based institutions. And they called us antisemitic. And this atmosphere will bring to the American public that if you talk about Palestinian rights, you’re going to be called “terrorist.” If you wear a keffiyeh like this, you’re going to be called “terrorist.” And this is what brought this crime. And it is hate crime. Unfortunately, our leaders here in Vermont didn’t call it as is. And we should call it as is and use the right words.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Wafic, specifically at the press conference that was held on Monday by law enforcement, what do you believe should have been said but was not?
WAFIC FAOUR: Well, I mean, when state attorney Sarah George mentioned it’s a hateful event, but it is not hate crime. I mean, if it happened to another community, it would have been called hate crime immediately. And now they are questioning of the mental capacity of the attacker, when it is — believe me, we feel here if the name of the attacker is an Arab name or a Muslim name, he will be called “terrorist” immediately by the media, and the media will have a field of describing that person. Now the attacker is a white supremacist, and because of the atmosphere and racism against the Muslims, the Arabs and the Palestinians here, in this state and all across United States, we don’t call it as is.
At the same time, the mayor of Burlington, who opposed and he promised to reject and to veto any resolution in our progressive city that calls for Palestinian human rights and our rights as a Palestinian American citizen and our solidarity groups to call — to use our First Amendment and to call for the right of BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanction. And that happened a year and a half ago. You cannot have a double standard that attack us because we are activists for the rights of the Palestinians, at the same time when something like this, you just bring sorrow and mourning and defend yourself and where you stand. You have to stand with people justice regardless, and you have to be the mayor of all the citizens.
And I call for the Burlington councilmembers to bring a stronger resolution, and mainly for ceasefire now. You know, the Palestinians are dying. And we are working to stop this genocide over there. And we have — our local leaders, they have responsibility to support our solidarity group and the people in Vermont and Burlington.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you — the mother of one of the injured young men, Hisham Awartani, his mother, Elizabeth Price, has been trying to leave Ramallah and travel to the U.S. to see her son. Is there any news about whether she’ll be able to come?
WAFIC FAOUR: I don’t know. I heard that she’s coming. I saw a statement about that. I don’t know if she’s on her way already. I know a sister, and her husband, of another victim is here. I am in contact with the stepfather of another victim, and he told me his health is improving now.
But we have to take this crime as example of what we feel and what we are experiencing here. We stand by those victims. But at the same time, I have to talk to you about the fear and the anger of our community here in Vermont, the Palestinian and the Arab Muslim community in particular, and our solidarity groups and young students who getting attacked by UVM administrations and a year and a half ago from Middlebury administration, too.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to get to that, but I want to bring in Joyce Ajlouny into the conversation, former director of the Ramallah Friends School, the school where all three boys went to school in Ramallah. She’s now the general secretary of American Friends Service Committee, joining us from Virginia [sic]. Can you talk about where they went to school? These were three best friends, now 20 years old. I think you’re muted.
JOYCE AJLOUNY: Terribly sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: Perfect.
JOYCE AJLOUNY: Yes, Amy. Thank you for having me.
As you were speaking to Wafic, I received a message from Ali Awartani and Elizabeth Price. They’re saying they’re on their way to America — just to answer your question about if they are planning to come. They are en route, traveling to be with Hisham.
AMY GOODMAN: And I should correct that you’re in Bethesda, Maryland. Sorry, I said Virginia.
JOYCE AJLOUNY: I am.
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.
JOYCE AJLOUNY: No worries. That’s close enough.
Yes, the Ramallah Friends School was established in 1869 by Quaker missionaries. It’s a phenomenal place. I’m a graduate of the school myself. My grandmother, who was a Palestinian Quaker, graduated from there in the 1920s. So, this is a proud place for many of us. And not that it’s educationally and academically superior than IP education, kindergarten through 12th grade, but it’s also the Quaker values and the foundations of peace and nonviolence and teaching tolerance and service and integrity, conflict resolution, emphasizing dialogue and inquiry. That is what the school is about. And the track record is phenomenal when we look at our graduates and what they are up to. I think graduates say that they are who they are because of the Ramallah Friends School. So it is a phenomenal place that has transformed the lives of many throughout generations. So I know that Hisham, Kinnan and Tahseen are proud alums.
And, you know, I think that they’re getting together as most of us are, Palestinian Americans here. I also want to share that three of them are Palestinian Americans. And so, sometimes that’s dropped from the news, that two of them are actually American citizens. And so, they are gathered. They gather together to provide solace for each other and just vent sometimes, and it’s therapy to come together. And unfortunately, they have witnessed this horrific, horrific crime in the midst of them coming together to comfort each other. And I think that is what has happened, unfortunately, this time.
AMY GOODMAN: You posted on Facebook their poems, Tahseen’s poem, as well as Hisham. I’m wondering if you could read them for us? How old were they? Like in sixth grade?
JOYCE AJLOUNY: They were in sixth grade. I had the privilege of being the head of school when they were in middle school. And so, the librarian, actually, dug those up. And I will read Hisham’s poem, sixth grade Hisham, who now goes to Brown — by the way, brilliant students, all of them, accomplished, top-notch, value-driven.
I wanted to say, maybe, Amy, before I read his poem, that’s how selfless our students are. You know, Hisham wrote to his professor at Brown — and I want to quote him — he said, “It’s important to recognize that this is part of the larger story. The serious crime did not happen in a vacuum. As much as I appreciate and love every single one of you here today, I am but one casualty in a much wider conflict.” And then Hisham goes on to say to his professor that “This is why, when you say your wishes and light your candles today, you should mind — your mind should not just be focused on me as an individual, but rather a proud member of a people being oppressed.” And so, these are his words since the shooting.
When he was in sixth grade in 2015, he wrote — that’s Hisham Awartani:
“Hope dwells in my heart
It shines like a light in darkness
[This] light cannot be smothered
It cannot be drowned out by tears and the screams of the wounded
It only grows in strength
This light can outshine hate
This light can outshine injustice
It outshines segregation and apartheid
As of Greek legend, Pandora opened a box
And when she did that, all the evil escaped
But luckily, Pandora closed the jar before hope could escape
And as long as hope stayed in that jar
Hope would never escape
So I ask you one thing, learn from that story
Learn to never give up hope
Learn to let hope give power
In the darkest of times
And let the light shine.”
AMY GOODMAN: Wow! Hisham in sixth grade.
JOYCE AJLOUNY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And how about Tahseen?
JOYCE AJLOUNY: Tahseen, there are two poems. I want to read one, which depicts where our students are coming from, that they are coming from living under a brutal occupation apartheid system that agonizes them, that traumatizes them day in and day out, children, sixth-graders. So, Tahseen writes:
“My ears are pounding
My ears are pounding
My ears are pounding
My ears are pounding
My ears are pounding
Kids without mothers
Beds without covers
Palestine without others
My ears are pounding
My ears are pounding
There is one sound I heard
Not from a breeze or a bird
The sound of darkness
My ears are pounding
My ears are pounding
I’d rather be deaf.”
So, that says a lot. That says a lot about where we are at today in the story of the Palestinian struggle, which is often depicted as that this all started on October 7th. And so, this is 2015. And they are — when you read this poem, you feel like you’re reading it about today, about our people in Gaza and what they are going through, and yet this was eight years ago. So, the struggle continues.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And —
JOYCE AJLOUNY: Yeah. Go ahead.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Joyce, I wanted to ask you if you could comment on the tragic irony that the families of the victims have said in various interviews that they thought that the U.S. would be a safer place for their children than the West Bank, and then to have this terrible tragedy occur here.
JOYCE AJLOUNY: Yes, of course. I mean, I think that is the absolute truth. You know, I know that a large number of Palestinian students from the Ramallah Friends School attend U.S. colleges. And they’re actually very sought after. And when they come here, the parents know that they are keeping them away from being subjected to violence from not just the Israeli military but the Israeli settlers. I have a 31-year-old son there now, and I worry about his safety. The settlers have been emboldened, and there’s violence there every day. And you wonder. You know, you send them here, and then they — this keffiyeh has now become a symbol, instead of our struggle, instead of a symbol of our tradition, our traditional dress and our struggle, this is now being painted and tainted as a symbol of violence. And so, I have another son in Washington, D.C. He doesn’t leave home without his keffiyeh. I worry about him, too. So, that is where we’re at right now.
And I can’t but agree with Wafic about the dehumanization that has been taking place. And this is not new. You know, Palestinians are — you know, even in our grief, we are depicted as Palestinians “dying” — right? — while Israelis are being “killed” and “massacred.” So language really matters. And I think that is what we have seen time and time again. You know, 47 children died on the West Bank between January and August of this year, way before this war started. And I wonder, like, who cried for them. Who mourned them? Where was the U.S. mainstream media talking about them? And so, it’s not just the language. It’s also the framing — right? — that this is the worst attack since the Holocaust, painting Palestinians as Jew haters, as that this is a religious struggle rather than a people seeking freedom, seeking liberation from a settler colonial system, and remembering, you know, that Palestinians of all faiths are in the same struggle, as well, and they have not been offered the humanity and the dignity that they deserve. And so, I think this is all — this is manifest due to the continued dehumanization, not only by the media but by our government, you know, as Wafic said, that they continue to turn a blind eye. They’re not calling for a ceasefire. They continue to embolden the Israeli atrocities by sending more aid, doubling their aid, and supporting the genocide of our people. And so, that is truly the reason why this is happening.
I just wanted to also take the opportunity, you know, we’re doing the — there’s this exchange of hostages. And when they talk about that, they talk about Israelis released the children — the Israelis released are “children,” while the Palestinians who are released are “teenagers,” so children versus teenagers. You know, in my book, they’re all hostages. The fact that the media is not talking about the 3,000 Palestinians who have been kidnapped, basically, since October 10th and put in Israeli jails, and they’re calling them — they’re not prisoners. To them, they are bargaining chips — right? — that they will use in exchange. But, to us, they are hostages, just like the hostages that are held in Gaza. And so, that is the narrative that is being talked about day in and day out. And people who have sentiments that are anti-Arab, anti-Muslim are emboldened by all of that and take action, like Jason Eaton, who felt emboldened because no is portraying Palestinians as human beings that deserve the dignity and the respect that everyone else should be — that everyone else is granted.
AMY GOODMAN: Jason Eaton, of course, is the alleged shooter —
JOYCE AJLOUNY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — of the three Palestinian young men. I want to thank you, Joyce Ajlouny, the former director of the Ramallah Friends School, where they all went to school in the occupied West Bank, all three students shot in Burlington, Vermont, on Friday. Joyce is also now the general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee. And I want to thank Wafic Faour, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, member of Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, speaking to us from Burlington.
And this final note: Speaking about the Vermont representatives, you have Becca Balint, who is the first Jewish congressmember to call for a ceasefire. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has not called for a ceasefire but has called for conditions on U.S. aid to Israel. He said, quote, “While Israel has the right to go after Hamas, Netanyahu’s right-wing extremist government does not have the right to wage almost total warfare against the Palestinian people.”
Coming up, we speak to prize-winning investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill about Israel’s propaganda war over Al-Shifa Hospital and what’s underneath it. Who built what’s under Shifa Hospital? Back in 20 seconds.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman.
As we continue to cover the truce in Gaza and prisoner-hostage releases, we’re joined by two of the founders of the group Combatants for Peace. Avner Wishnitzer is a member of one of the Israeli military’s elite commando units. He’s joining us from Jerusalem. And in Ramallah, we’re joined by Sulaiman Khatib, who spent more than 10 years in prison after an altercation with two Israeli soldiers. They recently co-wrote an article for The New York Review of Books headlined “Combatants for Peace.”
Sulaiman, let’s begin with you. As you see Palestinians released from prison in exchange for the Israeli hostages and those of other nationalities who have been released, can you talk about your thoughts as a former man imprisoned yourself?
SULAIMAN KHATIB: Firstly, thank you, Amy, for having us, myself and my partner and brother, Avner in Jerusalem.
And as I heard your interview with the colleagues, speakers before us, that explain in details about the prisoners and the hostages exchange, as ex-prisoner, I definitely feel a lot of empathy to the prisoners, especially when talking about kids, actually, women and kids. That makes me feel optimistic. And that shows also, unfortunately, where the dehumanization and the multi standards — double standards that exist in this place.
And definitely as an ex-prisoner personally and Combatants for Peace, in our organization, that includes Palestinians and Israelis, that we live with a more multiple, complex narrative, we would like, really, both the Israeli government and the Hamas in Gaza to release the prisoners, the civilians that were taken hostages in Gaza and the Palestinian prisoners that we are talking about thousands of them, and some of them without charge even, in jail. All these prisoners and hostages have families, have rights. And as we see, unfortunately, their rights by international law were not granted, as myself experienced that. I’ve been in jail when I was actually 14, under a military court. So I know the meaning of separating from your family and being without rights, basically. I know the meaning of that.
AMY GOODMAN: And what inspired you now to commit your life to peace as a co-founder of Combatants for Peace?
SULAIMAN KHATIB: So, as a ex-political prisoner, and I participated — I am a very active person since my childhood, very committed to the liberation and freedom of our people. I participated in different hunger strikes, food hunger strikes in jail, and that was my first introduction and transformation to nonviolence and the power of nonviolence.
Through my experience and learning about the history of the conflict and learning — I also know Hebrew very well, and I’m coming from an Indigenous Palestinian family that has been living around here, outside of Jerusalem, almost more than 500 years. I have been opening my heart and my soul and my mind to find partners on the Israeli side that reach the same conclusion, which is basically as simple as no military solution for this conflict.
And it’s beyond that, because, for us, nonviolence is ideology. We advocate for nonviolence. And we advocate for liberation that’s collectively connected, both Palestinians — despite, of course, the power dynamic and the occupation, which we challenge, and we talk about it clearly. I believe that, as I said, our freedom and our needs for freedom and for dignity and for human rights, both Palestinians and Israeli, is legitimate.
The strategies that has been taking place not just lately, since October 7, but, of course, like over decades of occupation and apartheid system and the violence and the ideology of violence, whether it’s coming from settler violence or it’s coming from religious violence from Hamas side, we are opposing this clearly and publicly. We are offering a different direction that’s based on partnership and common interests and common values, based actually on an old story that we, Jewish and Palestinian Arab, we could live in coexistence next to each other, and our identities can really be safe and practiced in the land where we belong. And it doesn’t have to be either/or. We’ve been — myself, Avner and other friends — we’ve been in the place where is it about us or them, eliminate them, and the army force options. We don’t believe in this anymore.
And definitely, after I was released from jail, I committed my life to bridge the gap among our people with other activists. And the road is long. I know this is a long journey. It’s not necessarily even for our generation.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me bring Avner Wishnitzer into the conversation. You are a former member of one of the IDF’s elite commando units. What inspired you to help found Combatants for Peace?
AVNER WISHNITZER: Hi, and thanks for having us.
For me, it was the gap between the way I was raised to believe that Israel is a safe haven for the Jews and that it’s essentially liberal democracy, and the reality of the occupation, which I learned to really know up close only after my service. I was at that time in my early twenties and still a reserve soldier in that same unit. And what I saw in the early 2000s around the South Hebron Hills and around Nablus and different places around the West Bank really brought me face to face with the systematic oppression, of which I was only vaguely aware. And it exposed, it created a dissonance: the declared values of Israel as a democracy and its backyard, in which none of these values are valid. And I felt that I can no longer talk the talk and act as if this backyard did not exist. And I refused to serve in the Occupied Territories in late 2004. And then, thinking that it’s not enough to just refuse and absolve yourself from this systematic violence, it is crucial also to struggle against it actively, because you can only refuse once.
And at that point, it was early 2005. We were approached by a group of Palestinians who were curious about this refusenik phenomenon, and then we started meeting. And these meetings later led to the formation of Combatants for Peace. And we have been saying for almost two decades what we are still saying now, and we insist even more, as Sulai said, there is no military solution. It’s a fantasy, but a very dangerous fantasy.
And we see now the horror and the fear and the hatred in Israel, in the West Bank, in Gaza. What happened on the 7th of October, the atrocities are unprecedented, and then Israeli attack on Gaza and settler violence in the West Bank, again, unprecedented. The levels of violence keep rising, and the circle of violence just goes on, because we are unable to undo the driving forces of this conflict — first and foremost, the occupation. It’s not the only reason, but we believe it’s the most important reason for perpetuating this conflict. And this is why we’ve been struggling against it for so long. We believe there is —
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think —
AVNER WISHNITZER: There is an alternative, and this is what we are trying to push forward.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s what I want to ask you about: What is the alternative at this point? You have this truce that could end today, unless Hamas releases 10 prisoners a day, but Israel has said only up to 10 days and that they are going to wipe out Hamas in Gaza. What is the alternative, Avner?
AVNER WISHNITZER: So, the alternative is not in this microtactic level. I mean, sure, we are for the release of all hostages. We are for the release of prisoners. You talked about the prisoners a lot during this program. We are talking about something far more fundamental, a sea change, which means the renewal of talks that would lead to a political — a just political solution, that is agreed on both sides and not imposed unilaterally, and to support that political process, that is so crucial, because right now there is no alternative. It’s just brute force. And when people are fed with the idea —
AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds left, but then we’re going to continue the conversation.
AVNER WISHNITZER: OK, just one point. When people are fed with the idea that there is no choice but violence, there is only violence, to each other. We need to open an alternative, a political process to end the violence.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both so much for being with us. We’re going to do Part 2 and post it online. Avner Wishnitzer, former Israeli commando, and Sulaiman Khatib with Combatants for Peace, thanks for joining us.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
The four-day truce in Gaza has entered its final day, but negotiations are underway to extend it. So far, Hamas has released a total of 58 hostages who had been held captive for the seven weeks. Thirty-nine of the freed hostages have been Israeli citizens. Hamas also released 17 Thai workers, a Filipino worker and an Israeli Russian. Since the truce began, Israel has released 117 Palestinian prisoners, mostly women and children, including many who had been held without charge.
One of the first hostages released was the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Yaffa Adar. She was captured from her home in the kibbutz Nir Oz. Her granddaughter, Adva Adar, spoke Sunday.
ADVA ADAR: I can say that she’s deaf, and I can say that she said that she was thinking about the family a lot and that it helped her survive that she could hear the voices of the great-grandchildren calling her and that it gives her a lot of power, and that she’s now trying to realize what’s happening here and about a lot of friends and neighbors that are either dead or kidnapped from the kibbutz and about Tamir, her oldest grandson, that is also a hostage, and that she has no house to return.
AMY GOODMAN: In the occupied West Bank, crowds gathered to celebrate the release of Palestinians held in prison. This is Nasrallah Alawar, one of the Palestinian teenagers released.
NASRALLAH ALAWAR: [translated] Prison guards made us starve. They used to bring us two patches of bread for each cell, which is not enough. There were also children, 11 and 12 years old, with us, and there wasn’t enough food for them. God only knows how bad the situation was.
AMY GOODMAN: Health officials in Gaza now say the death toll from Israel’s bombardment has reached nearly 15,000. The New York Times is reporting the rate of civilians killed in Gaza by Israel has been far higher than in recent wars in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The New York Times reports more than twice as many women and children have already been reported killed in Gaza in the last seven weeks than have been confirmed killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its attack nearly two years, though the exact death tolls in both conflicts are unknown.
Earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Israeli troops in Gaza and told them, “Israel will continue until the end. Nothing will stop us.”
We’re joined now by two guests. We go to Jerusalem, where we’re joined by Orly Noy, Israeli political activist and editor of the Hebrew-language news site Local Call. She’s also the chair of B’Tselem’s executive board. Her new piece for +972 Magazine is “What Israelis won’t be asking about the Palestinians released for hostages.” Tala Nasir is also with us, a lawyer with the Palestinian prisoner and human rights organization Addameer.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Orly Noy. If you can talk about this temporary truce, that could end today or possibly will continue, Israel says, for each day that Hamas releases at least 10 hostages, what this four-day respite has meant, who has been released, Orly?
ORLY NOY: Thank you, Amy, so much for having me.
As soon as the exchange of prisoners deal was agreed upon, Israel came up with a list of 300 Palestinian prisoners, almost all of them minors, with a few women included, that would be the pool to be released throughout the ceasefire. When you look thoroughly at the names and the charges, as you said, first off, many of them were never charged with anything. I mean, the numbers are incredible. The latest data from the beginning of November talk about more than 6,800 Palestinians, political prisoners, what Israel refers to as “security” prisoners, more than 2,000 of them through administrative detention. It means that not only they have never been convicted with anything, they’ve never been charged with anything, so never had the opportunity to defend themselves.
You look at minor Palestinian teenagers who have been arrested for throwing stones at police jeeps or army jeeps. One of the names in that list is in prison just simply for calling, with a group of his friends, “Allahu Akbar” — yes, “God is great.” Another Palestinian woman has been sitting in jail for allegedly intending to carry out an attack, not even doing anything in practice. Others have been charged with attempts to carry out stabbing attacks, or did — even did so, but mildly injured policemen and women. So you see that the charges are incredibly minor, but what this list really gives, allows is the sense of how central the tool of incarceration is in the Israeli project of the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the Israeli hostages, and others. Thai, a Filipino hostage, a Russian Israeli hostage was released.
ORLY NOY: So, of course, I mean, these past three days with the release of the hostages have been really a sort of national celebration, after — in what are maybe the darkest days that Israelis can remember. I mean, there was a very anxious anticipation for their return, especially the children, whom the Israeli entire society became to know by name each of the children that have been held as hostages. So there’s been a lot of anxiety in anticipation for their return.
They’ve been greeted with a national embrace. And they, of course, went immediately to receive medical treatment, those who needed, but a medical checkup for all of them. And they have — I mean, but this is just the beginning of their journey back to life, because many of them don’t know what happened since they went to captivity. Many of them lost immediate family members, and they are just now learning about it. So it’s a very bittersweet moment for them and for the Israeli society as a whole.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, from the beginning, it was said that Americans or Israeli Americans would be released. It was only yesterday that the little 4-year-old, Abigail Edan, was released. Both her parents were murdered. She ran, as a 3-year-old — it’s astounding; she turned 4 in captivity — to her neighbor’s house, and there Abigail was captured along with the mom and her three kids — I think her oldest daughter and the husband were murdered — and then they were all taken into captivity. She is the first American to be released, and some are speculating that Hamas is holding off on Americans so that Biden will put pressure on Netanyahu to continue the ceasefire.
ORLY NOY: Yeah, we are being told so. And it actually makes some sense, because, I mean, it is almost ironic that while Israel is incarcerating Palestinian children for throwing stones, at the same time, the only lesson that it teaches the Palestinians is that the only way to actually release Palestinian prisoners is through such heinous crimes, such as the one that Hamas carried out on October 7th. I mean, really, the amount of Palestinian children, women, minors and others in the prisons, without any due process, without the ability to really honestly protect themselves from, is such that right now it seems that their only hope is through such actions — again, horrible, violent, heinous actions taken by the Hamas — but Israel just doesn’t show any other way for Palestinians to be able to resist the occupation, which they have the right to, without spending the rest of their lives in the Israeli prisons.
AMY GOODMAN: Tala Nasir, I want to ask you about what’s happening on the streets right now. I want to go back to what Ben-Gvir, the far-right Cabinet minister, said. On Thursday, the Israeli minister of national security, Ben-Gvir, instructed police to use an iron fist against attempts to celebrate prisoner releases, and said, quote, “My instructions are clear: There are to be no expressions of joy. Expressions of joy are equivalent to backing terrorism; victory celebrations give backing to those human scum, for those Nazis.” So, if you can talk about what this means? In the West Bank, we’ve seen thousand people coming out to celebrate the young men now, boys when they were arrested — some have come of age while they were in prison. But in East Jerusalem, we are not seeing that. Is it because people are terrified of being arrested for terrorism? I mean, this from Ben-Gvir, a man who himself was convicted in Israeli court 15 years ago of aiding terrorism and inciting hatred of Palestinians?
TALA NASIR: Yes. First of all, good morning. Thank you for having me.
I’m going to talk about several violations after, or in the past three days, within this exchange deal, starting with the West Bank. So, the Israeli forces deliberately assaulted the released prisoners and their families during the prisoner release operations. They first delayed the release of prisoners until late at night. They released the child prisoners wearing clothes that are too big for their size, and some of them were barefoot. Additionally, the clothes did not provide adequate protection from the cold weather at these days. Forces also used gas bombs, the rubber bullets, live ammunition in front of Ofer Prison, where families were gathered to meet with their children and loved ones.
On the other hand and concerning the released prisoners from Jerusalem, the Israeli forces raided the homes of the prisoners before their release in the occupied Jerusalem. They prevented them from any signs of celebration upon, of course, reuniting with their loved ones, sons and daughters. The families of the released prisoners were summoned to Al-Moscobiyeh center, where they were subjected to harsh and arbitrary conditions that prohibited them from gatherings, banned them from marches and fireworks, prevented them from chanting slogans, in addition to confiscating the sweets that were inside the houses.
Also, there were assaults on journalists who were present at the homes of the released prisoners, and that was by physically assaulting them and expelling them out of the houses, prohibiting them from media coverage. That’s what happened, or these are the main violations happened in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem in the past three days of the prisoner exchange.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about particular cases of young people who are imprisoned, Tala Nasir? You’re speaking to us from Ramallah. If you can talk to us, for example, about the case of — let’s see — of the young man who was — Ahmad Manasra. Tell us when he was arrested. What happened to him when he was 13 years old?
TALA NASIR: Yes, OK. So, regarding Ahmad Manasra, so he was arrested when he was 12 years old, and he was — on attempt of stabbing an Israeli settler. He was interrogated in a very hard conditions inside Israeli prison. He went under torture and ill treatment. He is now facing psychological illness and issues. Of course, he’s not on the list of the prisoners supposed to be released within this exchange deal, because he is over 18, while he was under 18, he was 12 years old, when he was arrested. We hopefully think his name will be on the next list of the supposed to be released from Israeli prisons, but until now nothing is accurate about the many prisoners.
Talking about the prisoners who were released or the names who were on the list, one of them serves the highest sentence of all child prisoners. His name is Mohammed Abu Qtaish. He is serving a 15-year sentence, which is the highest sentence among all the children. We’re talking about a woman prisoner who was released before two days. Her name is Shorouq Dwayyat. She is sentenced to 16 years old, and it’s the highest sentence among the women prisoners. We’re talking about injured and ill female prisoners who were released. One of them is Israa Jaabis, who suffers severe burns all over her body. We’re talking about Fatima Shaheen. She is a woman prisoner who was released. She lost the ability to walk. She is paralyzed for being shot by the occupation forces. We are also talking about releasing four administrative detainees from women prisoners, in addition to nine child administrative detainees. These are being held under administrative detention without a charge, without a trial and indefinitely.
AMY GOODMAN: And let’s talk about how many Palestinians are imprisoned right now. What? Over 7,000, 2,000 of them from the West Bank since October 7th?
TALA NASIR: Not exactly. We are talking about over 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners inside Israeli prisons right now. More than 2,500 of them are being held under administrative detention. And talking about after the 7th of October, the number of 80% of the Palestinians detained after the 7th of October are being now held under administrative detention without a charge, without a trial. And after the 7th of October until this day, we’re talking about 3,260 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons until this day. So, in less than two months, it’s more than 3,000 Palestinians, including 120 female prisoners, including 41 journalists.
And let me shed light on something. From Friday until this day, we are talking about more than 112 Palestinians that were detained in the past three days only, from the beginning of the truce. So it’s actually equal to the number of released prisoners within the exchange deal. So these mass arrest campaigns are still taking place in all the cities, villages, refugee camps in the Palestinian territories. And most of them are being held under administrative detention.
Something important to note also: Six Palestinian prisoners died or were killed inside Israeli prisons in less than a month. These six, four of them were arrested after the 7th of October, and two of them were arrested before. Until now, we don’t know the circumstances of their death, because we still don’t have the accurate information, but the testimonies of prisoners and released prisoners affirm that they were brutally beaten inside the prisons. So, several violations have been taking place inside Israeli prisons after the 7th of October, and that’s what we have documented throughout these two months.
AMY GOODMAN: Near Ofer prison in the West Bank, Hanan Al-Barghouti spoke after she was part of the first group of 39 Palestinian detainees to be released. She said, since October 7th, her family was not allowed to contact her, after Israeli prison authorities launched a brutal crackdown on Palestinian prisoners. She says she was in September and placed in jail without charge or trial for an additional period of four months, subject to indefinite extensions under Israel’s administrative detention policy. Four of her sons are also under arrest.
TALA NASIR: Yes, true.
AMY GOODMAN: This is her.
HANAN AL-BARGHOUTI: [translated] The female prisoners await relief. The female prisoners are in agony. The female prisoners are very upset. They impose on us many humiliating things and all the things that hurt us. But we remain with our heads held high and steadfast and tolerant despite their sadism. God willing, we will free all the female prisoners and empty the jails.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Hanan Al-Barghouti, who was arrested in September and just released as part of the prisoner exchange. I actually want to put this question to Orly Noy. How are Palestinian prisoners perceived? I mean, the way you describe them — we talk about the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas on October 7th. You describe them as hostages of the Israeli state, with so many of them not even charged.
ORLY NOY: Yeah. I mean, here, I should mention a word about the collaboration of the Israeli media with the general state attempt to portray each and every Palestinian behind bars as a terrorist. I mean, this is the one and only term that the Israeli media is referring by to the Palestinian prisoners, and it doesn’t matter what they did. And if it’s a 12-year-old child who threw stones or a grown-up man who did something more severe, they are all seen as terrorists. And the double standard, particularly in that area, is really mind-blowing, because the same system that allows every Jewish settler, citizen or soldier or policeman to walk away after killing Palestinians under the most outrageous circumstances is the same system that treats a 12-year-old who threw stones as a dangerous terrorist, and all of a sudden, you know, stones can kill and whatnot, so they are all seen as terrorists.
And one of the most difficult tasks for a human rights organization is actually to advocate for the conditions of the Palestinian prisoners, who — as was mentioned before, which were harshened dramatically since October 7th. And we’ve been talking to some people, and we’ve been hearing heartbreaking, shaking testimonies about the conditions of Palestinian prisoners in the prisons these days, and far away from the public eye and further — even further away from public interest.
AMY GOODMAN: So, where do you see this going, Orly Noy? Do you see Israel — Hamas has already agreed to this — extending this truce for every day that they release 10 hostages? And what about the pressure on Netanyahu, where you had thousands of Israelis marching to his offices, demanding hostages be number one over a military strike on Gaza?
ORLY NOY: I think that the question would become crucial after the release of all the civilians, because we should keep in mind that Hamas is also holding in captivity Israeli soldiers. And without a doubt, the price that they will demand for their release is going to be much, much higher than what we’ve seen so far.
At the same time, and again going back to the role of the Israeli media, the media is pushing very hard to renew the war after those exchanges. And Netanyahu actually has a very big incentive to carry on the war, because of those demands that you mentioned, because he knows that the day after the war, the Israeli public is going to hold him accountable for that catastrophe.
At the same time, nobody knows what Israel’s endgame is and what is Israel’s plan for the day after the war regarding Gaza. So, all of that, with the given situation in Gaza, where — when people, the residents of the already most densely populated place on Earth, are now squeezed in a smaller area, facing hunger, without clear water to drink, without proper medications, what will be the nature of the next phase of war, should there be one? Under those circumstances, I really do not dare to even imagine that scenario.
AMY GOODMAN: Just have 30 seconds left, but I want to ask Tala about your knowledge of the number of arrests of people, of Palestinians in Gaza. In recent days, Israel arrested the Awni Khattab, the head of Khan Younis Medical Center, and Muhammad Abu Salmiya, the head of the Al-Shifa Hospital. We also, of course, know about Mosab Abu Toha, who is known around the world, the Palestinian poet and writer. He was taken with about 200 others in prison, but because of tremendous pressure and outcry, especially from the United States news organizations, he was released, but the others weren’t.
TALA NASIR: Yes. So, unfortunately, we have no information about Palestinians who have been imprisoned from Gaza, to this day. We tried to contact, of course, the Israeli Prison Service. All the Israeli human rights organizations are trying also to find out the whereabouts and the situation of Palestinians detained from Gaza. But until now, we don’t even know the numbers of these Palestinians, and, of course, we do not know the circumstances of their arrests.
We are also talking about, until this day, there are approximately 700 missing Palestinians, who are likely detained in the occupation prisons, but we don’t know the accurate information about their conditions. These are from the workers who have been working inside Israel before the 7th of October. Some of them were released at the Karm Abu Salem crossing. But there are approximately 700 that are now still missing, and we don’t have any information about them. So we are trying and working to know the conditions they are being detained and what are their condition and what are they going through right now.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Tala Nasir, I want to thank you so much for being with us, lawyer with the Palestinian prisoner and human rights organization Addameer, speaking to us from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, and Orly Noy, Israeli political activist, editor of the Hebrew-language news site Local Call and chair of B’Tselem’s executive board. We’ll link to your new piece for +972 Magazine, “What Israelis won’t be asking about the Palestinians released for hostages.”
Coming up, we speak to a former Palestinian prisoner and a former Israeli military commando, who together helped found Combatants for Peace. Back in 20 seconds.