On CNN yesterday, anchor Carol Costello interviewed Yousef Munayyer of the US Campaign Against the Occupation about “lone wolf attacks” on Israelis by Palestinians. You will see that the lead-in to her interview emphasized Israeli casualties, again and again. Munayyer began by correcting that imbalance, before explaining the causes of the violence in a way that Americans should understand it.
“It would be like reducing the conversation around race riots in the United States simply to condemnations on attacks on store owners without talking about the systematic racism that exists that underlies all of this, causing this kind of political violence.”
It is rare for Palestinians to get this type of exposure in mainstream media; and Munayyer typically handled the questions with restraint and pith. Some excerpts:
COSTELLO: Why is this happening now?
MUNNAYER: Well, you know, in your introduction to this you mentioned that seven Israelis have been killed since October 1st. I think it is also important to note that in the same period of time, 30 Palestinians have been killed, around 17 of them in the course of demonstrating against Israeli occupation. Some 1,300 and more have been injured by Israeli fire and 600 have been arrested.
These heavy-handed tactics Israel is using in response unfortunately only reinforces the very reasons that Palestinian discontent exists. And that’s the inequality and violence, really systematic violence of the Israeli occupation which has persisted now in the occupied territories for nearly half a century.
And the reason this has escalated most recently is because of Israeli policies in the epicenter of this issue. And that is in Jerusalem, particularly around the holy sites, as there are continued call for an increased Jewish presence, Jewish religious presence literally in the spot where the Noble sanctuary is. And a series —
COSTELLO: But still, Yousef — still, Yousef, I mean, is there any excuse for stabbings of random people, unarmed people simply walking down the street?
MUNNAYER: No, of course not. But if we reduced the conversation to that, it would be like reducing the conversation around race riots in the United States simply to condemnations on attacks on store owners without talking about the systematic racism that exists that underlies all of this, causing this kind of political violence.
So, I think we understand that here in the United States that there are more to these issues just in these random acts of violence. We have to look at what’s happening underneath, the system of inequality, the system of oppression.
COSTELLO: Let me ask you this question, because these attacks appear to have a no political agenda, supposedly they are being organized on social media. Doesn’t that also point to the idea that people in the Palestinian territories are not — are not satisfied with their own government, as in the Palestinian Authority? Because what’s it done for them lately.
MUNNAYER: Of course, Palestinians are not satisfied with their own government. And unfortunately a lot of that has to do with the fact that the government, the Palestinian Authority has staked its reputation on negotiations with Israel that have only resulted not in the promised independence and sovereignty of a Palestinian state but the deepening of occupation and expansion of settlements.
So, at a time when the Israelis really need the Palestinian Authority to have some sort of legitimacy with the Palestinian people, they found out that their very own policies have undercut that legitimacy. And the young people in the streets who are frustrated by Israeli occupation and don’t see any end to it are not going to be listening to leaders which have been rendered ineffective.
COSTELLO: Is that why Mahmoud Abbas didn’t come out and condemn the violence? Because he isn’t doing that. The Israelis accuse him of ratcheting up things.
MUNAYYER: Of course the Israelis are going to do accuse him of that, because it is very difficult for them to accept any responsibility for the situation.
COSTELLO: But he didn’t condemn the violence, he didn’t condemn the violence.
MUNAYYER: Look, if you are a Palestinian leader who is seeing all of the violence against your own people and you come out and you condemn violence against Israelis when there is no Israeli condemnation of the systematic violence that is inherent in occupation, you are only further de-legitimatizing yourself.
So, this is a two-way street here. The reality is that the situation on the ground is devastating for Palestinians and has been that way for decades. And to expect the Palestinian leader who’s been completely undercut by Israelis and by Washington in fact because of the failure of these negotiations is really probably not the smartest way to approach things.
COSTELLO: Well, my last question and it is a scary proposition. Could the dissatisfaction out there among Palestinian youth with their own government, could it force the collapse of the Palestinian Authority?
MUNAYYER: I think things have been headed in that direction for some time. You have to remember that the very reason for being for the Palestinian Authority was to transition the occupied Palestinian territories into an independent sovereign Palestinian state. But as we’ve had 20 years now or more of negotiations towards that end and nothing but a deepening of the occupation and expansion of settlements and no progress towards that state, the very reason for being for a Palestinian authority is being undercut.
Palestinians see a Palestinian Authority as being essentially a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation. That’s not the way to run a legitimate government that is going to transition to a state.
So, the bigger picture here is that until there is Palestinian independence, until there is an end to the denial of Palestinian rights, you are going to see an escalation of violence, sometimes escalated periods, sometimes less escalated periods.
But if there is a system of violence called occupation, these kinds of periods of Palestinian violence are also going to exist.
COSTELLO: Yousef Munayyer, thanks for your insight.
A friend pointed out yesterday that Israeli apologists are never questioned as sharply as Munayyer. That is surely the case; but hat’s off to Costello and CNN for having Munayyer on. The more media that give a platform to this type of understanding, the better off we will all be.