Trending Topics:

White House knows the violence stems from occupation, but won’t spend political capital to say so — Dakwar

on 13 Comments

Democracy Now had an excellent segment yesterday on the stabbings, and shootings, in Israel and Palestine. Amy Goodman interviewed Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group and Jamil Dakwar, the human rights lawyer.

Thrall had an op-ed in the Times yesterday about why violence is attractive to Palestinians: because Israel is cordoning off 91 percent of the West Bank — as Palestinian areas– while absorbing the rest of that land and East Jerusalem. Palestinian suspicions about their loss of access to the Al Aqsa mosque are completely understandable given these patterns. Compare his view to Jeffrey Goldberg’s apologia for the Israeli government and recitation of Jewish religious claims to the Temple Mount.

Thrall spoke about the tension in his East Jerusalem neighborhood as more checkpoints are thrown up, and all Palestinians are subject to suspicion and possible stop-and-frisk. Then he related it to the politics of Palestine, the end of the two-state solution:

What we’re seeing right now among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and particularly in Jerusalem, is a real sense that the idea of a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem is escaping them. Jerusalemites have felt for many years that they are losing Jerusalem. They feel that they’re losing control over Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well…

Palestinians, in general, feel that they are approaching the end of an era, and that era is the era that was inaugurated with President Mahmoud Abbas’s election in January 2005. This came just after Yasser Arafat had died and at the end of a very bloody and painful intifada, one that was bloody and painful for both sides. And what Abbas represented for Palestinians was a chance to try a totally different strategy, one that was not based on armed conflict, one that would basically give Israel exactly what it most wanted, which is security, and to cooperate with Israel, fully in security, to hunt down militants in the West Bank and to prevent attacks against Israelis, against settlers….

[T]hat strategy, that was inaugurated with Abbas’s election in January 2005, has been given 11 years now to play itself out, and it hasn’t achieved anything. And it hasn’t really eased life or restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and Jerusalem. And so, what Palestinians are doing now is, in a very nonstrategic and emotional way, rebelling against that, without a clear vision of where they’re headed.

Dakwar also spoke of the Israeli pressure on East Jerusalem, fragmenting Palestinian leadership in the city and changing the status quo of the holy sites. Then he spoke of the knife attacks in the context of Palestinian despair, and the dangerous escalation that the lynching of an Eritrean man represents:

There is no hope for any real, normal life. This is the new normal for the Palestinians, which is military occupation continues unabated, the Israeli government continues to send settlers to the West Bank…. These kinds of things will make Palestinians despair or make the Palestinians, some of them, to resort to violence and do what they are doing. And I think that is what is really concerning…

You mentioned the Arab Palestinian citizen who stabbed the soldier. The overwhelming majority of Palestinian citizens are peaceful. They’ve been peaceful in their activities for their entire career, and yet the Israeli government is cracking down on their leadership, is cracking down—there are home demolitions inside Israel, displacement of Arab Bedouin communities. That is making people see that despite the fact that you are making an effort to be a citizen, a law-abiding citizen, the Israeli government is saying, “No, you are not welcomed here. You are an enemy. You are not going to be enjoying the same basic rights as others in the country.”..

[W]hat’s happening is that now anyone appears to be an Arab Palestinian. And that starts with the racial profiling, stop-and-frisk, that is a daily experience of Palestinians. But also Israeli Jews who are Arab Jews, who come—[Sephardic] Jews, who appear to some Israelis or to the Israeli security forces as suspicious Arab Palestinians, some of them are even being attacked. I think this is going out of control, because the Israeli government and the politicians are spreading those statements, making those statements that are very dangerous statements, encouraging citizens to take arms and shoot people, shoot to kill…

[P]eople are mistrusting anyone who is a Palestinian, who is an Arab, who appears to be Palestinian, and that’s why the Eritrean refugee got in that situation. And the lynching—there’s situations where a soldier is standing by, security forces standing by and not protecting those civilians. That, in and of itself, is a huge, dangerous escalation that I think even worse than the act of lonely or individual taking some knives and stabbing people, because that frustrates entire—puts entire communities at risk, when law enforcement carries those attacks and crackdowns and opens fire with no respect to human life.

He said that the United States government knows the occupation is the root cause but it is incapable of saying so publicly:

Every time Secretary Kerry tries to say something right, whether it’s the recent comment that he made, where he said, “Well, we’ve seen building of settlements, an expansion, etc. That is now—and now we’re seeing violence.” So he’s making the right connection, a very logic, commonsense connection, and yet he had to retract those statements, even though he’s really saying what everybody knows, what everybody knows in the Obama administration, what everybody knows here in the United States, that settlements are illegal, and yet they are now getting full support from this Israeli government, and is now building on turning this conflict into a religious war. And I think that is really the critical point where I think we need to be very, very concerned about. People who know the situation know that if you are going to speak to the youth about religious wars and agitate them, they will take things like this, they will take knives and stab people. And without leadership, without any hope, without a future, this will become the norm. And unfortunately, that would be a very dangerous route to go to.

Amy Goodman then said that President Obama had gone out on the limb on a number of issues, including Cuba and Iran. Would he take any risks on Israel and Palestine? Dakwar responded:

Sadly, I think it will probably be hard to see him pushing that in the last year in his administration, given the Iran deal, given everything, the political capital, has spent on all these other foreign policy issues. I think it would be very sad for this administration that they didn’t really get it right on the priority and the action, because U.S. ultimately has the power over financial support to Israel, diplomatic, political support. They know what needs to be done. And sadly, every time, you know, Palestinians resort to nonviolent practice—and that’s the overwhelming majority of Palestinians have been doing that, as was mentioned, whether in Nabi Saleh, in all the different places in the West Bank, in trying to oppose the wall, trying to oppose other crackdowns, and all of a sudden now, individual attacks and violent attacks, that are very, very unfortunate, now turn to be the one to be representing all the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. And that’s, I think, the sad reality where we live.

I think that’s why I think there’s a need for the Palestinian unity, for Palestinian leadership to realize the need to be a lesson learned from the 22-year failed experience of Oslo, what it meant for the Palestinians, and to have more legitimacy within the Palestinians to give them the confidence that the Palestinian leadership is indeed speaking on behalf of Palestinians, so that they can also garner the support internationally, even if the United States will not be on their side in the near future.

Democracy Now October 19, 2015:

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

Other posts by .

Posted In:

13 Responses

  1. annie on October 20, 2015, 12:04 pm

    this is an important interview – i hope everyone reads it or listens.

    • inbound39 on October 20, 2015, 1:00 pm

      Annie… may seem important but let’s look at what American political figures have told us over the years. At least since 2008. America has a Special Relationship with Israel based on shared values. That told every man,woman and child in Western Societies around the globe on the street listening intelligently and using their eyes that America condones land theft,even to the point of supplying arms and ammunition to Israel to do the job and assist in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Sure it says it opposes settlements but has it done anything physically to stop Israel? No it hasn’t. Americas political position re Israel has seriously eroded and damaged Americas status and integrity World wide. No-one here on the street in New Zealand particularly cares about what American Politicians think anymore nor do Australians or the English or French and I have a good hunch the German people on the whole don’t care either. No-one really supports Israel anymore. It is largely viewed as an open air insane asylum for violent offenders. Gaza is Israel’s open air concentration camp for Palestinians and Americans in this Special Relationship share those values and fund them and are willingly complicit in them by supplying Israel the strategic edge to do so. There was a time when I was extremely proud to have served alongside American troops in Vietnam. I enjoyed meeting them ashore too. I feel sorry their government has let the American people down so badly. We gave up on this type of behaviour when we ALL joined together and rubbed out the Nazi’s. Zionism is the new National Socialist Party. What is VERY important for America is it needs to quit with the niceties and remember 1939-45 and remember what our forefathers fought against. I am no longer interested in wasted air expended on actionless words……so are the Palestinians.

      • annie on October 20, 2015, 1:33 pm

        I am no longer interested in wasted air expended on actionless words……so are the Palestinians.

        nothing you write is new to me, so what is your point? should democracy now close up shop because they are merely wasting air on actionless words?

        speaking of which, why read blogs and write on them? what’s the point of social media when everyone should be out on the street? aren’t your words actionless too?

      • inbound39 on October 20, 2015, 9:31 pm

        Nope Annie. My words are not actionless as many of my friends in New Zealand would tell you. I write to the press here and comment on biased reporting on television so I am not actionless. The point is Annie America is blocking democracy by wielding its veto for Israel’s protection. That situation of democracy being hijacked will not change until the American people get off their chuffs and demand change…..that’s the point. Every Palestinian harmed,killed or whose home was demolished by a Caterpillar remembers who paid for the weaponry and heavy machinery for Israel…..America. The POINT IS…….Do Americans seriously support that position or are they a dictate of Zionist Israel.

      • annie on October 21, 2015, 9:10 am

        My words are not actionless as many of my friends in New Zealand would tell you. I write to the press here and comment on biased reporting on television so I am not actionless………The POINT IS…….Do Americans seriously support that position or are they a dictate of Zionist Israel.

        ok, i understand your words are not actionless (sorry if you found that offensive) – you write to the press and comment on biased reporting on television. i do that too and also write for this blog (which has a fairly larger readership). i am just trying to figure out what difference you see between your words, my words, amy goodman’s words, Nathan Thrall and Jamil Dakwar words? why are their (american) words “wasted air expended on actionless words” and yours not? because we are american?

        i will gladly answer for you if americans seriously support Palestinians harmed and killed or their homes being demolished by a Caterpillar paid by my (our) tax dollar once you explain to me how a new zealander’s words (such as yourself) are not actionless but those of american activists are.

        America is blocking democracy by wielding its veto for Israel’s protection.

        i think i’ve heard that mentioned before.

        That situation of democracy being hijacked will not change until the American people get off their chuffs and demand change

        i think it’s possible european governments could also demand change. anyway, thanks for the heads up — i’ll see what i can do.

      • Doubtom on October 22, 2015, 1:09 am

        Well said Kiwi! I served with your troops also, while in the Navy Patrol Squadron. I also served in Vietnam in 67/68—- and I agree that Americans are complicit in all of the illegal activities perpetrated by Israel. All of this, stems from that so-called “special relationship” we have with Israel, which has never been adequately defined for the American people, and therefore, calls into question why this ‘status’ has never been challenged —-and the answer is simple enough, the Israelis, or Jews if you prefer, have a ‘lock on the board’ of our government and its political processes and anyone daring to call attention to this ‘most obvious fact’ is labelled antisemitic if he’s not Jewish, or a ‘self-hating Jew’ if he is one. They cover all bases! That’s the game that has been played for years and it continues unabated to this moment. The Jews are the best organized self- interest group in the world and therein lies their success. Organize, organize, organize!

      • Mooser on October 22, 2015, 10:49 am

        “The Jews are the best organized self- interest group in the world and therein lies their success. Organize, organize, organize! “

        “The truth, however, is that 82 percent of American Jews belong to no Jewish organizations at all, meaning not only that there is no organization that speaks for them, but that no organization even knows exactly who they are.” MJ Rosenberg

  2. ckg on October 20, 2015, 1:23 pm

    I am unaware that the State Department has condemned the lynching of the Eritrean, other than to say that “people shouldn’t take the law into their own hands”. From yesterday’s briefing (in which Mr. Toner later “condemned” a specific act of ISIL):

    QUESTION: I just want to follow on Brad’s point.

    MR TONER: Please.

    QUESTION: I mean, he’s talking about a lynch mob kind of atmosphere, and there is obviously heightened rhetoric that contributes to that kind of —

    MR TONER: And we’ve spoken to that as well, Said. We’ve said that everybody needs to – sorry – everybody needs to tone down the rhetoric, reduce the violence, take affirmative action, affirmative steps —

    QUESTION: I think Brad’s point – he is saying that, look, the people stomping; it’s hatred and all these things. That’s a lynch mob kind of atmosphere. I mean, you certainly warn against such a thing, right?

    MR TONER: I – again, I go back to – I don’t know how I could say much more clearly is people should not take the law into their own hands.

    QUESTION: But there were incidents where actually the law enforcement, whether it’s the Israeli army or the police and so on, were actually looking at similar incidents – maybe not so graphic as the one we’ve seen, but in past incidents. So you would call on Israeli authorities and the police and so on not to use excessive force, which you backtracked from the other day.

    MR TONER: We – no, that’s – look, we always call on frankly not just Israeli security forces but security forces all over the world to exercise proper restraint. That being said, we certainly recognize Israel’s right to defend itself separate and apart from what we’re talking about here, which is, as you said, this incident involving the death of an Eritrean man. I – again, I think I said it pretty clearly that there’s heightened fear, anger; there’s a lot of emotion. People – as the mayor of Beersheba said, people shouldn’t take the law into their own hands. There’s an investigation underway. Let’s let that play itself out.

    • RoHa on October 20, 2015, 7:39 pm

      Good to see Mr Toner is in top form.

      • ckg on October 20, 2015, 9:52 pm

        Mr Toner must be gunning for Mr Kirby’s job.

  3. Krauss on October 20, 2015, 2:10 pm

    Dakwar is wrong on the political capital part – he underestimates Obama’s craveness to the Israel lobby.

    Obama wants a post-presidential life and he understands he needs the nod from the Jewish establishment for that. If he went out All Jimmy Carter, he can forget that. He’ll concern troll about “Israel’s future” in his memoirs to please the J Street crowd but he’ll never take any concrete steps. Gotta protect the revenue stream from that speaking tour.

    • Rusty Pipes on October 21, 2015, 9:54 pm

      Obama doesn’t need much political capital — the Republican congress won’t let him pass anything anyway and the Democrats aren’t going to blame him for ruining their fundraising from Zionist donors this late in the cycle (Democrats who are competing with each other to prove their Zionist credentials are too busy angling for jobs in what they expect to be the Clinton administration). No, in order to unravel the best-laid plans of neocons, our passive-aggressive prize president just needs to do a little clean up after the Iran deal, let Russia wrap things up in Syria and refrain from acting in the UNSC if another country should propose justice for Palestine.

      Obama may not be as principled as Carter, but he’s not craven like Clinton.

      • Boomer on October 22, 2015, 11:28 am

        Mr. Pipes, your analysis sounds reasonable (though I might have used a word such as “lecherous” or “predatory” instead of “craven”), but if so, I wonder why he hasn’t already “refrain[ed] from acting in the UNSC if another country should propose justice for Palestine.”

        Perhaps there are many possible answers. One may be that he really doesn’t care much about Palestinians, and sees no need to take even small risks on their behalf. Another possible answer (a rather long and depressing one) is Patrick Smith’s suggestion that, like Egypt, we too have a “deep state.”

Leave a Reply