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2007-06-08

On 40th Anniversary of Israeli Conquest of West Bank and Gaza, Activists to March in DC for End to Occupation

Guests

Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She is author of many books, including Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer.

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This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, which reshaped the map of the Middle East. Author Phyllis Bennis joins us to discuss how activists in this country are planning a march on Washington on Sunday to call for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. The Six-Day War reshaped the map of the Middle East. Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Gaza Strip and Sinai peninsula from Egypt. Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank have lived under Israeli military occupation ever since.

Today we are going to spend the hour examining the legacy of the Six Day War. Later in the show we will be joined by the Israeli historian Tom Segev who has just published the book "1967: Israel, The War and the Year That Transformed the Middle East." We will also be joined by the Palestinian doctor and human rights activist Mona El-Farra and the American scholar Norman Finkelstein.

But first we turn to Phyllis Bennis to discuss how activists in this country are planning a march on Washington on Saturday to call for an end to the Israeli occupation.

  • Phyllis Bennis. Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She is author of many books including "Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer." More info on June 10th rally here.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. The Six-Day War reshaped the map of the Middle East. Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank have lived under Israeli military occupation ever since.

Today we spend the hour examining the legacy of the Six-Day War. Later in the broadcast, we’ll be joined by Israeli historian Tom Segev, who’s just published the book 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East. We’ll also be joined by the Palestinian doctor and human rights activist Mona El-Farrah and the American scholar Norman Finkelstein. But first we turn to Phyllis Bennis in Washington, D.C., to discuss how activists in this country are planning a march on Washington to call for an end to the Israeli occupation. Phyllis Bennis is the director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She is author of many books, including Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Phyllis.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Thanks, Amy. Great to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the mobilizing that is taking place today for this weekend?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, you know, as you mentioned, this week marks the 40th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories. And all around the world, under the banner "The World Says No to Israeli Occupation," there have been marches and teach-ins and protests, all of which are coming to a head this weekend. Here in Washington on Sunday afternoon beginning at 2:00, with a rally in front of the Capitol, and then a 4:00 march to the White House, thousands of people will be saying exactly that: no to Israeli occupation. But specifically here in this country, the demand is also: Stop U.S. support for the Israeli occupation, because the understanding here is that it’s that U.S. support—economic support, military support, corporate support, diplomatic support—that make the continuation of occupation possible. And that’s what the focus is here. It’s on the role of the United states. The demands are very simple; there’s two. One says stop U.S. support for Israeli occupation. The other says we want a new policy in the Middle East based on the principles of a just peace, equality for all, between all the peoples of the Middle East. Stopping the occupation is key, and stopping our government’s policies is the most important component of doing that.

AMY GOODMAN: How has the coverage of the occupation changed, Phyllis Bennis?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: You know, there still is, in this country, a widely held, pro-Palestinian [sic] bias. There are assumptions that we grow up with, that we are educated with, that Israelis are like us, that Israel is a democracy, that the Palestinians are somehow different, that all the Palestinians are terrorists. But that has been changing, quite profoundly. I think it began to change at the time of the First Intifada, or uprising, that began in 1987. It continues today, as people are seeing much more evidence of what military occupation really looks like on the ground. And particularly, as we see more and more coverage of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the television coverage of that, I think, is resonating very powerfully for people in this country, who after all have never lived under military occupation. Most have never seen it. But as we see it in Iraq, I think that more and more people are beginning to understand what military occupation looks like—the checkpoints, the closures, the demolition of houses, the assassinations carried out by U.S. weapons. Every time a Palestinian child sees that their school is closed, that there’s a curfew going on, and they look out the window and see a U.S. Apache helicopter circling around and sending a U.S. wire-guided TOW missile on a so-called targeted assassination of a Palestinian political figure, killing many, many more people in the process, they’re saying, "The U.S. The US is involved." We are being held accountable for that, understandably, because we are making it happen, and the coverage is beginning to shift just a little bit to reflect that. We’re seeing more openness. It’s not where it needs to be. The mainstream press is still dominated by the assumption that criticism of Israel is so often unacceptable. But more and more people are challenging that.

The Jewish anti-occupation organizations in this country, organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace, which has played a major role in mobilizing for the demonstration on Sunday, have played a major role in changing those perceptions. Arab-American organizations, organizations like Black Voices for Peace, working particularly in the black community on this issue—the breadth of organizations—we’re seeing more than 250 organizations that have endorsed the mobilization for Sunday. And one of the most important historic reasons for it, one of the historic things about it, is that it’s being co-sponsored, not only by the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation, that has spearheaded this work over the last five years, but also by the U.S.'s largest and most influential peace coalition, United for Peace and Justice, which is made up of almost 1,500 separate peace organizations all around the country. And that fact, that the issue of U.S. support for occupation, the issue of Palestinian rights and the need to end occupation is being taken up by the mainstream peace movement in this country, is a historic development that I think is one of the most important things about what we're going to see on Sunday.

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis, you had started by saying that there is a pro-Palestinian bias in this country. Did you—

PHYLLIS BENNIS: I meant to say a pro-Israeli bias, I’m sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to ask about Jimmy Carter, the former president, and the effect that his book has had on the discourse in this country, Palestine: Peaace, Not Apartheid.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: The effect of President Carter’s book has been extraordinary. It’s not the only part, but the publication of that book, people all around the country buying that book, looking at title, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, with its powerful cover showing a photograph of the apartheid wall that has stolen so much additional land in the occupied West Bank, people are beginning to understand that this framework of apartheid as a way of understanding Israeli policy, not because it’s identical to what happened in South Africa—many South Africans believes it’s actually worse conditions in the Occupied Territories—but the point isn’t to compare oppressions. The point is to recognize that the Israeli policies violate the international covenant against the crime of apartheid, a United Nations resolution which the United States has not supported, but countries—hundreds of countries around the world do support. It’s that violation that gives rise to the understanding that it is apartheid that gives us the best framework for understanding Israeli policies and that can lead directly to the kind of nonviolent mobilizations we’re seeing around the world, based on boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns, economic efforts, nonviolent efforts, designed to force Israel to comply with international law, to stop violating international law, to end the occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to the words of the actor and comedian Roseanne Barr. She recently recorded a message on the 40th anniversary of the Israeli occupation that will be played at Sunday’s rally in Washington.

ROSEANNE BARR: Hi, everybody. This is Roseanne Barr. And I’m here to add my voice to all of your voices. I’m here speaking as a citizen of the world, as an American, as a Jew and as a grandmother. All of us who gather here today are united in our desire to seek a just peace in the Middle East, instead of the vicious cycle of revenge and recrimination that benefit only those who profit from a distance. They never actually themselves experience the violence and terror and suffering inflicted upon those human beings who pay the actual price in terms of their families’ lives. Those people who do pay that price want change, as well as all of us here who care about them. That change starts with our calling for the end of the American taxpayers’ support of, as well as the United States government’s support of, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. All of us, regardless of our nationalities or our religious affiliations, seek a new policy in the Middle East based on equal rights for all. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Yeah, that was the comedian Rosanne Barr. Phyllis, as we wrap up, she hasn’t weighed in in this discussion publicly, that we know of. Will she be at Sunday’s protest?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: She’s not able to be with us physically, because she’s performing that night, but she has sent this message. She has been weighing in on this issue, Amy. I was on her radio program for an hour last week discussing it. She has become very public, and she is not the only one. More and more Americans, more and more Jewish Americans, among so many others, are joining this campaign to say no to U.S. support for Israeli occupation. It’s our government’s support, our billions of dollars in tax money, that goes to support Israel every year; the military support; the uncritical diplomatic embrace that protects Israel from being held accountable for these violations of international law. That’s what our government’s support for occupation means in the real world on the ground. The boycott by the United States of not the Israeli occupation, but of the Palestinian people who are living under occupation, on the grounds that they elected a government the U.S. doesn’t like, has made the conditions on the ground profoundly worse. We now have 87 percent of the people of Gaza living below the international poverty line of $2 a day. That’s a tragedy that our government is responsible for. That’s why people are going to be gathering in the thousands on Sunday at 2:00 in front of the Capitol, marching to the White House to say to our government, to say to the rest of our citizens, to say to all of us, this is the time to stop. Forty years is too long. Military occupation has to end. And the way to end it is to stop U.S. military support, to stop U.S. economic support, to stop U.S. corporate and diplomatic and all support, to stop the Israeli occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, thank you for joining us, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Among her books, her latest, Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. When we come back from break, we go back 40 years. Stay with us.

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