Tuesday’s attacks in Belgium came just four days after authorities in Brussels arrested Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the November Paris attacks that killed 130 people. Abdeslam had fled to Brussels after the Paris attacks. After his arrest in a raid on Friday, the Belgian interior minister had warned the country was on the highest level of alert for a possible revenge attack. “I think the attacks today really underscore the urgent crisis and catastrophe that is taking place in Syria and the need for the international community to redouble its efforts to address in a serious way the civil war that is going on there that has really given rise, through the failure of the Syrian state, the vacuum of power that exists between Syria and Iraq, to this monster that we have come to know as ISIS, which has metastasized around the globe,” says Yousef Munayyer, executive director of U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. We speak with Munayyer and Robert Freedman, visiting professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University and the former president of Baltimore Hebrew University.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’re going to talk about the candidates addressing AIPAC yesterday in Washington, D.C., the major presidential candidates, all except Bernie Sanders, who continued out on the campaign trail. But first I want to get response from our guests to what has taken place now in Belgium. It looks like, at the latest count, 28 people have died, scores have been injured, in explosions at both the Brussels Airport as well as a metro station in Brussels. Our guests are Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and Robert Freedman, visiting professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University.
Robert Freedman, can we go to you first, before we go to the debate of the day? This just took place around 3:00 Eastern time, 8:00 in the morning in rush hour in Brussels. Can you respond?
ROBERT FREEDMAN: Well, it’s clear that this was a horrendous act. And terrorism, the deliberate killing of civilians, whether it’s by ISIS terrorists or by Palestinians knifing civilians in Jerusalem, has to be deplored and has to be dealt with. The irony of this, coming to the next part of our discussion, is that I’m sure Mr. Trump will seize upon this to demonstrate tougher action is needed against Muslim immigrants to the United States and against those who want to be refugees coming to the United States. And that, too, is deplorable.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Yousef Munayyer, your response to the Brussels attacks?
YOUSEF MUNAYYER: Well, I would reject any characterization that likens the political violence that takes place under occupation and in systems of occupation, like you see in Israel and Palestine, to the horrific attacks that we saw today in Belgium. And I think the attacks today really underscore the urgent crisis and catastrophe that is taking place in Syria and the need for the international community to redouble its efforts to address in a serious way the civil war that is going on there that has really given rise, through the failure of the Syrian state, the vacuum of power that exists between Syria and Iraq, to this monster that we have come to know as ISIS, which has metastasized around the globe. And I think that, you know, this was clear when we saw the attacks take place in Paris several months ago. And at the time, I wrote that, in fact, Paris was just the beginning. And until the international community focuses on bringing that civil war to an end, it’s going to be hard to see how ISIS can be defeated. And so long as they have a territorial base in Syria and elsewhere, unfortunately, we’re going to continue to see these kinds of attacks take place, regardless to how tight security becomes across Europe and elsewhere.
AMY GOODMAN: Yousef, this morning, you tweeted, “If an attack like this morning’s in Brussels were to happen in October, in Europe or especially the US, get used to saying President Trump.” Why?
YOUSEF MUNAYYER: Well, I think, you know, it’s a real possibility that people can be scared into voting for a candidate that has preyed on the fears of people. And if Donald Trump has done one thing, it is precisely that. And he has preyed on those who have, you know, been willing to listen to the xenophobia, to the nativism, to the idea that the United States must shut itself off from the rest of the world, must close its doors to anyone coming in that is different in any way, must build walls. And I think that, you know, in the wake of horrific events like this, oftentimes, as we saw after 9/11, as we saw after other events like this, the voting public is not always thinking with the most clear and rational mind and is often thinking with raw emotion. And I think the dangerous thing is, if you have a nominee that is Donald Trump for the Republican Party, one of the major parties in the United States, he has a chance of becoming president. And if an attack like this were to happen, I think his chances increase exponentially.