- Dr. Mustafa Barghoutiphysician, member of the Palestinian parliament and head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society.
The ongoing Israeli attack on Gaza, which has now killed at least 213 people, “really is an act of genocide,” says Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian parliament and head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society who has been leading efforts to manage the pandemic in the West Bank and Gaza. He says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces multiple corruption charges, is using the latest violence to save his political future. “This man and his government is using Palestinian blood, and maybe even Israeli blood, to stay in power, to evade the three cases of corruption that he has to face, and he’s doing anything to keep his seat.”
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the West Bank to another doctor, to Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, physician, member of the Palestinian parliament, head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, who has been leading efforts to manage the pandemic in the West Bank and Gaza.
When we last spoke to you, Dr. Barghouti, you had COVID-19. More recently, you were at the Al-Aqsa Mosque when the Israeli forces began their raid. You have said that Palestinian first responders were attacked and beaten as they tried to help the wounded. If you can talk about just what Juan asked Dr. Rasha, as you oversee both Gaza and West Bank when it comes to COVID, but the attacking of the medical facilities, the killings of the doctors, and the significance of all this? Of course, you are a major political figure, as well. Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, says they will not stop the bombing.
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Thank you. Thank you for hosting me. And let me say that our hearts are broken, really, with what we see in Gaza, especially the loss of our colleagues in the hospital.
But what is happening really is an act of genocide. It’s not just bombardment. It’s not just barbaric attack on the civilian population. In reality, Netanyahu has failed drastically. He does not have any military success. And I am telling you, he does not have even military targets. This man and the government is using Palestinian blood — and maybe even Israeli blood — to stay in power, to evade the three cases of corruption that he has to face. And he’s doing anything to keep his seat.
But what’s happening in Gaza is totally unacceptable. And by the way, the 213 people killed there, you have to add to them 25 Palestinians who were also killed in the West Bank during the last week. There are 1,400 injuries, serious injuries, in Gaza, but also, in addition to that, there are 3,000 injuries in the West Bank. And while we are talking, the army is still shooting people, here in Ramallah and in Hebron and in Bethlehem. And some of them are at high risk because they were struck with high-velocity bullets.
What happened in Gaza, most important — it’s very important to mention that the Israeli army eliminated 14 families completely. I mean, they killed the grandfather, the grandmother, the father, the mother and all the children. Fourteen families have been eliminated from the civil record. This is so horrible. And out of these 14 families, one child only stayed alive, a 2-month-old child who lost nine of his brothers and sisters, as well as his mother and father. What future is going to be for this child? This is what worries me most.
The other thing I want to mention is that besides bombardment and destruction of people’s homes — and there is no justification whatsoever for destroying [inaudible] high-rise buildings by the Israeli bombs, which are American-made. There is no justification of shooting people’s homes and destroying them completely while people are asleep, knowing that Gaza does not have civil defense equipment, knowing that Gaza, since 2006, is under siege for 15 years, and the equipment that the civil defense has goes back to 1996. So, not only do you bombard people and people are stuck below the rubble, imagine — imagine the feelings of a person who’s hearing the soft voice of a child or a mother or a man under the rubble, and you cannot reach out to him, and he just suffocates to death. This is the worst that can happen.
In other countries, when an earthquake happens, people rush to help. Other countries rush to help. What do we have from other countries today except statements that Israel has the right to defend itself? Defend itself? It is a country that is occupying us. It is the entity that is practicing apartheid against the Palestinian people. You can’t even equate between the two sides. And they are not only doing that, they are favoring Israel, the aggressor.
Let me also tell you something about what’s happening in Gaza. We receive calls all the time from mothers, fathers, and we have our colleagues there who are working on the ground. The worst thing is the psychological stress that is exercised against the children, bombardment after bombardment the whole night. What you see in Gaza against the Palestinian population, but especially against the Palestinian children, is psychological terror. I call it psychological terror that Netanyahu and his government are practicing against the people.
And while we were busy trying to stop the COVID-19 epidemic, which has reached a serious level in Gaza because the ratio of infection is 30%, which means that out of every hundred tests you do, you have 30 cases of COVID-19 That means you have a community spread, a dangerous one. And now we cannot do anything, because tests cannot be done. Vaccines are not available. As you know, Israel practiced what I call vaccination apartheid against the Palestinian people. They got themselves vaccines enough for all Israelis, and they gave nothing to Palestinians. And they watched us getting the disease, actually, both in West Bank and Gaza. Now Gaza has shortage of vaccines and cannot provide the vaccines, even the ones that they have, because of a blocking of healthcare, because of the bombardment. And now they’ve lost the only lab that does tests for COVID-19.
Our teams in Medical Relief, which are present everywhere in Gaza, have now to shift from dealing with COVID-19 to providing care to the injured people who cannot stay in hospitals because of the number of injuries, and they have to be treated at home. So, our teams have to go now and treat the injured. And our other teams have to go now to the UNRWA schools, where there are 45,000 people who have been displaced from their homes and apartments. [inaudible] They need blankets. They need food. They need water. They need everything. So, it’s a combination of problems that we have to face because of this terrible, terrible massacre that Israel is conducting. And there is no justification for that.
The whole thing started because Israel attacked worshipers, peaceful worshipers, who were just praying in the Aqsa Mosque. I was there. I saw them attacking not only the prayer, the worshipers; they even attacked the first providers and beat them. We had 1,000 injuries in Jerusalem because of Israeli army attacks. Six of them have lost their eyes because of the injuries.
And then, on top of that, they want to ethnically cleanse the Sheikh Jarrah area. I want to explain to you, there are 500 people, several families in Sheikh Jarrah who have been living there since the ’50s. And these families were placed in Sheikh Jarrah because they were ethnically cleansed in 1948 by Israel. These people came from Jaffa, from Ramle, from Lod, from West Jerusalem, because the Israeli army forced them out. And now the army comes to their homes and wants to evict them one more time and ethnically cleanse them. To replace them with whom? With illegal settlers who are supported by the Israeli government.
This is the worst system of apartheid. This is not only military occupation. This is a combination of occupation, settler colonial system and a system of the worst kind of apartheid that humanity has ever seen, much worse than the apartheid that prevailed in South Africa at one point of time. And this has to stop. This has to stop.
That’s why I’m very proud to say today — I’m very proud to say that today the Palestinian people, all the Palestinian people, people in ’48 areas, in what they call Israel, people in the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem, people in the diaspora — all Palestinians, for the first time maybe since 1948, are all unified and united in one struggle, one struggle to end this suffering, one struggle to end occupation, one struggle to get rid of this system of apartheid that has lasted longer than anybody should tolerate. And today what you see is a unified strike, unified demonstrations, unified people, who, in my opinion, are going way ahead of their leaders. And their leaders must understand that and understand that it is time for unity and for a joint strategy of struggle for all Palestinians.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Dr. Barghouti, I wanted to ask you about the role of the United States and also of the other Arab states before this renewed crisis here, especially the bombing, the destruction of the high-rise where the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other news organizations were. Secretary of State Blinken of the United States said yesterday that he has no evidence. He’s seen no evidence that this was being used by Hamas, yet the Israeli government continues to say it was. Yet the administration says nothing about the attacks on the press that have resulted here. I’m wondering your sense of where the Biden administration is right now and what it should be doing, and also the deafening silence from the other Arab states at this time.
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, first of all, let me say that, of course, anything after Trump looks better, because Trump was the worst ever, not only leader of the United States, the worst-ever president anywhere in the world. That man tried to completely liquidate the Palestinian issue. And he abused also many Arab countries to enter into normalization relationship with the apartheid system in Israel.
But Biden administration is not doing much better. This commitment to the alliance with Israel and this complete bias to Israel is unacceptable. I do not understand when Mr. Blinken and even Mr. Biden keeps talking about Israel’s right to defend itself, and does not mention a word about the right of the Palestinians to resist occupation and resist apartheid and to defend themselves, as well. This asymmetry, this unacceptable behavior, is encouraging Israel.
I don’t understand why the United States three times blocked the possibility of a statement or a resolution by the Security Council to call for ceasefire. Why? Just because Israel wants that.
We do not understand how could the administration dare to sign a new agreement about sending more bombs to Israel, more rockets to Israel, while it is committing this war crime against the Palestinian people, because what’s happening in Gaza is nothing but a war crime, a war crime against humanity. We do not understand why Mr. Biden does not listen to the good people in the Democratic Party, people like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and Cortez and Bernie Sanders, who are saying enough is enough. And why should the United States continue to protect occupation? Why should it continue to protect a system of apartheid? This is totally unacceptable. And this has to change.
It shocked us that Mr. Biden has changed the policy on many issues, has liberated the American administrations from the cages that Trump put them in, regarding World Health Organization or the issue of environment or the issue of Mexico or relationship to European countries, but when it came to Palestine, they remained in the cage. And they even praised the normalization agreements, which are misleading, and considered them great effort by Trump’s administration. This has to change. The United States has to stop doing that and has to be fair, and they have to accept our right as Palestinians to be free, as Palestinians to be free from occupation and from the system of Israeli apartheid. This, by the way, will be good for everybody in this region, and not just for Palestinians.
Regarding Arab countries, we are not happy, and we are disappointed, because up 'til now the Arab countries are not doing what they should do. And we are not asking them to fight Israel, but we are asking them at least to stop having normalization with this system of apartheid and occupation, to cut the relationship ’til Israel stops this oppression of the Palestinian people. We think they should do much more. Of course, we cannot put them all in one basket, because some countries are really doing a good job. Some others are not doing enough. But I know one thing: that the peoples of the Arab world are all on the side of the Palestinian people. That's what we have seen in huge demonstrations, hundreds of thousands in Yemen, in Iraq, in Tunisia, in Morocco and in so many — and, most important, in Jordan and Lebanon, where people in Jordan tried in every possible way to reach to us. So, I think there is a great discrepancy, a great difference here between the positions of the peoples of these countries and the positions of the governments.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, we want to thank you for being with us, physician, member of the Palestinian parliament, head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, speaking to us from Ramallah in the West Bank.
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Next up, we go to Jerusalem to speak to the head of the human rights group B’Tselem.