- Rami YounisPalestinian journalist and activist based in Haifa.
As the Israeli bombing of Gaza enters its ninth day, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, Gaza and inside Israel are staging a historic general strike. This comes as violence is also spreading across Israel, with Jewish mobs attacking Palestinians in mixed Jewish and Arab communities. Last week, extremist Israeli settlers were filmed attacking Palestinian-owned shops in a Tel Aviv suburb. Another harrowing video shows ultranationalist Israelis dragging a man they believed to be an Arab from his car and beating him mercilessly. Some settlers were filmed on live television chanting “Death to Arabs,” and screenshots shared by an Israeli disinformation watchdog group show far-right Israeli WhatsApp and Signal groups coordinating attacks on Palestinians. We speak with Palestinian journalist and activist Rami Younis, who says Israeli media’s unwillingness to cover the widespread incitement is a “perfect example of how structural violence is maintained and nurtured in Israel.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
As the Israeli bombing of Gaza continues through its ninth day, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, Gaza and inside Israel are staging a historic general strike.
For more, we go to Haifa in Israel to speak with Rami Younis, Palestinian journalist and activist who’s originally from the city of Lyd.
If you can talk about the significance of this general strike, Rami, and in talking about you being from Lyd, the mob violence, the attacks on Palestinians that’s taking place right now?
RAMI YOUNIS: Well, the strike, Amy, is a historical event. For the first time since 1936 — that’s 12 years before the Nakba, the catastrophe of the Palestinian people, or the founding of the state of Israel — for the first time ever, we are striking, in all over Palestine, from the river to the sea.
So, what’s happening right now — I mean, everything started a few weeks ago with a popular uprising. You see youth demonstrating everywhere in Palestine — in Jaffa, in Nazareth, in Haifa, in Lyd and in Jerusalem and in Gaza — all for Jerusalem, all for Sheikh Jarrah. These demonstrations were encountered — were countered by a lot of police brutality instantly, and resulting in the clashes, the violent clashes, that then turned into basically Palestinians defending themselves every night against attacks by Israeli settlers and the Israeli police.
Now, let me go into Lyd, in describing what’s happening in Lyd. Lyd, my hometown, also Hebrew — in Hebrew, they call it Lod — was a Palestinian city that was occupied in 1948, right? Nowadays they call it a mixed city. What happened in that mixed city is that 15 years ago, when they evicted those settlers from Gaza, they moved them into Lyd. And these settlers moved into Lyd with a very clear and declared goal of Judaizing the city, meaning these Jewish supremacists who were removed from Gaza went into Lyd — and, mind you, Lyd is only 10 minutes from Tel Aviv, five minutes from the airport; we’re not talking about a city in the West Bank — and started Judaizing the place. They started building their own settlements. They started moving into Palestinian neighborhoods.
And we have been seeing a rise in house demolitions for Palestinian people in the past 15 years. The average of houses being demolished a year is somewhere between 10 to 15 houses. Before the settlers moved into Lyd, only two or three houses a year got demolished. The demolitions come because 80% of the people who live there, their houses were built without a building permit because the authorities won’t issue one, so that they can come later and maybe use it as a political whip to punish the local population.
Now, with all this, with all of this tension, with all of this background, Palestinians, especially young people under the age of 20, took to the street and started demonstrating. When they were countered by the brutal force by the Israeli police, and then the Israeli right-wingers started attacking them and shooting them on the street, this is when all hell broke loose.
Now, Amy, every day I wake up, and I reach out for my phone, and I pray to God that this is not the morning that I’m going to be seeing a horrifying text message, this is not the morning that I will be receiving the catastrophic news. We are worried. We are very, very worried. And what’s even more worrying is that it’s not just people — it’s not just that these settlers are moving from — these settlers are openly attacking Palestinians. It’s that police is allowing settlers from the West Bank, from places like Yitzhar and Nokdim, you know, people who became professional in burning olive groves. These people are moving into Lyd, coming into Lyd on a daily basis. They roam free at night in the city streets, breaking curfew, while the Israeli police not only allowing them to break curfew while the Palestinians are locked in their homes, but escorting them and, more often than not, attack — they actually attack Palestinians with settlers. And we have tons of evidence to show that, to show for.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Rami, could you talk about the role of the Israeli media in propagating and legitimizing hateful and violent or Zionist rhetoric?
RAMI YOUNIS: You know, how — the Israeli media, in the way they behave these days, is a perfect example of how structural violence is maintained and nurtured in Israel. You know, I was in a TV interview last week, when it was still demonstrations, before it was basically Palestinians defending themselves against the mobs and the police. I was in an interview on Israeli TV, and then the anchor said that “Maybe it’s time to reload the gun magazines.” And we actually, throughout the live broadcast, we counted incitement by him eight times. He incited eight times to kill Palestinians on the street.
The other day, two or three days ago, an Israeli journalist, an Israeli journalist, Yisrael Frey, on Israeli TV criticized the police, criticized the mayor of Lyd, and said that “It doesn’t make any sense. Why are you allowing settlers to come into Lyd from the West Bank? Why are these armed people coming into the city and creating all this unrest?” He was immediately silenced by the anchor.
So what we’re seeing right now, not only incitement by the Israeli police, but they’re also trying to silence voices that are coming from Israeli — the Israeli journalism, voices who are criticizing the actions of the Israeli government and the Israeli police. Not only that —
AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds,, Rami.
RAMI YOUNIS: — the Israeli police — OK, I’m sorry. I just wanted to say that the Israeli police are not telling the whole truth. If you confront them with the evidence, they’re basically going to call you a liar. And they’re not going to —
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to do Part 2 with you and post it online at democracynow.org and play a clip of that interview you did, Rami Younis. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Stay safe.