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Angela Davis & Noura Erakat on Palestinian Solidarity, Gaza & Israel’s Killing of Ahmad Erekat

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On Sunday, many Arab, Muslim and Palestinian communities boycotted President Biden’s virtual Eid celebration. We play a statement of solidarity from legendary activist and scholar Angela Davis on Sunday for “Eid with Palestine: A Protest of the White House Eid Event.” Davis also co-wrote piece for The Nation with our guest Noura Erakat about how Erakat’s 26-year-old cousin Ahmad Erekat was shot by Israeli occupation forces after his car appeared to have accidentally crashed into a booth at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank while he was on the way to pick up his mother and sister on her wedding day. Erakat says Israel still refuses to release his body to his family. “All Palestinians are deemed a threat for their mere existence,” says Erakat. “What we see happen to Ahmad has been a pattern.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

On Sunday, many Arab, Muslim and Palestinian communities boycotted President Biden’s virtual Eid celebration. A letter to the White House from the Muslim Delegates and Allies Coalition said, quote, “In lieu of flowers or condolences for martyred Palestinian children or even a White House Eid celebration, we request the United States recognize dignity rights worldwide. A first step in recognizing our humanity would be to not allow a policy of mass slaughter in the sacred Islamic month of Ramadan.”

We turn now to the legendary activist and scholar Angela Davis, author of many books, including Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. She recorded this message of solidarity for an event on Sunday called “Eid with Palestine: A Protest of the White House Eid Event.”

ANGELA DAVIS: I join the many individuals and organizations around the world in expressing grief and anger and protest in light of the acceleration of violence by the Israeli government and the settlers they protect in Sheikh Jarrah. We protest the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the extensive and brutal bombing of Gaza. And we call attention to and protest the Biden-Harris administration’s collusion with the Israeli government, even as the Biden government participated in the celebration of Eid and at a time when Palestinians the world over have been commemorating the Nakba.

People all over the U.S., and indeed throughout the world, expressed their outrage when George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s lives were extinguished by racist police violence. We know that shortly after these murders occurred, Ahmad Erekat was shot down on his sister’s wedding day at a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Abu Dis, outside of occupied East Jerusalem. This was clearly a state-sanctioned execution that we now recognize as a harbinger of the current violent assaults on Palestinians in East Jerusalem and Gaza, where over a hundred people, including children, have already been killed. This is unconscionable.

In 2011, I had the opportunity to visit Sheikh Jarrah with a delegation of Indigenous and women of color activists, scholars and artists. We talked with a Palestinian family who had been evicted from their home, where they had lived for many decades. Jewish settlers had moved into the main rooms of their house, and they, the rightful owners, were relegated to a small area in the back of the house. Progressive Jews were conducting demonstrations every week to protest the eviction of Palestinians from their homes.

What we witnessed 10 years ago is now happening on a much larger and more threatening scale. We should now understand that as these evictions continue, they prove that Israeli settler colonialism will only be halted when people all over the world demand that the rights of the Palestinian people in occupied Palestine be respected. Here in the U.S., we must make our demands for justice in Palestine resonate as powerfully as our demands for an end to racist police violence. Stop the evictions. Stop the demolitions. Stop the bombing. And end the occupation. Justice for Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s professor Angela Davis. She and our guest Noura Erakat were part of a conversation, published in The Nation magazine, “Was the Killing of Ahmad Erekat an Extrajudicial Execution?” And Angela referenced his death. And I wanted, Noura, for you to — if you could, because I know it is still so painful — talk about your cousin, the investigation you have done of his death at an Israeli checkpoint, and then, as we begin to wrap up, put that in the larger context of what’s happening today in the Occupied Territories.

NOURA ERAKAT: Thank you for lifting up Ahmad Erekat, my cousin. Again, he was shot at a checkpoint separating two Palestinian cities, Abu Dis and Bethlehem, on the day of his sister’s wedding. He had a mechanical error in the car, shot dead, six times above the waist in two seconds, with his arms above his head, left on the pavement even as the Israeli ambulance came to treat the lightly wounded Israeli soldier manning the checkpoint, refused to treat Ahmad. His body was not moved. The Israeli army also refused to allow a Palestinian ambulance to treat him. The car was compounded. There was no autopsy conducted on his body.

And he remains in an Israeli refrigerator at Tel Aviv University, held hostage, to punish the family, as well as other Palestinians, in a sign that even after death they will be treated cruelly. He is one of 62 Palestinians held in this way, in response to our advocacy to just get the body back, that included the forensic architecture investigation, that demonstrated, scene by scene, that Ahmad was probably decelerating — far from accelerating, was decelerating — as the car comes out of control; in response to mobilizing the Erakat family across the United States, who have also sought refuge here — six senators, we asked to intervene on the family’s behalf with the Israeli government. In response, Defense Minister Benny Gantz became more cruel and said not only would they not release the body, but that they would dig up Palestinian bodies accused of participating in resistance activities, to hold them hostage, as well.

The way that this fits within the larger frame has to do with Israel’s expanding use of force. We have to be careful when we’re calling for international law and to describe what Israel is doing as war crimes, because Israel’s work is also in the battle of changing what the law means. It is shrinking who counts as a Palestinian civilian. It regards Palestinians as already always being a threat until proven innocent. All Palestinians are deemed a threat for their mere existence in challenging the Zionist settler-colonial mythology of uninterrupted Jewish spacial and temporal presence.

What we see happen to Ahmad has been a pattern and practice that the U.N. has documented and said that Israel shoots as a matter of precautionary measure. In some cases, they have placed weapons alongside the Palestinian bodies. We saw this manifest most cruelly during the Gaza March of Return, when snipers shot down hundreds of Palestinian Gandhis, so to speak — for all those who keep saying, “If only Palestinians would be peaceful.” We have been nothing but. The question to ask is: How have Palestinians not been more violent, frankly, given this atrocious treatment? They shot hundreds of Palestinians, 90% of which in the head, in the neck, in the back, in the torso, as they were fleeing — medics, children. And the Israeli Supreme Court said that this was justified? Because even the peaceful protests are, quote-unquote, “Hamas’s new tactic” of warfare against Israel. They have securitized our entire life, our entire existence.

And the bare minimum of what an international community watching now, that just cares about the violence during these spectacular moments — if you really, really sincerely care about the violence, you must place sanctions on Israel. You must demilitarize Israel. You must force Israel to sign the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. You must hold Israel to account. Otherwise, you are only asking Palestinians to die quietly.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go now to Gideon Levy in Tel Aviv. As you listen to Noura Erakat, your latest piece in Haaretz, “A Pampered Israel Carries Out Violence Because It Can.” If the U.S., if Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first Palestinian American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib succeeded in stopping the expediting of $735 million of precision-guided weapons to Israel, would this have an effect, or Senator Sanders calling for a ceasefire? What kind of impact does this have on Israeli society? Do you think this could stop the bloodshed?

GIDEON LEVY: Let me tell you, Amy, that if there would have been an administration, American administration, who would like not only to stop this violence, but to put an end to the occupation, it could do so within months. The problem is that we’ve never faced an administration who’s really decisive or who’s really caring about the continuance of the status quo.

You know, Biden is now labeled in Israel as a hostile president. This war — Joe Biden, he signed on this war quite a lot, because if it would be a decisive American president, he would put an end to it at once. Don’t forget that Israel is so depending on the United States, politically, militarily and financially. But Israel learned that the United States is in its pocket, that the support is unconditioned, that the money will come and the check is open no matter what Israel does. That’s the lesson of Israel after many years. And that’s the way that the United States had corrupted Israel, because if you get this free supply of arms, like a free supply of drugs, you become addicted, and you become totally corrupted, because you know there are no one to put limits to your behavior.

What I wrote today in Haaretz was that Israel is by far too strong. Would Israel be less strong, it would be much of a moral state, because Israelis are not bloodthirsty, they are not monsters, but they do all those things because nobody stops them, because this overall power makes people arrogant. They can provoke the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and they can kill Ahmad Erekat in the checkpoint, and they can continue to steal their land and to do all those things, and the world just hugs Israel. And if the world hugs Israel, Israel continues.

There will be no resistance from within Israel. I mean, Israelis will never wake up one shining morning and say, “Oh, this is not so nice, this occupation. Let’s put an end to it.” Why would they, after 53 years in which they were told that without the occupation, Israel will not survive?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to —

GIDEON LEVY: The only way — sure.

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

GIDEON LEVY: Just, I’ll last say that the only way to put an end to it is to make Israelis pay and be punished, and then it will be their choice if they are ready to take this price. And I can assure you most of the Israelis then will say no.

AMY GOODMAN: Gideon Levy, Israeli journalist, columnist for Haaretz, a member of the editorial board of the paper, and Noura Erakat, Palestinian American human rights attorney and legal scholar.

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