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“We Want Real Dignity and Freedom”: Gazans Welcome Ceasefire But Demand End of Siege & Occupation

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In Gaza, thousands of people have taken to the streets to celebrate after Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, ending Israel’s 11-day bombardment of the territory. At least 243 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed in the airstrikes and bombings. Rockets fired from Gaza also killed 12 people in Israel. Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, welcomes the ceasefire but stresses Palestinians demand more than just the end of bombing. “We need [the] end of occupation, end of the blockade, self-determination, independence, dignity and freedom,” Sourani says. We also speak with Israeli political activist and journalist Orly Noy, who says U.S. President Joe Biden is still clinging to false claims about Israel’s self-defense. “This was not about the protection of the Israeli citizens,” says Noy, editor of the Hebrew-language news site Local Call. “Over 240 casualties in Gaza had nothing to do with the security of Israeli citizens. Over 60 children dead in Gaza had nothing to do with the security of Israel.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt and Qatar. This comes after Israel bombarded Gaza with airstrikes and shelling for 11 days, killing 243 Palestinians, including 66 children. Twelve people died during the same period inside Israel in rocket attacks from Gaza. While residents of Gaza celebrated the ceasefire, bodies are still being pulled from the rubble. Al Jazeera reports at least nine bodies have been found today, including the body of a 3-year-old girl. The ceasefire went into effect at 2 a.m. local time in Israel. President Biden spoke on Thursday and commended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: In my conversation with President Netanyahu, I commended him for the decision to bring the current hostilities to a close within less than 11 days. I also emphasized what I’ve said throughout this conflict: The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.

The prime minister also shared with me his appreciation for the Iron Dome system, which our nations developed together and which has saved the lives of countless Israeli citizens, both Arab and Jew. I assured him of my full support to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system to ensure its defenses and security in the future. …

The United States committed to working with the United Nations, and we remain committed to working with the United Nations and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and to marshal international support for the people of Gaza and the Gazan reconstruction efforts. We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority — not Hamas, the Authority — in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.

AMY GOODMAN: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit the region soon. While international leaders praised the ceasefire, calls are growing for Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza. On Thursday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki spoke at the United Nations and accused Israel of committing genocide.

RIYAD AL-MALIKI: [translated] To those who say that Israel has the right to defend itself, what right are you talking about exactly? Israel is the colonizing power. It is occupying our land. It is persecuting a whole people. Israel would ask you, “What would you have done if missiles were targeting your cities?” But Israel forgets that its occupation is the root cause of the violence. So I would like to ask you: What would you do if your territory is occupied, if your people were displaced, if your people were killed, detained, arrested, persecuted? How can an occupying power have the right to defend itself, when the whole people under occupation is deprived of the very same rights? How can some rush to issue statements to condemn the killing of one Israeli at a time when the whole world stays silent and turns a blind eye to the genocide of whole Palestinian families?

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined right now by two guests. In Gaza City, we’re with Raji Sourani, award-winning human rights lawyer, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, the 2013 Right Livelihood Award laureate. And joining us from Jerusalem, Orly Noy. She’s an Israeli political activist and editor of the Hebrew-language news site Local Call, a member of B’Tselem’s executive board, the leading Israeli human rights organization.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! Raji, let’s begin with you in Gaza. Talk about the response to the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and the effects of this 11-day bombardment.

RAJI SOURANI: Thank you, Amy.

It’s good to have, I mean, a ceasefire. It’s good to have an end for this belligerent, unprecedented attack against Palestinian civilians and civilian targets. We have 11 days of ongoing terrorism all over 2.2 million people. And the harvest, immense, huge — the harvest of life, of killings, injuries, destruction. And there was no safe haven in Gaza. So, to stop this aggression, that’s very important, and that’s needed.

But we don’t want this to have been once and again. This was repetitive; in 2008, 2012, 2014, always civilians, civilian targets, in the eye of the storm. We don’t want humanitarian aid for Gaza. We appreciate rebuilding Gaza, helping us in rebuilding Gaza, but we are not national beggars.

We want end of this belligerent occupation. We want end for this criminal, illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip. We want real dignity and freedom, which is very well deserved for the Palestinian people who survived under this belligerent occupation for the last 54 years. This is not the issue of Gaza. This is issue of Palestinian people, in Gaza, in West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in Sheikh Jarrah. We want to have an end for this criminality.

In the history, nobody talked about just, fair or right occupation. Occupation, a crime of aggression. And ICC, International Criminal Court, said it rightly: Israel is suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity and persecution against Palestinian people, not in this war, but in other previous wars. And that’s why they opened investigation.

So, what we really need is ceasefire, but we need end of occupation, end of the blockade, self-determination, independence, dignity and freedom.

AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, spoke in front of the U.N. General Assembly after the Biden administration repeatedly blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions that would censure Israel.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Over the past two weeks, the United States has approached this crisis in Israel and Gaza with a singular focus: bringing an end to the conflict as quickly as possible. We have not been silent. In fact, I don’t believe that there is any country working more urgently and more fervently toward peace.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Raji Sourani?

RAJI SOURANI: This is a big shame. We want an end for this conflict. We want peace. And I don’t think any on Earth appreciate peace and security more than the suppressed and the oppressed and those who are subject, on their skins, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But U.S., all the way long, supporting Israel blindly. We were bombed, unfortunately, with F-35, the most high-tech jet,, and we were bombed with the most high-tech bombs, both made in the U.S. and given free of charge to Israel, and they are using effectively against us. And they are responsible about this massive destruction and killing of the Palestinian people.

U.S. do provide Israel with full legal, political immunity. And that happened at the Security Council. Chapter VII, it’s there to guarantee peace and security in the world, and U.S. vetoed that, like if our blood is obscene, it has no value. Even press release wasn’t released by the Security Council condemning this criminality, condemning this aggression, where civilians, civilian targets were at the eye of the storm. U.S. provided full legal immunity for Israel by not allowing and issuing an executive order by ex-President Trump — even when Biden administration said, “We are revoking this,” they said, “We will make guarantee that Israel not be held accountable at the most important court on Earth, the International Criminal Court.” Though some think, you know, Palestinians invented that, some think it’s our own court, this is the crème de la crème of the human experience, where we guarantee those who committed crimes, crimes against humanity and persecution, be subject to trial and in a court of law.

So, U.S. provide all that to Israel. How can they be honest brokers? I suspect that very much — I hope I’m wrong, but facts, history, past and present, tell us President Biden doesn’t mean really what he says. He says, “My Holy Qur’an for my presidency: rule of law, democracy and human rights. I’ll make this happening, and I would like to make this sure. This is our policy.” Why Israel the exception to the rule? Why Israel allowed to do all these war crimes and crimes against humanity?

On the 37th anniversary of al-Nakba, happening — what’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah? This is a big shame. Once and again, Palestinians are refugees. What’s happening in Jerusalem, at the Dome of the Rock, Masjid Al-Aqsa? Knesset members, ministers, seculars, police, border police shooting, insulting inside the mosque, the Palestinian prayers at the holiest time of Ramadan. And they assume Palestinians has no dignity and has no right even to pray at their own mosque. And they insult, intimidate them and deal with them like if they have no dignity. Even other places, like the Green Line — Lod, Ramla, Haifa, even Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm — they revolted, and they said, “We need protection.” That’s what the Palestinians in the society inside Israel wrote to the secretary-general of the U.N. and to Human Rights Council because of the level of discrimination.

Is it the fate for Palestinians to accept occupation? Is it our fate to accept this new brand of apartheid Israel is doing? Is it our fate to be good victims with no dignity or freedom? Enough is enough. American administration should understand. We have no right to be good victims. We have no right to give up. Palestinians deserve dignity and freedom. We paid heavily for it. But everybody should recognize — it’s called, in English, this is right of self-determination. With the support of free, committed people across the globe, with the world civil society, we hope that rule of law be part of this conflict and be the basic for settling this conflict. Stop supporting Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: We are moving from Gaza now to Jerusalem, which isn’t an easy trip for Palestinians who live in Gaza, to say the least. We’re joined by Orly Noy, the editor of the Hebrew-language news site Local Call. And, Raji and Orly, just as we are reporting this right now, breaking news from Al Jazeera: Israeli police have stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. They’re reporting they fired stun grenades, smoke bombs and tear gas; saying witnesses inside the compound said, after Friday prayers, many Palestinians stayed at the premises to celebrate the ceasefire between Hamas and the Israeli government. Orly, if you can talk about what is happening in Jerusalem? Talk about the fact that a number of Israelis are also celebrating, both sides saying they won. What does that mean?

ORLY NOY: Well, it means exactly that, that both sides are trying to present that ceasefire as a victory. And both sides have very — it’s a very bitter, of course, quote-unquote, “victory” for both sides.

I think that what we are seeing right now in these minutes in East Jerusalem, in the mosque of Al-Aqsa Mosque, tells us how this bombarding of Gaza, how this terrible massacre in Gaza, should be framed. It is incredibly unfortunate that President Biden is helping to frame that war on Gaza in the false narrative of Israel’s right to protect itself. This was not about the protection of the Israeli citizens. Over 240 casualties in Gaza had nothing to do with the security of Israeli citizens. Over 60 children dead in Gaza had nothing to do with the security of Israel. What happened in Gaza and what is happening in these minutes in Jerusalem, in East Jerusalem, in Al-Aqsa Mosque, are part of the logic of the apartheid that is being implemented in the entire territory under Israeli control between the river and the sea.

And I do want to emphasize the America part here, because what President Biden is doing right now is allowing Israel and allowing the Israeli public to keep avoiding the important questions. What triggered that horrible round of violence? It was exactly what is happening right now in East Jerusalem, the Israeli provocations in Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Sheikh Jarrah. And in about 30 minutes, the weekly demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah is about to start, and I can promise you that we will see the same sort of police violence there, as well.

So, these are the questions that the Israeli public can very comfortably avoid, because the Israeli politicians, except for a very small margin, is framing it as Israel’s right to self — to defend itself, and because the Israeli media is completely collaborating with this narrative. And I think that now is the moment to ask these questions. How are we to avoid the next round of violence? What can guarantee that in four years, in three years, we will not see another round of death and massacre in Gaza? How is it possible that the world is still collaborating and cooperating with the occupation, funding it, doing arm deals with Israeli weapons that have been tested on besieged people of Gaza? These are the questions that should be asked today, but nobody, unfortunately, is allowing them to even be brought up to the table right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Orly Noy, we want to thank you for being with us, editor of the Hebrew-language news site Local Call, and Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award years ago.

Coming up, we’ll go to Ramallah. We will look at the tragic death of Obaida Jawabra, a Palestinian teenager shot to death by Israeli forces on Monday. Two years ago, he was featured in a film about Israeli military jailing Palestinian youth. Stay with us.

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Jailed at 14, Shot Dead at 17: The Story of Obaida Jawabra’s Childhood Under Israeli Occupation

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