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Palestinian Journalist: Latest Violence Shatters Notion That Israeli Apartheid Is Sustainable

StoryOctober 12, 2023
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Palestinian journalist and senior editor at +972 Magazine Amjad Iraqi believes Hamas breaking through the military border between Gaza and Israel has shattered the belief that the occupation is sustainable. Without being able to ignore Palestinians, Iraqi says, long-term reflection on Israel’s apartheid system is possible, but in the short term, the international community is indulging Israel’s desire for revenge. “Now for the far-right government, this massacre, as atrocious as it is, is for them a historic opportunity,” says Iraqi, who describes the desire of Israeli leadership to force out Palestinians or completely destroy Gaza in response to Saturday’s attack by Hamas. “There is no military solution to this issue, and the real problem in the end is this wider apartheid regime.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: “Palestinians and Israelis have grown accustomed to wars in the south in recent years. But the war that began in the early hours of Saturday, 7 October is nothing like the others.”

Those of the opening lines of a new piece in the London Review of Books by our next guest, the Palestinian journalist Amjad Iraqi, who joins us now from London. The article is headlined “’Get out of there now.” Amjad is senior editor at +972 Magazine and a policy member of Al-Shabaka. His latest piece for +972 is headlined “A psychological barrier has just been shattered in Israel-Palestine.”

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Amjad. Thank you so much for joining us. If you could explain why you think this invasion is different from the past, the 7th October one, and what psychological barrier has been broken?

AMJAD IRAQI: Thank you all for having me.

I think there’s no doubt that in many respects what we’ve been witnessing over the past couple of days is what is being described as a game changer. And there are two ways to kind of think about this. One is this kind of material and military shift that has just occurred by the fact that Hamas broke out of the Gaza Strip, a besieged enclave, both in terms of targeting the military infrastructure, but also the massacres that happened in these Israeli southern towns, that has really not only kind of broken this assumption of Gaza as this place that could maintain Palestinians and encage Hamas, but has really shaken the psychological barrier that exists in Israeli society and the Israeli establishment that the occupation is somehow sustainable, and that if they just keep enforcing the institutions of apartheid, that if they keep pounding Hamas and the Gaza Strip as often as possible, that somehow that is actually going to bring them security, that is going to bring safety, and through that, they can then continue to claim that Israel is a democracy, that Israel is a safe place for the Jewish people. And what we’ve witnessed with these atrocities that have happened is a complete shattering of that. It has broken to Israeli society that the Palestinians are not some distant problem, and that they cannot keep having the boot of their military apparatus upon them.

Unfortunately, as Michael was referring to earlier, I’m not sure how much this will have a lot of soul-searching and reflection, as right now we are seeing this complete desire to inflict total revenge on the Gaza Strip, from the political establishment to the media, all the way down. But I think that barrier that existed in the minds of Israeli society and the Israeli state that this system could work, I think, has really been broken by this assault.

AMY GOODMAN: You write, Amjad, in your +972 piece that these events will allow the most extremist elements within Netanyahu’s far-right administration to carry out as much of their agenda as possible. Can you respond, in particular, to what the finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, and the national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, convicted of supporting a terrorist organization and inciting hatred against Palestinians — what they want to happen now, and if you think that will become the dominant actions of the Netanyahu government, the war government, as they’re calling it right now, bringing in others into the government, as well, at this point?

AMJAD IRAQI: So, it’s no secret that the Israeli government now is really primarily being led by a gang of far-right demagogues, who have been very explicit for years, even before they arrived in office, about their ambitions for the Palestinians as a whole. And we’re seeing that being put out in full force over the past few months since the government has been in place, through the enabling and almost overt support of settler pogroms against West Bank towns and villages, and what is now eventually leading to the total expulsion of numerous Palestinian hamlets and people in order to make way for even more settler outposts and to even pave the way for more assertion of what they describe as Israeli sovereignty. We’ve been seeing this really being expedited in full force.

And now for the far-right government, this massacre, as atrocious as it is, is for them a historic opportunity. It is, for them, reinforcing this idea that the only solution to what they regard as “the Gaza problem” is either the complete mass destruction of the Strip or to try to eliminate, rather than merely contain, Hamas’s political and military apparatus, and, if possible — and this is really one of the most horrific potentials — is the potential that this moment could be used to try to expel masses of Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip. The far-right ministers are very explicit about this ambition, and they really are trying to mobilize Israeli institutions in order to implement that process. And while we’re still in the throes of the storm, we’re already seeing that first demand on their wish list being implemented in a way that our Palestinian colleagues from Gaza were just describing.

And there’s a massive mutual interest, not just on the part of the far-right politicians, but also the Israeli military, which has been really humiliated by this massive breach of the Gaza fences by Hamas, completely subverting its intelligence or its appearance of being able to know at all times what Hamas is doing. Because of this shattering, the Israeli military also, arguably, is in line with the political establishment over what to do with this.

And time will tell where this leads, but we’re already seeing this indulgence of revenge, not just from the Israeli institutions themselves, but also the international community, including the United States, which is basically telling Israel to go ahead, and to actually justify that revenge and removing the political context, without necessarily having to excuse the massacres — which they should not — but to nonetheless realize that there is no military solution to this issue, and the real problem in the end is this wider apartheid regime that is activating even when you don’t have a war around Gaza, that is activating even on your, quote-unquote, “calm.” And this is the bigger issue that needs to be addressed.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Amjad, we just have a minute, but if you could say — you know, everybody says, as you said, this was unprecedented that Hamas broke through this barrier. People say, you know, they’ve been planning this attack for a long time. What statement have they made since this military assault on Gaza began? And what do you know of what they’re doing with the hostages and whether they’re willing to release them in exchange for Gaza getting some basic resources?

AMJAD IRAQI: It’s quite hard to say what the endgame is entirely. In many ways, the assault also probably surprised them as much as it did the Israelis. And right now I think they’re trying to — it seems like they’re trying to figure out what kind of bargaining chips they have in order to gain certain new kinds of agreements with the Israeli authorities, with the aid potentially of Arab states to try to mediate some kind of ceasefire, that helps to meet certain Hamas demands.

And they’ve been quite explicit about some of the things that they’re seeking, which are long-standing issues that have existed even before this far-right government, including the issue of release of Palestinian prisoners, including provocations and aggressions around Jerusalem, especially around the holy sites, and also, of course, what’s been happening in the West Bank under the Israeli occupation and settler violence. So, these are kind of the big structural demands that are still at play, and it seems that Hamas is now trying to use tactically, basically, what they have right now to kind of turn the tables. But because we’re still —

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

AMJAD IRAQI: — in the eye of the storm, because we’re still seeing the mists of this, it’s very hard to know where this is leading.

AMY GOODMAN: Palestinian journalist Amjad Iraqi, we thank you so much for being with us. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

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