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Noura Erakat: Western Leaders & Media Are Justifying Israel’s “Genocidal Campaign” Against Palestinians

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The unfolding crisis in Gaza, where relentless Israeli bombardment has killed more than 1,500 people since Saturday, is “a humanitarian catastrophe,” says Palestinian American human rights attorney Noura Erakat. She says Western leaders and the mainstream media have relied on racist, Islamophobic tropes to build a false consensus “that war is inevitable and that whatever consequences come out is the fault of Hamas, thereby further blaming the victims for their own killing and massacres.” Erakat also decries the Israeli order that 1.1 million residents in Gaza relocate under threat of a ground invasion. “What we are seeing is a genocidal campaign. You cannot forcibly transfer 1.1 million Palestinians in a 225-square-mile enclosed area. There is nowhere for them to go,” says Erakat, an associate professor at Rutgers University and author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine.

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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.

Last night, the Israeli army ordered half the population of Gaza, 1.1 million residents, to evacuate their homes within 24 hours from northern Gaza to the south, in what many Palestinians fear is the start of a second Nakba. The U.N. said the mass transfer of half of Gaza’s population would have devastating humanitarian consequences. This comes as Israel has bombed Gaza for seven straight days, killing at least 1,500 people.

Joining us now, Noura Erakat, Palestinian human rights attorney, associate professor at Rutgers University, author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. She’s speaking to us from Philadelphia.

Noura, if you can respond to this order and what’s happening in Gaza?

NOURA ERAKAT: Good morning, Amy, and thank you.

Your reporting has been an oasis in a sea of warmongering across mainstream media, for which I have deep contempt at this moment. They have mobilized almost every racial trope of savagery, barbarian. They have built on Islamophobia and the infrastructure of the “war on terror” to create a commonsense, logical conclusion that war is inevitable, and whatever consequences come out is the fault of Hamas, thereby further blaming the victims for their own killing and massacres.

At this point, we have to understand that there is no military solution. There has never been a military solution to this. Hamas cannot be eradicated. As we’ve seen, right now Palestinians are being killed, pulled from out of the rubble. We have not given them hope. I saw a young girl staring in trauma at the screen, her entire family decimated. What will happen to this young girl in 20 years? What will we tell her? That Israel had no choice? That this was your fault, and now your future is to continue to be stuck in an open-air prison?

There must be hope. And that hope lies in a political solution and in the responsibility of the international community to dismantle an apartheid system, to dismantle prolonged military occupation, the longest in the world, to lift a debilitating siege that has condemned Palestinians to slow death. This is a human-made disaster, a catastrophe, according to the World Health Organization. This is not a crisis; it is a humanitarian catastrophe. If we are to create a future, it has to begin and end with a political and diplomatic solution.

AMY GOODMAN: We have this update: Palestine’s Ministry of Health said seven Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank today. Five hundred Palestinian children have been killed in Gaza, and at least Hamas is saying that 13 of the hostages have died in the Israeli airstrikes. These are hostages that Hamas took from the Gaza border. Your response to all?

NOURA ERAKAT: It’s devastating, Amy. All of us are watching this. But one of the things that we’ve been emphasizing is that although what we’re seeing is devastating, we’ve also been laying a pathway out of it. While international human rights organizations and Israeli human rights organizations came to near consensus in 2020 that Israel oversees an apartheid system, a crime against humanity, what is the greatest crime, that is sustaining this ongoing structure of violence, there should have been mobilization to impose weapons sanctions on Israel, to impose a diplomatic solution, to force Israel in order to dismantle this racist, colonial structure that has basically condemned Palestinians to permanent subjugation. It is the failure of the international community to mobilize that has now produced this outcome. It is all of our responsibility. There is blood on all of our hands.

And now the way out is not a military solution. We have to deescalate. There must be a ceasefire. There must be a recognition that Hamas, unlike these awful comparisons to ISIS and al-Qaeda, is actually a nascent sovereign of the Palestinian people, who has only targeted Israel. That gives them the right to use armed force, though that right is not qualified — that right is not — excuse me — unqualified. They cannot use it however which way, based on ongoing trauma and violence. But it must be recognized that as a nascent sovereign, they are representing a Palestinians’ people struggle for freedom.

And as we’ve seen from the broad Palestinian public institutions, civil society organizations, other political parties, they have all insisted that responsibility for this lies at the feet of Israel. The Haaretz editorial team has also said this lies at the responsibility of Israel.

This is not about finger-pointing, nor is it about bean counting the dead. There is tragedy on all sides. But if we are interested, if we are interested in not only ending this particular crisis, but of also achieving a durable, truthful, long-lasting solution, we have to go beyond this moment to dismantle the structures of violence that are sustaining it and creating these tragedies that are hurting everybody and will spill, beyond Israelis and Palestinians, throughout the region and throughout the world.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the White House just saying that Gaza City’s evacuation is a “tall order.” The Israeli army’s call for more than a million people to evacuate North Gaza, a “tall order,” the White House has said, adding the U.S. understands Israel is trying to give civilians “fair warning.” Your response, Noura Erakat?

NOURA ERAKAT: That is so cynical. That is so cynical and can only be corroborated by an irresponsible media that has failed to show decimation of Palestinian communities, the attack on shelters, the attack on refugee camps. What warnings? To what end? Palestinians have been under siege for 16 years. There are no humanitarian corridors. The one corridor with Egypt was bombed by Israel. The minister of Israeli defense literally said that there will be no — there will be no exit, that there will be a siege, that electricity will be cut off, that water will be cut off, that Palestinians are “human animals.”

There has been a priming that all of these mass atrocities will be accepted by a population who will watch it with lament but think to themselves, “But what else was Israel supposed to do?” We are all being primed to accept mass atrocities. This historically is the playbook of how genocides happen. What we are seeing is a genocidal campaign.

You cannot forcibly transfer 1.1 million Palestinians in a 225-square-mile enclosed area. There is nowhere for them to go. The largest hospital, Palestinian hospital, that is literally on life support — no pun intended — to stay functioning, is in the north. Where will these Palestinians be treated?

What we are seeing is an ongoing shrinking of Palestinian land, is an ongoing campaign to take that land without the people. They want to shrink and concentrate the Palestinians now below Wadi Gaza in what is an untenable situation. As much as we think that this is about war and conflict and perpetual animosities, this is about land and water.

And there is only one viable future. We either all live together, or we all die together. And despite all of our appeals for us to survive and live together, the international community, mainly the Western governments, led by the United States — the European capitals, who have already cut off aid to Israel, France, which has banned Palestinian protests, Germany, which has banned Palestinian protests — are intent on a military option where there is no outcome. Military solution will not produce an outcome of a viable future for anybody.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, I already played this, but I’m going to play a much shorter clip of the former Israeli prime minister, because of how significant he is, Naftali Bennett, who’s now serving in the army in Gaza, exploding at the Sky News anchor Kamali Melbourne when asked about what’s happening with Palestinian civilians.

KAMALI MELBOURNE: What about those Palestinians in hospital who are on life support and babies in incubators, whose life support and incubator will have to be turned off because the Israelis have cut the power to Gaza?

NAFTALI BENNETT: Are you seriously keep on asking me about Palestinian civilians? What’s — what’s wrong with you?

AMY GOODMAN: “Are you seriously asking me about what’s happening to Palestinian civilians?” the former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. You’re a human rights attorney, Noura Erakat. Your response?

NOURA ERAKAT: My response is, doesn’t have to be based on any expertise in human rights. This is about morality. This is about decency. The fact that Naftali Bennett can get upset about Palestinian civilians and the death of babies in incubators should be indicative to us that Palestinians do not have the same right to survive, that we are not exacting an equality and a respect and a decency for all civilian life.

We have set up this situation, Amy. We have set up this situation where Palestinians are expected to die. And what we are seeing in this moment is now an expectation that they can die in mass numbers, that they can die being in hospitals where they are cut off by electricity by the Middle East’s only nuclear power, the 11th most powerful military in the world. It’s the 12th largest military exporter, and the United States and the European community is sending them arms. They do not need arms. This is not a security situation. This is not a failure of security. This is a crisis of political will.

AMY GOODMAN: Noura —

NOURA ERAKAT: This is a — rather than normalize apartheid by inviting Israeli President Isaac Herzog to the Congress, Congress should have mobilized for an immediate imposition of sanctions in order to create a future where all people live, where all of us live, not just some of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Noura Erakat, we want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian human rights attorney, associate professor at Rutgers University. You just talked about hospitals.

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