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Niece of Israeli PM Netanyahu Backs Ceasefire in Gaza, Says Military Solutions Will Not Bring Peace

StoryNovember 16, 2023
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Ruth Ben-Artzi, the niece of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, joins Democracy Now! to call for the Netanyahu government to focus efforts on releasing Israeli hostages and to stop the bombing. A professor of political science at Providence College, Ben-Artzi recently joined prominent Rhode Island rabbis, Jewish leaders and Israelis demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. “A ceasefire is really the only way that any solution can be achieved,” says Ben-Artzi, who explains why military actions will never resolve this conflict and that “finding a political solution … is really the only way that the roughly 7 million Jews and 7 million Palestinians who live between the river and the sea will ever be able to find peace.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

We spend the rest of the hour with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s niece, a Providence College political science professor and Middle East expert. She’s the niece of Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu. This month she was one of the signatories to a letter from Jewish and Israeli residents of Rhode Island that asks the state’s federal delegation to support ceasefire in Gaza.

In March, Ruth Ben-Artzi spoke out about distancing herself from all contact with the prime minister’s family. When asked by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz why she chose to speak out, she said, quote, “The answer is that I am ashamed, sad and angry. Ashamed that my relatives have no shame. That they are in a position of power that promotes and encourages violence, racism, nationalism and fascism. These are not the Jewish values I absorbed and to which I feel connected. Israel could remain a country in which Jews find a safe and free haven of equality and partnership with all the population groups within the state’s borders.”

Well, professor Ruth Ben-Artzi joins us now, again, a Providence College political science professor and Middle East expert. She’s an Israeli and U.S. citizen.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Thank you so much for being with us. Your voice has so much power because you are the prime minister’s niece. Can you speak directly to him, to the people of Palestine and Israel and the world about what you want to see happen right now, Ruth Ben-Artzi?

RUTH BEN-ARTZI: So, I, first of all, speak as an Israeli citizen, as an American citizen, as a person who is observing everything that is happening, with my experience having grown up in Israel, and also as a political scientist who studies and researches these issues for many, many years now. From all of those different perspectives, I come to this realization, or that we came to this decision that a ceasefire is really the only way that any solution can ever be achieved.

I think that any — the continued violence that begets violence that begets violence is only going to bring us further away from a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And, you know, it’s really important to remember that we’ve been hearing also from policymakers, from American policymakers and even from Israeli policymakers, military experts, that there’s no military solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And if there’s no military solution to the conflict, there is no military way to eradicate Hamas, as well. The more harm that we’re inflicting, the more violence that is occurring, whatever anybody wants to — as a backdrop to either justify it or to explain it, does not make sense for the future. It only brings us further away from finding that solution, from being able to move toward that political solution.

And it’s clear that the day that this war is over is going to be the day that a political solution is going to have to start to be implemented. The occupation in the West Bank, the siege in Gaza that happened until October 7th, all of these kind of — what we typically call status quo, what we traditionally call status quo, but it’s not really status quo because things are changing. People are — the population is changing. The demographics are changing. The infrastructure is changing over all of these years of occupation. That can’t continue. The management of the conflict that has been the policy of the Israeli government at least since 2009 isn’t — it was never going to work. And it has no long-term prospects. The ceasefire is the only — we’re seeing the number of innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfires, the number of those who are victims of this war grow every single minute. And that is in addition to the humanitarian — to all the humanitarian concerns that — and the experts that you had on the show before me, the legal concerns, in addition to that, that also bring us further away from being able to implement the kinds of policies that we need to implement the day after the war.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Professor Ben-Artzi, you’ve also, like many, of course, expressed concern about the well-being of the hostages who are in Gaza still, about 240 of them. If you could talk about how you think a ceasefire might make it possible for their safe return? I mean, it was just reported that Israel and Hamas appear close to an agreement whereby 50 women and children, Israeli civilians, would be released in return for 50 Palestinian women and children prisoners being freed. So, if you could talk about the impact a ceasefire may have on the release of the Israeli civilian hostages in Gaza?

RUTH BEN-ARTZI: Right. So, in Jewish tradition, we have a tradition that is called pidyon shvuyim, which means that the release of the hostages comes first and at all costs. And that is to save lives. The bombing of Gaza — those hostages are in Gaza. When Gaza is being bombed, when we are — when we don’t know where those hostages are, it puts them in danger, too. There is going to be a day, or already, there’s a judgment for Hamas and for those who have inflicted the horrible violence on Israel on October 7th. But right now the focus has to be the release of those hostages. And the bombing, that is clearly not very specifically targeted and is putting those hostages in harm’s way, is only exacerbating the situation and putting the — I think, is putting the — and not just myself, but including the Rhode Islanders who signed this letter. I’ve also joined hundreds of political scientists who signed a letter to demand immediate ceasefire, for some of those same strategic reasons, humanitarian reasons, and also for what is for me in the front of my mind, the release of the hostages.

We buried today a peace activist who was murdered on October 7th, who was — who had spent decades in activism trying to help to bring a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and continuing that tradition. There’s Israelis who are continuing that tradition. There’s Israelis in Israel now and abroad. There’s organizations, both Palestinian and Jewish organizations, that are working towards that solution, to find a peaceful solution.

And to bring the hostages back, we have to have those negotiations. And if the negotiations have to — they have to happen with the group, with the terrorist group, that is holding those hostages. There is no other way. There is no other — there’s no other solution for this. Get the hostages out. This is what the families of the hostages are demanding. And then we can continue the political work of rehabilitating Gaza, removing Hamas from power, and finding a political solution, which is really the only way that the roughly 7 million Jews and 7 million Palestinians who live between the river and the sea will ever be able to find peace.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ben-Artzi, we just have 30 seconds, but as the niece of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have the two senators from Rhode Island spoken to you, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, or Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo, the congressmembers?

RUTH BEN-ARTZI: As Rhode Islanders, we speak to our delegation all the time. Our group that signed this letter and that sent them this letter spoke to our delegation. We’re in contact all the time. We have various connections in our small state. And I think that we have a listening ear to all the different voices —


RUTH BEN-ARTZI: — that are part —

AMY GOODMAN: — we have to leave it there. We thank you so much, Providence College political science professor Ruth Ben-Artzi, niece of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

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