- Amira HassHaaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, based in Ramallah.
- Issa Amroprominent Palestinian human rights defender and founder of the Hebron-based direct action group Youth Against Settlements who leads the American charity Friends of Hebron.
Palestinians held a general strike in the West Bank Thursday after Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians and injured nearly 500 in a military raid in the city of Nablus. So far this year, Israel has killed at least 65 Palestinians, including 13 children, drawing concern and criticism from supranational actors including the U.N. and Amnesty International. We speak to Amira Hass, a correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Issa Amro, a prominent Palestinian human rights defender from Hebron in the West Bank. Amro was recently beaten by an Israeli soldier while being interviewed by the American author Lawrence Wright. “There is a huge anger among the Palestinians from what is happening these days from the Israeli racist and fascist government, who are inciting to kill more and more Palestinians,” says Amro of the protests.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we go now to the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians held a general strike Thursday after Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians, injured 500 in a rare daytime military raid in the city of Nablus Wednesday.
NAFEZ SIDER: [translated] It is a day of mourning period and a strike. How would we be able to work or eat or drink, and our brothers in Nablus are being killed? We should stand in solidarity with them, with the people of Nablus, and there should be a general strike. And thank God the strike is in all the West Bank and Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: So far this year, Israel has killed at least 65 Palestinians, including 13 children. Early this morning, a 22-year-old Palestinian man named Mohammad Jawabreh died a day after being shot in the head during an Israeli raid on the Arroub refugee camp north of Hebron. On Thursday, Palestinians held funerals for the victims of Israel’s raid in Nablus. One victim was a 72-year-old Palestinian man named Adnan Baara. His son Ashraf said that his father was on his way to the market when he was killed.
ASHRAF BAARA: [translated] In the morning, my father went out from the shop to buy some stuff. Then the Israeli army raided the neighborhood. He called me and asked me if there are soldiers in the neighborhood, so I told him, “Yes, they are surrounding the neighborhood from all sides.” Suddenly, someone called me and said, “Your father is injured.” I was at my shop, besieged. I could leave the shop after the army left the city.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by the Israeli journalist Amira Hass, the Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She’s based in Ramallah. Her latest piece is headlined “Israel’s Raid on Nablus Proves Willingness of More Young Palestinians to Die in an Unwinnable Battle.” Amira Hass is the only Israeli Jewish journalist to have spent 30 years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.
We’re also joined by the Palestinian activist Issa Amro. He’s in Hebron. He’s the founder of the Hebron-based direct action group Youth Against Settlements, now leads the American charity Friends of Hebron.
Let’s begin with you, Issa. You’re in Hebron. We just reported on a killing of an Israeli — of a Palestinian man there. Can you talk about what’s happening? And what happened in this rare daytime raid in Nablus, where so many Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured?
ISSA AMRO: Yes. Two days ago, Israeli military forces raided Nablus during the daytime, and they shot many, many Palestinians. They used live ammunition to kill, to shoot, to confirm the killing of many Palestinians. The Palestinians all over West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem were very sad, and they announced a strike yesterday. And yesterday, clashes started in al-Arroub refugee camp in Hebron. The Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian on the head, and many others were injured. And, unfortunately, he passed away this morning, and today it was his funeral.
There is a huge anger among the Palestinians from what is happening these days from the Israeli racist and fascist government, who are inciting to kill more and more Palestinians. We see that the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, which happened 29 years ago, where — when Baruch Goldstein went into the mosque and killed 29 Palestinians, and supporters of that massacre, the supporters of Baruch Goldstein, they are the ones who are in power. They are in the government. They are the ones who are now leading the Israeli occupation forces all over West Bank and East Jerusalem.
AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, you wrote in detail about what is happening in Nablus. And, you know, you’ve taught in New York, for example, at NYU, as well. And if you can explain to an audience outside, around the world, what are the details of this attack, from the drones that opened fire to the unmarked cars? Explain why — just give us the picture of Nablus.
AMIRA HASS: Yeah. Hi. Hi, Amy.
I haven’t been in Nablus after the raid. I was in Nablus after an earlier raid and in Jenin. So, the pattern is — there is one pattern, very clear, that an Israeli undercover unit enters a Palestinian — mostly Jenin and Nablus, in a car disguised as some Palestinian food company or something like that. They enter. They find positions, shooting positions, around a house where they believe that some Palestinian armed activists stayed. And usually this is correct. And then they are supposed to tell — to ask them to, or to demand them leave. And if they refuse, they keep shooting until the people are being killed in their hiding place, or not hiding place. It happened in Jenin. It happened in Jenin in — it has been happening a lot over the years. But there is an intensification of this during the last year.
You know, when the Palestinian armed activists decide to give themselves in, it might not end up in so many casualties. But the thing is that you see that these youngsters, these people who are not older than 30, at most, very often younger, they just decided they don’t want to go to prison. They want to convey a message in the name of the entire Palestinian people that they’ve had enough and they are ready to die. And I think this is a very clear message of the last — of those activists, armed activists, over the past years — over the past year.
Out of the 11 people killed in Nablus, six were armed people. So, I think we should remember this, that they decide to take arms and to fight the invading army. They decide not to give themselves in. But, of course, when the army decides to enter a city so big as Nablus on daytime, at 9:00, 9:30, and then stay there 'til 12:00, 12:30, when all the kids go back from school, and to be near a marketplace, its clear that the army and the police — because it's mostly the police that does the shooting, I mean, in these cases — it it’s clear that they decide to — they don’t care about how many people they kill and how many people they injure.
AMY GOODMAN: Because the roads are —
AMIRA HASS: So, this is —
AMY GOODMAN: The roads are packed, because this is the middle of the day, and people are going to market.
AMIRA HASS: Sure, it’s packed. Then, the drones — I don’t know yet. This is something that I still have to check. There were drones, as there were in Jenin and Nablus in former raids, but I’m not sure yet that these drones were shooting. But the fear, even the very knowledge that those drones not only are surveillance drones or drones that launch tear gas canisters, but — or tear gas, but that they can also shoot you. You can imagine how much it adds to the fear. But there is not only fear. If there are enough footage — though they don’t allow ambulances and journalists to approach the place, and this has been so for several raids already. But still, from the little footage that I saw — maybe there is more — you see that there are hundreds of young men, or tens of young men, so brave that they go out without arms, only with stones, and throw at the Israeli — at the military vehicles. And I guess that many of them were injured, if not killed. So —
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me go to —
AMIRA HASS: This time.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to Issa Amro for a minute.
AMIRA HASS: Well, so what’s important to know, though — what’s important is to also stress that there is a resistance. So, in every such raid, people resist it. It’s not just, you know, a quiet scene where all of a sudden the army comes in. It comes into a quiet scene, but then people resist it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Issa Amro, an Israeli soldier was recently jailed for 10 days after he attacked you as you were being interviewed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright. I want to play a short clip of what happened.
ISSA AMRO: Don’t touch me! [inaudible]
WITNESS: [inaudible] Hey! Leave him!
ISRAELI SOLDIER: [inaudible] Come.
ISSA AMRO: I want an ambulance. I don’t move.
WITNESS: What’s the matter with you, guy? Are you so bored?
AMY GOODMAN: After video of the attack on you went viral, Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who’s been convicted on inciting racism charges, expressed full support for the Israeli soldier who attacked you. Describe the scene and what happened.
ISSA AMRO: What happened, that I lead tours in my own city to show Israelis, internationals, Palestinians the reality of the Israeli occupation, the real face of the Israeli occupation in my own city, the closed streets, the closed markets, the checkpoints, the settlers’ prisons in the middle of my own city. There are streets where I’m not allowed to walk as a Palestinian, in spite that I was born there and I was raised there and all my childhood was there.
So, me and Mr. Wright — he was walking on the main street, and I was walking on the graveyard, because I’m not allowed to walk on the main street. And, you know, a Belgian photographer was with Mr. Wright. I was speaking to Mr. Wright, showing him the reality, closed shops, closed markets, and how few Palestinian families, they use the back door to get into their homes, because the main door is closed.
The soldiers didn’t like that. Usually they don’t want us to show the reality of the Israeli occupation, especially to internationals. So the soldier approached me and asked me to leave and not talk to them. I really told the soldier, “No, I’m allowed. And I don’t have time. OK, Lawrence, we will meet where we are allowed to meet.” Then I reached the point where I’m allowed to meet Lawrence and the Belgian photographer. I found the soldier forcing the Belgian photographer to delete her video, which she filmed. So I told them, “No, I’m allowed. What are you doing? We are allowed film this.” And according to the military law, the tiny rights we have as Palestinians in the military law, we are allowed to do it.
So the soldier got very angry. How come I tell him that I’m allowed? He, you know, caught me from my shoulder, you know, violently detained me in the street and, you know, threatened me, intimidated me. Then he came, caught me from my throat, threw me to the ground and kicked me again and hit me again. Other soldiers, you know, took him away from me because of the camera.
And it’s not a rare incident. It’s the case of all the Palestinians who are living under the Israeli occupation and apartheid and face the Israeli soldiers’s brutality and the settler violence.
Then I asked for an ambulance. I didn’t get. The soldiers were rejoicing with the settlers for what happened to me. Settlers were spitting on me when I was on the ground. And I was really ill-treated, traumatized, and I was in pain, asking for help, and nobody helped me from the Israeli side.
AMY GOODMAN: Issa, I hate to keep traumatizing you further, but I wanted to ask you about the Israeli authorities arresting you last year, shortly after you posted a video showing an Israeli soldier throwing an Israeli activist to the ground and then punching them in the face in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. Before you were released, you were beaten at the police station, your home raided. The Israeli activist, Miko Peled, tweeted, “Issa’s life is in danger and there must be guarantees to his personal safety.” Miko Peled is the son of the legendary Israeli General Matti Peled. Talk about that.
ISSA AMRO: Yes. Now Miko Peled is receiving online death threats, too, for doing this kind of things. Yes, last November, the same case as last week what happened with me, Israeli soldier punished an Israeli visitor who tried to apologize for Palestinian families who were attacked by fanatic, extreme Israeli settlers. And I filmed another soldier, Amy, saying that “Itamar Ben-Gvir will make order here, and he will get rid of you.” Filming that made me a target. And the Israeli media described me as a provocateur, as last week they didn’t blame the soldier for what he did to me. They blamed me for filming. They blamed me from reporting. This is the case of many other human rights defenders. Israel tries to hide the truth. They don’t want us to report. They don’t want us to document the human rights violations.
With my case, the soldier attacked me. The Israeli army spokesperson lied about what happened with me. The Israeli official, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is the national security minister, backed up the soldier and gave a green light to other soldiers to shoot and kill and attack Palestinians and attack me. The Israeli media described me as a provocateur. And the Israeli public, they didn’t defend me, and they didn’t denounce the Israeli soldiers’ behavior in the — one week ago and in last November.
So, the soldiers, they have a real environment and atmosphere of incitement and escalation. And, you know, they want to be really following Itamar Ben-Gvir and other populists to show Palestinians more brutality and, you know, to revenge from Palestinian human rights defenders who document the human rights violations. And really, I have fear of my life from what I see from the Israeli soldiers and the backup from the army and the backup from the government and even the backup from the Israeli media, which is giving the soldiers excuses for what they are doing —
AMY GOODMAN: Let me —
ISSA AMRO: — you know, what happened with me. So, it was so obvious on videos, but the Israeli media lied about it, and the Israeli army lied about it.
AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, we’re going to end with you. You have the attack on Nablus. You hear what Issa is describing. You’ve got Israel’s military bombing parts of the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets at southern Israel this week, with the Nablus raid being a huge provocation. Where is this going? We have 30 seconds.
AMIRA HASS: Yeah. Look, I mean, everything that has been described here has happened before, and to Issa, as well, and also under former governments. The problem that now — and Israel has always — was experimenting after the Nakba with all sorts of expulsion. What I’m afraid now is that we have the strongest people in this present Israeli government are politicians of the right wing who have openly advocated for mass expulsion of Palestinians. It’s Smotrich and Ben-Gvir. They are the strongest. And if you go to Hebron, where Issa lives, then it is the —
AMY GOODMAN: Amira —
AMIRA HASS: OK.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, but I thank you both for being with us, Amira Hass, Haaretz correspondent, and Issa Amro.