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Ralph Nader on Gaza Ceasefire & Why Suppression of Palestine Advocacy Is the Real Problem on Campus

StoryJanuary 05, 2024
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Image Credit: Stephen Chernin

Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and four-time former presidential candidate, joins Democracy Now! to discuss Americans pushing the government to end “this genocidal war in Gaza,” large donors influencing free speech and curriculum at universities, and his new book, The Rebellious CEO: 12 Leaders Who Did It Right.

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.

We end today’s show with Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic, four-time former presidential candidate. We’ll talk to him about several topics, including his new book, The Rebellious CEO: 12 Leaders Who Did It Right. He’s also the founder of Capitol Hill Citizen newspaper, has been named by Time and Life magazines one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century.

But, Ralph, let’s begin with U.S. policy in Gaza. Amidst the protests nationwide calling for a ceasefire, senior Biden education official Tariq Habash resigned this week — he’s the first Biden appointee — over what he called Biden’s, quote, “complete unwillingness to demand an immediate and permanent cease-fire” in Gaza. Biden is facing reelection amidst a broader Middle East conflict. Ralph, you said, quote, “Biden and Congress are vigorously enabling the annihilations” in Gaza. What do you mean? And what do you feel needs to happen?

RALPH NADER: Well, the important thing in the U.S. here is to focus on Congress and the White House, because they are waist deep in this genocidal war in Gaza. The Congress is basically a rubber stamp and doesn’t even have public hearings as it shovels billions of dollars to Israel. And it’s about to pass, unless Bernie Sanders and others who are opposed, a $14.3 billion — with a “B” — appropriation for Israel, military arms and other aspects of the Israeli right-wing regime’s priorities.

And $14.3 billion is larger than the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s 20 times the budget of the Occupational Safety and Health Agency. It’s four times the budget of the National Park Service, which has 300 million visitors. So there is rising opposition to it in the Congress, mostly among Democrats, but not enough. And I think the Jewish Voice for Peace and other valiant people who are resisting should focus more on the Congress.

As far as Biden is concerned, it really gives a new meaning to hypocrisy. He keeps saying publicly that Israel should reduce its impact on civilian casualties and let humanitarian trucks in. At the same time, he’s sending ships full of munitions and cargo planes full of munitions to Netanyahu. You cannot have humanitarian trucks coming in — and there needs to be about 700, at least, a day — if you don’t have a ceasefire, because who’s going to go in? The roads are torn up. They can’t get to their destination. The hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or disabled. There’s no markets. There’s no ability to receive these materials. And the Israelis are letting in maybe 10, 20 trucks a day, but they’re delaying hundreds and hundreds of trucks ready to come in, which Biden has already paid for. So, Biden is playing Netanyahu’s game, but he’s trying to get away with highfalutin adherence to international law.

We don’t hear enough about the violation of international law, U.S. treaties, Geneva Conventions. It’s as if the U.S. can do anything it wants in Syria and Iraq, and Israel can continue to bomb repeatedly in Syria and do other violent acts, and the press never raises the issue of law. Without law, you have anarchy. You have what you’re seeing now.

And the U.S. is very much involved. And people are very concerned about a wider conflict here. The Israelis already struck in Beirut. And you have the Red Sea situation with the Houthi boats. And the U.S. is all over the place, aircraft carriers. They have 24/7 drones over Gaza. So, that’ll be a very good record when the reckoning comes after this war is over.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, you are Lebanese American, Ralph, is that right, your family from Lebanon?


AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you a question that relates to this. You know, the protests around Gaza on college campuses around the country ultimately have led to the ouster of two college presidents, Liz Magill at UPenn, and now you have Claudine Gay. And I wanted to ask you about the protest yesterday led by Al Sharpton outside the New York office of the billionaire investor Bill Ackman, who helped lead a campaign that led to this week’s ouster of the Harvard University president, the first Black president of Harvard, Claudine Gay. Ackman, a Harvard alum, major donor to the university, has publicly railed against Harvard and other schools for supporting DEI — diversity, equity and inclusion — programs. Al Sharpton vowed to keep protesting outside Ackman’s office. This is what he said.

REV. AL SHARPTON: We have started these weekly one-hour protests in front of Mr. Ackman’s office. He has said that the resignation of Dr. Gay at Harvard is not the end of it. They are going to keep fighting 'til they end DEI, which is diversity, equity and inclusion. That's declaring a war on all of us — Blacks, women, gays. DEI was designed to bring fairness and equality to people that had been historically marginalized and eliminated.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Al Sharpton. As part of his campaign to oust Gay as Harvard president, Bill Ackman helped amplify allegations that Gay had committed plagiarism in her academic work, but now Ackman’s wife, the MIT professor Neri Oxman, is facing a plagiarism scandal of her own. Business Insider has revealed Oxman plagiarized parts of her doctoral dissertation at MIT. On Thursday, she apologized and admitted making mistakes. Of course, there was no plagiarism panel that was set up — that’s the process at Harvard — that would evaluate President Gay before she was, ultimately, I guess you could probably say, pushed out by Harvard Corporation, with a lot of pressure from these major donors, like Bill Ackman. Your response, before we move into your book on corporate executives who did it right?

RALPH NADER: What’s been revealed is the big donors to these universities, especially private universities like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, have been exercising their baleful influence for many years over the curriculum. You know, it’s not surprising that Harvard Law School, for decades, never had a course on corporate law — corporate crime, rather. So, these large donors now have been revealed to have enormous power over the board of overseers over Harvard University. And that’s the next investigation for good student newspapers like The Harvard Crimson.

The stuff on plagiarism, it could be serious, but not in this case, given the review of the president’s past writings. The big issue is the slaughter, is the suppression of speech on college campuses dealing with the slaughter over there in Gaza.

And the fatality count is grossly undercounted, Amy. I know you refer to the official Hamas health authority count, where they only count people whose names they know who died, and so it’s over 22,000, 58,000 injuries. This is a massive undercount.

As the head of the global health department at University of Edinburgh said in an article in The Guardian the other day, there’s going to be half a million Gazans who are going to die before the end of this year, not only from the bombing, but from the effect of the bombing in terms of the destruction of the healthcare system, infectious diseases, polluted water, diarrhea, which little children — which is often a high rate of fatality, and very quickly — lack of any food, no shelter, 85% of the 2.3 million people homeless. They have no connection to sanitation, food, protection, the winter elements. My estimate now is at least 100,000 have died. And more will die every day because of the effects that I’ve just described.

The World Health Organization said they’ve never seen a situation like this in decades. The amount of — number of children being killed, in November, it was 150 a day from the Israeli bombing, and that’s compared to two a day in Afghanistan and less than one a day in Ukraine. So, that’s the main issue.

And the campus controversy talking about slurs and ethnic slurs and so forth, what’s behind it all is to repress the academic world from speaking out and acting on what our government is doing to make all this possible.

And then, we also have to focus on these corporations, for a lot of this aid to Israel bounces back into contracts for missiles. Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, they’re raking it in. And people talk about the lobby in this country supporting any Israeli government can do no wrong, no matter how extreme. We have to talk about the military-industrial complex here on Capitol Hill pushing for more and more of these immense sales and profits.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph, you just wrote a book. You are deeply critical right now of the corporations you just mentioned. But your book is The Rebellious CEO: 12 Leaders Who Did It Right. Some may be surprised to see you, this corporate critic, writing this book, famous for Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, among other things. But in this last minute — and then we’ll do a post-show interview — talk about why you wrote it.

RALPH NADER: Because there are not enough good yardsticks to evaluate the misbehavior of giant CEOs of these multinational corporations, who distort markets, control markets, but they tell you, when you take — you criticize them for their munitions production, for opiates, for fossil fuels, for high drug prices, “Oh, we’re just meeting market demand.” Well, these 12 CEOs, they made profit, but they reversed the business model, focusing on protecting and treating workers right, consumer right, and the environment. And they spoke out against war. They spoke out against — Anita Roddick of The Body Shop spoke out against the cosmetic industry’s harm on young customers. Ray Anderson changed his entire —

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph, we have to leave it there, but we’re going to do Part 2 and post it at Ralph Nader, author of The Rebellious CEO: 12 Leaders Who Did It Right. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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