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Their Goal Is Total Ethnic Cleansing: Mustafa Barghouti on Israel’s Expulsion Order for Gaza City

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A panel of United Nations independent experts has accused Israel of engaging in a campaign of starvation and genocide in Gaza as the effects of the famine are being felt across Gaza. Palestinian physician and activist Mustafa Barghouti says “what we see today is a purposeful act of starvation” and that the real intention of the Israeli government has never changed. “Their main goal is the total ethnic cleansing of all of Gaza people and all of the Gaza Strip.” Barghouti joins us from Washington, D.C., on his first U.S. visit in more than a decade.

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

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

A panel of U.N. independent experts has accused Israel of engaging in a campaign of starvation and genocide in Gaza. Michael Fakhri, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, and the other experts write, “We declare that Israel’s intentional and targeted starvation campaign against the Palestinian people is a form of genocidal violence and has resulted in famine across all of Gaza. We call upon the international community to prioritize the delivery of humanitarian aid by land by any means necessary, end Israel’s siege, and establish a ceasefire,” the United Nations experts wrote.

The effects of the famine are being felt across Gaza. This is Ghaneyma Joma, a Palestinian mother, speaking from Nasser Hospital in Gaza’s Khan Younis next to her son, Younis Joma.

GHANEYMA JOMA: [translated] My son suffers from malnutrition due to the war and because of the tinned food he’s eating. Before the war, he used to eat all kinds of food — meats, eggs, all kinds. Now things have gone up in price, or there is shortage, due to the closing of the crossings. A week ago, I was with him here in the hospital, and every day his health is deteriorating.

My wish is that my child recovers and gets back to how he was before the war and that he finds his rights like any other child. I hope his health improves to how it was before the war. I wish that I don’t lose my child. Looking at him lying in front of me, I feel that he is dying in front of my eyes, and I can’t do anything for him.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. He is a Palestinian physician, an activist, a politician who serves as general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative. He usually joins us from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, but today is joining us from Washington, D.C.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Dr. Barghouti. If you can start off by responding to that woman who is sitting next to her dying, starving son?

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, there are no words to describe the feelings of this woman or our feelings when we watch that. But what we see today is a purposeful act of starvation, one form of war crime, where Israel is using starvation as an instrument of war. And that’s why UNICEF has been warning the last few days that 50,000 children now are at risk of death and at risk of famine because of the starvation policy of the Israeli government. And that is, of course, horrifying.

But if you’ll allow me, Amy, I want to alert you to something even more important. I think at this — today, we are witnessing probably the most dangerous day in this whole war on Gaza, in this whole aggression on Gaza. The Israeli army is trying to evict hundreds of thousands of people from Gaza City and from northern parts of Gaza in an effort to completely ethnically cleanse Gaza City. And they are threatening people that they would bombard them in every possible way if they don’t move. And the people of Gaza are resilient. They refuse to leave. They say, “We are ready even to face death, but not leave one more time by this terrible Israeli forces who are trying to ethnically cleanse us. We cannot take this insult one more time.” And I think that’s why it’s very dangerous.

And I want to explain that what Netanyahu is doing now, what his fascist government is doing now in Gaza, is really trying to achieve, through this terrible bombardment that you’ve just described, which took the lives of more than 40 people, and through this act of trying to ethnically cleanse all the population of Gaza City, I think he’s aiming at three goals. The first one is to undermine completely any negotiations that are taking place to achieve ceasefire and any negotiations to stop this aggression that is taking place on the people of Gaza. Second, I think this reveals that the real intention of Netanyahu and Gallant and all the Israeli government has never changed. Their main goal is the total ethnic cleansing of all of Gaza people and all of the Gaza Strip. And finally, I think this shows that Netanyahu’s real intention is to maintain the Israeli occupation of Gaza. He wants to completely ethnically cleanse the whole of the north of Gaza and Gaza City, as well, and then concentrate the Israeli occupation in that area and then move forward. And that, of course, fits very well with the news that we’ve just received that the Israeli army is already starting building permanent bases of the military in the northern part and in Gaza City.

This is a very dangerous element. This is a very dangerous moment. And it will carry in it, in itself, two major risks: total ethnic cleansing of Gaza City, but, in addition to that, terrible, terrible, terrible massacre that could happen, because people are refusing to leave and the Israelis would start bombarding.

And this would not have happened if it wasn’t for this terrible silence from the whole world, if it wasn’t from the cover that was provided to the Israelis, including by, unfortunately, the American administration. If no moves are made immediately by the whole world community, by the International Criminal Court, which should issue the indictment of both Netanyahu and Gallant, if the International Court of Justice does not immediately issue an order of stopping this terrible genocide and this terrible war on Gaza, and if the world community does not engage immediately on pressuring Israel and even threatening sanctions of Israel, this Netanyahu government will lead the situation into the most terrible massacre since the beginning of this terrible aggression on Gaza, which has already taken the lives of no less than 48,000 people, if we count the people under the rubble, and maybe even more than that. There are 87,000 people who are injured, many of whom will not continue to live, because there is no medical facility to treat them since Israel destroyed most of the medical facilities.

I’ve just been talking to our teams in Gaza, the Palestinian medical relief teams, and they tell me that in Gaza City now there is no service whatsoever except medical relief there, because the Baptist Hospital has been forced to be evacuated. Injured people there are there without doctors, without proper care. Our guys are trying to help them in every possible way. But the whole of Gaza City is now without medical services, except the mobile teams of medical relief.

That is a very dangerous situation, and it could exacerbate in every possible way. And that’s why what I’m talking about is an urgent situation. And this is an urgent call to the whole world, to the United Nations, to international organizations, to humanitarian organizations, to the people who want to save lives of Palestinians, that they should move immediately, because what we could see now is a terrible, terrible development, not only of ethnic cleansing, but horrible massacres that could take place against the Palestinian population of Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Mustafa Barghouti, we usually speak to you in Ramallah. Why are you in Washington, D.C., right now? And what is your demand of the Biden administration? As you can see, if you’re watching any of the media in the United States, there is very little television coverage of what’s happening in Gaza. It’s all about Biden’s mental health and his physical diminishment. If you can talk about — yet there’s the NATO summit, of course, happening right now, with world leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. — what your demands are on not only Biden, but the others, as well?

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, as you know, Amy, for seven-and-a-half years, I was never granted a visa to come here. So, I don’t know. By a strike of luck or because there was so much pressure from the Palestinian community here, which invited me to come and speak to them — and that was the main purpose of my visit here, to speak to Palestinian activists, to Palestinian community in the United States — I got one entry visa, and I decided to use it. And I am also trying to meet as many legislators as possible, as many people in the media and in other, to alert them to what’s happening in Gaza and to mobilize every possible resources to help the steadfastness of the people of Gaza, but also to stop this terrible aggression.

My message to those who are meeting in Washington is very clear: You’re playing with fire. What’s happening in Gaza is showing the whole world that there is no international law anymore, that there is no respect whatsoever anymore for the so-called human rights. All your talks about human rights and democracy and all your talks about international order are out of the window. They mean nothing now, when the whole world sees that Israel is enjoying the utmost amount of impunity, the utmost amount of support while it is committing this terrible massacre, $20 billion of military aid from your administration, the American administration, from your taxpayers, to those who are committing now three war crimes in parallel: genocide, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment, including starvation of children and women and civilians. This is unacceptable. And what is happening in Gaza will have a terrible impact on the whole world, because it sends one message, that there is no international law anymore, that there is no human rights anymore, that anybody who has power can do whatever they want, whenever they want and as they want. That is the message that is getting out. And that is going to be a terribly undermining situation for the security and safety and peace all over the world. I think the main responsible here is the American administration, and especially Biden administration, who could have done much, much, much more to stop this war and to stop this atrocity.

And now that the ethnic cleansing of no less than 400,000 people is just about to happen, leading to maybe the total ethnic cleansing of Gaza, this is the moment when people have to interfere. There is an element of urgency here, and people have to move. And I am telling you, the message I got from the people of Gaza today — I’ve just been talking to them — they say, “We’re not going to leave anymore. We’re not going to listen to Israeli instructions. Whatever it takes, we will die and not leave our homes. And we will die and not leave our homes. We’re not going to be subjected to this Israeli imposition of ethnic cleansing.” That’s why I’m saying there is a very important element of urgency here, and people have to move very quickly and very soon to stop this terrible atrocity that Netanyahu and his fascist government, with people like Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, are just about to commit.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the Biden administration has been saying that the U.S. ceasefire proposal has been supported by Netanyahu, though he denied that, but was being obstructed by, not accepted by Hamas. Now Hamas says that they will accept the ceasefire proposal, even though it’s not immediately calling for a permanent ceasefire. But Netanyahu — and now I wanted to read from The Times of Israel, the headline “Security officials 'shocked' by PM’s announcement of Gaza nonnegotiables — reports.” “Security officials were caught off-guard on Sunday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly announced a list of 'nonnegotiables' for the ongoing hostage negotiations with Hamas, [the] Hebrew media [is] report[ing]. … An unnamed security official told the Ynet news site that the statement by Netanyahu’s office was 'inappropriate conduct that will harm the chances of bringing the hostages back home.'”

Can you talk about the state of negotiations now in Doha, when you have the head of U.S. intelligence, William Burns, there, the head of Israeli intelligence, Mossad, Barnea, there? What is happening? And do you agree with some of these Israeli officials who are saying it was meant to derail this last negotiation?

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: I think everybody in Israel knows, every intelligence person in the United States probably already know, that the reality is that Netanyahu is continuously undermining any possibility of reaching an agreement. He played games already several times. There was a moment a few months ago when a proposal was presented to Hamas, and the Americans said that Israel is accepting that proposal. Hamas accepted it. But then Netanyahu retreated and undermined it. When Mr. Biden announced his initiative, saying that it is an Israeli proposal, Netanyahu never confirmed that. And when it got into serious negotiations, as it’s happening now, and Hamas said they are accepting and showed an utmost amount of flexibility, to my knowledge, Netanyahu is now escalating the situation in Gaza. This is not the first time he does that. When he is trying now to ethnically cleanse 400,000 people from Gaza City, how could negotiations work? So, Netanyahu continues to play his games to undermine any possibility of an agreement.

This man doesn’t care about the Israeli prisoners. He wants them all killed. He doesn’t care about the lives of any of them. The families of these Israeli prisoners know that very well. All Netanyahu cares about is his own personal interest. That’s not my opinion only; it’s the opinion of so many Israeli leaders. And I think Netanyahu wants only to continue this war as long as it takes, and he wants to avoid the fact that he — because he knows very well that the end of this war will mean the end of his political career. He will be investigated for his failure on the 7th of October. He will be investigated for his failure in running this war. And he will also be presented to the courts for four cases of corruption that are following him, each of which could take him to jail. So, he doesn’t care about anybody. He cares only about himself. As I said maybe on one of your programs, this man is ready to kill his mother to stay in power. And now he’s risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and maybe the lives of many Israelis, because all he cares about is his own interest.

But that is not only simply his personal interest. He is sitting in a government that is increasingly fascist. And he has fascist people in his government, like Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, and these people want the total and complete ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians. They speak frankly and openly, like Ben-Gvir, who’s the minister of internal security, about executing all Palestinian prisoners. They say that. They declare every morning that all Palestinians must be evicted not only from Gaza, but also from the West Bank. Smotrich keeps telling, “We should fill the West Bank with settlements and settlers so that Palestinians would lose any hope of a state of their own and then have to leave,” which is ethnic cleansing, “or accept a life of subjugation,” which is apartheid, “or die,” which is exactly the genocide they are trying to commit now in Gaza. It’s a terrible situation. Netanyahu will not be restrained, except with Palestinian steadfastness and resistance and sanctions immediately on his government.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian physician, activist, politician, serves as general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, usually in Ramallah, speaking to us for the first time in years from Washington, D.C.

Coming up, dozens of war leaders are in Washington to mark the 75th anniversary of the NATO military alliance. We’ll speak with a German lawmaker who came to D.C. to protest the summit. Stay with us.

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