One month since the launch of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on Oct. 7, the Israeli military has slaughtered more than 10,000 Palestinians, including over 4,000 children. International condemnation is growing, with multiple governments withdrawing their ambassadors from Israel and organizations around the world calling for Israel’s leaders to be prosecuted for war crimes. In an Oct. 28 resignation letter, Craig Mokhiber, former Director of the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that there is “no room for doubt or debate” that the Israeli government is intentionally perpetuating a genocide of the Palestinian people with the support of the US, EU, and other international actors. Drawing on his decades of experience as a war correspondent and years living in and reporting on Gaza, Chris Hedges joins The Marc Steiner Show to discuss Israel’s endgame: the full elimination and depopulation of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and eventually the West Bank.
Studio Production: Adam Coley, Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: David Hebden
Marc Steiner: Welcome to The Marc Steiner Show here on The Real News. I’m Marc Steiner, and it’s great to have you all with us.
As you’re all too well aware, Real News has been covering the Gaza War with real intensity and real focus. The work I’ve been doing here on Not in Our Name, to Max Alvarez’s stunning interviews, especially the recent one with Issa Amro in Gaza, the coverage of so many here at The Real News. And in this segment of The Marc Steiner Show, we’ll look where this war is going in Gaza. Not only where it might take Palestinians and Israelis, but the entire world. My guest is Chris Hedges, a journalist here at The Real News who lived in and covered Gaza, was Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times, covered the wars in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, and here at The Real News has The Chris Hedges Report.
Well, Chris, thanks. I appreciate you taking the time. I know you’ve –
Chris Hedges: Sure.
Marc Steiner: …Got 10 different interviews and you’re on your way out, so it’s good to have you here.
Let me just start with one of the obvious questions people are asking. What is the end game here for Israel, do you think? What do you think we’re marching towards?
Chris Hedges: Well, most of the people in the Netanyahu government, including Netanyahu himself, have been quite clear for, often decades, what the end game is, and that’s the destruction of the state or even the idea of Palestine. And that will be accomplished through acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing. And I fully expect things to get worse in Gaza. I mean, they’re bombing the hospitals now. There’s not enough food or water. Israel is impervious to requests from Washington because of the Israel lobby.
They have, traditionally, Israel, because of the power of the Israel lobby, it doesn’t really matter what any administration wants. They humiliated Biden when he was vice president and called for a moratorium on settlements, and then the day he was in Jerusalem announced an expansion of settlements. They bypassed the White House to go speak, by Netanyahu, to go speak before Congress to denounce the Iran deal. They know that, in essence, the Biden administration can’t touch the military aid, and has no ability to really pressure the government to halt this massive bombing campaign.
And I want to put that bombing campaign in perspective. I was in Sarajevo during the war. We were being hit with 300 to 400 shells a day, four to five dead a day, two dozen wounded a day, and I don’t want to minimize that. I, almost 30 years later, still have nightmares because of it. But that’s nothing compared to what’s happening in Gaza. The first two weeks, they damaged or destroyed 45% of the housing stock. They’ve dropped, I think, it was just in the first two weeks, 20,000 tons of bombs. This is Stalingrad level. As bad as Sarajevo was, it doesn’t come close.
Thousands of Palestinians are trapped under the rubble. And they have surrounded the northern part – They will do it piecemeal. They learned that from the Americans in Fallujah. You don’t, essentially, attack on a wide front. You break up your urban areas into sectors that you then dominate. So, they’ve cut off Gaza City from the south, which is Gaza’s largest city, about 700,000 people.
Marc Steiner: And they’re about to go in.
Chris Hedges: Well, they’ll go in. The problem with urban warfare, which I’ve been in, is that all of your heavy machinery doesn’t really give you much of an advantage. So, I think that it’s saturation bombing. They will keep the northern part of Gaza cordoned off, surrounded, but I expect them to bomb their way to victory, or what they’re going to continue or call victory.
Marc Steiner: Call victory, right.
Chris Hedges: They don’t really want to start crawling through the rubble fighting Hamas fighters. The tunnels are an issue. We don’t know how big, but they’re big. But they need generators in order to pump down air into the tunnels. I think most of the hostages are probably in the tunnels. This is also a very cynical decision on the part of the Netanyahu government. I don’t think many of those hostages are going to come back. I think they know that and they don’t care.
So, they’ve cut off food, in essence, they’ve cut off water. The trucks that have come over through Rafan are, it’s negligible. It’s a very cynical public relations ploy, but it doesn’t do anything to alleviate the tremendous suffering.
So, I expect that they will push what remains of the Gaza population over the border into the Sinai, into Egypt, and they will never come back. And there have been reports in the Egyptian press that the Americans have approached the CC government. The Egyptian economy is in a mess at over $160 billion in debt. And they will offer financial incentives, and probably, if that doesn’t work, they’ll use threats to do Israel’s bidding. And in essence, Gaza as we know it – And I spent seven years covering Gaza, my office was right in the center of Gaza City – Just won’t exist.
Marc Steiner: So, two questions here that popped in my head as you were speaking. I was talking to some people yesterday about Uganda and Entebbe in the airport, and rescuing the hostages that took place. Talk a bit about, from your experience covering wars and what’s happening right now in Gaza, why couldn’t Israel have done that? Why couldn’t Israel simply have gone in, found out where the hostages are, and rescued as many as possible? What do you think? Was that possible or was that impossible?
Chris Hedges: No, because first of all, the hostages are dispersed over a wide area. And second of all, they’re underground. You knew they were on the plane in Entebbe, they were in an enclosed space. This is completely different.
Marc Steiner: So, I’m thinking about the American end in this, and I know it’s not going to happen, but it seems like the only way conceivably to stop Israel from doing what it’s doing at this moment would be the threat of a cutoff of aid. And when you see inside the Jewish world in America, in the United States, I see it all the time, is a growing body of Jews saying, no, not in our name. We don’t agree, And whether it’s marches or articles or organizations being developed. So, that seems to me the only way to stop the madness from [inaudible].
Chris Hedges: Well, that would be the only way. Even that might not work because Israel needs that aid to essentially replenish stockpiles. But they have a pretty robust arsenal.
Well, those are the Jews that don’t count. J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace don’t count. For me, they count quite a bit. But I’m talking about in terms of the power structure and its money. It’s APAC and these Sheldon Adelson type retrograde Jewish billionaires. By the way, they funded Netanyahu. I covered that campaign. Netanyahu was their baby. They created him and they bankrolled him against Rabin.
So, yes, I think ultimately that’s why I support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, that it is about severing aid and imposing sanctions on Israel. That’s the only weapon we have. We’re very far from achieving that. Even most of the liberal groups don’t support BDS. And the Israel lobby is just so well-funded and so powerful, and they represent a political strain of a very right-wing political strain within the American population that it does not, I would guess, represent the political leanings of probably most American Jews.
Marc Steiner: When I see what’s going on in Gaza, in Israel right now, in Palestine, I know that Israel is not attempting, they’re going to seize a huge portion of Gaza. They’re going to call it a buffer, they’re going to do whatever, they may put settlers in, they may not, but they’re going to seize a huge portion of Gaza, pushing Palestinians out. But this seems to me, having been through, covered this my entire life almost, when I want to say young Zionist to a place where I became against that, but this seems really different. This moment seems really different in terms of what could happen post-war and how it could affect…
Chris Hedges: Well, it’s not different. It’s just different in scale. The Nakba, or the catastrophe, were, right, 750,000 Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes, pushed into places like Gaza and refugee camps. The 50 massacres that the Haganah or the Jewish militias carried out. So, that’s been part of the Zionist project since the founding of the state of Israel. And in the ’67 war, they pushed out another 350,000 people. So, it’s a difference in scale, it’s not a difference in intent.
I think the difference is that we have… This government is the most extremist that Israel has ever had. Many of these people are heirs to Meir Kahane, who I knew and covered, this rabidly racist right-wing Brooklyn Rabbi who founded the Kach party, which was outlawed in ’94 by Israel and declared a terrorist group by Israel and the United States, which it was, kind of. There’s always been a strain of fascism within, going back to Jabotinsky, that pioneer of Zionism. Benito Mussolini called him –
Marc Steiner: The Herut party.
Chris Hedges: Yeah, Herut. They called him, I think Mussolini, and Netanyahu’s father worked for Jabotinsky, called him a good fascist or something like that. So, it’s always been there, but now it’s predominant. And for them, it’s the final solution, or their version of the final solution. And they won’t stop.
And once they finish with Gaza, they will turn on the West Bank. And they want to create, these are their own words, a religiously pure state, which means the forced exile, ethnic cleansing, whatever you want to call it, of millions of Palestinians, including Christians. There’s a significant Christian population among the Palestinians. They think they’re going to finish with this problem once and for all.
Marc Steiner: Clearly, the opposite’s going to happen. If Israel’s game was to end Hamas and end that organization, this will do the exact opposite. This particular war is going to have more recruits, more people who are going to be up against the wall and –
Chris Hedges: Right.
Marc Steiner: …And have no choice.
Chris Hedges: But they may all be pushed out of the country. Look at the Armenian Genocide. The world has a short memory. For me, what’s happening now is very akin to the Armenian Genocide. It was very public. Everybody knew what the Turks were doing, but nobody did anything. And that’s kind of where we are now.
It’s worse in the sense that the United States is actively backing and supporting the genocide with intelligence, with military support, vetoing the calls for the ceasefire at the UN, etc. You will certainly create blowback, probably in the form of terrorism. But once these people are pushed out of their land and permanently thrust into the diaspora, which I think is the plan…
Marc Steiner: You think that’s Israel’s plan?
Chris Hedges: Yeah. The people around Netanyahu, they’ve long been calling for this. Yeah.
Marc Steiner: I mean, this is… You lived there for quite some time. Israel, even Gaza, covered it all. I’m curious what you think, what happened inside of Israel? There’s always been something twisted. I mean, from the time of Buber and [foreign language] screaming for a binational state in 1948, to the forces in ’68 trying to create something different with Palestinians. But something fundamental has shifted inside of Israel, inside of the Israeli body politic.
I know there are close to 1 million Israelis, might be most of them on the left, out of Israel now. They’re in Germany, they’re in Vietnam, they’re here, they’re across the globe. But something really has shifted here. To me, it feels like an openly fascistic state is being created.
Chris Hedges: Yeah, it is openly fascistic. The, either difference is, there was a kind of… And I knew Teddy Kollek and Abba Eban and all these figures. Very urbane, charming, well-educated. It was keep them happy on the farm, kind of. And I was there in the late ’80s and early ’90s. They were building new sewer systems in East Jerusalem, this kind of stuff. So, it was an attempt to domesticate the Palestinians without employing this savage violence that we see in Gaza, and to a lesser extent, of course, the settlers were being armed and rampaging through the West Bank, through Palestinian towns, killing indiscriminately. Over 130 Palestinian civilians have been murdered since Oct. 7. But the goal was always the same.
And Ilan Pappé, a great Israeli historian and others, I think, have pointed this out. The goal was always the control of Palestine. They were never going to give it back. And it was, how do we control an occupied population? And it just that, let’s call it liberal Zionism, didn’t work. The fascinating thing about Rabin, who I also knew, is that he recognized that the occupation was killing his country. Didn’t really care too much about the Palestinians, but he realized that it was distorting Israel to such an extent, militarizing it, feeding it that undercurrent of racism, which is now rampant within Israeli society.
That the structures that were the secret police, collaborators, all this stuff that any occupying force needs was very corrosive to Israeli democracy. Rabin got that. And of course, he was assassinated by a Jewish extremist. When Netanyahu – And I covered Netanyahu’s rallies – When Netanyahu was running against Rabin, he was allowing his supporters to burn an effigy of Rabin in a Nazi uniform. They would chant, “Death to Rabin.” At one point, Netanyahu walked in front of a mock funeral for Rabin. And Leah, Rabin’s widow, correctly blamed Netanyahu and his supporters for the murder of her husband.
And after that, there was, I hope… There was some hope under Rabin. Rabin had a very close relationship with King Hussein, who I also knew very well. They were very close, actually. And Netanyahu and the Netanyahu government is just a whole other animal. Netanyahu became prime minister in ’96, and pretty much, with a few interruptions, dominated Israel. And Netanyahu has always mentored extremists, Avigdor Lieberman and all these. They were all Netanyahu proteges. So, I don’t have a lot of hope. I’ll do everything I can. I’m about to –
Marc Steiner: I can hear that.
Chris Hedges: …Well, it’s not my job to sell hope [Steiner laughs]. That’s not journalism, by the way.
Marc Steiner: No, it’s not.
Chris Hedges: It’s my job to assess the situation as clearly as I can.
Marc Steiner: So, having covered it so intensely, having been in other war zones, I’ve been wrestling with what could come out of this. What could be, not Israel’s end game. Israel’s end game is to push the Palestinians out, take over the land. What could actually…
Chris Hedges: Well, Israel will become a fascistic state ruled by the ultra orthodox, kind of Jewish version of Iran.
Marc Steiner: Which we use as a digression, which we, growing up as Zionists between Israel and Baltimore, would mock as frummies, as people who were on the fringe, who were somewhere else. They were these… And not close to power, that’s completely shifting.
Chris Hedges: That used to be true, but not anymore.
Marc Steiner: Yes. Right, right.
Chris Hedges: So, yeah, I mean, that’s what… Israel’s already moved pretty far in that direction. Netanyahu’s dismantling of the judiciary is, of course, a huge step in that. But people who speak out against the Netanyahu assault against democracy or the slaughter in Gaza are attacked as traitors and silenced. And I mean, there’s been a huge campaign preceding Oct. 7 against Israeli human rights workers at B’Tselem.
Marc Steiner: Right.
Chris Hedges: And that will now accelerate. There’ll be no room for dissent.
Marc Steiner: I feel that, and watch it coming. I spent part of the last 50 years being called many times by certain folks inside my community as a Judenrat, just saying no to the occupation and what’s going on. That tendency is now in control. And then, with the Palestinians, every time I talk to Palestinian friends now about the family, what’s going on, I have family who lived in Kissufim and [foreign language], and some of them may be hostages. We don’t know. I don’t know. I have friends in Palestine whose kids have been killed. People have been killed in this. And so, it’s sometimes, though I’m covering it, it gets really hard because it gets really deeply personal to watch this go on.
And what’s happening in the Palestinian world, I think people don’t really grasp the intensity, the madness, the murder that’s taking place among Palestinians now. Except when I heard the piece that Max Alvarez, editor-in-chief here did with Issa in Gaza, it was heart rendering. I don’t think people really get how deep this is.
Chris Hedges: Well, Israel’s cut off all the internet and cell phone service because when you carry out genocide, you block the ability of the victims to reach the outside world. That’s standard.
Marc Steiner: Talk about that for a minute. Just explore what people listening to us, why you call it genocide? That’s a huge term to use.
Chris Hedges: Well, sure, because it’s about the wholesale destruction of people, and all of the mechanisms by which you can destroy a people: The denial of food, the denial of water, the denial of safety, the ability to flee – Fleeing to the south? They’re bombing the south. They’re bombing the supposedly corridors that they set up to go to the south. It’s indiscriminate, dropping 2,000 pound bombs on Jabalia, on refugee camps. Jabalia, I’ve been in, spent a lot of time in Jabalia. So, Gaza is one of the most densely packed spots on the planet, but Jabalia is the most densely packed spot in Gaza, and I think they bombed it three times. Nobody knows the number of dead because –
Marc Steiner: They’re under the rubble.
Chris Hedges: …Thousands are under the rubble. So, that indiscriminate, they’re bombing hospitals. I mean, they say, well, they’re terrorist command centers, or Hamas command centers. They’re bombing hospitals, they’ve cut off the fuel. The babies in incubators are dying. That’s genocide.
Marc Steiner: We talked about what the end game would be. And you’ve covered this so long and so intensely. I may have lived it intensely on some levels, but you’ve covered it intensely. You’ve been in the middle of it. How do you see it playing out over the next few years? What do you see happening between the US and Israel? It’s also affecting the West. It’s affecting here. It could affect this election coming up between…
Chris Hedges: Well, the wild card is whether it ignites a regional conflagration. So, that would begin in Lebanon with Hezbollah, but it wouldn’t begin unless Iran green-lighted it. I don’t think that Iran or Hezbollah wants to ignite a regional conflagration, but that’s the wild card. Things can just go wrong. I’ve covered enough war that once you open that Pandora’s box and let all those evil spirits out, they control you. It doesn’t control… You don’t control it. So yeah, things could go wrong that way.
The arms manufacturers are thrilled. They’re making money in Ukraine, they’re making money with Israel, because remember, most of this money is going straight to Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, and that’s who’s making the money.
The Palestinians have always been friendless, powerless. And the Arab states are very duplicitous about their commitment, which is largely rhetorical, and they’re quite happy to sell the Palestinian’s outing. There’s a lot of animus towards… For instance, Egypt hates Hamas because Hamas was born out of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they, CC with US and Israeli backing, seized power to essentially prevent a Muslim Brotherhood government from running Egypt.
So, the Palestinians really don’t have many friends. Iran, Qatar, Hezbollah, Syria to a certain extent, but not… Am I, if I had to make an educated guess, I think Israel’s going to get away with it.
Marc Steiner: Get away with it?
Chris Hedges: Get away with this massive campaign of…
Marc Steiner: Before we close because we’re about to close, what do you mean by get away with it? What are they going to get away with, do you think?
Chris Hedges: Pushing most of the Palestinians out of Gaza and turning most of Gaza into a moonscape, which is what they’ve already done with the north.
Marc Steiner: They’ve already done.
Chris Hedges: I know that’s what they want to do. That is without question. The question is whether they can be stopped, but I don’t see the forces that are going to stop them.
Marc Steiner: I think it’s a danger for the entire planet that we’re watching unfold at this moment inside of Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East.
Chris Hedges: Well, it’s just so… I don’t sleep. I mean, it’s just so, the horror of it. And I mean, how many children are dead? 3,000, 4,000 kids? I mean…
Marc Steiner: At least.
Chris Hedges: It’s just, everybody hooked up to a dialysis machine or in an ICU or in an incubator, they’re all dying. Everybody’s going to die. They’re running out of food, they don’t have clean water. And the intensity of the bombing campaign is unlike anything we’ve seen in the 21st century. I really don’t know how far back you’d have to go. Maybe Grozny. I didn’t cover Grozny, but friends of mine did, who had covered Sarajevo, and they said Grozny was much, much worse.
Marc Steiner: I think people don’t understand the depth of the attacks taking place.
Chris Hedges: Yeah, I would say,
Marc Steiner: Mainstream media is not really giving the people here [crosstalk].
Chris Hedges: Well, they’re not in Gaza. So, you have a few stringer, Palestinian stringers, and then you’ve seen Israel target like Al Jazeera correspondent and others. So, just as they did with Shireen Abu Akleh, who was assassinated on the West Bank by an Israeli sniper. So, yeah, I think people don’t get the intensity of it, and…
Marc Steiner: Well, that’s why I’m glad for your reporting. You’ve always done this, your whole career. I followed you when you were at The New York Times, before we ever met, years back, and all the work, and you bring that to light. They could use that again, bringing that to light. I’m serious. They could use that again. I’m glad you’re here at Real News to do that. And Chris, I know you have a very tight schedule today. Chris, I just thank you so much for taking this time.
Chris Hedges: Yeah. Thanks, Marc.
Marc Steiner: And I look forward to talking again.
Chris Hedges: Yeah, thanks.
Marc Steiner: And thank you all for joining us today, and I want to especially thank Chris Hedges for joining us here in studio in between his interviews and on his way to the airport. So, please keep following his work here on The Real News, The Chris Hedges Report.
And special thanks to Cameron Grandino and Adam Coley for giving the show on the air, Dave Hebden for editing, and the tireless Kayla Rivara, making it all work behind the scenes, and everyone here at The Real News for making this show possible.
Please let me know what you thought of what you heard today, what you’d like us to cover, your ideas. Just write to me at email@example.com and I will get right back to you. And we’ll be continuing our coverage of what’s happening in Palestine, Israel, so stay tuned for all that coming up. So for the crew here at The Real News, I’m Marc Steiner. Stay involved, keep listening, and take care.