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Lia Tarachansky, Middle East reporter for TRNN, answers questions put to her by viewers

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.

As you have been watching know, we are in the midst of our spring/summer fundraising campaign. A generous donor has contributed $50,000. So every dollar you donate by clicking somewhere over here or up there—depending where you’re watching this video—every dollar you donate will get matched until we’ve reached $100,000. This is a critical piece of fundraising time for us. We’re heading into the summer, which is our preparations and, really, beginning of our covering of the U.S. presidential elections. We’re going to be doing more coverage from the Middle East. And we are going to be setting up our new office buildings, the new American headquarters of The Real News in Baltimore, and we’re going to show you more of that sometime soon.

But, of course, if you’re watching The Real News, you know one of the more important fronts of work we work on is reporting from Israel-Palestine. And that’s Lia Tarachansky. And she now joins us from Tel Aviv. Hi, Lia.


JAY: So part of this fundraising campaign—and it’s something we’re going to do more of afterwards as well, which is we’re going to give you, viewers, a chance to ask some of our guests and some of our journalists questions directly through email and other ways. And so, with no further ado, we’re going to go to viewer questions.

So, Lia, so here’s the first question for you, although I have a sense a little bit what your answer’s going to be. But, anyway, Linda J. writes:

Are more Israelis joining the solidarity campaign with Palestinians? Also, is the fight against racism towards African immigrants growing? Is the fight against racism growing?

So what’s the mood?

TARACHANSKY: Well, actually, the story that I’m working on right now that will be published in the coming days is about how the social justice movement here in Israel that started last July 14 has been trying to avoid the occupation altogether, and as a result it actually radicalized and activated a lot of Israelis who don’t see any kind of end to social injustice without talking about the occupation. So, on the 45th anniversary of the occupation last Saturday, the number of people in the streets was about three times what it was as last year’s anniversary of the occupation. So that’s actually a very positive step in the direction of activating people to talk about the military control of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, as well as in Israel.

On the other hand, when we’re looking at the movement of Israelis in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank, with groups such as Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah and the Anarchists Against the Wall, the number of people there is actually not growing. And what those activists do is every week for years they travel to West Bank villages, 18 of which are holding weekly demonstrations, and they stand side by side with the Palestinians against the Israeli army forces. And, unfortunately, those people are the same they have been for years.

As for a movement against racism towards the African refugees, we’ve actually seen this issue explode in the Israeli press in the last month. And on this Sunday, on 17 June, 700 South Sudanese refugees are going to be deported back to South Sudan in the first wave of that deportation. And that was a direct result of a racist movement that started in Israel against the refugees that grows out of the poorest communities in the country, who saw an opportunity to voice their frustrations at the government’s misallocation of funds through politicizing the refugees. There’s about a population of about 60,000 people. As a result of this movement, it saw a lot of violence against refugees on a daily basis that escalated into a race riot. A very racist and violent protest of poor Israelis have marched through some of the poorest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, attacking anyone whose color was basically brown or black, and actually hitting a woman over the head with a bottle and forcing her to drop her baby—that kind of violence.

That has also saw a resistance, with Israeli activists coming out in solidarity with the refugees. And now we’re seeing people coming out in big numbers to walk refugee children home from schools so that they can get home safe, people who volunteer every day, twice a day, giving food to refugees in the park where many live because they’re homeless, and many other initiatives. And we’re actually seeing in the last few weeks a very interesting, positive initiative of poor community members from these three neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv meeting together with refugees to talk about mutual solutions to the problem of poverty and violence in these communities.

JAY: Now, the Peace Now protests of the past used to have, you know, considerable numbers, it waned for a time, and then I think within the last year there were sort of some signs of it coming back again. You know, in terms of a broader movement demanding a resolution, a fair, just resolution with the Palestinian—end to occupation, can you get any sense what percentage of Israeli society would sort of fall into that category of people who want that?

TARACHANSKY: Well, in an interview that you actually did two years ago with Michel Warschawski in Jerusalem, he documented how the Peace Now-inspired movement in Israel basically collapsed within one week in October 2000, when the Israeli prime minister at that time, Ehud Barak, declared that we have no partner, sort of smashing whatever hopes for peace were left over from the Oslo agreement.

Today, the Israeli public has been so depoliticized by the Second Intifada and by, you know, the Israeli press and the total lack of the occupation in our consciousness and in the Israeli discourse that there’s very little actual involvement of Israelis in any kind of ending or activism to end the occupation. And, actually, the Israeli broadcast agency recently did a survey, and they found that—they basically took 19 weeks of primetime news and documented how much of the primetime news you saw Palestinian or Arab people on TV, and they found that it was less than 0.2 percent of the time. So the Palestinian voice and the Arabic people are just absent from the Israeli discourse, let alone the activism and a movement towards the end of the occupation.

JAY: And what percentage of Israel are Palestinians with Israeli citizenship?

TARACHANSKY: Twenty-two percent.

JAY: So you have 22 percent of the population getting, what was it, less than 2 percent of some kind of [crosstalk]

TARACHANSKY: Less than 0.2 percent of primetime.

JAY: Point-two percent. Okay. We’ll move on to another viewer question. It’s a little bit of a switch of topic.

When and how would the world’s best-kept secret, that Israel has and is capable of using a nuclear weapon, see the light of day? Denying it makes the world’s attempt to stop Iran’s nuclear program disingenuous and hypocritical at best.

I mean, I guess—well, let me just ask you the question they ask, but also, I mean, do Israelis really consider that still a secret?


JAY: And is it a matter of any debate at all in Israel, that how can you—you know, how this sort of hypocrisy or double standard of demanding Iran can’t even enrich nuclear weapons, but it’s okay for his Israel to have nuclear weapons? I should say, Iran can’t even enrich uranium, while Israel can have nuclear weapons. Does anyone reflect on the double standard of that?

TARACHANSKY: It’s—I don’t think there’s a lot of debate in Israel over whether Israel has a large nuclear arsenal. I think that the question in the end of the day is whether Israel should maintain regional hegemony. And I think that without a doubt Israelis agree that, yes, it should. This is coupled with the fact that the Iranian regime is presented in Israel as irrational and anti-Semitic. And there’s a lot of fear that is constantly fed into the Israeli public about what will happen if Iran was to ever get any access to nuclear weapons. And I think that there’s no doubt in the Israeli mainstream that the first thing Iran would do is attack Israel.

Meanwhile, Iran has been denying that it’s been enriching uranium for weapons purposes, let alone that it would ever attack Israel. So in terms of geopolitical powers, the debate eventually distilled into does Israel have the right to maintain regional hegemony, both in terms of nuclear control and in terms of who it funds and who it sells weapons to. And I think that in Israel, the Israeli mainstream, there is without a doubt a sort of agreement with Israel’s hegemony in the region. Any strength that Iran gains as regional power is seen as a threat to that and a threat to American hegemony in the Middle East and Central Asia.

JAY: One of the reports you did, several of the former security analysts—and I shouldn’t say analysts—actual leaders of some of the security organizations, intelligence agencies in Israel, said quite straightforwardly that Iran is a rational actor, they will do what’s in their interest, and, you know, not to kind of get misled or give too much weight to some of the inflammatory rhetoric from Ahmadinejad. Does that penetrate the Israeli public opinion when—or does the media, you know, report on that? Does it get through to people?

TARACHANSKY: Yes, actually, every time that an Israeli security official—for example, the heads of the four main intelligence agencies—the external Mossad, the internal Shabak, and army intelligence, all of the four intelligence agencies, their leaders and predecessors have come out against an attack on Iran and against the presentation of the Iranian regime as rational, and all of that is reported in the Israeli press.

At the same time, these people are very viciously attacked by the regime, by the Israeli government for being traitors and for speaking up against the government. And I think that that discourse eventually drowns out the legitimacy of what they’re actually saying. For example, when Yuval Diskin, the former head of the Shabak, came out saying that Iran is a rational regime and that attacking Iran would only speed up its attempts to build a nuclear weapon, he was attacked as a traitor and disloyal. And the attacks on him were so loud that it completely drowned out what he was actually saying. Interestingly, in the same time that he said that, in the same speech, he also spoke about the Israeli occupation and how Israel for its own benefit must end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and that was almost completely ignored by the media.

JAY: Okay. We’re going to continue asking Lia viewer questions in following segments of this series of interviews with her. So please keep looking for the next piece of this.

But don’t forget this is part of our fundraising campaign, the spring/summer matching grant campaign, $50,000 grant we can take advantage of if you donate now. So we need you to click that so we can do this.

Thanks for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Lia Tarachansky is a journalist and filmmaker at Naretiv Productions. She is a former Israel/Palestine correspondent for The Real News Network, where she produced short, documentary-style reports exploring the context behind the news. She has directed several documentaries that tackle different aspects of social justice struggles in Israel/Palestine.