TRNN’s Lia Tarachansky reports from Jerusalem on how the Israeli army opened fire on West Bank protests against the war
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
We’re now bringing you a special report from our Middle East correspondent Lia Tarachansky.
Lia, you’re currently in Jerusalem. Thank you so much for joining us.
LIA TARACHANSKY: Thanks for having me, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So, Lia, you’re on your phone. You’re on the ground they are reporting. The AP actually just broke this news that the Israeli defense minister has told troops that Israel might significantly increase their ground operation in Gaza. Give us a sense of what’s going on there in the West Bank.
TARACHANSKY: Yeah. Just before that, I just want to say that earlier this morning the Israeli cabinet met to discuss whether or not to accept the ceasefire proposal that Hamas has been putting on the table since the second day of the war. Now, the mood in the streets here in Israel is that if a ceasefire was to be accepted, Israel would have gained nothing from this operation. The general public and the news anchors are all united in saying that we must continue this operation until, quote, all the tunnels are destroyed and Hamas gets a strong hit. Now, what this means is that the government is basically pulling the Israeli public through a campaign of hope that if the Israeli army continues to destroy tunnels that it’s finding between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli border, that somehow Hamas is going to suffer such a blow that it’s going to collapse. And now, today, we’re hearing, since the cabinet decided not to accept that ceasefire, that more and more anchors are dropping on board saying that what we need to do is somehow bring Abbas and the Palestinian Authority into control in the Gaza Strip. So Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is currently facing a lot of pressure from inside his own party and inside of the parliament, which is almost unanimous in saying against the ceasefire, simply saying that this operation must continue until there is some kind of clear win for Israel.
DESVARIEUX: And, Lia, there were some mass demonstrations last night. You were actually present there in the West Bank. Tell us what exactly happened.
TARACHANSKY: I wasn’t present there, but we have a network of freelancers who were present. There were protests all over the West Bank, huge protests that we haven’t seen here since the Second Intifada. We’ve seen tens of thousands of people at Kalandia checkpoint, which separates Ramallah from Jerusalem, and you have footage of that and photographs. There’s been big protests in Nablus, in /tsʌmˈkarəm/, and in Bethlehem. Today, members of Hamas and some senior members of the PA have been going on Palestinian media and calling for a third intifada.
DESVARIEUX: The third intifada. And how have people been responding there on the ground to that?
TARACHANSKY: So there’s been a lot of talk that after the evening prayers, at around 10 p.m., protests will sparked all of the West Bank. In response to that, the DCL, the district commander of the West Bank, shut down most of the northern West Bank. Qalqilya, which has a big protest right now, is shut down. All the villages around it, such as /azuːn/ and /dʒajuz/ shut down. Basically, no access is possible at this point even to Kalandia, which is a very big checkpoint that separates Ramallah from Jerusalem. Here, at Damascus Gate, as you can see behind me, there is usually protest. Whenever there are protests at Kalandia, it’s a place of frequent clashes. Right now it’s totally quiet. As you can see over here, people are just sitting at coffee shops everywhere, watching live footage from the Gaza Strip updates all the time of civilians getting hit with Israeli bombardment. So we don’t know whether the call for a third intifada is going to be answered by the streets, partially because of the total shutdown of the northern West Bank by the Israeli army, and partially because Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the PA, has been strongly urging people to be patient and is trying to get involved by flying to Turkey, to Qatar, to Egypt, and on Thursday to Jordan to get himself involved in ceasefire negotiations, trying to get himself into the political–into the rooms where the political decisions are being made.
DESVARIEUX: Lia, let’s pivot a little bit. We want to talk about a panel that took place on Channel 2 on the evening news in Israel. This is Israel’s most-watched news station. Let’s take a look at the clip.
UNIDENTIFIED: Where should the cabinet go from here?
UNIDENTIFIED: First of all, we have to remember that a ceasefire would be like injecting ourselves with morphine. It leads to temporary calm, temporary relief, but when it wears off, we’ll be back to where we started. Look, what’s happening in the past two days, it’s not just the extremely violent [protests] and it’s not just about the 27th day of Ramadan, the day they believe the Quran descended from above. No, here we’re talking about a process that was inspired by the very combative things Mahmoud Abbas said [on Tuesday]. By the way, it’s Abbas’ government that initiated the call to investigate war crimes perpetrated by Israel, [in the UN].
UNIDENTIFIED: All I’ll say to you about Abbas is like the biblical prophecy the generation reflects the face of the dog. Abbas spells the street. He sees he won’t get much from the Israelis and Americans and he makes his decisions accordingly.
UNIDENTIFIED: Look, I propose we do don’t ignore that hundreds of Palestinians died. In Gaza it’s getting close to a thousand. Some of them are not even involved [in fighting], women and children. And when you have so many casualties, there’s not much else Abbas can say. I propose we don’t pay attention to what he says but what he does. As the head of army intelligence, I learned the louder they are, the more they are under pressure.
DESVARIEUX: So, Lia, what you make of these expert opinions?
TARACHANSKY: Well, like all the senior security journalists in the country, they’re more or less echoing what the government has been pushing through various press releases and what the Israeli army has been pushing through. A couple of interesting points, though. We see here that the government and senior security personnel, the former head of the Israeli Army intelligence agency, they’re trying to make it seem like Palestinians just for no reason whatsoever or for religious reasons are rising up and creating violent protests for Israel for no reason. Of course, they’re not connecting the fact that these are protests in solidarity with the Gaza Strip, that these protests have been going on since the occupation started for political reasons. So that’s a very, very important point that is completely missing. Another very horrible thing that the press has been doing here is that it completely ignores the human price of this war. What we’ve seen over and over again is that the press either doesn’t report at all on the casualty rate in the Gaza Strip or reports on it on the back pages of newspapers. The only journalist in the country that actually talks about the human impact of this war is Amira Haas, who’s an Israeli journalist who’s based in Ramallah. And as you saw in the panel, one of the former head of the Israeli Army intelligence says the number of casualties right now is almost a thousand and we have to remember that some of these people are not actually involved in the fighting, when according to the UN, almost 80 percent of the casualties are civilians who are completely not connected to any kind of resistance. And this is a context that is completely lacking from the news. The news reports day in and day out where sirens are heard, where rockets from Gaza are falling, which tunnels the Israeli army is taking apart. And this is what the Israeli public is hearing, and this is where their attention is aimed. So the fact that sewage pipelines were bombed and the sewage has been mixed with the water, making 1.2 million Gazans unable to reach clean water, the fact that everyone who lived west of /səˈlahadin/ Street in the Gaza Strip was forced to move west, further increasing the density of population, and, of course, the casualty rate, as Israel continues to bomb the Gaza Strip, none of this context is visible in the Israeli press. The Israeli press is completely ignoring this. And this is one of the main reasons why there is such unilateral support also in the street, in the press, and in the government for this war.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Lia Tarachansky, joining us from Jerusalem.
Thank you for that report.
TARACHANSKY: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.