Journalist Max Blumenthal discusses the situation in Jerusalem and the reconstruction plans for Gaza
ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.
Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem continue to suffer from police violence and increased security, including checkpoints, as tensions have escalated over settler expansion in the neighborhood of Silwan and Israel continues to impose restricted access for Muslims to the religious sites on the Temple Mount.
Last week, a Palestinian man drove his car into passengers getting off the light rail in East Jerusalem, killing a baby Israeli girl and a 22-year-old tourist from Ecuador. Days later, a 14-year-old Palestinian, who was a dual citizen in the United States, was shot dead by the IDF forces, who claimed the boy was about to toss a firebomb. The U.S. Department [of State] has called for an investigation.
Meanwhile, plans continue to move forward for the construction of about 1,000 new housing units in Jewish neighborhoods located in occupied East Jerusalem. And Defensive Minister Moshe Ya’alon also has issued a directive banning Palestinians from riding Israeli-run buses in the West Bank. Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem is describing the directive as a, quote, “thinly veiled pandering to the demand for racial segregation on buses.”
Joining us now to discuss this is Max Blumenthal. He’s an award-winning journalist and bestselling author. His latest book is Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. Thanks for joining us, Max.
MAX BLUMENTHAL, AUTHOR, GOLIATH: LIFE AND LOATHING IN GREATER ISRAEL: Great to be on with you.
WORONCZUK: So, Max, it’s worth recalling that the events that precipitated the Second Intifada was the visiting of former prime minister Ariel Sharon at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Do you think that Jerusalem is likely to see violence on that scale in the near future?
BLUMENTHAL: My friends who are there are telling me that an explosion could be likely, and we’ve been hearing about the possibility of a third intifada for years. This is the first time, based on my most recent trip and the time that I got to spend in Shuafat, which is really the epicenter of the mini-intifada that’s burning right now, that I really think that something like that could be on the horizon.
And the difference between today and the second intifada is that Israel’s put in a much more sophisticated and brutal matrix of control. The Separation Wall really prevents people from the West Bank from participating in any of the rebellion or protests in East Jerusalem and vice versa. And the Israeli police, which are basically an ancillary of the Israeli military, are able to contain protests and riots in East Jerusalem to one neighborhood.
But we’re seeing, I think, another difference, which points in the direction of a widespread revolt, is the composition of the Israeli government. I mean, what Netanyahu is doing, authorizing over 1,000 new settlement units yesterday, is really pandering to the right wing of his coalition, which is incipient and powerful. It’s also the right wing of his own party, which represents the future of the Likud Party.
And then, finally, what we’re seeing in Jerusalem is kind of just the continuation of the violence that raged all summer, beginning with the kidnapping of three Israeli teens that led straight to the revenge killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir of Shuafat. He was burned alive. And Shuafat has been on fire ever since then. And having spent time with the Abu Khdeir family, been in their house, and seen the police repression–you know, the Israeli police are doing everything they can to provoke and escalate the violence. I mean, they’ve kept this family and this neighborhood under siege. And Netanyahu is now proposing economic sanctions on the parents of stone throwers. And he said that we will win this war in Jerusalem, which is essentially a holy war being incited by the right wing of his coalition.
WORONCZUK: Well, and meanwhile, another member of his party, Likud Party, President Reuven Rivlin, has also made news in the Israeli press for pushing a pro-tolerance and different sort of coexistence policies. He recently made a remark that he said, where Israel is a sick society whose sickness must be treated. He also recently attended a memorial for victims of the 1956 massacre in Kafr Qasim, in which 49 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. What do you make of his remarks? Is more than just rhetoric? And does it represent any kind of real sort of political battle or split within Likud?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, the Israeli presidency is really a ceremonial position. It’s usually occupied by an elder statesman whose career in government is over. And Shimon Peres was the predecessor to Reuven Rivlin, and he was always portrayed as this dovish figure, even though he orchestrated the Qana massacre in Lebanon and many other violent assaults on Palestinians and people in South Lebanon.
And we’re seeing the same press for Reuven Rivlin, who is a member of the Likud Party. I think he’s a seventh- or eighth-generation Israeli or–yeah, seventh- or eighth-generation Israeli /sɑːbrə/, as it’s known. His father translated the Quran from Arabic into Hebrew. And so Rivlin does have a much more tolerant attitude towards the indigenous population of Palestine than the leader of the Labour Party or any of the centrist parties do. He’s someone who’s said he’d be willing to live alongside Palestinians in a one-state reality.
The problem with Rivlin is that his one-state reality is still an apartheid state where Jews enjoy superior rights to Palestinians. And he is a major supporter of the settlement enterprise. Whenever there is a casualty of a settler in Hebron, Rivlin is one of the first people to appear the funeral.
So, I mean, you have kind of a complicated figure at the top who’s really providing the window dressing to the Israeli occupation. He’s the last figure, probably the only figure in the Israeli government who openly condemns Jewish-Israeli racism, which is completely all-consuming at this point. But as I said, it’s window dressing. And until he supports equality for Palestinians, it can’t be seen as anything else.
WORONCZUK: Okay. And let’s turn our attention to Gaza. Recently, a conference for reconstruction concluded–I think it was on October 12–for about $5.4 billion. Five point four billion dollars was pledged. What do you make of the plans for reconstruction? Are there any real concrete terms coming out of this conference?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, I think what’s significant about the recent donor conference in Cairo on rebuilding Gaza and on the plans that we’ve seen introduced by the United Nations to rebuild Gaza is that it hints at what the international community, the so-called international community, wants to do after they–having conceded that there will be no two-state solution. I mean, what we’re seeing in Jerusalem is the complete–the aftermath of the collapse of the two-state solution and the collapse of the peace process, with Western powers, from Brussels to Westminster to Washington, refusing to do anything different.
What we’re seeing in Gaza is an attempt to kind of–to refine the siege of Gaza under an international order. And what the UN has basically proposed is a monitoring system for all concrete and rebuilding goods that enter the Gaza Strip, including monitoring with Israeli drones. The Palestinian authority supposedly gets to approve every house and structure that gets rebuilt, but the Palestinian Authority has to first report to the Israeli authorities. And so it’s basically Israel gets to make the final call on whose house and whose building gets to be rebuilt. And, of course, the international community foots the bill. So they’re playing janitor for the Israeli government and military that exacted about $8 billion of damage on the Gaza Strip.
Finally–and I wrote about this in AlterNet–John Kerry appeared at Cairo after this pathetic pledge of $200 million to the Gaza Strip after arming Israel, supplying them with all the munitions they dumped on Gaza. And Kerry touted this economic plan he had introduced, a $4 billion economic plan for revitalizing the Palestinian economy back in 2013. He provided no details. But a Palestinian businessman, /gleɪptə/, leaked some of those details to me or provided a paper produced by the McKinsey consulting firm in New York which outlined this Kerry plan, which was actually to have been overseen by Tony Blair, the head of the quartet, who’s also advising the coup regime of Egypt right now.
And the plan–these geniuses at McKinsey in New York found that Gaza’s tourism sector underperforms on key metrics. That was the exact language that McKinsey used, that this besieged coastal enclave, this walled-off ghetto underperforms on key tourism metrics. So they propose revitalizing the tourism sector of the Gaza Strip. And they propose creating sweatshops in Gaza to provide buttons and zippers for high-end Israeli fashion designers. That’s the economic plan for Gaza that Kerry was touting. There’s nothing in the plan about relieving the occupation or the siege of Gaza. There’s nothing in there. And there’s nothing in the United Nations plan for rebuilding Gaza about lifting the siege. If anything, it’s about transforming Gaza, as the Israeli journalist Dimi Reider said, from a Third World prison into a First World supermax prison. And that is really the plan after a two-state solution, unless there is some kind of intervention. And it means we’re heading for another round of violence in Gaza. And in the meantime, the mini intifada rages in Jerusalem.
WORONCZUK: So mostly a plan just to exploit the Gazans until it’s unlivable. It also it seems that part of the plan is to basically eliminate any kind of political power that Hamas might have Gaza.
BLUMENTHAL: Well, without any political will to sanction Israel, to punish Israel, and exact price tag on its siege and occupation, the international community has to play the role of refining Israel’s program or project of the domination and control of Palestinians and just make it more sophisticated and palatable to the outside world. That’s what they’re doing with the Gaza Strip. There’s really no–they’re not what I have seen from the E.U. and the U.S. is there’s no willingness to reckon with the fact that people in the Gaza Strip consider Hamas to be a legitimate representative of their will. So there’s no will to deal with Hamas. Hamas wasn’t even invited to the donor conference in Cairo. And meanwhile, Israel wasn’t even compelled to participate. They’re not being asked to rebuild the damage that they created. So what we’re seeing is political cowardice all around, and as usual, the casualties are the people of Gaza and people across Palestine.
WORONCZUK: Okay, Max Blumenthal, author of Goliath, thank you so much for joining us.
BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me.
WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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