Is Israeli Public Opinion Turning after 700 Palestinian Deaths?
Israel-based TRNN correspondent Lia Tarachansky reports on the mood in Israel in the wake of a rising Palestinian death toll
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
We are bringing you a special report from Tel Aviv from our Middle East correspondent Lia Tarachansky.
Lia, you’re there on the ground. How are things looking in terms of the public opinion in Israel now that we’re seeing that 700 Palestinians have been killed thus far in the Israeli assault?
LIA TARACHANSKY, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Yes. Thanks so much for having me, Jessica.
I’ve been running between Israel and the West Bank in last few weeks, and what we’re seeing here is a rising movement of dissent among Palestinians (which is very common during Israel’s aggressions) against the war. And these protest movements, we’ve seen on Saturday tens of thousands on the streets of Nazareth in northern Israel, and for three straight weeks, almost every day, protests all over the West Bank, and huge protests tonight as we’re sitting here talking, all over the West Bank, which are antiwar protests that are being repressed by the Palestinian Authority. Two days ago, the Palestinian Authority opened live fire on antiwar protesters in Nablus, seeing once again that it’s another tool of the Israeli occupation.
Here inside Israel, there’s been also a growing antiwar movement amongst Israeli Jews, but, I mean, these are–relatively, these are almost marginal numbers. The first protests, there was 500 people, the next protest 1,000 people. On Saturday there’s going to be a big protest, with 2,500 people, at least, attending. And so, every Saturday night it’s been growing a little bit.
But [what] we’ve also seen is, since the finding of the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers, there’s been just a rampant and uncontrollable wave of neofascism on the streets here. There’ve been groups mobilizing all around the country that have been attacking on the streets people who speak Arabic. They’ve been attacking all the antiwar protests, trying to pick off activists one by one and beat them. Recently, the police decided to do its job and separate them from the antiwar protests, but what they do more often than not is that when the neofascists attack the antiwar protesters, they separate the two groups and then kick the antiwar demonstration out of the streets, so, again, helping in stopping dissent.
And tomorrow there’s going to be a big demonstration in Jaffa, and on Saturday another big demonstration in Tel Aviv. So we’re seeing a lot of these protests happening despite the almost total support of Israeli society for the war and the often gross–the precipitation of that support in the form of groups yelling “death to all Arabs”, “kill all the Arabs”. We’ve seen groups of neofascists running around mixed cities in Haifa and Jaffa and Nazareth, saying “turn Gaza into a cemetery”, “turn Gaza into a parking lot”, “expel all the Arabs”, “Muhammad is dead”, as we reported here on The Real News.
DESVARIEUX: But, Lia, I mean, for these supporters, they must ask themself, where is this all going to head? Because you folks in Gaza saying that–they want this to end, they want the blockade to end. What’s your take?
TARACHANSKY: Well, I have to remind our viewers a little bit of the timeline of this escalation, this little war. Israel has been bombing the Gaza Strip throughout its entire operation “bring back our boys” in the West Bank. So while they were looking for those who kidnapped these three teenagers in the West Bank, they began bombing Gaza intensely for two weeks, long before the war ever started.
By the time Hamas actually decided to respond, two weeks had passed. At that point, when Hamas responded, Israel declared it an official war, an official operation, and demonstrated to the whole planet that its citizens are under rocket attacks. So far, these rockets have killed two people, because Israel has a very good defense system. We have bomb shelters everywhere and sirens go off whenever rockets are being launched into city centers. There’s the questionable efficacy of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. But in any case, we have a way to defend ourselves. And you have to remember that most of these rockets are homemade. They don’t cause a lot of damage unless they land in, for example, as they did two weeks ago, in a gas station.
Having said all that, on the second day of the war, the Hamas Party offered Israel a ceasefire on the second day. They said, what they want is the end of the siege and the end of Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip. And they included a third term, which they were asking for, which–that is Israel release the prisoners that were released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal, but were real rearrested in recent weeks. So Israel took advantage of the fact that nobody was paying attention and rearrested a lot of the political prisoners that it so publicly released the year before. So the Hamas Party was asking for those prisoners to be set free. And on the second day, when the Hamas Party offered that ceasefire, Israel said no. And for the next six days, the government again and again and again published, both directly and through the top security journalists in the country, that they are not interested in any kind of ceasefire until they bring Hamas to its knees.
On the eighth day of fighting, after more than 200 people have already died, the Israeli government, along with the Egyptian government, which are both governments very hostile to the Hamas Party and two governments that are holding the entrances and exits of the Gaza Strip closed despite the growing humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip as more and more people are getting injured, they negotiated together a proposal, which was given to the Hamas party only minutes before the ceasefire was to go into effect. Hamas’s main political rival, the Islamic Jihad, immediately said no, and then inside the Hamas Party, half the party said yes, the other half of the party said no. And because the ceasefire proposal included no terms whatsoever except for the end of firing, the Hamas Party eventually said no.
The other thing they would take into consideration is the fact that the day the war ends, the world will stop paying attention to the Gaza Strip, and the siege, unless it is part of the ceasefire agreement, will continue as it has for the past eight years. Knowing that, they knew that the only thing they would get out of this war is that a lot of citizens have died, a lot of people have died, a lot of homes have been destroyed, thousands of people are injured, and nothing has changed. So they decided to keep fighting until something changes. So since then, until today, and time and time again, despite the Israeli government pushing through the world press that Hamas is not interested in a ceasefire, the Hamas Party again and again proposed a ceasefire based on one basic term: end the siege on the Gaza Strip. A blockade, by many international experts, is completely illegal. Israel, of course, is not interested in this term and has continued to fight.
What is going to happen from now is uncertain, because every day more and more soldiers are getting killed. Usually in these operations, when soldiers begin to die, public opinion changes and people don’t want the war to continue. This time around what we’re seeing is more and more soldiers are dying, but more and more rage is growing against the Hamas Party and more and more are we seeing support in the Israeli public for the brutal assault on the Gaza Strip. And the range of public discourse, as I’m going to show in the story that’s going to come out next week, the range in public discourse in the news and in the public sphere is almost unilaterally in support of the government. There is almost no debate about the legality or the morality of this operation.
DESVARIEUX: Yeah. Lia, I look forward to seeing that report. And thank you for this report. We greatly appreciate your work there.
TARACHANSKY: Thank you so much for having me, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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