As of Oct 31, more than 8,000 people in Gaza have been slaughtered by Israeli bombs, including over 3,000 children. TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez joins The Marc Steiner Show for a discussion on Marc’s long journey over 50 years as an advocate for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and what’s needed now to stop the killing.
Studio Production: Adam Coley, David Hebden
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.
The war between Israel and Palestinians has my head and heart churning all the time; every day, every night. As of this broadcast, 3,257 children have been killed. And that’s not according to Gazans, that’s according to Save the Children. 29 were killed in Israel, another 33 children were killed in the West Bank, and the rest of those numbers are in Gaza itself, respectively. The annual death toll for children in the midst of war worldwide in 2022 was 3,000, and the actual figure in Gaza is probably much higher. There are now over 1,000 children missing amidst the rubble, beneath the homes, destroyed by bombs. There’s so much more to say but I’m going to leave it there for this moment.
I want to welcome you all to The Real News again today. Today, though, I’m the one being interviewed and having a conversation with my dear friend and editor-in-chief here at The Real News, Max Alvarez.
Maximillian Alvarez: Marc, thank you so much for doing this, man. I really, really appreciate it. And I wanted to say for the record, for all of us here at The Real News, it’s been really incredible to watch you work these past few weeks covering this crisis with a depth and humanity that is often lacking in so much of our discourse, let alone our media coverage. Even though we are in the midst of truly horrific times, it’s made me really proud to be your colleague once again. I know that our audience, your audience, is looking to you right now for wisdom, perspective, and for guidance. We are all trying to figure out what we can do to stop this slaughter.
As you so eloquently put it in a recent newsletter that you wrote for our Real News subscribers, I don’t want any of these people to die. I want the death to stop. It’s clear that death will not stop as long as the occupation continues. That is what we have to remain steadfast in, that understanding. But we’re also trying to move forward, trying to push for a ceasefire, trying to end Israel’s 75-year occupation of Palestine, the permanent apartheid system, all of that, and the US’ endless military aid to Israel and endless support of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
But we are also trying to navigate all of that at a moment of deep McCarthyite censorship, political pressures, people getting fired from their jobs for speaking out, losing their ability to pay for their rent, to afford to put food on the table for their kids. YouTube channels and TikTok channels disappeared left and right. There’s a real worldwide struggle happening right now and a lot of folks are trying to keep hold of that principled commitment: fighting for human life, fighting to end the violence of occupation, and stopping the death drive of endless war. But it can be so easy to get bullied into silence or pulled into partisan discussions that make us lose sight of the human stakes. And that is not what you’ve been doing.
We have been working together along with our great team here at The Real News to cover what is happening in Israel, Palestine, and the occupied territories, as much as we can. You’ve been interviewing folks on your show, Israelis and people in Israel, Israeli dissidents in the diaspora, and you spoke with Yumna Patel of Mondoweiss in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 Hamas-led attacks. She gave a report on the carnage that she and her colleagues were seeing happening in Gaza and beyond. This is all a long preamble to say that I’ve learned a lot watching and listening to your coverage in recent weeks, Chris Hedges’ coverage, and my own coverage. But I’ve also learned a lot watching and listening to your coverage over the years on this issue and I found myself, over the past few weeks, wanting to hear what you think and really seeking your guidance as well. I wanted to start this first by thanking you for letting me once again hop on your show, commandeer your show, and interview you.
Marc Steiner: You are the editor-in-chief after all.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. It’s still your show but I love getting to have these conversations with you. I know that in pretty much every single interview that you’ve recorded since October 7, you have asked your guests a version of the same question which is, does this moment that we’re in feel different to you from anything that has come before in the 75-year occupation? I wanted to ask you that question. Where are you right now? And what feels different about this moment? As someone who, as you’ve talked about on the show, you’ve made your own journey on the issue of Israel, you have been fighting for peace between Palestinians and Israelis for decades. So I wanted to ask the big question: how are you doing at this moment? Where are you in terms of understanding where we are and what feels different about this time?
Marc Steiner: It is a very different time on all levels. But the ferocity of the counterattack by Israel after the Hamas attack on Israeli settlements and kibbutzim and towns by the Gaza border, the response is out of proportion. I’m about to make an analogy I hate doing because one of the things that really upset me with anybody else – And we get into this and I get into it – Is when people call the Israelis Nazis. I don’t do that. I won’t do that. It’s not the same but that doesn’t mean it’s not horrendous, not despicable, not wrong, not murder of innocence.
But when I see the devastation that’s taking place in Gaza, my heart sinks. For me personally, emotionally I say what’s become of us? How did we do this? How can we do this? After 1,000 years or more of absolute oppression, people trying to wipe us off the face of the earth, us being Jews, wipe us off the face of the earth, pogroms, and holocausts across time, and we’re going to do this? It destroys me inside to watch it happen. I know also that politically, this is a very different moment. You could have the camouflage for a while because so many of the Israeli governments in the past have been labor governments and have been allegedly left governments. There’s no mistaking who’s in power now. People like Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are literally talking about moving people out and mowing down Palestinians.
Maximillian Alvarez: We’re talking about eliminating people.
Marc Steiner: Yes.
Maximillian Alvarez: We’re talking about genocide.
Marc Steiner: That rhetoric from the very far right, which is to seize power in Israel, is frightening. It is a bit about digression but I’ve been covering the rise of the right here for The Real News for a while now. And what I’ve realized is that the rise of the right is worldwide and it manifests itself in different ways, and in Israel, it’s taking place.
Maximillian Alvarez: Let me ask you about that because I’ve been thinking about that a lot myself. One thing I really want to impress upon anyone who’s watching – Wherever you are politically on this issue, or morally on this issue – Because it’s all happening so fast. What is both simultaneously exhilarating as much as it is horrifying, is that from my perspective, here in the US in the Heart of Empire, as someone who grew up with the propaganda that is across all mainstream corporate media outlets, depicting the Israeli-Palestine conflict in such one-sided terms for so long, something is breaking. Not everywhere.
CNN’s coverage has been absolute dog shit and it’s been the same as it always is but it’s not uniform. I saw recently on PBS an interview with a scholar of Hamas on the history of Hamas that was 40 minutes and gave more historical context and perspective than 30 years worth of anything I had ever watched on TV in this country. So that’s making for a lot of whiplash for Americans who have been lulled into complacency, your average American. I don’t want to give anyone the excuse of not knowing about what has happened for 75 years in Israel-Palestine, but we all have our own journey. And again, a lot of us have only ever gotten one side of it and have moved on, if we continue to care about it at all.
What I’m getting at is that I’ve heard from a lot of folks, including folks who watch The Real News or have come to The Real News in recent weeks, that I had no idea that it was this bad. I had no idea about the violence of the occupation and now I’m seeing all of it up front. And I think that that is playing a huge role in the mass amounts of protests that we’re seeing calls for a ceasefire, calls to end the occupation. Like I said, there’s that struggle between the Orwellian iron dome of propaganda depicting this from only one side. Social media, independent media, people talking to their neighbors, and now even certain segments of corporate media and public mainstream media are breaking that trend.
The point that I’m getting to is that people are learning this background. They’re getting a lot of background in a relatively short amount of time and it can really make your head spin. But you, as you said, you’ve been covering on your show here at The Real News for years now, two twin ongoing series: one on the rise of the right, both here in the US and globally, and one called Not In Our Name, which is a series you’ve been doing since I started here basically, bringing together a plethora of Jewish voices in and outside of Israel speaking out against the occupation. It feels like there’s so much in what you’ve published on those series that is really essential for us to understand where we are right now. So I wanted to ask you about that. Taking two plus years of recording Not In Our Name before we entered this new phase and also covering the rise of the right. The last interview that you did about Israel for The Rise of the Right was about Netanyahu’s government in the context of rising global fascism.
This is my long-winded way of getting to the question. For people who are feeling whiplash and who maybe are buying into the one-sided propaganda and want to support military aid to Israel and so on and so forth, we should remember that before October 7 we were literally talking about Netanyahu’s government in the context of rising global fascism. We are supporting billions and billions of dollars more directed straight into a fascist government with high-ranking cabinet members who are speaking in genocidal terms. So I wanted to really stress to people watching and listening that you can and should have sympathy for your fellow working people across the globe, your fellow average citizens, many of whom were protesting Netanyahu’s government weeks ago. You can do that without supporting this increasingly fascistic government.
I wanted to ask you what the two years of doing these series, The Rise of the Right and Not In Our Name – To try to condense the perspective that you’ve gained from doing those series – Can help us understand what we’re facing now in Israel?
Marc Steiner: Let me take a step back first. Before I came here, The Marc Steiner Show was on public radio, and I did a series for years called Voices of the Holy Land, interviewing people in Israel and Palestine from all sides. And I continually had this dialogue going on in my studio with two Jews and two Palestinians talking about where we are. They represented, one was right-wing and settler, one was more of a liberal Zionist, and Palestinian business people who I knew who were politically active. I was looking at these notes and some of the things – I save everything, unfortunately – To see the arc of these conversations. Where we are now is not just a dangerous place for Palestinians and Israelis and for the entire region, but the entire world; this could explode. This is acutely different. The amount of bombs that have been dropped on Gaza, a little teeny place, is more than all the bombs in one year last year dropped anywhere in the world.
So, this is a fundamentally different time. And something shifted in Israel. It was a combination of the political sickness that the occupiers develop when they take over a place, over the last 75 years. And the fact that many people on the left in Israel have gone, have left. They’re in Europe. They’re in Germany. They’re in France. They’re in Britain. They’re in the US. They’re gone. They’re in Vietnam. They’re gone. When I went to do my documentary in Vietnam 20 years ago, I met more Israelis in Hanoi than I did in Baltimore. They were everywhere. And so the vacuum has been filled by the far right. And also this occupation breeds a level of superiority in people’s consciousness that makes it even worse. If I sound like I’m stuttering a little it’s because there’s so much flowing through my head at the moment. This thing has really grabbed me more than any other war I’ve experienced since 1956, as a little boy.
Maximillian Alvarez: Well, can you talk to me a little bit about that journey? Because you’ve mentioned this on the show before, but I want for people watching and listening to this, to refresh their memories on how you have your own personal relationship with the question of Israel and how that journey has evolved over the course of your life.
Marc Steiner: Let me start this way — My father’s Jewish. My mother converted to Judaism. She was an English Baptist who drove an ambulance during World War II. Caught my dad’s fancy and I could always understand why. They got married and she became a Jew in part so we could be born Jewish. We came from a really pro-Zionist home and my grandparents immigrated from Poland. And I may have said this on the air before, if I have you can stop me, but I grew up with a legacy. I grew up with a legacy of what happened to my grandmother. My bubbeh, is Yiddish for grandmother. And the story we always knew is that when she was 12 and the Cossacks attacked her village, she was running down the street holding her baby sister’s hand, who was 6 years old. The Cossacks lopped off her little sister’s head as she was running to try to get home. So my sweet little grandmother, gentle creature, this is her legacy. I grew up with people in my home with numbers on their arms. I knew from a little boy what that meant. I’d seen the pictures. I knew their stories. I knew who they were. I knew that my cousin Raho, who is the godmother of our Israeli family, fled east and went down through Russia, through Turkey, and walked away into Palestine in 1910 or something. And so my family from Israel is descended from that.
The other part of my family came to Israel in the ’40s and ’50s from Uruguay, especially Uruguay. Part of our family ended up in Montevideo. And my cousin David was the first violinist in the symphony in Jerusalem. But where the family lived were the kibbutzim that were attacked, Mefalsim, which was the main kibbutzim where South American Jews went. And so we still don’t know who’s dead and alive and there’s still somebody saying that some of our relatives are captured. I still don’t know if that’s real or not. And these kibbutzim that were attacked, as I said over and over again, I’ll say it again anyway, those kibbutzim were filled up with people like you and me and people here at The Real News. These were left-wing Israelis who said no to the occupation. They’re the ones who were attacked. They’re the ones who were killed.
And the retaliation meant that friends of mine who are Palestinian have lost a lot of family and friends. And they’re my friends and they’re my family. So this is fundamentally different because this is either going to lead to an amazing peace process, but more than likely, it’s going to lead to something a lot worse. Which is pushing Palestinians out of Gaza. There was a report before we came in this morning by an intelligence committee in Israel that was in +972, was an AP, and a couple of other places. And when I saw it on +972 – Which is a left-wing, Israeli online journal who’s been on our airwaves before – There is a report where they have a study, not saying this is what they’re going to do, but there was a study discovered to push all the Gazans into the Sinai.
Maximillian Alvarez: That’s what it looks like to me. The Israeli military is leveling Gaza. They are bombing the ever-loving shit out of it. They’re telling people to evacuate to the south and then they get hit with bombs. They’re telling people to exit through the border in Egypt and then that gets bombed. It seems to all watching from afar that the plan is to use this as… I’m not going to use the loaded term “final solution” but it is the evolution of the containment of 2.2 million people in the Gaza Strip for the past two decades. It is an evolution into eliminating them either by force or pushing them out.
Marc Steiner: 1.2 million Gazans have been pushed so far out of their homes, destroyed, and pushed further into Gaza, closer to the Egyptian border, closer to the northern eastern tip of Sinai. At the same time inside of Israel, descent is being crushed. They kicked out the leading communist party Hadash member out of the Knesset for opposing and asking questions about the war. They threw him out of the Knesset, this Israeli democracy. Everybody says he’s one of the great democracies on Planet Earth if you’re one of us. And this could be the death of the limited democracy because it doesn’t include Palestinians in Israel and this could be the death now of life in Gaza.
Maximillian Alvarez: For Palestinians at least.
Marc Steiner: Yes, for Palestinians.
Maximillian Alvarez: I want to return to a phrase that you mentioned about the political sickness that develops in the mind of a settler. But before we get to that, I wanted to close the loop on the question about your journey on this issue.
Marc Steiner: I didn’t even get to that. I’m sorry. Sorry.
Maximillian Alvarez: No. You’re doing great. There’s so much going on and I’ve seen how much this is wearing on you. And amidst all of that, you’re still out there speaking out forcefully. You’re doing great work here. We all care about you, man, and we are really worried about you and our friends and family across the board, people of Palestinian descent, and Jewish folks that we know. We know that this is a horrifying moment for everybody.
But I wanted to ask from that point in your home, knowing the stories of the Holocaust, having family members sit on your couch at home with numbers on their arms, having that deep family history. I wanted to ask, how did you go from that understanding of what Israel meant to you and other Jews in your family to write those lines that you did for The Real News that you don’t want any of these people to die, Israelis or Palestinians, you want the death to stop, and it’s clear it will not stop so long as the occupation continues?
Marc Steiner: So the turning point was 1967 and the War of ’67. Which is when all these Arab armies attacked Israel and Israel pushed them back and ended up seizing the West Bank in Gaza and the Golan Heights. When that war started, I was working for the Washington Free Press. I was a student at the Institute for Policy Studies. I was organizing anti-Vietnam War stuff on campuses around the country. And that’s what I was doing at the moment. We used to sit on the steps of the Washington Free Press and listen to the war and cheer every time Israel did something, won. I even went down to the Israeli embassy to see if I could volunteer to go fight in Israel in 1967. This is coming from somebody who was opposing the war and almost went to jail for not going to Vietnam. I was about to send my butt off to Israel to fight.
Then after the war, I started meeting a lot of left-wing Israelis, Zionists, and non-Zionists, both, left-wing Israelis. I started meeting a lot of Palestinians and things began to shift. And then when I saw that where Israel could have initiated with the Palestinians at that moment the Palestinians wanted it, could have created a binational solution as they could have in ’48 but chose not to, and they didn’t do it. Things began to really shift and it was a slow turn for me. But that turn, especially when the settlements began, brought me to a point of being an anti-Zionist, which I remained for a long time, and very active in debates and movements all across.
But then I became what I consider now to be a non-Zionist. What the fuck is that?
Maximillian Alvarez: Took the question right out of my mouth.
Marc Steiner: It’s because of several things. One of the things that’s important to me at the moment is organizing inside of the community I was born into. Change people’s hearts and minds saying, we have to do something different. We cannot allow ourselves to become this. And to be an anti-Zionist, A, is antithetical to opening people’s minds, and making them listen. B, my own view of Zionist history is probably different than some other people on the left. Zionism, like Black nationalism in this country, was born out of oppression, was born out of we got to get out of here. Born out of these people don’t want us, they hate us, they want to kill us, we’ve got to do something.
And then Zionism had this one front around Theodor Herzl and those people that really were capitalist and centrist, and then there was another side that was the Hashomer Hatzair and all the left-wing Marxist Zionists. Now it sounds like a contradiction but that was a huge movement. And so the non-Zionist for me is because it has very complex roots. And I will argue with people to say Zionism is racism. I would argue some Zionism is racism. And what’s happening in Israel now is racist without question. And that’s who’s taken over. And sometimes nationalism is an outgrowth of oppression, and that’s where the roots are. That’s why I call myself a non-Zionist because I want to move this needle with other people who believe the same way.
Maximillian Alvarez: I want to pick up on that and again, ask for your help for all of us who are trying to navigate this. A lot of people are coming from a good place but there are so many contradictions that we need to address head-on here. I’m going to start with one that you mentioned about the kibbutzim on the Gaza border that were attacked on October 7. And current figures are between 1300-1400 Israelis slaughtered –
Marc Steiner: Yep.
Maximillian Alvarez: – And hostages taken. Within Israel, it is being compared to 9/11 here in the US as a national tragedy, a point-turning tragedy. These were civilians. And any attack on civilians, like the attacks that have reigned down upon Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for years, is wrong. We should be able to acknowledge that. And I believe you. And I’ve read a lot of the stories about the folks who were slaughtered in the middle of the night on October 7 and my heart has broken for them too. Like you, I don’t want to see any of these people die. What is leading a lot of people, including those on the left here in the US and in the English-speaking West, people don’t know how to handle what happened on October 7. They don’t know whether to cheer it on as a righteous retribution for 75 years of violent occupation. They don’t know whether to mention it and then quickly mention the disparity between civilian lives lost in Israel compared to Palestine. That leads some people to avoid it or not mention it or qualify it.
I want us to tackle this head-on because you have a situation like you described: a concert could be had where people are having fun. People who are young, middle-aged, people who have lived full lives, people who are falling in love, falling out of love, people who are pregnant, people who want to have kids, people who are going on with their daily lives – I even found a quote that I want to read in a sec–- But regular people living their lives literally yards away from an open-air prison. That therein lies the contradiction for people who were trying to understand how to feel about this. Because how can you carry on your life and how is it possible to hold those two things together? That people can be regular innocent civilians, not necessarily Netanyahu or Ben-Gvir but people like you and me, but they’re literally living yards away from an open-air prison and have been for a while?
I wanted to read this quote from an October 12 Reuters report that really stuck with me where Maayan Lubell and Emily Rose write, “Kfar Aza, just 3 km from the Gaza Strip, was among the communities hit hardest by the Hamas assault on southern Israel, which Israeli officials say has killed at least 1,000 people,” – Again, this was published on October 12 – “Mostly civilians gunned down in their homes, on the streets, or at a dance festival. Kfar Aza attack survivor, Avidor Schwartzman said he hid with his wife and one-year-old daughter in the safe room of their house for more than 20 hours before being rescued by Israeli soldiers and emerging to confront a scene of ‘pure hell’. ‘There were bodies everywhere. Dead bodies everywhere,’ the 38-year-old said. ‘We saw our little piece of paradise, our little piece of heaven, was totally burnt – Burnt and with blood everywhere.'”
I’ve been thinking about that quote for two weeks straight. I’ll be honest, the kibbutzim there looks like Southern California. They look like the neighborhoods that I grew up around and the people there look like people I grew up around. And I believe them when they say that this was our slice of paradise. And I believe it when they say that they want to live their lives. But again, that is all happening mere yards, if not kilometers away from the greatest humanitarian disaster that we’ve seen in our lifetimes. And therein lies the contradiction that we here in the US are well practiced in.
I mentioned that Israel is comparing this to 9/11, and I want people watching this to think about what that means for people in Israel for a moment. Because when we talk about the attacks on 9/11, we’ve spent 20 years in this country learning the names and lives of everyone who died on that day. We know that they were people going to work. They were spouses. They were husbands. They were brothers. They were wives. They were former football players. They were human beings with lives as mundane and normal and innocent in the general sense that we’ve all come to acknowledge in this country. That’s what Israelis are going through right now in their grieving process. They’re looking at people that they see as regular normal human beings who didn’t deserve this, who aren’t fighting in the military.
Some military personnel died, of course, but a lot of them were not. But again, the contradiction of 9/11 is that you could have regular working people who are not in and of themselves directly responsible for the horrors that the US has wrought upon the world, and yet we are all living on land that was stolen from Indigenous Americans whom we genocided to get rid of. In a country that was built upon the enslavement of other people. At a time when the US is waging war across the world, overthrowing democratically elected governments, and strangling democratic popular movements so these two things can exist at once.
I wanted to ask you how we navigate that in terms of talking about the tragedy of the civilian deaths on October 7. Not minimizing that, understanding from a human place, why so many people are heartbroken about that, while basically asking people to like, yeah, that’s good. Now care about everyone in that situation. Care as much as you do about the Israelis. I’m not telling you not to care about those lost lives but care as much about the Palestinians, care as much about Ukrainians, Russians; people who we don’t want to die.
Marc Steiner: One of the things I’ve been doing is when people post the pictures of these Israeli children who were killed in these early attacks by Hamas – I despise Hamas as much as I despise the Israeli government. I’ve been as clear about that as they go. I don’t like either one of them – I say to people, we have to look at those kids’ faces and mourn them. At the same time, don’t show those faces unless you show this much larger photograph of all these Palestinian children who’ve been killed under Israeli bombs. Babies, like babies. They could be your baby. So you can’t separate the two. This has been a war on children. It’s been a war on innocence from the beginning and even magnified now by what Israel has done inside of Gaza with this insane bombing.
There’s a lot of interesting twists here. One twist is this attack by Hamas is directly related to the occupation and the violence of the settlers on the West Bank. Because the Israeli troops were in the West Bank oppressing Palestinians, they control on the West Bank, paying no attention to the other border. And that was one of the huge critiques here in terms of the inside of Israel. It’s one of the huge critiques going on at the moment.
Maximillian Alvarez: A lot of people were saying this was Netanyahu’s fault.
Marc Steiner: If we were not occupying – And I have a hard time not saying we – But if we were not occupying the West Bank, then this would never have happened. People are going to throw stones at me for saying that. But that’s reality. And these kibbutzim that you talked about earlier, so these kibbutzim were founded in like 1948-1952 after the first war with Egypt and when there was nothing else happening there, and the kibbutzim was started. Which is very different than it is for some people, not for everybody, than the settlements that are on the West Bank where we have now settlers running amuck in Rampages and what I call our own pogroms against Palestinians in the West Bank.
That obsession allowed this to happen. There’s only one solution – And I’ve said this to family and friends oddly enough, as a quick digression, I’ve gotten more phone calls from my Israeli family out of the blue who I’ve not talked to in years – And the only solution to this is a ceasefire has to happen. We must have a ceasefire. Biden and his wimpy way. He comes off as this tough guy all the time. A tough street guy from Delaware. Where the hell is he from? Pennsylvania.
Maximillian Alvarez: Scranton Joe.
Marc Steiner: Scranton Joe. Scranton, right. Scranton. I’m from Baltimore, so we all came from tough steel towns. Okay, fine. So Scranton. If he had the gumption, what he would be doing at this moment, and what people in Congress should be doing but people like Congressman Ruppersberger and Mfume and others in Maryland who we are trying to push at this moment here, are saying an immediate ceasefire. And if you don’t agree to a ceasefire, then we freeze all the funds going to Israel. We stop it. Get to the bargaining table for a long, arduous task of finding a way to peace and how we live in coexistence in that place. And C, pouring in the hundreds of millions of dollars or maybe billions it would take to rebuild Gaza and bring people back to their communities. That’s what has to happen. This has got to end. And that’s what the American government should be doing.
The American government is the only government on the planet that can end this. We’re the only ones who can do it, and we have to stop it. People understand what it’s like for the Palestinian families in these cities in Gaza where their family members are under the rubble. Right now they’re thinking… I said 1,000 going in, maybe more from what I read before we went on the air, children that are in that rubble. They’re under there. They could be alive. So what Israel has done to the Palestinians is so grossly over… It’s insane. Who drops that amount of bombs on people stuck in a tiny quarter saying, oh, we’re going up there because they’re in Hamas… Hamas is hiding among them. That’s the same crap we did in Vietnam. All the VC, the NLF, National Liberation Front, oh they’re living in that village. Let’s destroy that village because the NLF is there, the Viet Cong are there.
Israel is doing the same to thing the Palestinians at this moment. And it’s unconscionable. It can’t happen. Also, the danger with this is that antisemitism in this world runs deep. It would take a lifetime to convince me it’s not. It runs deep. And for the first time in human history, for the first time in the history of Jews being in this world, we are unleashing antisemitism. It’s already there because of what this Israeli government has done. The biggest danger here, at least, and I’ve said this to a couple of other folks in the Zionist world, I said, we are creating another Masada, a place in the Bible where Jews died on a hilltop. And we’re doing it again. They committed suicide rather than surrendering. And we’re doing it to ourselves again. This is so intolerable. Again, this government will not do what it’s supposed to do which is to intervene and stop it. The US has the power to do it.
Maximillian Alvarez: I wish we could talk for four hours about this because I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface and maybe we’ll have to do a part two of this because there’s so much to talk about there. Why is the US doing this? Why is Biden, when… So much of the rest of the world is opposed to this. And the US, as always is like, no, we’re going to go with our version. We are going to continue to support Israel with as many military provisions as possible. Billions of dollars, blank check. There is an existential… Biden even said years ago that if Israel didn’t exist, we’d have to create it.
Marc Steiner: Right.
Maximillian Alvarez: So there is a geopolitical larger discussion that unfortunately we don’t have time to get into now of why the US is and has always been so deeply invested in maintaining Israel’s apartheid state. But because we got to wrap this up in a minute, I wanted to meditate on the existential question of Americans also needing to support Israel. Why is it that even though we are seeing unprecedented resistance in the US and globally to the violence of occupation, calls for a ceasefire… The Pope was calling for a ceasefire yesterday and yet most Democrats in this goddamn country can’t even bring themselves to do that.
But amidst all of this, there are still obviously a lot of people in this country who do want to continue to support Israel, who do believe that Israel is being attacked by these invading hoards of less-than-human Brown people who need to be kept at bay if not totally wiped off the face of the earth. And I’ve been thinking about that, wondering why people hold so tightly onto Israel. Americans specifically. As someone who grew up very conservative, and who also believed in that for the first 18 years of my life, I accepted it as part of the national narrative. And I don’t want to get too Freudian here but as someone who talks to working Americans every week, and when these conversations come up, I try to understand where people are coming from.
I genuinely feel like there is an existential projection onto Israel where the US – Again, a successful settler colonial state that was founded upon the genocide and dispossession of Indigenous Americans and the enslavement of African-Americans, and so on and so forth – A settler colonial nation that cannot deal with its own crimes, refuses to ever really reckon with its own crimes and sees in Israel a means for cleansing our lingering colonial guilt. In fact, I would go so far as to say that former colonial empires everywhere are in some deep recesses of their minds see in Israel a chance to redeem the whole colonial project. Even after a 20th century of decolonization and resistance to the project of taking over someone else’s land, taking over their government, killing their people, controlling it for their own purposes, and creating a new nation out of what existed there already.
It feels like in Israel we have this final holdout of absolution that we need to have in place in order to justify our continued existence. And with that settler colonial nation of Israel coming out of the Holocaust, like you said, you have the best chance you’re going to get for a good settler colonial project, for a justifiable colonial project. And yet even as descendants of the Holocaust, you cannot have a settler colonial project without genocide, and we are seeing that now.
Marc Steiner: I’m being told to pause for one second. I’ll pause.
They’re going to make it two parts. There are so many contradictions here, so many. You have in the US, the Evangelical Christian right. They love Israel. They hate Jews, but they love Israel because Israel is the embodiment of what the future can be. And Jews see us as the forward guard that can get wiped out, but save the rest of the earth for all the good Christians to take over the holy land. It’s because we see also Israel in American Black and white terms. Israel’s racial situation is really different from this country. As a matter of fact, some of the most right-wing elements in Israel are made up of the Jews from Africa and Asia who dislike the countries they used to live in, in the Muslim world. So there’s contradictions wrapped up in that, all kinds of contradictions. People don’t realize that Israel got very little money from this country until 1956.
But after that war, most of the money coming in for the army, for the military, for the most part, came from France, came from England, came from other places, and did not come from the US. Then the US exploded with aid to secure that for lots of reasons, oil being among them. Because Israel is perceived as white by most of the world and by most people here, they want it saved. You can’t let these white people die, and it’s much more complex than that. And this has blown up in the West’s face. Nobody was expecting this. No one was. Israeli intelligence didn’t expect this stuff. US intelligence clearly did not expect this stuff. Nobody expected this to happen. Hamas hit them when they were not looking.
So they’re scrambling to figure out how to save this moment because they were on the verge of building this alliance between Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to solidify, strategically, the Middle East in alignment with the West for resources and more. And to budget themselves against Iran and any potential influence from China or Russia. And they were on the cusp of that at this moment. People aren’t writing and talking about that. Then all of a sudden, boom, Hamas attacks, all the shit is done. It’s upside down. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to end it. They can’t say to Israel, you have to stop. They can’t say that. It could be what we talked about earlier but they won’t do that. That is the crux of where we find ourselves now. This is a very dangerous, volatile moment for the entire planet.
People really have to understand this is beyond – I don’t think this is going to happen, but it could happen – Supposing Iran and some other countries decide enough is enough. We’re going in to help the Palestinians. Then what? Israel has a nuclear bomb, nuclear bombs. It has nuclear capabilities. We forget that. We don’t bring that to the equation of what we’re facing in the Middle East and that could pull Saudi Arabia into supporting Israel. We’re in a very insane moment and it’s no telling how this will end. And it may end really badly. And if we can take it back to America for one minute I’ll let you read and we can read to conclude our conversation. There’s a growing movement in this country among younger Jews which is really important. It’s not because I was raised Jewish and I’m Jewish that I say this. I’m saying this because critical to ending our subservience to what Israel wants is a larger and larger body of Jews saying, no, not in our name. No.
And it’s really hard because antisemitism runs deep and you’re talking about people who are aware that Israel is going to get wiped off the face of the earth, and that’s our family. It’s really a complex moment. But we really have to do everything in our power to organize and push our government and people in this country to demand an end to the war, a ceasefire, negotiations, and building a new Middle East. We have to begin to demand that. And that’s what these demonstrations have been about. That’s why next Saturday you’re going to be in Washington DC and why next Saturday I’m going to be in Washington DC. Because we have to say that. It’s one of the reasons I’m speaking at churches all across the metropolitan area, why I’m talking to congressmen from our metropolitan areas, is because we have to say you’ve got to stop this. There’s got to be another way. We cannot allow this to happen.
Maximillian Alvarez: On that point, like you said, I wanted to read this passage that really struck me. This is from Ghada Karmi’s book, One State: The Only Democratic Future for Palestine and Israel. It struck me that… This was written and published before October 7, 2023, and yet in the opening pages, she cites an example from 1956 that rings very true. It rings very similar to what we’re watching now in the discourse around the October 7 attacks.
Marc Steiner: By the mythic hero.
Maximillian Alvarez: What’s that?
Marc Steiner: By the mythic hero.
Maximillian Alvarez: By the mythic hero, Moshe Dayan.
Marc Steiner: Moshe Dayan.
Maximillian Alvarez: Right. Moshe Dayan as Ghada Karmi cites in this book. I’ll read the quote and then I want to get your thoughts. And yeah, you close this out. But the quote speaks to again, that line that you said that the violence will not end and the death will not end so long as the occupation continues. Because the logic of occupation, which we are seeing play out now, is to eliminate the other people who are there, so we can have our state. That is the only solution. And if we want to talk about what the opposite looks like, it’s returning Palestinians to their homeland, which needs to fucking happen. But also, like you said on a recent live stream, you’re not going to get rid of everyone who’s there, Jew or non-Jew, unless there’s genocide happening. So what do we do? How do we create a state system that does not allow Israel to have… In terms of the question, does Israel have a right to exist as an apartheid ethnostate? No, it doesn’t have a fucking right to exist. No one should have that right to exist, to do what Israel’s doing. As you put it so frequently and so well, how do we create a solution where people can actually live together and not one subjugated under the other or one being eliminated by the other? And Israelis have known from the beginning, that this is going to be the perpetual lip of the volcano that they’re living on so far as they are occupying and settling and clearing the land that belonged to Palestinians.
This brings me to the quote from Ghada Karmi’s One State where she writes, “Moshe Dayan, Israel’s chief-of-staff, many years later, reiterates these same ideas in a different kind of way. Speaking in 1956 at the funeral of a young Israeli killed by an Arab infiltrator near the Egyptian frontier, he said, ‘Let us not today fling accusations at the murderers.’Who are we that we should argue against their hatred? For eight years now they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their very eyes, we turn into our homestead the land and the villages in which they and their forefathers have lived. We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and the cannon, we cannot plant a tree and build a home. Let us not shrink back when we see the hatred fermenting and filling the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs, who sit all around us. Let us not avert our gaze, so that our hands shall not slip. This is the fate of our generation, the choice of our life – To be prepared and armed, strong and tough – Or otherwise, the sword will slip from our fist, and our life will be snuffed out.'” And Karmi continues, “If Dayan had had the foresight, he might have added that it was not just his generation but also all subsequent Israeli generations who would have to continue this tough stance or else have their lives ‘snuffed out’. For the central issue confronting Israel has always been how to stem the tide of opposition to its existence.”
Israelis have known that you cannot take this land, push people off of it, keep the people who are still here under a permanent apartheid system, and keep Gazans in an open-air prison for decades without that violence inevitably boiling over. That is the perpetual arms race here. And that’s what you were getting at, that the death would not stop so long as this occupation continues. So with the final minutes we have, please give me your thoughts and close this out.
Marc Steiner: I’ll make this quick. First of all, this was written in 1956. This is before the occupation. Those places, the West Bank, was part of Jordan and Gaza was part of Egypt. A different moment. The occupation changed everything. The occupation laid open, the contradictions of Moshe Dayan’s statement. The occupation also, we hope, is the seed of hope for change. We can’t separate out of here. We’re not going anywhere. The Palestinians are home. This is their home. So you read this quote now, this was 1956. This is 2023. This is 75 years after the occupation has begun. But at any rate, what I’m saying is that all the contradictions he’s talking about here in this quote are what’s coming to the fore at the moment. The occupation has to end, there has to be a ceasefire, and people have to force a negotiation to create a different future, which can be had.
Maximillian Alvarez: Thank you, Marc.
Marc Steiner: Thank you. We’ll be covering this for a while. This is Mark Steiner, here at The Mark Steiner Show. I want to thank my dear friend and colleague, Max Alvarez, for turning the tables and being here with us for this conversation. And I want you all to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know what you thought about today’s conversation and how you want us to cover what’s going on in Israel, among Palestinians, in the Middle East. We are going to push this and bring more people in, and your ideas are really important. For Max Alvarez sitting over here, David Hebden behind the glass, and everybody here at The Real News: I’m Mark Steiner, take care and stay in touch.