Just hours after the White House condemned the shelling of a U.N. school in Gaza, the Pentagon confirmed it was providing Israel with fresh supplies of ammunition, including mortar rounds for tanks and ammunition for grenade launchers. Meanwhile, members of Congress are working to supply hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding for Israel’s "Iron Dome" missile shield. While U.S. news anchors, pundits and politicians have repeatedly extolled the efficacy of the Iron Dome in deflecting rocket attacks, the acclaimed physicist Theodore Postol says there is no evidence Iron Dome is actually working. He estimates the Iron Dome, which is partially built by Raytheon, intercepts just 5 percent of rockets fired at Israel. A professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Postol is an expert in missiles, missile defenses and other aspects of modern warfare.
Click here to watch part 2 of this interview.
In the second part of our interview, Henry Siegman, the former head of the American Jewish Congress and the Synagogue Council of America, discusses the assault on Gaza, Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel, and how peace could be attainable if the Obama administration reverse decades-long support for the Israeli occupation. Born in 1930 in Germany, Siegman fled as the Nazis came to power, eventually arriving in the United States. His father was a leader of the European Zionist movement pushing for the creation of a Jewish state. In New York, Siegman studied and was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi by Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. He now serves as president of the U.S./Middle East Project. Commenting on the Hamas charter that calls for Israel’s destruction, Siegman says: "The difference between Hamas and Israel is that Israel is actually implementing [a destruction policy] — actually preventing a Palestinian state which doesn’t exist. Millions of Palestinians live in this subservient position without rights, without security, without hope, and without a future." Commenting on Israeli justifications for killing Palestinians in the name of self-defense from 1948 through today, Siegman responds: "If you don’t want to kill Palestinians, if that’s what pains you so much, you don’t have to kill them. You can give them their rights, and you can end the occupation. And to put the blame for the occupation and for the killing of innocents that we are seeing in Gaza now on the Palestinians — why? Because they want a state of their own? They want what Jews wanted and achieved? This is a great moral insult."
Click here to watch part 1 of this interview.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned what he called the "outrageous" and "unjustifiable" Israeli shelling of a U.N. shelter in Gaza that killed 20 Palestinian civilians on Wednesday. Many of the dead were children who were sleeping. The United Nations has not directly condemned Israel, but says all available evidence points to its responsibility for the bombing. It was the sixth time a U.N. shelter had been bombed since the Israeli offensive in Gaza began 24 days ago. The United Nations said it had given the coordinates of the shelter to the Israeli military 17 times prior to the attack. According to the United Nations, more than 240,000 Palestinians are now staying in U.N. shelters in Gaza. Another 200,000 Palestinians have been displaced and are staying with other families. We are joined by Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. "UNRWA has reached a breaking point," Gunness says. "Eight of our staff have been killed. Our facilities are overwhelmed. Because of the continued displacement ... we may soon find ourselves where there are tens of thousands of people in the streets of Gaza — no food, no water, no shelter, no safety, frankly, after we’ve found that Israeli artillery is capable of hitting our shelters. And we’re saying: enough is enough."
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Given his background, what American Jewish leader Henry Siegman has to say about Israel’s founding in 1948 through the current assault on Gaza may surprise you. From 1978 to 1994, Siegman served as executive director of the American Jewish Congress, long described as one of the nation’s "big three" Jewish organizations along with the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. Born in Germany three years before the Nazis came to power in 1933, Siegman’s family eventually moved to the United States. His father was a leader of the European Zionist movement that pushed for the creation of a Jewish state. In New York, Siegman studied the religion and was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi by Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, later becoming head of the Synagogue Council of America. After his time at the American Jewish Congress, Siegman became a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He now serves as president of the U.S./Middle East Project. In the first of our two-part interview, Siegman discusses the assault on Gaza, the myths surrounding Israel’s founding in 1948, and his own background as a German-Jewish refugee who fled Nazi occupation to later become a leading American Jewish voice and now vocal critic of Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories.
"When one thinks that this is what is necessary for Israel to survive, that the Zionist dream is based on the repeated slaughter of innocents on a scale that we’re watching these days on television, that is really a profound, profound crisis — and should be a profound crisis in the thinking of all of us who were committed to the establishment of the state and to its success," Siegman says. Responding to Israel’s U.S.-backed claim that its assault on Gaza is necessary because no country would tolerate the rocket fire from militants in Gaza, Siegman says: "What undermines this principle is that no country and no people would live the way that Gazans have been made to live. … The question of the morality of Israel’s action depends, in the first instance, on the question, couldn’t Israel be doing something [to prevent] this disaster that is playing out now, in terms of the destruction of human life? Couldn’t they have done something that did not require that cost? And the answer is, sure, they could have ended the occupation."
Dozens of Palestinian civilians have been killed in the most intensive 48-hour bombardment of Gaza so far. At least 50 Palestinians have died over the past day, bringing the death toll from Israel’s three-week assault to more than 1,250. Earlier today, two bombs hit a school in the Jabaliya refugee camp used by the United Nations to house displaced Palestinians. Around 20 Palestinians were reportedly killed, including a medic and an infant. Scores were injured. The United Nations has accused Israel of bombing the school. It marks the sixth time a U.N. shelter has been attacked since Israel launched its offensive 23 days ago. We are joined from Gaza City by Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, just back from visiting the bombed-out school.
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In a new report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union warn that "large-scale surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work." The report is based on interviews with dozens of reporters and lawyers. They describe a media climate where journalists take cumbersome security steps that slows down their reporting. Sources are afraid of talking, as aggressive prosecutions scare government officials into staying silent, even about issues that are unclassified. For lawyers, the threat of surveillance is stoking fears they will be unable to protect a client’s right to privacy. Some defendants are afraid of speaking openly to their own counsel, undermining a lawyer’s ability provide the best possible defense. We speak to Alex Sinha, author of the report, "With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance Is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy," and to national security reporter Jeremy Scahill.
The Obama administration has expanded the national terrorist watchlist system by approving broad guidelines over who can be targeted. A leaked copy of the secret government guidebook reveals that to be deemed a "terrorist" target, "irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary." Both "known" and "suspected" suspects are tracked, and terrorism is so broadly defined that it includes people accused of damaging property belonging to the government or financial institutions. Other factors that can justify inclusion on the watchlist include postings on social media or having a relative already deemed a terrorist. We are joined by investigative reporters Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept. Last week they published the secret U.S. document along with their new article, "The Secret Government Rulebook for Labeling You a Terrorist."
Palestinian Journalist Mohammed Omer: Lifting the Blockade Isn't a Hamas Demand — It's a Human Right
The Palestinian death toll has topped 1,100 after one of the deadliest 24-hour periods since the Israeli assault on Gaza began 22 days ago. Most of the dead have been civilians. More than 180,000 Palestinians have been displaced over the past three weeks — that is roughly 10 percent of the population of Gaza. We are joined from Gaza City by award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer. "I believe Israel wants to make people turn against the resistance," Omer says. "There is no way for people to turn against the resistance — in fact it is the other way around. People in the street say we do support resistance because that is the only way to end the occupation. ... I’m afraid we are going to have more radical generations in the Gaza Strip, and I fear for the future of Gaza and the future of the West Bank — and I fear the future of the region if the international community is not acting now to end the blockade and the operation in Gaza."
Despite a U.N. Security Council call for a ceasefire, Israel has intensified its attack on Gaza and warned of a "protracted campaign." Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in the past 24 hours, with some saying Monday was the most intensive night of bombing so far. In this time period, Israel attacked more than 150 sites including Gaza’s only power station and a media center that houses the broadcasting headquarters of Hamas and a number of other Arab satellite news channels. Earlier on Monday, 10 people were killed, eight of which were children, and 40 others wounded by an explosion in a park near the beach in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. The child victims were said to be playing on a playground swing when they were hit. Israel denied carrying out the attack, but eyewitnesses said the explosion was caused by an Israeli airstrike. Another Israeli bombing reportedly hit an outpatient building at al-Shifa, Gaza’s main hospital. Meanwhile, 10 Israeli soldiers were killed on Monday. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a Thai farmworker have died since the assault began. We go to Gaza City to speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. "[Israel has] shelled hospitals, U.N. schools, they’ve bombed people in their homes," Kouddous says. "There’s literally nowhere for these people to run to."
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As the Palestinian death toll tops 1,000 in Gaza, we are joined from Haifa by Israeli professor and historian Ilan Pappé. "I think Israel in 2014 made a decision that it prefers to be a racist apartheid state and not a democracy," Pappé says. "It still hopes that the United States will license this decision and provide it with the immunity to continue, with the necessary implication of such a policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians wherever they are." A professor of history and the director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter, Pappé is the author of several books, including most recently, "The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge."
Five years ago Palestinian student Amer Shurrab lost his two brothers in Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. Last week, Shurrab learned four of his cousins in Gaza had been killed in Israel’s latest offensive. In January 2009, Amer’s father and brothers were fleeing their village when the vehicle they were driving in came under Israeli fire. Twenty-eight-year-old Kassab died in a hail of bullets trying to flee the vehicle. Amer’s other brother, 18-year-old Ibrahim, survived the initial attack, but Israeli troops refused to allow an ambulance to reach him until 20 hours later. By then, it was too late. Ibrahim had bled to death in front of his father. A graduate student at Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, Amer Shurrab has been recounting the story of his brothers and other Palestinians at college campuses and community gatherings across the United States. "Israel is deliberately targeting civilians from the day one of this attack," he says. "They have been bombing houses, wiping entire families to try to scare people into submission."
The U.N. Security Council has issued a presidential statement calling for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza as the Palestinian toll tops 1,000. The weekend saw a series of ceasefire announcements by both Israel and Hamas. On Saturday, more than 130 bodies were pulled from Gaza’s rubble during a 12-hour truce. Just before the truce took effect, an Israeli strike on a house in Khan Younis killed 20 people, including 12 members of the same family. After initially rejecting a ceasefire, Hamas on Sunday called for a 24-hour truce to mark the Muslim holiday ending Ramadan. Overall, the Palestinian death toll has now reached 1,031, mostly civilians, including at least 226 children. Israel says 43 of its soldiers have died, along with three civilians inside Israel. The United Nations says more than 180,000 Palestinians have been displaced and are now living in U.N. shelters. Speaking from Gaza City, Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports on the displaced residents who tried to return home only to find their neighborhoods reduced to rubble. "People are trying to salvage anything they could from their homes. Many couldn’t even get anything out. They had fled under bombardment with only the clothes on their backs," Kouddous says. "It’s a very uneasy ceasefire. … People are waiting to see if the bombs will start falling again."
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We are joined from Gaza City by Dr. Belal Dabour of Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza. Dabour describes how Shifa has been stretched beyond capacity since the Israeli military assault began on July 8, struggling to treat thousands of victims amidst frequent power cuts and outdated equipment. He also discusses the hopes of his Gazan patients that the current conflict will bring an end to Israel’s eight-year siege. "After eight years, life has become intolerable," Dabour says. "People have no hope. They feel that the horizon for any prosperous future is [impossible] until the siege is lifted."
Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip has triggered the largest West Bank protest in years, with more than 15,000 people marching Thursday from Ramallah toward Jerusalem. Two Palestinians were killed and more than 200 were wounded when Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition. We go to the West Bank to speak with journalist Amira Hass, Ha’aretz correspondent for the occupied Palestinian territories. "There were whole families, and women and men, traditional and modern, and middle-class and workers. Everybody went very determined to show that this is enough," Hass says.
At least 16 people were killed and more than 200 injured Thursday when a school used as a United Nations shelter came under fire in Gaza. Palestinian families displaced by the assault had reportedly gathered to move to a safer area when the school was hit. Palestinian officials have blamed Israeli tank shelling, while Israel has suggested militant rockets were at fault. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has declined to directly accuse Israel, but says it gave the school’s coordinates to the Israeli army numerous times. "Within Gaza, there is no safe place," says Christopher Gunness, UNRWA spokesperson. "If the parties to this conflict have shown themselves callous enough to be able to hit a clearly designated, clearly marked U.N. compound where hundreds of people have come to take sanctuary, we cannot guarantee anymore the safety of our installations." Gunness says the number of people now seeking shelter amidst the violence has swelled to 150,000.
Amidst talk of a potential ceasefire, the Palestinian death toll has passed 815 in Israel’s relentless bombings of the Gaza Strip. On Thursday, at least 16 civilians died and more than 200 were wounded when a United Nations shelter was bombed in the Gazan area of Beit Hanoun. Palestinian officials have blamed Israeli tank shelling, while Israel has suggested militant rockets were at fault. Reporting from Gaza City, Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous describes visiting the morgue where bodies are being taken, as well as a children’s hospital in northern Gaza that was severely damaged Thursday in a nearby air strike. "If the ceasefire falls apart, then we can only imagine that an escalation of the ground offensive — that’s what Israel has declared — will be in the cards," Kouddous says. "We are looking at a very grave humanitarian crisis."