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What Does Hamas Really Want? Israeli Journalist Gideon Levy on Ending the Crippling Blockade of Gaza

Democracy Now - Tue 07 19 AM

As the Israeli assault on Gaza enters its third week, a new push is underway for an internationally brokered ceasefire. Speaking earlier today, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said there is "no real hope" of an immediate halt to the fighting because Hamas’ conditions are too far from those of Israel, the United States and Egypt. Hamas’ demands have centered on an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the release of its prisoners. The seven-year siege has crippled the economy, civilian infrastructure and water supplies. In Gaza, unemployment tops 40 percent, and almost 80 percent rely on humanitarian aid. The United Nations has warned Gaza will no longer be livable by 2020 unless urgent steps are taken. The last ceasefire in November 2012 was supposed to ease the blockade, but Israel only intensified it. With Hamas vowing to continue fighting against what it calls a "slow death," a new ceasefire largely hinges on whether the United States and others will pressure Israel to reverse its stance. We are joined from Tel Aviv by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy. In a recent piece for Ha’aretz, Levy writes: "[Hamas’] conditions are civilian; the means of achieving them are military, violent and criminal. But the (bitter) truth is that when Gaza is not firing rockets at Israel, nobody cares about it. ... Read the list of [Hamas] demands and judge honestly whether there is one unjust demand among them."

"A Place of Indescribable Loss": As Ceasefire Talks Begin, Israel Bombs Hospital, Mosques and Homes

Democracy Now - Tue 07 05 AM

The Israeli assault on Gaza has entered its third week as the Palestinian death toll has topped 600, mostly civilians. More than 100 of the dead are children. More than 3,700 Palestinians have been injured. Israel says it has lost 27 soldiers since the ground invasion began. Earlier today, Israel confirmed the remains of one of its soldiers presumed to have been killed in Gaza had still not been found or identified. This comes two days after Hamas said it had captured the soldier. So far today, Israel has struck more than 70 sites inside Gaza, including five mosques and a football stadium. On Monday, at least 103 Palestinians died, including 11 when Israel bombed a residential tower block in Gaza City. Five children died in that attack. In the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, five people died and 70 were wounded when Israel shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital. It became the third medical facility to be struck by Israel in the past two weeks. The injured included about 30 medics. We are joined from Gaza City by Democracy Now! correspondent and independent journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous. "Gaza is a place of indescribable loss, and a place where family sizes continue to be shrunk by falling bombs," he says.

Kouddous is reporting live from the Associated Press studio, which shares a floor with the Al Jazeera studio in Gaza City. He says that Israel fired shots into the windows of Al Jazeera’s office earlier this morning. He reports that both news agencies evacuated staff from the building. AP has since confirmed that Israel does not plan to target their office; however, Al Jazeera has not been able to confirm the same, and its staff are waiting downstairs at the bottom of the building. As of now, AP staff are back at work in the office on a voluntary basis. "This is another instance of targeting the media," Kouddous says.

Max Blumenthal: With "Hollow Diplomacy," U.S. Created Political Space for Israeli Assault on Gaza

Democracy Now - Mon 07 53 AM

As Israeli forces killed more than 100 Palestinians on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the assault on Gaza for "as long as is required," citing the backing of foreign allies that has "laid the diplomatic foundation that has given us international credit to operate." The Obama administration has provided critical support, claiming Israel has acted in self-defense and blaming Hamas for the civilian toll. But on the conflict’s bloodiest day, the White House began showing mild signs of apprehension. President Obama spoke to Netanyahu for the second time in three days and raised "serious concern about the growing number of casualties." Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry made the rounds of Sunday television talk shows to publicly defend Israel’s assault on Gaza. But in a private phone call caught on camera in between commercial breaks, Kerry appeared to speak sarcastically about the massive civilian toll in the attacks he was publicly defending. The White House says Kerry will travel to Cairo today to work an end to hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire. Max Blumenthal, a best-selling author and senior writer for AlterNet, says the Obama administration has practiced "hollow diplomacy" in order to "legitimize Netanyahu’s ground operation and create political space for the kind of massacres that we have been witnessing. ... This is an absolute failure of U.S. diplomacy and an abdication of leadership by Barack Obama, who says that he is heartbroken by these images that he is witnessing from the Gaza Strip, as he oversees and authorizes the shipment of the very weapons that are used to bombard hospitals."

Israeli Peace Demo Violently Disrupted, Dozens Injured as Counter-Protesters Yell "Death to Arabs"

Democracy Now - Mon 07 48 AM

We look at the increasingly dangerous political climate inside Israel where several peace protests have recently come under attack. On Saturday, right-wing activists burned a Palestinian flag, chanted racial slurs and threw stones at an antiwar protest in Haifa of Arabs and Israelis opposed to the bombardment of Gaza. Haifa’s deputy mayor, Dr. Suhail Assad, and his son were beaten. On Sunday, the captain of a youth soccer team in Be’er Sheva wrote on his Facebook page: "send left-wing voters to the gas chambers and clean this country of leftists." The week before the Gaza invasion began, gangs were reportedly seen roaming the streets of Jerusalem and other towns shouting, "Death to Arabs!" We go to Israel to speak with Rann Bar-On, an Israeli peace activist and Duke University mathematics lecturer, who took part in Saturday’s Haifa protest. And we are joined by Max Blumenthal, senior writer for AlterNet.org and best-selling author whose latest book, "Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel," documents the spread of right-wing Israeli extremism.

Palestinian Human Rights Lawyer Raji Sourani Likens Netanyahu to Bin Laden for Killing Civilians

Democracy Now - Mon 07 34 AM

The mass killings in Shejaiya have helped push the Palestinian death toll to more than 500 during the two-week Israeli assault on Gaza. The dead include more than 100 children. Some 3,100 people have been wounded and more than 81,000 displaced. The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has warned it is running out of food and medicine at the schools housing more than 50,000 people. The number seeking refuge has nearly tripled since the ground invasion began on Thursday. At least 130 Palestinians have been killed during that time. We speak with Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza and human rights lawyer whose accolades include the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the Right Livelihood Award.

Breaking: In Latest Attack on Gaza Medical Site, IDF Shells al-Aqsa Hospital; 5 Dead, Dozens Hurt

Democracy Now - Mon 07 19 AM

In breaking news from the Gaza Strip, at least five people were killed today and dozens wounded when the Israeli military shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital. It is at least the third Israeli military attack on a Gaza hospital since the ground invasion on Thursday. Speaking from Gaza’s overrun al-Shifa Hospital, Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert accuses Israel of directly targeting medical facilities. Gilbert helped treat many of the victims of Israel’s attack on the Shejaiya neighborhood, where 72 people were killed. We also speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, reporting from Gaza City.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous on Israel's Gaza Massacres: F-16 Kills 24 Relatives After 72 Die in Shejaiya

Democracy Now - Mon 07 11 AM

The Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip has seen its bloodiest day so far, bringing the Palestinian death toll to more than 500. More than 100 Palestinians were killed in a 24-hour period between Saturday and Sunday nights. The dead include 72 residents of one of Gaza’s poorest and most densely populated neighborhoods. In the single worst attack to date, Israeli forces shelled homes and fought militants in Shejaiya, leaving behind a scene of carnage that survivors called a massacre. Frightened civilians fled along streets strewn with dead bodies. Wounded residents bled to death in their homes. An unconfirmed report said more than 20 children and 14 women were killed. Scores of homes were destroyed. Hundreds of people were wounded and taken to the overrun Shifa Hospital, which struggled to find room for the bodies. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the attack on Shejaiya as an "atrocious action." The fighting in Shejaiya killed 13 Israeli soldiers, bringing the Israeli military toll to 18 since the ground invasion began last week. Joining us from Gaza City, Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous details the assault on Shejaiya and describes a new Israeli strike that killed 24 members of the Abu Jamaa family in Khan Younis. Kouddous documented their bodies collected together inside a local morgue.

Stephen Cohen: Downed Malaysian Plane Raises Risk of War Between Russia and the West

Democracy Now - Fri 07 47 AM

A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 298 people has exploded and crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing everyone on board. U.S. and Ukrainian officials say the Boeing 777 was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, but it is unclear who fired the missile. The plane was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with passengers from at least 10 countries on board, including 173 Dutch nationals, 44 Malaysians and 27 Australians. As many as 100 of the world’s leading AIDS researchers and advocates were reportedly on the plane en route to a conference in Australia, including the pioneering researcher and former president of the International AIDS Society, Joep Lange. Both sides in Ukraine’s conflict are blaming each other for downing the plane. We speak with Professor Stephen Cohen on what this incident could mean for the region. His most article for The Nation magazine is "The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities."

Glenn Greenwald: Why Did NBC Pull Veteran Reporter After He Witnessed Israeli Killing of Gaza Kids?

Democracy Now - Fri 07 28 AM

NBC is facing questions over its decision to pull veteran news correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza just after he personally witnessed the Israeli military’s killing of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach. Mohyeldin was kicking a soccer ball around with the boys just minutes before they died. He is a longtime reporter in the region. In his coverage, he reports on the Gaza conflict in the context of the Israeli occupation, sparking criticism from some supporters of the Israeli offensive. Back in 2008 and 2009, when he worked for Al Jazeera, Mohyeldin and his colleague Sherine Tadros were the only foreign journalists on the ground in Gaza as Israel killed 1,400 people in what it called "Operation Cast Lead." We speak to Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, who has revealed that the decision to pull Mohyeldin from Gaza and remove him from reporting on the situation came from NBC executive David Verdi. Greenwald also comments on the broader picture of the coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the U.S. media.

Israel Bombs Gaza's Only Rehab Hospital: Staff Forced to Evacuate Paralyzed Patients After Shelling

Democracy Now - Fri 07 17 AM

Al-Wafa Hospital, the only rehabilitation hospital in Gaza and the West Bank, was shelled by Israel on Thursday. At the time of the attack, the hospital was filled with patients who were paralyzed, unconscious and unable to move. We speak with the hospital’s executive director, Basman Alashi, who says the hospital received a warning call ahead of the assault. "I don’t understand why they hit us," Alashi says. "We’ve been in this place since 1996, we are known to the Israeli government." Alashi says no one was injured but the building was heavily damaged.

"A Terrifying Night in Gaza": Sharif Abdel Kouddous Reports on Israeli Ground Invasion

Democracy Now - Fri 07 11 AM

The Israeli military is pushing deeper into Gaza and threatening to "significantly widen" its ground offensive that began on Thursday night. Over the past 11 days, at least 264 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians. The death toll of children is approaching 50, including three teenagers killed today by Israeli tank shelling near the northern town of Beit Hanoun. Israel suffered its second fatality when one of its soldiers was killed in Gaza. Israeli media says the soldier was likely killed by friendly fire. Israel maintains the new ground offensive was needed to target tunnels used by Palestinian militants, but many civilian facilities have been hit, including a media office in Gaza City and the al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital, forcing the evacuation of patients. We speak to Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, whose new article for The Nation magazine is "Death and Destruction in Gaza as Israel Launches Ground Invasion."

Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz Hails New BRICS Bank Challenging U.S.-Dominated World Bank & IMF

Democracy Now - Thu 07 45 AM

A group of five countries has launched its own development bank to challenge the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Leaders from the so-called BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — unveiled the New Development Bank at a summit in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza. The bank will be headquartered in Shanghai. Together, BRICS countries account for 25 percent of global GDP and 40 percent of the world’s population. To discuss this development, we are joined by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University and the World Bank’s former chief economist. "It’s very important in many ways," Stiglitz says of the New Development Bank’s founding. "This is adding to the flow of money that will go to finance infrastructure, adaptation to climate change — all the needs that are so evident in the poorest countries. It [also] reflects a fundamental change in global economic and political power. The BRICS countries today are richer than the advanced countries were when the World Bank and the IMF were founded. We’re in a different world — but the old institutions haven’t kept up."

Click here to watch Part 2 of this interview.

U.S. Turns Back on Child Migrants After Its Policies in Guatemala, Honduras Sowed Seeds of Crisis

Democracy Now - Thu 07 26 AM

As tens of thousands of children cross the U.S. border fleeing violence in their native Central American home countries, we look at the historical roots of the crisis. The United States has a long and sadly bloody history of destabilizing democratic governments in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — the very countries that are now the sources of this latest migration wave. This week saw the first planeload of children deported to Honduras since President Obama vowed to speed up the removal of more than 57,000 youth who have fled to the United States from Central America in recent months. The group of 38 deportees included 21 children between the ages of 18 months and 15 years, along with 17 female family members. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the experience of Cordova and others should demonstrate to Central Americans that "they will not be welcomed to this country with open arms."

But U.S. funding and foreign policy has long shaped the lives of Central Americans. June 28 marked the fifth anniversary of the military coup that deposed democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, which the United States did not oppose. For analysis, we are joined by University of California-Santa Cruz Professor Dana Frank, who argues it was the coup — more than drug trafficking and gangs — that opened the doors to the violence in Honduras and unleashed an ongoing wave of state-sponsored repression. We are also joined by human rights activist and lawyer Jennifer Harbury from Weslaco, Texas, about five miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Harbury’s husband, Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, a guerrilla commander, a Mayan comandante and guerrilla, was disappeared after he was captured by the Guatemalan army in the 1980s. Harbury is the author of "Searching for Everardo: A Story of Love, War, and the CIA in Guatemala" and has spent decades pressing for classified information on her husband’s case.

Horror on Gaza Beach: New York Times Photographer Witnesses Israeli Killing of 4 Palestinian Boys

Democracy Now - Thu 07 08 AM

Israel says it is considering a new ceasefire proposal from Egypt that would take effect on Friday. There is no word yet from Hamas, which rejected the last proposal on the grounds its leaders were never consulted and the terms would have allowed for the continued siege of Gaza and for Israeli bombardment at will. The news of a fresh proposal comes just as a five-hour humanitarian pause has ended. The United Nations asked for the break to let Gazans receive supplies and repair damage following 10 days of Israeli bombings. On Wednesday, an Israeli gunboat shelled a beach, killing four boys who were playing. The boys were all between the ages of nine and 11 and from the same extended family. Seven other adults and children were wounded in the strike. The scene was witnessed by several international journalists, including our guest Tyler Hicks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning staff photographer at The New York Times. We are also joined from Gaza City by Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who has interviewed family members of the young victims.

How Do We Define American? Jose Vargas, Symbol of Undocumented Immigrant Struggle, Detained in Texas

Democracy Now - Wed 07 51 AM

Jose Antonio Vargas, one of the country’s best-known undocumented immigrants, was detained by the U.S. Border Patrol on Tuesday. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Vargas came to the United States from the Philippines in 1993 at the age of 12. After reporting for The Washington Post and other outlets, he revealed his undocumented status in a widely read essay in 2011. Vargas recently traveled to the Texas border to document the crisis of thousands of migrant children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. But he soon realized he might have trouble leaving due to the heavy presence of Border Patrol agents and checkpoints. On Tuesday, Vargas was arrested at McAllen-Miller International Airport and held for about eight hours. His detention became a top U.S. trend on Twitter, with hundreds using the hashtag #IStandWithJose. As the country watched, Vargas was eventually released with a notice to appear before an immigration judge. In a statement after his release, Vargas said, "With Congress failing to act on immigration reform, and President Obama weighing his options on executive action, the critical question remains: How do we define American?" We broadcast video of Vargas speaking in McAllen, Texas, about the U.S. treatment of child migrants just days before his arrest. "These children are not illegal; they are human beings, and they are not a national security threat," Vargas says. "The only threat that these children pose to us is the threat of testing our own conscience."

Is an Iran Nuclear Deal Within Reach? Dissecting the Latest Talks over a "Manufactured Crisis"

Democracy Now - Wed 07 43 AM

Secretary of State John Kerry says he is returning to Washington, D.C., to consult with President Obama following talks with Iran over its nuclear program. Speaking on Tuesday, Kerry cited "tangible progress" on key issues, but said "very real gaps" remain ahead of a Sunday deadline. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran could freeze its nuclear capacity in exchange for sanctions relief, but Kerry would not say if the United States would agree. The main dispute is over Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Tehran claims it will need to expand to fuel its nuclear power reactor. The United States counters that this would allow Iran to enrich enough uranium at a high level to make a nuclear weapon, and wants Tehran to cut back sharply on its enrichment capability for as long as 20 years. We dissect the negotiations with investigative journalist Gareth Porter, author of the book, "Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare." Porter recently returned from a trip to Tehran where he interviewed top Iranian officials, including Zarif and the country’s nuclear chief.