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Henry Siegman, Leading Voice of U.S. Jewry, on Gaza: "A Slaughter of Innocents"

Democracy Now - Wed 07 19 AM

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."

Click here to watch part 2 of this interview.

"They Thought They'd Be Safe. They Were Wrong": 20 Gazans Killed in Israeli Bombing of U.N. Shelter

Democracy Now - Wed 07 08 AM

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.

Mass U.S. Surveillance Targeting Journalists and Lawyers Seen as Threat to American Democracy

Democracy Now - Tue 07 51 AM

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.

Jeremy Scahill: Leaked U.S. Terrorist Watchlist Rulebook Reveals "Global Stop and Frisk Program"

Democracy Now - Tue 07 31 AM

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

Democracy Now - Tue 07 20 AM

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."

"Nowhere to Go": Gaza Suffers One of Deadliest Days So Far as Israel Vows "Protracted" Assault

Democracy Now - Tue 07 08 AM

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."

Professor Ilan Pappé: Israel Has Chosen to be a "Racist Apartheid State" with U.S. Support

Democracy Now - Mon 07 50 AM

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."

What Do Gazans Endure? A Palestinian Student Who Lost 2 Brothers, 4 Cousins Tells His Story

Democracy Now - Mon 07 26 AM

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."

During Brief Lull, Gazans Return to Neighborhoods Destroyed and Bodies Beneath the Rubble

Democracy Now - Mon 07 10 AM

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."

Doctor: After "Losing Everything," Gazans Cling to Hope That Conflict Will End Crippling Siege

Democracy Now - Fri 07 43 AM

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."

Turning Point? Largest West Bank Protest in Decades Raises Spectre of a 3rd Intifada

Democracy Now - Fri 07 32 AM

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.

"No Safe Place": After Deadly Attack on Gaza School, U.N. Warns 150,000 Seeking Shelter are at Risk

Democracy Now - Fri 07 18 AM

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.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous: In Gaza, Unrelenting Israeli Assault Causes "Grave Humanitarian Crisis"

Democracy Now - Fri 07 07 AM

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."

Botched 2-Hour Arizona Execution "Shrouded in Secrecy" Fuels Outrage over Lethal Injection Methods

Democracy Now - Thu 07 53 AM

Arizona’s execution of Joseph Wood was supposed to take about 10 minutes, but stretched out for nearly two hours Wednesday night as he gasped for air after being injected with a controversial two-drug combination of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. Halfway through the ordeal his lawyers filed an emergency motion to stop the execution, saying it violated Wood’s Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. This was a "predictable consequence of Arizona’s experimental drug procedure and the fact that Arizona shrouded its procedure in secrecy," says Megan McCracken, an attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Wood was killed after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that put the execution on hold. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had initially sided with Wood’s request that Arizona disclose its lethal injection methods and the source of the drugs involved.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: With 100,000+ Displaced, Why Is U.S. Ignoring Ukraine's Civil War?

Democracy Now - Thu 07 41 AM

A high-level rebel commander has confirmed for the first time that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the kind the United States says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing all 298 on board. He blamed Ukrainian authorities for provoking the strike, saying they deliberately launched airstrikes in the area, even though they knew the missile system was in place and rebels would fight back. Meanwhile, the area near the Russian border continues to see heavy fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists. On Wednesday, two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down not far from where the Malaysian airliner was hit. "The tragedy of the downing of the plane occurred in the context of this virtually unreported civil war," says Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, who has reported on Russia for decades. "Americans have been done a disservice by one-sided media coverage [of the conflict]." Vanden Heuvel notes more than 110,000 refugees from eastern Ukraine have fled to Russia, and 56,000 are internally displaced in Ukraine.