“Israel is built on ethnic cleansing and it’s a product of imperialism”
August 4, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Interview with Alan Goodman, writer for Revolution newspaper, August 1, 2014, on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK FM in Los Angeles.
Q: Alan, how are you?
A: Well, I’m angry, and I’m here.
Q: Good. That makes two of us. We talked last night, I looked at the newspaper this morning and they’re talking about a ceasefire, and as I was driving over here, and what do I hear? It’s broken, and the Israelis have begun bombing shelters, schools, hospitals, especially in Rafah. The attacks on civilians continue, just unmitigated. And it poses huge questions for people right now. As I was saying earlier, I interviewed a man from Gaza last week [Dr. Haidar Eid], and as his horror and anger grew throughout the course of the interview, he kept, almost tearfully, demanding to know, where is the world? Why is no one doing anything about this? Why is no one seeing what’s really happening here? Let’s kick that around a little bit.
A: First of all, some people are doing some things about it, and it’s important that we recognize that and have their backs. I don’t know if your listeners have heard about this, but a number of very prominent Spanish actors, including Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Director Pedro Almodóvar, issued a strong statement condemning what’s going on with Israel’s assault on Gaza, and we should note, beginning but important statements have been made by people who are pro-Israel, but for whom these crimes are just “off the charts,” in quoting some veterans of the Israeli military. You had sent me an editorial by a supporter of Israel who’s really saying that this has gone too far.
So on the one hand, when people say nobody’s doing anything, we have to speak about what people are doing, but we also have to speak about, sometimes when people say that, they’re expecting something better from, say, Obama or the UN or forces they expect should be speaking out in the context of this horrible outrage.
I was listening to the show before yours [Democracy Now!] that was identifying some of the horrors going on in Gaza. You have a situation where almost two million people have been locked down for going on eight years now. Food and water are almost cut off. Ninety-five percent of the tap water in Gaza was undrinkable before this horrific slaughter started. People do not have access to the basic necessities of life. Now the electricity is off. In an area as densely populated as New York City, the electricity was taken out by Israeli bombs. This is really a collective massacre of civilians. And then you had an Israeli attack on a UN school. And then you had another Israeli attack on a UN school. And then you had the Israeli attack on the UN school where desperate people had taken refuge in Beit Hanoun on July 24 and were standing in the courtyard of the school in open air. So don’t give us any of this stuff about how they were hiding missiles under their jackets or something. They were standing in a courtyard. You can see this in video. We’ve got a link to the video at revcom.us, where you can see this courtyard. It’s like a parking lot. People are completely exposed, and on July 24, 16 people were killed and a hundred injured, women and children and families who had taken refuge in the UN school.
And then, two days ago, you had yet another Israeli attack on desperate people gathered at a UN school where 19 people were killed. And here’s where I want to speak to the other side of what you were citing where people are saying why isn’t anybody doing anything about this? Let me just read from the statement from the United States White House, Barack Obama’s press secretary: “The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.” And then he said, “We need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards that they have set for themselves.” Then he further expanded on that in saying that the Israelis should, “Live up to the standards that they have set for their own military operations to protect the lives of innocent civilians.”
2009: Alan Goodman speaks at town hall meeting opposing Israel's 2008-2009 massacre in Gaza on parallels between the Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza. This speaks to questions that are very relevant to what is happening right now.
Well, the standards that the Israeli military has set for protecting the lives of innocent civilians is that absolutely anybody, anywhere, doing anything or doing nothing in Gaza is a target. Then the next question is, as they were pointing out on the show that was on right before yours, in the midst of all this horror, this wanton massacre of which a majority are civilians, the U.S. is shipping more tank missiles over to Israel to continue the slaughter, and presenting Israel as the victim in all this, the ones under attack. Maybe we’ll get a chance to talk about the role of the media in all this. And that really poses the question of what is behind the U.S. backing for Israel, which I think you probably want to get into. But I’m just kind of responding to this question of “Nobody’s doing anything.” The global powers-that-be are aiding, abetting, enabling and sponsoring this massacre. People are beginning to speak out, and they need to be supported when they do.
Q: I do want to visit this thing about the role of the U.S., because this is one of the questions that has come up a lot with people I’ve been speaking with, including the Palestinian I interviewed last Friday night, who also made the point—he was talking about what he saw when the Senate, 100 to 0, said, OK, we’re going to support this. There’s all these things that are coming out where, it’s a constant reference to—it’s the media, but it’s also what the government is saying, when the Obama administration comes out and says, yeah, this is not good that they’re doing this, but on the other hand, you have to begin with Israel has the right to defend itself. This man was pointing out that it’s not just a question of complicity. He said it’s also green-lighting. He made the point that you have the fourth-largest military in the world. All the weapons they use in their genocidal attacks are supplied or furnished or refurbished by the U.S. I wanted to ask you about this, because it is something you’ve written about a lot. You’ve written about both what’s behind this as well as the history of this, of a very special relationship between Israel and the U.S.
A: There’s no way of evading it now. When you hear a statement like that, first of all, the first three Israeli bombings of schoolyards and all these other horrific crimes have been justified by the White House and the mainstream media, including the New York Times, all framed in the context of “Israel under attack” from rockets from Gaza, and just distorting the whole situation. We’ve got a piece at revcom.us that I wrote that just walks through a whole series of incidents, and I can’t go into them all here, but some of your listeners might be familiar with these. Diane Sawyer ran a piece supposedly showing devastation in Israel. But the film footage was from Gaza. And then the next day there was a correction issued, but the damage was done. There’s a whole series of these kinds of things, as well as lies by omission, lies by distortion. We ran a capture of a New York Times headline, “First Israeli Dies.” Well, this was on a day when dozens of Palestinians had died. People who read the Times are being conditioned to see Palestinian lives as valueless, essentially.
So there’s this whole distortion of things, and then there is this 100-to-nothing vote you noted in the Senate, and so on. I know this poses a question for people, including, I think some of this is prompted by some of the very contextualized criticisms of Israel from the White House, like the one I just read, like, OK, you’ve bombed a few too many school courtyards with children and innocent civilians in them, but of course, you’re the good guys in all this. And this does pose for people, what is the nature of the whole historic special relationship between the U.S. and Israel? This is something we’ve written about extensively at revcom.us, including in a special issue on Israel. But just in a nutshell, historically, Israel is built on ethnic cleansing and it’s a product of imperialism, as an outpost of imperialism in the Middle East.
That’s part of what goes into this provocative quote from Bob Avakian that I encourage people to think seriously about, when he said, “After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel.”
So there’s the question of where did Israel come from? What’s its nature? What’s its role in the world? Right now, there’s a whole complicated swirl of things going on in the Middle East. As the rulers of the United States bully their way through these shifting alliances and instability and so on—Syria, Egypt and beyond, they’re backing Israel as their most reliable ally in the whole region. The rise of the U.S. empire after World War 2 and everything since has been dependent in important ways on that special relationship with their enforcer Israel in the Middle East. That in a nutshell is what’s driving this.
Q: You mentioned earlier about the press, and I wanted to dig a little more deeply into the press, because they have been really pushing a whole perspective on this, everything from convincing people that it’s a complicated issue, that you really have to understand, that there’s two wrongs going on there, one’s more wrong than the other, but there’s two, they’re even-handed. Each one’s responsible for a certain amount of suffering. And it’s just a mess, and really, I don’t know how to sort this out. The press has been doing that.
I was looking at the Los Angeles Times and they had an article about some horrendous thing that happened in Gaza, and then in the middle of the front page, they had a picture of a mortuary with three kids in it, and the caption read that it was Palestinian kids in a mortuary. But the whole big, center-page article was on Israel, and how Israel is worried about the impact of all this on them, and how are they going to deal with all this?
Here’s a force in the world that’s committing—when you talk about what the Zionists are doing, they are committing, as Ilan Pappé called it— incremental genocide. They’re committing war crimes, beyond question, crimes against humanity. And yet the U.S. press is going overboard portraying this as, well, you can’t really tell who’s doing what to who here. Can you talk about that a little? Because it has implications for everything else we’ve been talking about.
A: Well, I think there’s a lot of dimensions to it. One is just portraying a one-sided massacre by a country built on ethnic cleansing against the victims of that ethnic cleansing as, like you say, a two-sided conflict started by Hamas. But I think there’s an ideological dimension to it, or a moral dimension to it as well, that kind of underlies a lot of the examples you’re bringing up, and it kind of gets to that New York Times headline I was talking about— “First Israeli Dies,” and then sixteen paragraphs down, Oh, by the way, 80 Palestinians died today.
It reminds me of back when The Onion newspaper was coming out in print, and they had a massive headline, “One American Dies,” and then 12 paragraphs down, “Japan sinks to the bottom of the ocean and 200 million people die.” But never mind that, one of them was an American. And this is the way people are trained to think in America. By extension, “Israelis are like us. They believe in the same values we do. They’re civilized people.” You can see the racist connotations and dimensions to this, but more fundamentally, these are people who are part of the “civilized world.” Well, yeah, you know, the shared values between the United States and Israel include that they’re both built on genocide and ethnic cleansing. But people are trained that we have these special high moral values and that we share them with the Israelis. So Israeli lives are kind of an extension of American lives.
And in opposition to that, at revcom.us, and other people have brought this forward as well, and it’s an important stance to popularize, and I encourage people to tweet it and so on:
"American lives are Not more important than other people’s lives."
"Stop thinking like Americans, and start thinking about humanity."
Q: You commented in one of the things you wrote that Ilan Pappé’s analysis that what Israel is doing in Gaza is part of an incremental genocide, that this is a very critical insight. Why?
A: Well, because it’s true. In the interview that you did with him, he goes into depth about how it’s important for people to stop looking at things in terms of, was the current conflict provoked by Hamas rockets, and then before that, it was shelling from Lebanon, and before that it was something else—and to recognize a pattern here of incremental genocide.
Now, when we’re hearing the Israelis saying that they’re not going to stop the slaughter in Gaza—and I don’t have the wording right in front of me, but a lot of formulations along the lines of “Until we resolve the problem once and for all”, there are ominous echoes of Hitler’s rhetoric around the “Final solution.” The whole logic and immorality of what’s being argued by Israel and its backers in the halls of power in the United States, is that the Palestinians are the problem and that there has to be a final solution. So far, their PR people, probably, to the extent one of them blurts out “final solution,” might point out, can’t you come up with another wording? But there are ominous echoes of that, both in what they’re doing—I mean, this is a sealed-off, small area, as densely populated as New York City. Water has been cut off. Israel bombed the electricity. This is not an area of the world where people can live very long without electricity. Israel has been choking off food and construction supplies for years, and now is creating an atmosphere where something like 50 percent of the population are refugees. Well over 100,000 gathered at UN facilities where they should be able to seek shelter and safety, and instead they’re essentially sitting ducks for Israeli missiles. So Ilan Pappé’s observation is critical because it’s true and it’s important. Other people are recognizing this and it’s important that people speak out—and when that they do speak out, we have their backs. Celebrities and others who speak out about this come under vicious attack and we have to make sure that they’re not silenced.
Q: Do you have any closing comments you want to make?
A: I’ll share something. I don’t have the wording in front of me, but a reader at revcom.us sent in something along the lines of From Gaza to the U.S.-Mexico border, to the ghetto, people must be free. We need revolution. And I think that is kind of the take-away message from what we’re seeing now.
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