U.S. Complicit in “On-Air Genocide”: Palestinian Amb. Husam Zomlot Slams 12-Week Gaza Assault
Written by GRB on 30/12/2023
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Another 187 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza over the past 24 hours as Israel continues to attack refugee camps and other areas across the Gaza Strip. Gaza health officials say the Israeli assault has killed more than 21,500 Palestinians over the past 12 weeks. In central Gaza, Israeli attacks killed at least 35 Palestinians in Nuseirat and Maghazi refugee camps. At least 20 more Palestinians died when Israel attacked a residential building near the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah, the southern Gaza city overflowing with displaced Palestinians.
In more news from Gaza, Israeli military officials have admitted it carried out a deadly strike on the Maghazi refugee camp on Christmas Eve that killed at least 86 Palestinians. The IDF said it “regrets the harm” caused to civilians, and claimed that Israeli troops had used the wrong type of bomb. An Israeli official said, quote, “The type of munition did not match the nature of the attack, causing extensive collateral damage which could have been avoided,” unquote. Despite the admission, Israel continues to attack the Maghazi refugee camp. On Thursday, at least five people were killed when Israel bombed a girls’ school housing displaced Palestinians.
Meanwhile, UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, has renewed its call for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying the besieged territory is grappling with catastrophic hunger.
For more, we go to London, where we’re joined by Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Ambassador, welcome to Democracy Now! If you can just respond to this latest news, Israel’s admission that they said they were apologizing for causing unnecessary collateral damage, what this means, and, overall, if you can talk about what’s happening in Gaza — in fact, the place where you come from?
HUSAM ZOMLOT: Hello, Amy.
Well, killing 187 Palestinians, primarily children and women, in U.N. shelters, girls’ school, is not collateral damage. More than 21,000, as you reported, mostly, 70% of them, are women and children. And by the way, we have 8,000 unaccounted for under the rubble, so the numbers are going to be much higher. Rescue teams are unable to reach, let alone rescue, all these people under the rubble for days and weeks.
What Israel is doing is the first-ever on-air genocide. This is not just about how many they are killing, primarily families and civilians. It’s also about turning Gaza completely lifeless, unlivable. And you have all reported the targeting of the very infrastructure of Gaza, be it hospitals, be it schools, universities. And weaponizing food and water, starving 2.3 million people and displacing almost 2 million, most of them in Rafah, while still bombarding the very area they claim to be safe is a very classic design of genocide and ethnic cleansing. I think Israel has been engaged since its establishment in one theory, one ideology, one idea: It wants the land, all of the land, without the people. Remember the mantra that, you know, “a land without a people for a people without a land.” And this explains much of the Israeli actions; otherwise, nothing justifies what has been happening over the last 12 weeks.
And here, the problem really, really is not Israel. Israel is committing crimes against humanity. Israel will have to be held accountable. Its generals, its politicians will have to be behind bars. And justice will have to be served. And we Palestinians must think about our right of self-defense. This is number one priority. And our priority now is a complete, comprehensive, permanent ceasefire, because we cannot even assess the situation unless the mass killings of Israel ends. And we want to see a massive humanitarian assistance immediately to Gaza from all sides, air-lifted, sea-lifted and what have you, because the level of catastrophe is unprecedented in recent human history. We have to prevent Israel’s actual real plan of pushing people out of Gaza toward Sinai, the ethnic cleansing, and we must assure that Israel does not take any part of Gaza, as they have been claiming.
But there, we must revisit all that happened, including the U.S. role, Amy. And here, we very much regret — you know, the U.S. has been losing its credibility, its standing over years and decades. But this time is different. This time is absolutely different, for many, many experts are — and lawyers are looking into the U.S.’s direct material participation, contribution to the genocide we’re talking about. But we leave that to the lawyers. But definitely the U.S. could have prevented these atrocities that have really shocked humanity all over. But it did not, as you know. It did use the veto power to stop the Security Council from taking its own responsibility of enforcing law and order. And the Biden administration will be remembered by this. We will not forget.
The Biden administration is complicit. It has enabled Israel to do so. It has enabled Israel to drag the whole region into this instability. It has enabled Israel to drag the whole world. Look what is happening to the international order, the rules that we created together after the Second World War, the horrors of the Second World War, when we all said “never again.” The U.S. is there, going out of its way to shield a Netanyahu, a Netanyahu and a Smotrich and a Ben-Gvir, the most fanatical supremacist government in the history of mankind, not only Israel. And then the U.S. is there to shield this government?
And the U.S. knows that this is Netanyahu’s war. This is Netanyahu’s war of choice. Netanyahu is doing this only to save his political career. He’s not doing this for Israel’s security. He’s not doing this for any prospects for his people. He’s doing this because he knows the moment the guns — his guns — would stop, the moment the political guns will turn against him, and he might end up in court and in jail. And then the U.S. fails to be the grown-up in the room, is a moment to taint the U.S. for a long, long time to come, to taint Biden himself personally and every member of his administration.
AMY GOODMAN: What exactly do you think President Biden should be doing right now?
HUSAM ZOMLOT: To stop the carnage, first and foremost. A president of the United States of America, and given the Constitution, the making of the U.S., the Bill of Rights of the U.S., your history — a president sitting there seeing all these children, hearing the U.N. secretary-general saying Gaza has become graveyard of children — and I’m sure he sees all these footages — and allowing this, enabling this, spinning this, giving Israel the political, legal, material cover to do this?
You know, every bomb Israel is dropping on our children is American-made. These 2,000-pounds bombs that they have been dropping — and you’ve just quoted their spokespeople saying that, “Oops, these bombs killed many people, when we intended this bomb has more ‘collateral damage’” — these are American bombs. So, who’s responsible here? So America would stop this now if they stopped providing Israel with weapons, with bombs, with these lethal weapons that have ended up in the bare bodies of our children. So America is responsible, Amy. It is responsible. And it must stop sending weapons to Israel immediately. And it must stop vetoing our efforts at the Security Council to stop this carnage, this madness.
And by the way, Amy, this madness is not going to stop only on the borders of Israel-Palestine. You are already seeing the region, and, you know, more than six arenas are engaged now, and Israel is bombarding Lebanon, Syria. Yemen is involved. And God knows what will happen next. But also, the effect of this on humanity, I mean, on liberal democracies. Look what is happening in the U.S. Look what is happening in the U.K. and everywhere. There are some politicians who are going out of their way to shield Israel, and, in the process, undermining the very foundation of liberal democracies, like people’s right to protest, to speak, to express, to boycott. In your country, in the U.S., you know, many states have used the power of the law, legislating so people will have to, in a way, sign a contract, if they are going to deal with the federal government or any public body, that they will never boycott anything to do with Israel, even the settlements. Here in the U.K., they’re using the power of the law to make sure that here people will not divest from the illegal settlements, the illegal colonial settlements, according to U.K. law, U.S. law and international law, of course.
So this is a moment when everybody — that’s why, by the way, Amy, you’ve seen the hundreds of thousands of people here — here, behind me, in London — a couple of weeks ago, and you will see many of them, because these millions of people, here and worldwide, have discovered that, actually, Israel is not just oppressing the Palestinians. Israel is oppressing every one of them. Israel is oppressing humanity. Israel is dragging the entire world into this immoral orbit of wars and oppression and suppression of an entire people. And in the process, the world is losing its own international system, i.e. the United Nations, the Security Council, all the rules we created after the Second World War.
What is the international order? What is the essence of the international order? It is that war should not be the first option. That’s the number one rule. That’s why we have Security Council, to prevent wars. Number two, should wars be an option, there are rules for these wars, the Geneva Conventions, one of which is don’t target civilians, and you must protect civilians as an occupier. And number three, there is accountability, should war crimes have been committed. The U.S. has completely destroyed, enabled Israel to destroy all these provisions and rules and premises of the international order.
And, Amy, if you’ll allow me — and this is for the Biden administration to think about very seriously, to think about the impact — the impact — that Israel has normalized the mass murder of children, the mass murder of families and civilians, the mass destruction of hospitals, schools, universities. Normalizing such scenes is going to have severe, severe consequences on our humanity, on how the world will function — not even about the U.S. role.
I think, I believe the U.S. has lost its role, not only in Israel-Palestine. The U.S. will not have standing in the South. The U.S. will not have standing in the East anymore. The U.S. has really made this all about Israel, for reasons beyond our discussion. It’s almost — for many people in the South and in the East, it feels it’s a cultural war waged by the U.S. And Israel is the — you know, that alliance, unbreakable, trumps anything. It trumps our laws. It trumps our humanity. It trumps our security. It trumps our children, trumps everything. And therefore —
AMY GOODMAN: Amba—
HUSAM ZOMLOT: — it’s a moment to pause —
AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador, I wanted to ask you about Britain, about the tens of thousands of people who have protested, about Prime Minister Rishi Sunak firing the hard-right Home Secretary Suella Braverman, coming a month after she called Palestinian solidarity marches, quote, “hate marches.” This is what the Prime Minister Sunak said [sic].
SUELLA BRAVERMAN: We’ve seen now tens of thousands of people take to the streets, following the massacre of Jewish —
AMY GOODMAN: This is Suella Braverman.
SUELLA BRAVERMAN: — people, the single largest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust, chanting for the erasure of Israel from the map. To my mind, there’s only one way to describe those marches: They are hate marches.
AMY GOODMAN: “Hate marches,” Suella Braverman said. And then she was out. The significance of this?
HUSAM ZOMLOT: Very, very significant. The main message is that this country, the people of this country, the British people, will not allow for such divisive politicians and rhetoric and discourse. And the people have really delivered their verdict. I have participated in all these demos, in most of them. I spoke there, and I’ve seen. I’ve seen firsthand. I’ve seen every color, every background. I’ve seen the Christians and the Muslims and the Jewish brothers and sisters, who have been with us for a long time. I’ve seen a moment of unity of the British people delivering their message that “ceasefire now,” “not in our name,” that we have to end this once and for all.
And by the way, this is the power of the people. I must admit, Amy, the position of the U.K. government is very concerning, very regrettable, so far, until now, lagging behind yet the position of the people. The energy of the people is really inspiring and, I must say, very hopeful, because if we go back to history, it’s people who ended up illegalities and oppressions, including the apartheid regime of South Africa. It’s London here that the anti-apartheid movement emanated from. It’s the British people and the American people, the Europeans, the Africans, the Asians, that came together in that global movement and suffocated the apartheid regime, sucked oxygen out of the apartheid regime. And then we saw the end of that regime, and we saw the release of Nelson Mandela. So, the power of the people is important.
And as much as we despise governments’, Western governments’ position, that will be remembered in history, they will be judged through history. As much as we really are appalled by that, we are so inspired, empowered and certain about the power of their people, in the U.K., in the U.S. and everywhere. And I think this is different. Now it’s a moment of confliction. I believe this is a movement in the making that will go all the way to ending Israel’s illegality and occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about what they call the day after, the plan for afterwards. You have Netanyahu canceling the war cabinet meeting. And I was just reading an article in The Times of Israel that says, “In 2019, Yitzhak Ilan, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet” — that’s the Israeli intelligence agency — “who was running for Knesset with the centrist Blue and White party, told a political gathering that Smotrich was a ‘Jewish terrorist’ who planned to blow up cars on a major highway during the Gaza disengagement. Ilan claimed … he had personally interrogated Smotrich.
“Smotrich … denied any connection to any plan to destroy infrastructure or commit terror offenses.
“Dvir Kariv, who was a senior agent in the Shin Bet at the time, claimed earlier this month in an interview with Channel 12 news that Israeli authorities decided not to prosecute Smotrich and his alleged collaborators because the Shin Bet did not want to expose [its] sources.”
Now, I bring this up because, apparently, the finance minister, the far-right settler, Bezalel Smotrich, is the one who prevented the war cabinet meeting from going, or at least that Netanyahu caved to, afraid he’d lose his coalition, which could mean that he would no longer be prime minister, which could mean he could be going to jail for his own corruption cases. But if you can talk about the cancellation of this war cabinet meeting, and what you want to see happen afterwards?
HUSAM ZOMLOT: Well, the cancellation of the war meeting, whatever it is, is just another expression of how fanatical, how extreme, how supremacist, how dangerous these people are — not only Smotrich. By the way, Smotrich has published a plan — you can read it, it’s online — that he calls — already a few years ago, that he calls for the ethnic cleansing of the rest of Palestinians. He gives us three options: Either we stay as slaves in our own homeland, or we leave en masse — look what they’re doing in Gaza — or we are killed by the army. And he published this. So, this is a man who now handles Israel’s finance. He pays for the settlements. He pays for the army, etc.
But there is a sitting convicted terrorist in the Israeli Cabinet, including Ben-Gvir, who’s now handling the so-called national security, minister of Israel. It’s unbelievable. And, you know, one of the declared aims of war for Netanyahu is to deradicalize the Palestinian people. I mean, who needs to be deradicalized here? Ben-Gvir, who was convicted by an Israeli judge, Israeli court as a terrorist and as a racist.
And, you know, this is a moment when we don’t really waste our time. We should not discuss the day after. The day after is going to be up to the Palestinian people. We have our structures. We have our legitimacy. We have our umbrellas. And we will make sure that the day after would be one in a united people, like, and a united land. Gaza is a part of Palestine. And any day after will have to include Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in one unit. We will not accept Israel’s dreams, daydreaming that Gaza will be carved out, as they have been trying to do for many, many years now. Israel is a beloved part of our territory.
And the thing that we need to discuss, Amy, is the day before. And everybody now is wanting us to discuss the day after. No, the day before, the day before the 7th of October — the occupation, the colonization, the racism, the supremacy, the murders all over the West Bank, the provocations in Jerusalem, the rounding and arresting of our children without trial, without charge, without access to their parents or lawyers. This is what needs to be discussed, the decadeslong oppression, suppression of an entire nation. The denial, the bare, basic denial, of basic rights needs to be discussed. The whole idea that Israel could keep a permanent occupation, permanent colonization, permanent siege, permanent denial of refugees to go back to their homes, with the help of the U.S. administration and the rest of the West, to really bypass the Palestinian issue, that is what we are going to discuss soon, because, you know, for the last so many years, the West has enabled Israel to actually be convinced that it can bypass us, that the Biden — remember the Trump administration. I was the ambassador in Washington during the Trump time, if you remember, Amy. And, you know, the Trump administration —
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what happened.
HUSAM ZOMLOT: The Trump administration has simply, completely gave Israel the stamp of approval to undermine any prospect of a two-state solution and to actually keep believing that they could turn their occupation permanent. But then comes the Biden administration, who promised during the election otherwise, but they failed miserably. They did not reverse any of the Biden — of the Trump’s administration very lethal policies. And, actually, they doubled down on the psychology and on the mindset of bypassing the Palestinian issue. They pushed for further normalization between Israel and the nonconflicting parties, you know, Emirates, what have you, even Saudi Arabia. And the fact is, the Biden administration knows that Israel’s issue is with us, not far away.
So, there are two agendas here. There was one of Netanyahu and co., because successive Israeli governments, which is a nonsolution agenda, as basic as that. And there was the Palestinian and the international agenda, which is, so-called, the two-state solution, i.e. Israel has got to end its occupation.
The Biden administration has got — they did nothing whatsoever in the last three years or so to actually go in that direction. Everything they did was in the opposite direction. And now they are in this mood of trying to curb Israel, but they are failing to do so, because they will not be able to use the stick. They are unable to tell Israel, “We will stop arming you. We will stop funding you. We will stop protecting you in the Security Council.” So Israel is not listening. That’s the unfortunate situation.
AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador, I want to —
HUSAM ZOMLOT: And the onus will be on the U.S.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to get your response to a tweet posted Thursday by Secretary of State Tony Blinken. He said, “This has been an extraordinarily dangerous year for press around the world. Many killed, many more wounded, hundreds detained, attacked, threatened, injured — simply for doing their jobs. I am profoundly grateful to the press for getting accurate, timely information to people.” He wasn’t talking specifically about what’s happened in Gaza. But I’d like you to address this. You addressed a rally recently where you talked about the astounding number of journalists who have been killed in Gaza. The numbers are believed to be up to something like 105. And the significance of journalists being killed?
HUSAM ZOMLOT: It’s part of Israel’s deliberate targeting of journalists all over. And remember Shireen Abu Akleh. And Mr. Blinken was involved with the case of Shireen Abu Akleh. And yet again, America put its weight behind acquitting Israel of any responsibility about Shireen. And by the way, Shireen is both Palestinian citizen and American citizen. But now this whole —
AMY GOODMAN: The Al Jazeera reporter.
HUSAM ZOMLOT: — targeting — yeah, yeah, yeah, Al Jazeera, but a Palestinian icon, a beloved Palestinian voice of the Palestinian people, a Jerusalemite. And, you know, she’s a most prominent — a most prominent journalist, sniped, killed by an Israeli soldier in Jenin as she was covering live events. And, you know, Mr. Blinken was involved, the U.S. was involved, the FBI was involved, about their own citizen, and nothing came out. Israel is the exception. Everybody just — every U.S. administration has just simply looked the other way when Israel commits crimes. That’s the issue. Israel has been made so immune, above every law, above every single basic human value.
Now, back to your question, this is also part of the suicide — I’m sorry, the sociocide, sociocide of the Palestinian people, because if you kill their doctors, their professors, their journalists, etc., then if you kill their elites and the sectors that provide life, be it health, be it education, be it media — because media is an integral part of any society — then the society will be unable to survive. And go back. More than a hundred journalists have been killed in Gaza, and the count is still going on. So, this is part of making our society simply lifeless, unable to survive, unable to stay.
And let me say this. Maybe this will sound a bit emotional. But it’s not going to happen, because we have a very, very special society, very rooted, very tradition, and knows how to come together in these moments and knows how to survive. We have learned how to survive, since the Nakba of 1948. So, Israel can break all these laws. Israel can break the very basic human values. But it cannot break us. That’s a fact. And look at Gaza. You are following what is happening in Gaza. All what Israel is doing is just exposing the savagery, the barbarism this whole entity is about, and our need to end the idea that you can control things by military means. You can’t control things by military means. You can only control things when you end the illegalities and the occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Husam Zomlot, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom, who himself lost family members in Gaza, where he is from.
Coming up, Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory. Stay with us.