Israel has bombed Gaza for a third day in a row and mobilized dozens of tanks, raising fears that Israel could launch another invasion. The latest Israeli airstrikes came earlier this morning, after Hamas announced it had reached an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel. Tension has been escalating for days in Gaza. On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in the weekly Great March of Return protests. Sixty-two other Palestinians were injured. On Sunday, Israeli air raids struck parts of Gaza, including a refugee camp. Then, on Monday, militants inside Gaza launched a series of homemade rockets toward Israel. One rocket hit a house north of Tel Aviv, injuring seven members of a British-Israeli family. Israel blamed Hamas for the rocket attack and retaliated by launching heavy airstrikes in Gaza City targeting the office of Hamas’s political leader and the group’s military intelligence headquarters. Seven Palestinians were reportedly injured in the strikes. We speak with Budour Hassan, a Palestinian writer and project coordinator for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, and Jehad Abusalim, scholar and policy analyst from Gaza. He runs the Gaza Unlocked campaign for the United States for the American Friends Service Committee.
AMY GOODMAN: Jehad Abusalim, can you talk about what’s happening in Gaza, where your family is? Can you talk about the, well, now three days of Israeli bombardment of Gaza, they are saying, in response to a homemade rocket of Hamas, which hit an Israeli home north of Tel Aviv and injured seven people? Talk about the developments of the weekend.
JEHAD ABUSALIM: Well, what’s happening in Gaza and the rest of Palestine goes beyond the past three days. Israeli propaganda wants to show that Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip yesterday and in the past few days have happened as a response to Palestinian militants launching a rocket. I think limiting the discourse to talking about this incident limits our ability to understand how violence unfolds, not only in the Gaza Strip, but in all of Palestine.
The Palestinian people in Gaza and beyond are victims to years and years of legal and structural violence that have been inflicted on them. And this violence that Israel exercises, Palestinians experience on a daily basis. And, you know, we see the manifestations of this violence affecting Palestinian lives in the Gaza Strip — for example, the decade-long blockade that rendered the Gaza Strip unlivable; people living in Gaza with four hours to six hours of electricity a day; more than 90 percent of Gaza’s water has been undrinkable and polluted, and people don’t have access to clean water. We’re talking about a Gaza Strip with 2.2 million people, the majority of whom have never had the chance to travel and see the outside world.
But it goes beyond Gaza. In the West Bank, Israel builds more settlements and seizes Palestinian land. And Palestinians in the West Bank have been subject to Israeli violence. Inside Israel itself, you know, Palestinian citizens of Israel are victims to laws like the nation-state law that diminished any hope for them to enjoy any kind of self-determination, and made and affirmed that Israel is not a state for all of its citizens. Palestinians in the diaspora have been denied their right to return.
So, when we talk about violence, we’re talking about decades and decades of violence that have been inflicted on Palestinians. And, yes, in response to these years of violence, some Palestinians would resort to using some violent methods in response. But Israeli propaganda is trying to show that its actions are responses to some Palestinians resorting to violence, although it’s their right to defend themselves according to international law and with accordance with international law. But again, it’s important to remember that what’s happening in the Gaza Strip is part of that larger context of violence that Israel practices against the Palestinians. And it’s important for us to remember, and remember that in our narrative and in our discourse, because if we don’t do so, in the next few days or weeks, if Israel launches another 2014-like operation, thousands of Palestinians will lose their lives, and many will be rendered homeless and injured.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Budour Hassan, I wanted to ask you about the upcoming elections in Israel. I’m wondering if you could talk about the corruption allegations against Prime Minister Netanyahu and also the whole issue of what will the Palestinian and Arab citizens of Israel, who might be eligible to vote — what your sense is of what their role, if any, will be in these elections.
BUDOUR HASSAN: OK. So, I first will talk about Palestinian citizens of Israel and their position from the elections and how we see the election, because I’m a Palestinian who carries an Israeli citizenship. And I personally am going to boycott these elections, as I have always done, because I believe that participating in these elections is only going to grant Israel legitimacy and is only going to promote its image as some sort of a democratic haven, when it is anything but. And many Palestinians, after having voted for the Joint List in the previous elections and having tried that, they’ve also realized that this whole exercise of giving legitimacy to Israeli — to the sham Israeli democracy is futile, and they’re going also to boycott either from ideological reasons or from believing that this is just pointless.
What we are seeing in the Israeli elections, the two main opposing parties — if we can call that opposing — is, on the one hand, we have Netanyahu and his far-right allies, that have been talking about and practicing annexation and violating the rights of Palestinians, and doing basically what all Israeli governments have been doing, right and left, but doing it in a naked fashion, so as not to make it appear that they’re different, but, on the other hand, we have the so-called Blue and White movement, which represents itself as some sort of a moderate opposition to Netanyahu. But the leader of this movement, Benny Gantz, is a warmonger. Just today, after — in response to the recent escalation in Gaza, he has called for targeted assassination. So this is the person who represents himself as a moderate. Even when he talks about ending — or, when he talked about ending the occupation in part of the West Bank, he’s only talking about that to give Palestinians a sort of a sham state or sham control, not because he calls for liberating or because he wants an end to the occupation. So, right now, among all main Israeli parties, there is not a single Israeli, Zionist Israeli, party that is actually serious about ending the occupation, that’s serious about recognizing Palestinian rights. They’re all faces of the same coin, regardless of where they sit on the spectrum, regardless whether they represent themselves as liberal or as conservative. And this is precisely why many of us Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship are insistent that we won’t participate in the elections and we won’t contribute to this erasure of our rights, because also we believe that we have other avenues to resist Israeli violations of our rights, especially on the streets, by taking to the streets and by popular resistance, not by participating in the parliament.
Now, regarding the question of Netanyahu’s upcoming or possible indictment, of course, we all know that there is a decision by the Israeli attorney general to indict Netanyahu on one case of bribery charges and on breach-of-trust charges pending a hearing. And instead of trying to defend himself, Netanyahu has exploited this possible indictment in order to even further promote his image and represent it as a sort of a conspiracy by the left against him. So he’s kind of using all his populist cards in order to prove that he’s the one who’s being attacked by the judiciary, by the so-called left, that he represents as left. So, he’s kind of trying to use this move, and especially after Trump’s recent declaration of the occupied Golan Heights as being part — as acknowledging Israel’s sovereignty over it. Netanyahu is just using every card that he has in order to manage — in order to win elections for another time.
But again, regardless of what will happen after the indictment, if there will be an indictment, it’s obviously very clear now that Netanyahu is immersed in corruption. But the thing is, even if he is held accountable or if this — if he’s held accountable, he will only be held accountably in a very small portion, because there are other crimes, besides corruption, that no one’s talking about. We’re now marking a year to the March or Return protests. There have been almost 200 Palestinians who have been murdered — unarmed Palestinians who have been murdered in these protests. There are 7,000 wounded Palestinians. And no one’s talking about holding Netanyahu and his government accountable. There is this tendency among the liberal Israeli elite to just talk about violations when it comes to corruption. But no one, among all of them, is talking about the violations that the military, on the behest of Netanyahu, has committed. And this is precisely why, again, I think that many Palestinians within the Green Line have reached this conclusion, that after decades of Israeli colonialism and of Israeli expansion and of continued violations and of continued and the escalation of racist laws that have always been the norm in Israel since 1948, it’s time to change our strategy. Instead of giving this legitimacy to Israel, it’s time to remove this sleeve of legitimacy and kind of take, adopt other strategies in our resistance to Israeli colonialism.
AMY GOODMAN: Budour Hassan, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian writer and project coordinator for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, speaking to us from Jerusalem. And thank you to Jehad Abusalim, a scholar and policy analyst from Gaza. He runs the Gaza Unlocked campaign for the American Friends Service Committee, speaking to us from Chicago.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, in the last week, three suicides related to mass shootings. Two survivors of the Parkland massacre, a young man and a young woman, took their own lives. And then, just yesterday morning, the father of a victim of the Sandy Hook massacre killed himself. We’ll speak with a leading psychologist on suicide prevention. Stay with us.