Lia Tarachansky is an Israeli-Russian journalist with The Real News Network reporting on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Born in the Soviet Union, Tarachansky grew up in a settlement in the occupied West Bank. She is the director of On the Side of the Road, a documentary on Israel’s biggest taboo – the events of 1948 when the state was created. Tarachansky previously worked as a Newsroom Producer in The Real News’ Washington D.C. and Toronto Headquarters, and her work appeared on BBC, Al Jazeera, USA Today, Canadian Dimension Magazine and others.
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of the award-winning online publication The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. His latest book is titled The Battle for Justice in Palestine. Based in Chicago, he has written hundreds of articles on the question of Palestine in major publications including The New York Times, The Guardian and for Al Jazeera.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
The Washington Post is reporting intense clashes in East Jerusalem after a 16-year-old Palestinian was kidnapped and murdered in East Jerusalem. This comes a couple of days following the lifting of the gag order on the Israeli press regarding the killing of three Israeli teenagers almost three weeks ago.
Here to give us an update on the situation in Israel and Palestine are our two guests.
Lia Tarachansky is a Real News Middle East correspondent. She’s also the director of the documentary On the Side of the Road.
And also joining us is Ali Abunimah. He’s the cofounder and executive director of the Electronic Intifada and author of the new book The Battle for Justice in Palestine.
Thank you both for joining us.
ALI ABUNIMAH, COFOUNDER, ELECTRONIC INTIFADA: Thank you.
LIA TARACHANSKY, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, TRNN: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So, Lia, let’s start off with you. What has been the response thus far in Israel to the latest news that a Palestinian teenager was murdered, and likely as a revenge killing of the three Israeli teenagers?
TARACHANSKY: So I think for context it’s important to say that yesterday, before the teenager was kidnapped and killed, there was a right-wing protest in Jerusalem at the entrance to Jerusalem that turned violent against the police, where neofascists, led by the former member of Knesset Baruch Marzel basically called for revenge on Palestinians.
At night, the teenager was kidnapped in Beit Hanina. He was murdered. And he was found in a forest just southwest of Jerusalem, close to the village of Deir Yassin, which is the place where there was the biggest massacre in the 1948 War. Today, since it was made public that the teenager was murdered, there have been rights all over East Jerusalem, and especially in the refugee camp of Shuafat, where two photojournalists from ActiveStills were badly injured by Israeli defense forces. One was shot in the face, and the other one was shot in the arm.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. So, Alia, you just heard Lia talk about the protest, that right-wing fascist group. But also the president—the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, he called for revenge as well. Can you talk a little bit about that? What was your response?
ABUNIMAH: Well, yes, you know, the killing of this Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, cannot be a surprise to anyone who has been observing the situation. In fact, there have been a number of marches in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv of people marching through the streets in large numbers chanting “death to the Arabs”. Israeli social media is flooded with people calling for revenge, calling for blood, calling for Arabs to be exterminated. Israeli soldiers are posting images of themselves online in large numbers carrying signs calling for blood and calling for revenge.
And this is fed from the Israeli leadership at the top, as you said. Netanyahu first used the word “revenge” in response to the killing of the three teenagers. He’d said that—he’d Tweeted that the devil himself had not invented a revenge appropriate for the taking of the lives of those teenagers.
So this has been the mood and the atmosphere, and the Israeli government and army have been the role model, because for weeks they have been collectively punishing Palestinians, ransacking homes, arresting hundreds of people, killing at least six Palestinians. And so that sends a clear message to Israeli society that all Palestinians are fair game. And that, sadly, may be what has happened here. It’s unclear.
But the other really disturbing thing is, you know, how will we ever find out the truth when the Israeli police and the Israeli army are on the side of the settlers, not on the side of the victims?
DESVARIEUX: Let’s turn and talk about that gag order that was placed on the Israeli press. Lia, I want to find out what do we actually know about that gag order. Why was it put in place?
TARACHANSKY: Yeah. So three days after the kidnapping, and, actually, before that, on the second day after the kidnapping, the Israeli security service had already known the names of the suspects, which were released 17 days later, more than two weeks later. They already knew who the suspects were. They already knew about the burned-down car and, according to GPS tracking, had already known the location of the iPhone of one of the teenagers.
There was also a form phone call that was made by one of the teenagers to the Israeli police that had the recording of that phone call, where you can hear gunshots. So it was very clear from the beginning that the Israeli intelligence had a lot of information, which on the third day they shared with the Israeli press. A number of senior journalists heard the reporting and were privy to the information that these teenagers were most likely dead.
There was also a number of other things that happened that really hinted at the fact they were dead. The first thing is that the West Bank is one of the most monitored places on earth. There it is a monitored to such a level that when, for example, Palestinians request a permit to be transferred to a hospital inside Israel, they get interrogated, and in their interrogations, the interrogators often ask them about paintings in their houses, about their cousins’ weddings, intimate details of their lives. So in a place like that, to hold three hostages for 17 days is nearly impossible.
Another indicator is the fact that no Palestinian faction has taken responsibility for this action and that the Israeli government, unlike in every other incident, hasn’t released any evidence to why it’s targeting Hamas. Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister again and again, in every public sphere, in every situation he could, pointed a finger—I’m not saying that they know for sure that Hamas is responsible, but not presenting any public evidence.
Finally, the gag order was lifted when the bodies of the teenagers were found. And this revealed that the gag order was meant to protect the information of any sources that they had. In fact, the gag orders was put in place in order to protect a systemic level mishandling by the police and the army of the kidnapping.
So, today the Israeli press was flooded with information about this, especially Haaretz, that reported that on that night, the teenager called the police, and the phone call lasted two minutes and nine seconds. But after the police officers heard gunshots, they didn’t do anything with the phone call.
Another father of one of the teenagers suspected that his son was kidnapped because he went missing, and he ended up calling the police and the army 54 times. He spent six and a half hours on the phone trying to get somebody’s attention, and the Israeli army only got involved at six o’clock in the morning, while the kidnapping took place at 10:20 PM the night before.
And just to say a quick note about Ali Abunimah’s previous statement, last night the Israeli cabinet of ministers had an emergency meeting where the minister of economy, Naftali Bennett, was calling for extending the death penalty to not only include Holocaust perpetrators, but also what he called terrorist murderers. So anybody accused of killing in a political context should be extended the death penalty to as well. He also called, alongside the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, for a mass bombardment campaign and invasion and reoccupation of the Gaza Strip, to which the minister of defense actually objected. The minister of defense said that what you’re suggesting will lead to an escalation we will not be able to control, even to war. Do we really want a war with Gaza at this point? The minister of economy rebutted with, in the end we’re going to have a war with Gaza anyway, and it’s better that we’re the ones instigating it. The minister of defense then proposed that the best revenge for the killing of these settlers is to start a mass construction campaign in the West Bank to create more settlements, to create territorial contiguity throughout the West Bank, which of course means building in the contentious E1 area, where an outpost was built in revenge to the killings just a few days ago.
DESVARIEUX: Ali, you just heard Lia’s reporting on what’s going on there in Israel. What’s your response to all this?
ABUNIMAH: Well, my question is: where does this all end? We have an out-of-control Israel, which, you know, is—the scope of debate, as Lia describes it accurately, is between steal more land or bomb more Palestinians. And the likelihood is that they will end up doing both. And there seems to be no internal breaks that can change the disastrous course Israel is headed on. And there is also no international peace process. I mean, the peace process that collapsed was a sham anyway and served as a cover for ongoing Israeli colonization.
So the question is: what can change the direction? Even if calm or relative calm returns to Jerusalem or the West Bank in the next few days, it will only be temporary before the next disastrous event. And who knows where this will lead? So really something has to change. And all that I see on the horizon now that really gives hope is the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement to raise the price for these Israeli policies of collective punishment, of land confiscation, to make it—you know, I mean, Palestinians are killed without consequence. They can be killed. Nobody says, find the perpetrators. I mean, just this year, six, now seven Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli soldiers. It’s suspected that the seventh was killed by settlers, and nobody is asking internationally, nobody is—you know, Obama is not demanding that the killers be brought to justice.
So, you know, I think it’s very important that people understand that waiting will not produce peace. We need to intervene in the form of boycott, divestment, and sanctions to change the direction and to end this cycle of horror and tragedy.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. We’ll certainly be keeping track of this story on The Real News with reports on the ground from Lia. And, Ali, we’d love to have you back on. Thank you both for joining us.
ABUNIMAH: Thank you.
TARACHANSKY: Thank you for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.