'Genuinely Shocked They Aired It': CNN Interview Cuts Through Pro-Israel Propaganda on Gaza

Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian National Initiative (R) speaks to Fareed Zakaria on CNN on October 8, 2023.

(Photo: CNN)

'Genuinely Shocked They Aired It': CNN Interview Cuts Through Pro-Israel Propaganda on Gaza

"We should all have equal life, we should have all peace, we should all have justice, and we should live in dignity," said Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. "The main way to achieve that is to end occupation, end the system of apartheid."

Palestinian human rights advocates and historians called an interview broadcast on CNN late Sunday a "must-watch" for anyone seeking the broader context for the violence that erupted over the weekend, as Palestinian politician and advocate Dr. Mustafa Barghouti told anchor Fareed Zakaria that the surprise attack by Hamas followed decades of occupation and apartheid as well as the killings of thousands of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in recent years.

Zakaria introduced Barghouti by saying that the political leader of Hamas "has blamed the violence squarely on Israel's occupation of Palestinian land," adding Barghouti would provide "another Palestinian viewpoint" for viewers of "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

While condemning violence against civilians, Barghouti said the fighting has evolved as "the direct result of the continuation of the longest occupation in modern history" and used the same term accepted by the United Nations, thousands of academics, and international human rights experts—apartheid—to describe the system Palestinians have been forced to live under.

"There is one way to stop any violence and that is to end the Israeli occupation," said Barghouti. "And that is for the United States to be fair. They cannot say that Israel has the right to defend itself, but we the Palestinians don't have the right to defend ourselves... The only way to stop it is to tell Israel, 'You have to respect international law, you have to end this illegal occupation and accept Palestinians as equal human beings.'"

While Israeli officials have refused to meet with the Palestinian government in the past decade, Barghouti noted, Palestinian civilians have faced escalating violence by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and settlers, including the killing of 248 civilians—40 children among them—just this year in attacks on Jenin, Nablus, and other cities.

Meanwhile, he said, 20 communities have been evicted "in an act of ethnic cleansing," Israeli extremists have attacked Muslim and Christian holy sites, and far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has called for the entire Palestinian town of Huwara to be "wiped out" by his country's military as well as saying that "Palestinians have one of three options: only either to immigrate or accept a life of subjugation to Israelis, or die."

Barghouti's interview aired after the Hamas attack killed more than 700 people in Israel and as the group reportedly held more than 100 people hostage. Israel launched airstrikes in Gaza in response that killed more than 500 people and injured thousands, before officials announced a "complete siege" on the Gaza Strip, a region that has already faced a land, air, and sea blockade for 16 years.

Barghouti rejected the notion that the fighting over the weekend "will strengthen right-wing forces in Israel," as Zakaria said, and that it will ultimately make Palestinians' lives "harder," with restricted movement and impoverishment.

"Unfortunately, Fareed, what you have described is exactly what we already have, by 560 Israeli military checkpoints," said Barghouti. "The whole West Bank has been divided into 224 small ghettos separated from each other, and the settlers are everywhere attacking Palestinians. "Can we stop what's going on now? Yes, of course, all these Israelis who are now in Gaza can be released tomorrow... if Israel also accepts to release our 5,300 Palestinian prisoners who are in Israeli jails, including 1,260 Palestinians who are in jail without knowing why under the under the so-called "administrative detention."

The New Arab, a media outlet based in London, called Barghouti's interview "a rare occasion in media history where a Palestinian has been able to speak freely on live TV without being interrupted."

Human rights attorney Noura Erakat added that the discussion provided "an entire clinic to provide the context we need for a durable solution featuring justice with peace."

Barghouti concluded the interview by noting that Israel and its allies have identified no way for Palestinians to resist the decades-long occupation.

"If we struggle in a military form, we are terrorists, if we struggle in a nonviolent way we are described as violent, if we even resist with words we are described as provocative," he said. "If you support Palestinians and you are a foreigner, they describe you as an antisemite, and if you are a Jewish person—and there are many of those who support the Palestinian cause—they call them 'self-hating Jews.'"

"We should all have equal life, we should have all peace, we should all have justice, and we should live in dignity," he added. "The main way to achieve that is to end occupation, end the system of apartheid that I am sure no Jewish person can be proud of. Time has come for that and time has come for justice and freedom."

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