‘After the Dust Settles and Tears Dry in Gaza, We’re Going to Have Lots of Dead People, Anger and More Extremism than Before’

Interview with James J. Zogby, co-founder and president of the Arab American Institute, conducted by Scott Harris

One month after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack that killed 1,400 Israelis and captured 240 civilians taken to Gaza as hostages, Israel’s bombing of Gaza has killed 10,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,000 children. In response to the ongoing carnage, worldwide protests were organized in London, Berlin, Paris, Ankara, Istanbul and Washington on Nov. 4, calling for a ceasefire. In recent weeks, Jewish Voice for Peace and their allies have engaged in protests and acts of civil disobedience at the U.S. Capitol, New York City’s Grand Central Station, Philadelphia’s 30th Street train station and at the Statue of Liberty to demand a ceasefire in Gaza, while denouncing U.S. support for Israel’s indiscriminate bombing campaign.

Israel’s relentless airstrikes, combined with a lack of food, water, fuel and medical supplies prompted UN Secretary-General António Guterres to declare that “the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour,” describing the situation in Gaza as “becoming a graveyard for children.”

Between the Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with James J. Zogby, co-founder and president of the Arab American Institute, and a highly respected international public opinion pollster. Here he takes a critical look at Israel’s rational for bombing civilian targets in Gaza and the conditions under which Palestinians live that lead to anger and despair.

JAMES J. ZOGBY: When Israelis talk about exterminating Hamas or “They’re all animals, and we’ve got to,” whatever, whatever, I say, “If you want to defeat Hamas, give hope to the people of Gaza, give hope to the people of Palestine. Pull the rug out from under those who prey off of their despair.”

It’s counterintuitive for some, but it’s the only rational approach. If Palestinians had employment, if they had a future, if they had a sense that they will get independence, they will get freedom, that the occupation and the strangulation of their country will end, that would take care of so much of what we consider violent extremism.

If you think about it, it’s logical. If they had a reason to live, they would, but they don’t, the young kids don’t. And I think that’s the one thing I want people to understand about Gaza is that if there were a radical transformation of daily life, a lot of what we see today as problematic would go away.

SCOTT HARRIS: Dr. Zogby, Israel, and to some degree, the US, is justifying Israel’s bombing of civilian targets in Gaza, schools, mosques, hospitals, UN compounds and the like, by claiming that Hamas terrorists are using Palestinian civilians as human shields. And some Israeli officials compare Israel’s attack on Hamas as parallel with US attacks on Germany and Japan during World War II. What’s your response to that kind of rationale for the carnage we’re seeing in Gaza right now?

JAMES J. ZOGBY: Look, we’ve been dealing with this issue of bombing Gaza. Israel used to say, “Smart bombs. And we went after a very specific target.” And frankly, they lie. There’s no such thing as a smart bomb. There’s always what they call collateral damage, meaning civilians who will die because they’re in the vicinity.

They go after a Hamas leader who’s living in an apartment building with his family and there’s families around, they kill a bunch of people, they say it was collateral damage or human shields. No, there are rules of war that are honored more in the breach than in the observance.

And the fact is that when you bomb a congested area, when you bomb a church, when you bomb a hospital, when you bomb a school, even if there is a bad person in the school and you kill 100 other people or 50 other people or 10 other people, that is a crime. There’s no such thing as an excusable killing of dozens — and in this case, thousands and thousands of civilians — there just isn’t.

And frankly, if Israel thinks that by doing this, they’re getting rid of Hamas, every one of those families that lost people, every one of those families that have been forced to flee from the north and go to the south where there is no infrastructure, where there is no housing, where they had to leave all of their belongings, their photographs, their family treasures, their memorabilia, all the stuff that was a part of their lives, they’ve had to abandon it and now these buildings have been bombed into rubble.

They’re not going to grow up loving Israel, they’re not going to grow up wanting peace. You’re going to get something more virulent than Hamas itself at the end of this. There is no logic to this. If the idea is to make peace, there’s no logic to killing thousands of people and just saying, “Ah, it’s collateral damage. And they shouldn’t have been there in the first place, we told them to leave.”

Look, Hamas is a deplorable organization with an ideology that I find contemptible. They’re misogynist. They use theology as an ideology, which is always dangerous just as it is for the extremist religious groups in the West Bank, the Israeli groups, and just as it is for some of the religious nationalists here in the U.S.

When you use God to justify all your behavior, you’re trying to justify evil things you do. I do not have any feeling for Hamas at all other than anger at what they’ve done over the years.

But having said that, to allow Israel to kill 10,000 people, to exterminate them, when you know or we should know from history, that will not happen. What’s going to happen when the dust settles and the tears dry is we’re going to just have lots of dead people, lots of anger, and probably more extremism than we had before. This is not the way to solve this problem.

And frankly, I fault Hamas to be sure. I clearly fault Israel, but more than that, I fault the United States because we should have been the adult in the room, we should have put restraint on this. And when we give Israel $4 billion a year and we’re giving them another $14 billion, and we go to them and we say, “Please don’t do this. And please think about civilian casualties. And it’s not a good idea if you do this.” I mean, (beep), pardon my French.

The point is that we could put conditions on that aid. They put conditions on us. They say, “We’re not going to do a ceasefire unless Hamas does this, this, this.”

We can say to them, “And you’re not going to get the $14 billion unless you pause and stop bombing and stop your settlers from rampaging through the West Bank, evicting innocent people from their orchards and from their villages,” which is what they’ve been doing under the cover of what’s going on in Gaza. A couple dozen Palestinian villages have been evacuated by terrorist settlers who’ve come in and have just scared them out of their homes.

These are crimes and we’re guilty of them, America is, because it’s been happening on our watch, and we have done nothing other than plead with the Israelis not to do it when we have far more leverage than that.

For more information, visit Arab American Institute at aaiusa.org.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with James J. Zogby (27:35) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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