Brooke Gladstone: Hey there loyal listeners. Here's something old and something new. What's old is that we're asking for your support. What's new is that we have a matching grant, we don't get those much, but we have a couple of super fans who are putting something extra into the effort of keeping us healthy. Now, I have to assume that you all make an effort to follow the news, because you're listening to me right now, so you know that the station's been hit with a drop in corporate and foundation support. It's hurt the station and it's hurt this show, so we've got this match.
If we get 250 of you to support On the Media with a donation by November 10th, we'll unlock $15,000 from Bill G and Sue Carruthers. As a little incentive, you'll get our first ever On the Media T-shirt when you make a donation of $12 a month. Be the envy of lawyer friends. Just text OTM to 70101, or visit onthemedia.org. It might seem like 250 out of so many thousands of loyal listeners wouldn't be a heavy lift, but I am here to tell you, it is. I'm going to say something I never say, it's a cliché and I don't like it, but when it's true, it's true.
Now, more than ever, we need your support. Just text the letters OTM to 70101 or visit onthemedia.org now. Thanks. From WNYC in New York. This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
Micah Loewinger: And I'm Micah Loewinger. Actually, the last couple of weeks, we've been wrestling as a weekly show with how to cover a story that changes day by day. This is by no means unusual, but this one is particularly tough because of the stakes and all the unreliable narrators, and the inevitable Fog of War.
Brooke Gladstone: Hamas executed a well-planned attack killing brutally and at close quarters 1,400 people in Israel according to the Israeli government. As I write this 12 days later, the Israeli military has killed via airstrikes some 3,700 in Gaza according to the Health Ministry there. The world has watched as they say in horror, but it's a horror mediated and filtered through blatantly unreliable or premature accounts, and irresistible bias spreading a greasy smear over every lens. A wave of anguish and hatred has swept the discourse in print and broadcast, cable news, social media, and the world's dinner tables in streets.
Speaker 3: The Israelis dead, massacred in their own beds. What are you protesting for your barbarians?
Speaker 4: As Jewish New Yorkers, we are here to say not in our needs.
Brooke Gladstone: In our in President Biden's speech on Thursday, he spoke of our current wars, described this moment as an inflection point and tried to remind us yet again that we are a great people.
President Biden: We must without equivocation denounce antisemitism. We must also without equivocation denounce Islamophobia.
Micah Loewinger: A disgraceful scene at NYU where students were seen ripping down the posters of Israeli hostages, one of the NY--
Speaker 5: Horrible story out of Illinois today. A six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was senselessly stabbed to death. Police say he and his mother were attacked on Saturday by their landlord allegedly because they were Muslim.
Speaker 6: They say this man punched a woman Saturday night on the seven train passageway. A 29-year-old woman asked him why he hit her, which she says, he replied, "You are Jewish."
Speaker 7: The men walked and yelled something to the effect of free Palestine before the group of people in the cars got out and repeatedly punched and kicked one of the men who's 18 years old.
Brooke Gladstone: Not for the first time in recent years, there's a sense of the world unraveling out of range of reason. Journalist and editor David Cleon likened it to the moment rendered in that poem by William Butler Yeats. The second coming, hence soon after the First World War, and the Russian Revolution. I'll give the first few lines a try.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The Fog of War is now subsumed into a fog of everything. Few really know what's happening, but everyone has an opinion about it. Well, nearly everyone, not TikTok are too raw, too real Tariq this week.
Tariq on TikTok: Well, excuse the hell out of me for not understanding over a 75-year-old, where it even goes back to the Biblical days. I cannot form an opinion on something I don't have the factual contextual comprehension on, but y'all want me to form an opinion when I don't know. How many times have I used my platform to tell people to shut the hell up when they speak on issues? They have absolutely no comprehension, absolutely no cultural competency on. Why the hell would I use my platform to do the same that I said I'm mad about?
Brooke Gladstone: One case of what we did not know. The 40 decapitated babies. A lot of grizzly photos and footage has emerged from the slaughter, but no one has confirmed 40 decapitated babies. In fact, it looks like it's a conflation of several stories.
Speaker 9: The Hamas attacks there include one site with the bodies of 40 babies, according to the Israeli soldiers who found them.
Speaker 10: They say what they've witnessed as they've been walking through these different houses, these different communities, babies. Their heads cut off. That's what they said.
Brooke Gladstone: US media on all platforms and across the political spectrum we're quick to amplify the story.
Speaker 11: We have some really disturbing new information out of Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister spokesman just confirmed babies and toddlers were found with their heads decapitated.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: I never really thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.
Brooke Gladstone: The White House later walked back the part about, "Seeing the pictures." Some journalists retracted their own statements too, but not before the unconfirmed report had reportedly reached upwards of 44 million impressions on the platform formally known as Twitter, and how about that horrific explosion at a hospital in Gaza Tuesday night.
Speaker 12: The Gaza Health Ministry says at least 500 people have been killed. Patients and civilians seeking shelter. The desperate search now to find any survivors in the rubble.
Brooke Gladstone: The first reports from the New York Times and CNN and others went with the Hamas account, hundreds buried under the rubble. Noga Tarnopolsky is an independent journalist in Israel who's written for the liberal Israeli paper, Ha'aretz, and The Washington Post among others. She was aghast that those initial reports allowed no possibility for doubt.
Noga Tarnopolsky: That it took Hamas, this terror group about three minutes to start to put out messaging, and it took us journalists less time than that to just swallow it, hook line, and sinker.
Brooke Gladstone: On Wednesday in daylight, photographs from the site showed that the hospital buildings were not hit directly. The deadly impact fell on a hospital courtyard where many displaced Gazas were sheltering. Meanwhile, as new evidence emerges, news outlets are attempting forensics from afar to determine who was most likely responsible. For instance, the BBC's investigative team reported evidence supporting the claim of the Israeli defense forces. That it was not to blame for the hospital attack, that the deaths were caused by the fallout from a rocket aimed at Israel from within Gaza.
Speaker 13: Now, we've shown these images to a number of weapons experts, and while they couldn't come to a firm conclusion, several of them told us that if the explosion had been caused by the type of bomb normally used by Israeli forces, the crater would've been bigger and there would've been more damage to the buildings.
Brooke Gladstone: The US Intelligence report noted no impact craters, but Gaza officials claimed that Israel had previously targeted the same hospital and had issued specific warnings to the hospital to evacuate. A widely disseminated video from Britain's Channel 4 News also disputed the Israeli claims.
Jesse Watters: Israel claims the Islamic Jihad failed missile was fired from here. A cemetery very close to the hospital but look again at the video of the event. The trajectory of the missile doesn't line up with that location. Too high, too horizontal. Confusingly, the Israeli's presentation also says the missile was fired from a location down in the southwest. It can't be both.
Brooke Gladstone: Certainly, the IDF has lied before. In fact, all sides have lied before. A lot. Only on-the-ground investigation will yield the truth and that's going to be a while. Anyway, the facts are beside the point. What is certain is that the hospital incident was a spark that lit a fire all across the dry tinder of the region, where many of its autocratic leaders are out of step with their people, especially on the issue of Israel. More on that later in the hour. Meanwhile, news outlets covering the story win or lose as is often the case, not on the quality of their news, but on the nature of their views. Dylan Byers is senior correspondent at Puck.
Dylan Byers: In the wake of October 7th to say anything that is at all critical of Israel, to say anything that even has the appearance of being sympathetic to the Palestinian plight or certainly anything that negates the suffering of Israelis on October 7th, touches a third rail of American politics.
Brooke Gladstone: Byers tallied how the cable news outlets fared in the last weeks. He says MSNBC is currently the biggest loser because--
Dylan Byers: MSNBC which has been quite comfortable appealing to the broad tent of left-of-center politics, whether it's the far left or the moderate left. Now, all of a sudden, has to figure out how to tow the line between the establishment worldview which is one that is very pro-Israel, whether or not they're folks are sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians or the nuanced nature of this conflict.
Brooke Gladstone: MSNBC's primetime ratings have declined by nearly a third.
Dylan Byers: At the same time Fox's audience is up by at least 40%.
Jesse Watters: I've had it with the Palestinians, I've given up on the Palestinians.
Brooke Gladstone: Jesse Watters of Fox News.
Jesse Watters: I don't like how people tried to differentiate between the Palestinians and Hamas.
Brooke Gladstone: Yet some people still try, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough.
Joe Scarborough: Let's be exact in our language. Let's be exact in our headlines because you supporting terror attacks against babies and against families, the slaughter of families, against grandmothers, that is not pro-Palestinian. Hamas says, our goal is to kill Jews.
Brooke Gladstone: The BBC was criticized for its decision not to call Hamas a terrorist organization and also for the inexactitude elucidated by Scarborough for which it did apologize.
BBC Reporter: Earlier on BBC News, we reported on some of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the weekend. We spoke about several demonstrations across Britain during which people voiced their backing for Hamas. We accept that this was poorly phrased and was a misleading description of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Now here's, the weather.
Brooke Gladstone: Keep calm and carry on should be the credo for any journalist, but in all my years covering the media and covering the media covering Israel and Palestine, not much has changed. It's now and forever a third rail. Here's John Stewart in 2014.
John Stewart: We'll start tonight in the Middle East what Israel--
Correspondents: What? Israel isn't supposed to defend itself?
John Stewart: Oh yes, Mexico Palm, Texas will be exercising--
Correspondents: Self-hating Jews?
John Stewart: Why don't we just talk about something lighter like Ukraine.
Micah Loewinger: Coming up, the falcon loses the falconer.
Brooke Gladstone: This is On the Media. This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
Micah Loewinger: And I'm Micah Loewinger. Following Hamas's October 7th attack, American TV networks rushed their star anchors and correspondence to Israel to report on the aftermath.
Micah Loewinger: You can see that we're approaching the gate now to the kibbutz. What's been left behind here is simply horrifying. Hosts like Lester Holt, Nora O'Donnell, and Anderson Cooper presented the nightly news from Israeli balconies where on occasion, action came to them.
Anderson Cooper: That sounded like Iron Dome intercept. That was a rather large explosion. That is something we have not heard very much here in Tel Aviv.
Micah Loewinger: Others went searching for danger like CNN's Clarissa Ward, who delivered a standup while lying down in a ditch near Gaza.
Clarissa Ward: Hi, John. Forgive me, I have a slightly inelegant position but we have just had a massive barrage of rockets coming in here, not too far from us so we have had to take shelter here.
Micah Loewinger: When it comes to documenting the death and destruction caused by Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza, the world is relying on journalists who live there.
Adnan El-Bursh: This is my local hospital. Inside are my friends, my neighbors. This is my community. Today has been one of the most difficult days in my career.
Micah Loewinger: Adnan El-Bursh, a BBC Arabic journalist filed this report after visiting the Shifa Hospital last Friday.
Adnan El-Bursh: Among the dead and wounded, my cameraman, Mahmud has seen his friend Malik. Malik has managed to survive but his family have not.
Sherif Mansour: Well, journalism and Gaza are mostly local journalists.
Micah Loewinger: Sherif Mansour is the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Sherif Mansour: There hasn't been a lot of international journalists inside Gaza for a while. There is a dwindling number because of the high risk and the calculation made covering that conflict over the years. What we saw is that the risks have gone exponential for people who are in Gaza. Many of them lost their media facilities. Dozens of them who were in high towers bombed in the airstrikes and many of them lost their homes and airstrikes and had to flee south.
Micah Loewinger: But we need journalists in Northern Gaza to bear witness to independently verify accounts. The ones who've remained in Northern Gaza, what working conditions are they operating under?
Sherif Mansour: There is an electricity, sometimes there is an internet. There are a lot of them who are continue to act as eyewitness in many ways by sending photos and video live. There are some who said publicly, there is nowhere to be safe to do this job and said they will stop covering because they would rather be with their families if they die.
Anas Baba: I was forced to leave my job, leave my my work to go to my family in order to evacuate them.
Micah Loewinger: This is a dispatch from Anas Baba, a writer and producer based in Gaza. He explained to NPR last week how he struggled to balance reporting and his family's safety.
Anas Baba: I started just to think where am I going to take them? Where am I going to hide them? Is there any safe place in Gaza?
Mohammed Mhawish: Even if I were to be paid for that, I cannot even go to down the streets and have my money.
Micah Loewinger: Mohammed R Mhawish is another Gazan resident and journalist speaking here on Brian Stelter podcast.
Mohammed R Mhawish: Knowing that I can be a target in any moment, it's just very horrific, but we still continue reporting and running from one area to another, just to be able to speak the voice of the people who are being killed.
Micah Loewinger: Have there been any reporters who you think that are doing a particularly standout job at this moment?
Sherif Mansour: There was a CNN local journalist who took his cell phone and a car and went around to see and tell people why exactly there is not a place where he can be safe.
Micah Loewinger: I saw this. This was a reporter on Christiane Amanpour show, driving around with his family. It was absolutely horrifying to see the expression of his children in the backseat as he was playing the role of a father and a reporter and a member of his community all at once.
Sherif Mansour: Those journalists are choosing to continue to do the best they can and otherwise, we end up with misinformation and disinformation that fuels the conflict.
Micah Loewinger: Then there's the crop of young Palestinian social media journalists unaffiliated with traditional newsrooms.
Plestia Alaqad: Right now, I'm with Dr. Ghassan. He was there, he witnessed everything that happened.
Dr Ghassan: The massacre that ensued, there were scenes of absolute carnage. There were scene of absolute carnage, there were there were amputated limbs and flesh
Micah Loewinger: We're listening to a report by Plestia Alaqad who shares her reporting with just under 1 million followers on Instagram. She and other Palestinian journalists have faced questions of credibility. Thanassis Cambanis, the director of the Foreign Policy Think Tank Century International, told the Washington Post this week that, "There is a systemic effort to discredit the very idea that there is such a thing as an independent Palestinian journalist."
Sherif Mansour: If you talk about the broader context of the conflict-
Micah Loewinger: Sherif Mansour.
Sherif Mansour: -there are a lot of journalists who are trying to cover this also in the West Bank and in Israel. We have seen unprecedented rise in assaults that we haven't seen in the past. We have documented, and I've seen a lot of reporters being assaulted verbally and physically, some of them were detained and hold on a gunpoint like a BBC journalist in the West Bank. Others like the Al-Araby TV reporting that while they are live on air, Israeli police came to threaten them and asked them to stop reporting.
Speaker 20: [Foreign language]
Micah Loewinger: Sherif Mansour and his colleagues at the Committee to Protect Journalists have observed a sharp rise in cases of violence against news professionals throughout the region. At time of recording, CPJ has counted at least 21 journalists killed since October 7th.
Sherif Mansour: Over the course of now, close to two weeks, we have seen more journalists killed than a number we've documented over the past war from 2001 until October 6.
Micah Loewinger: Can you tell me about some of the journalists who've been killed so far?
Sherif Mansour: The first few were killed by Hamas fighters in the southern parts of Israel, where they captured a few journalists, but also killed three journalists at the earliest hours. The first few killed inside Gaza were Palestinian journalists with Israeli army bullets. Since then, mostly they were journalists who were killed in Israeli army airstrikes. One were killed on Israeli Lebanese border, which makes the total the majority Palestinian.
Micah Loewinger: You mentioned that there were three Israeli journalists killed by Hamas on October 7th. One was a former AP video journalist, Yaniv Zohar who was killed at his home and then there were two young journalists, one 22 and one 25, who were murdered at the Supernova Music Festival. Do we know if any of these journalists were working at the time they were killed, or were they just caught in the attack?
Sherif Mansour: We have talked to a few of the editors who were working with them, and one of them have said that, "Yes, it was Saturday holiday," but he heard that there were a text and he actually went out of his house in order to work undocumented. When he came to his house, he found that Hamas fighters already zoning in on his home. We are trying to be inclusive in terms of who we can consider a journalist working at the time. We are still investigating the link in some of the cases, but I think we wanted to highlight the casualties daily to expose where the risks are for journalists who continue to be there or are going to try and cover the conflict right now.
Micah Loewinger: Shireen Abu Akleh, a longtime American-Palestinian reporter working with Al Jazeera, was killed on May 11th, 2022 in the West Bank.
Speaker 21: The Israeli military initially said that she was killed by Palestinian gunman, and it was only months and months later that they admitted that it was likely an Israeli soldier who fired the fatal shot.
Micah Loewinger: Your organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists, named her as an example of a pattern that you have observed. Can you tell us a little bit about what your report found?
Sherif Mansour: Yes. Our report, we called it Deadly Pattern, how basically no one was held accountable in the killing of 20 journalists since 2001 by the IDF. The majority of those journalists, 18, were Palestinian journalists, 13 of them were killed in Gaza, but there were 2 other journalists, 1 Italian and 1 British, and no justice has happened. No one was held responsible, accountable. No one was charged, no criminal investigation was open, even not just for Shireen Abu Akleh.
Micah Loewinger: Historically, have we seen a comparable pattern of Hamas and other Islamist groups in the region targeting journalists?
Sherif Mansour: Well, one of the findings we've had in our report in May that there was no Israeli journalists killed in Israel's internationally recognized border because for 15 years or so, no Israeli journalist access to international journalists to Gaza has been cut. We have recorded one case in which an Israeli journalist in 1999 was killed while accompanied by an IDF operation in Lebanon, but I think the three journalists we have seen killed on October 7th are the first Israeli journalists that were killed by Hamas.
Otherwise, there are a few journalists that we have recorded since 2001 in the second and further where it seems the person behind it were affiliated with Palestinian Authority fractions, but it's not the same pattern. We are expecting from Israel as a state and as a democracy to hold its soldiers accountable.
Micah Loewinger: Even Israeli journalists are struggling to get accountability from their government.
Noga Tarnopolsky: Journalists, like many Israelis, have indulged Benjamin Netanyahu for many, many years.
Micah Loewinger: This is Israeli reporter, Noga Tarnopolsky, who we heard from earlier in the show.
Noga Tarnopolsky: He is a guy who's very loose with the truth. He, in fact, Netanyahu has called Israeli Journalists, the enemy of the state and the Israeli media basically indulged him. We're like, "Well, Bibi's a bad boy." Now, it really is erupting. The fact that no Israeli reporter in 12 days of war has been able to ask one question to the Prime Minister is enraging, and that is being expressed loud and clear on radio and newspapers, on TV.
Micah Loewinger: On Wednesday, Israel approved a new regulation that could allow the government to arrest citizens and shut down news outlets that harm national morale or serve as a basis for "enemy propaganda." CPJ believes this new authority could be used to target Al Jazeera, the news organization from Qatar.
Sherif Mansour: Al Jazeera is one of very few Arab satellite station who have physical presence in both Israel and Gaza right now. In some ways, they were one of the earliest channels to host Israeli guests on their screens, for example, and talk to them. We have also earlier in this conflict, two Al Jazeera journalists injured in the confrontation with Lebanon.
Speaker 22: Reuters journalists Issam Abdullah was filming a live shot while in southern Lebanon when Israel fired artillery into the area where he was gathered with several other journalists. The journalists were wearing jackets clearly labeled press at the time of the attack.
Sherif Mansour: One of them also injured when their office was distracted by an airstrike in Gaza. They have a presence covering this conflict and for Arab audience for decades now. It's also not the first time the Israeli government have tried to use national security measures in order to shut down Al Jazeera before. They have done it in 2017 when they were covering protests in Israel and the West Bank. You can see even Israeli journalists who have wrote for or supported Palestinian causes being assaulted in Israel. I think if you count the detentions in the West Bank, we see a hostile environment for independent critical reporting, and this is a worrisome sign in times of war.
Micah Loewinger: Can I ask you kind of a personal question?
Sherif Mansour: Of course.
Micah Loewinger: How do you do this work? How do you just log on every day?
Sherif Mansour: It's tough. We're doing our best, but of course, it's hard. It has a heartbreaking toll on all of us. We cannot look away. We're trying to do what we do by just putting our head down and focusing on documentation. That is the best we can do to show what's happening every day.
Micah Loewinger: Sherif, thank you very much.
Sherif Mansour: Thank you, Micah, for having me. Sherif Mansour is the Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Brooke Gladstone: Coming up, a chorus of voices called the attack on October 7th, Israel's 9/11. What does that mean for what comes next? This is On The Media. This is On The Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
Micah Loewinger: I'm Micah Loewinger. In the days following Hamas's attack on Israel, President Biden expressed himself in the starkest terms possible.
President Biden: This was an act of sheer evil.
Speaker 23: The US has deployed two aircraft carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean. 2,000 American troops are on standby.
Micah Loewinger: On Wednesday, when Biden arrived in Israel-
Speaker 24: There was a hug, an embrace, between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu just as soon as President Biden exited Air Force One.
President Biden: I come to Israel with a single message. You're not alone.
Micah Loewinger: He also announced-
President Biden: $100 million in new US funding for humanitarian assistance in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Micah Loewinger: On Friday, Biden formally asked Congress for $10.6 billion in military support for Israel, on top of the more than $3 billion in military aid it already receives annually. Biden had been scheduled to meet with leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine in Amman, Jordan, as part of a broader diplomatic mission. Then the deaths at the hospital in Gaza on Tuesday night put an end to that.
Mahmoud Abbas: [foreign language]
Speaker 25: President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has said that he will no longer attend that meeting.
Speaker 26: The president's meeting with Arab leaders in Jordan has been called off, saying it was a mutual decision.
Micah Loewinger: After seven and a half hours in Tel-Aviv, Biden left, as the region erupted.
Speaker 27: Right now, hundreds are demonstrating in Beirut, Lebanon, outside of the US and French embassies, in support of Palestinians.
Micah Loewinger: In Jordan-
Micah Loewinger: -in Egypt-
Micah Loewinger: -the West Bank-
Micah Loewinger: -and in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Tunisia.
Tareq Baconi: These are protests that are in solidarity, obviously, with the Palestinians in Gaza.
Micah Loewinger: Tareq Baconi is the author of the book Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance. He's also the president of the board of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, a think tank that has been highly critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. With the collapse of Biden's plan to meet with the leaders of the region, we called Baconi to ask him what he thinks might happen now.
Tareq Baconi: This could have a domino effect around the region for things that have nothing to do with Palestine, that Palestine becomes the vehicle for the people in the region to begin to express their anger and dismay at regimes who are aligning themselves in ways that are ideologically opposed to their own people. Both Jordan and Egypt have had cold peace with Israel for decades, but the populations themselves have never really warmed to Israel.
Micah Loewinger: When it comes to Lebanon, a government which hasn't recognized Israel, the situation is even more volatile.
Tareq Baconi: It's still formally at war with Israel and Hezbollah, which is one of the biggest military powers in the Middle East, which operates predominantly out of Lebanon, has obviously aligned itself with Hamas, as it has in the past. It is very likely that if this escalates, that it will come out in defense of Palestinians as another party, another front to this war.
Speaker 28: Towns along Israel's northern border with Lebanon have been evacuated after repeated exchanges of fire. All this comes as Hezbollah's backer, Iran, is warning of preemptive action against Israel.
Micah Loewinger: Iran is implicated as the country that provides funds and weapons to Hezbollah.
Speaker 29: Today, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, denied Iran was behind the attack, claiming that those saying so are wrong. He added we kiss the hands of those who planned the attack.
Micah Loewinger: Earlier this week, Iran's foreign minister made some of the strongest statements yet.
Speaker 30: Let me read what he just said. Groups backed by Iran will not allow Israel to do what it wants in Gaza. Among those groups is Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Tareq Baconi: If Lebanon is pulled into the fray, that could be existential for Lebanon as well. Just in the immediate constellation around Palestine, we see three Arab countries that could be pulled in in ways that are existential if this escalates.
Micah Loewinger: Another inciting factor, Saudi Arabia, whose move towards normalization with Israel was unpopular with the Saudi people and is said to have been a potential spark for Hamas's attack on October 7th.
Speaker 31: You'll recall, of course, that in recent months, the White House had been supporting the effort to normalize relations between the Saudi government and its longtime adversary, Israel. Due to concerns about Israel's retaliatory strikes in Gaza, the Saudis now reportedly say those talks are over.
Tareq Baconi: I don't see that deal proceeding at least in the immediate future.
Micah Loewinger: Baconi says it was a huge miscalculation on the part of the Israeli government to assume that the blockading of over two million people in Gaza was sustainable, also underestimating the anger and passion with regard to the plight of Palestinian people throughout the region.
Tareq Baconi: To think that this is something that is limited to Palestine is to miss the possibility that Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Iran could very quickly be embroiled in this just because of the politics around Israel-Palestine. In a global reality where we also have a European war, and we also have major geopolitical realignments happening, this is more explosive than it's ever been in my lifetime, at least.
Micah Loewinger: Tareq Baconi is the author of Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance.
Brooke Gladstone: The attacks on Israel and its aftermath, the long tale of global impacts that will likely follow has called up a certain historical analogy.
Speaker 32: What Israel experienced was the equivalent proportionately of seven 9/11.
Speaker 33: This is our 9/11.
Speaker 34: This is unimaginable. This is, as someone said, our 9/11.
Speaker 35: Yesterday, it was Israel's 9/11. It's the worst of humanity.
President Biden: For a nation the size of Israel, it was like 50 9/11s.
Brooke Gladstone: As journalist George Packer wrote in The Atlantic, the facts are different but the feelings are the same, profound shock, unbearable grief, humiliation, rage, and solidarity. Certainly, October 7th will be remembered as a moment of national anguish like 9/11. In that case, it marked a turning point in how Americans saw their security and consequently their place in the world. The legacy of 9/11 is as important as the events on a single day, the mistake made in its wake, the lessons learned. How much can we really invest in analogizing 9/11 to October 7th?
Because we just don't know what'll happen over the long haul. David Klion is a contributing editor of Jewish Currents and writes for many publications including The Nation and The New Republic. His latest article for n+1 is called Have We Learned Nothing? David, welcome to the show.
David Klion: Thanks so much for having me.
Brooke Gladstone: Let's talk about the analogy. As George Packer and you yourself observed, the horror is comparable but the scale isn't. Packer went on to say the thousands or more civilians butchered on Saturday by Hamas are relative to Israel's population, a lot more than 3,000 killed in the US by Al-Qaeda. The proportionate number of dead on 9/11 would have been close to 40,000. Although Al-Qaeda had the ability to strike terror anywhere in the world, it couldn't destroy the US.
Hamas, he said, can threaten Israel's very existence both in principle and in practice if it allies with more powerful entities like Hezbollah, Syria, Iran. Why should we consider 9/11 in the midst of this conflict? What does it teach us?
David Klion: Packer and I don't agree on everything but one thing that we do agree on is that the fallout of 9/11 was basically folly, that the US started a series of wars around the world that were enormously destructive and continue to be in many cases suspended civil liberties in various regards, set up torture camps around the world, spied on American citizens and people around the world alike. For what, basically? The war in Iraq is widely understood to be a disastrous failure that never should have happened.
The war in Afghanistan, though I think it made sense to a lot of people in the beginning, went on for 20 years and ended in basically total defeat, and the collapse of the US-backed government in Kabul. The lesson there is that cooler heads might have prevailed in the first place after 9/11 and no one wanted to listen to them.
Brooke Gladstone: You wrote that you couldn't remember a time since 9/11 when emotion and bloodlust overwhelmed reason as thoroughly as they do now, including among liberal elites and media, and politics. You liken it to the 9/11 attacks inducing a kind of collective psychosis.
David Klion: I was living in DC at the time of the 9/11 attacks and I was about to move to New York, so that was kind of my world DC and New York. I think may be hard for younger people than myself to fully understand just how lockstep so much of the liberal conventional wisdom was in favor of a militarized response. People experienced the attacks very viscerally. It's not just that they were shocked and traumatized by the horror itself, but their entire sense of security, their sense of immunity was so badly shaken.
I think that in order to understand what Israel's going through right now, people have to consider that the basic premise of the Israeli state is that it will protect Jewish life. That's what it failed to do. The basic premise of so many American Jews who feel connection to Israel is that Jews will be safe there. There's a certain cruel irony in the fact that the biggest massacre of Jews on any day since the Holocaust took place, not in the diaspora, but in Israel because of the failures of the Israeli state to protect its civilians.
Brooke Gladstone: That would be another 9/11 analogy, wouldn't it? The scale of the intelligence failure. The George Bush administration didn't pay attention to pretty explicit warnings in this case. The failure seems to have been because of Netanyahu being very distracted by the schisms in his nation and in his need perhaps to duck the actions of a court regarding corruption.
David Klion: That's basically right. Israeli society has been deeply divided over the past year because Netanyahu was convicted of corruption charges. In order to avoid accountability has formed a coalition government with extreme right-wing, pro-settler parties whose language toward the Palestinians is eliminationist, it's genocidal, who also don't really believe in the ideal of Israel as a liberal democracy. Netanyahu has been eroding Israel's independent judiciary, cynically, to protect himself from accountability. Israeli society, Israeli liberals, in particular, have taken to the streets for months in large numbers to protest him.
That's what was going on at the eve of this attack. The other thing that was probably distracting Netanyahu and the Israeli defense force is the IDF, is that his policy prioritizes expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank and encourages what are essentially pogroms by West Bank settlers against Palestinians living there, which have been happening all year. In order to protect these settlers and their ability to do that, Netanyahu has deployed large numbers of IDF reserve units to the West Bank when in hindsight, probably they should have been protecting the border against a potential incursion by Hamas.
Brooke Gladstone: You also observed, again, with regard to 9/11, that it wasn't that American elites were unaware that the US had committed injustices in the Middle East or that 9/11 could be construed as a blowback. It was that 9/11 had given them permission not to care.
David Klion: There was panic and fear and anger after 9/11. You're seeing a lot of the same thing now in Israel and in the US government and in the American-Jewish community writ large. In the context of that panic and fear. There are significant factions in Israel, including serving in Netanyahu's government and in the American Jewish community that I think want to expel Palestinians from their homes in even larger numbers and to annex and settle their land. This is the explicit goal of some of Netanyahu's cabinet ministers.
For them, I think that their horror at the attack is matched with a sense of opportunism, which is somewhat analogous to how, for instance, neoconservatives in the wake of the 9/11 attack who had already been planning a US invasion of Iraq as their imperial fantasy, suddenly had the chance to make it real, and did, Iraqis and the whole world suffered consequences from that.
Brooke Gladstone: Let's talk about another echo of the analogy, which is that Israel, like the US after 9/11 had no end game. I heard the Israeli intelligence ministers say on the BBC, I've heard it elsewhere too, that what happens in Gaza's tomorrow's problem. I think that's pretty significant.
David Klion: Yes, I think that Israeli society is deeply destabilized right now, both domestically and internationally with this acute trauma. It's just endured. You're absolutely right that the open-endedness of the US war on terror and of the specific wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was a huge strategic liability that some people warned about in vain beforehand, and is why those wars dragged on as long as they did, and produced as many unintended consequences as they did.
Any sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis would require a much bolder strategic vision than any Israeli leader in, at least the past two decades, more than that, I'd say has been willing to seriously consider. Instead, I think there will be lashing out, there will be violence, generational reprisals, and it's hard to imagine any positive end game at the moment.
Brooke Gladstone: Just an anecdote, the intercept had two headlines last weekend. One was, yes, this is Israel's 9/11 and the other was not Israel's 9/11, but a prison riot.
David Klion: There's some truth to both of those framings. I think obviously I have an inclination to defend the first one, but I want to be wary of language that would justify Hamas itself or the atrocities that it committed. There are voices here and there, though I don't think very many prominent ones that have attempted to do that. I don't want to do that but I do think that it's imperative to understand the conditions that Israel maintains in Gaza and has maintained for decades in Gaza that have allowed Hamas to entrench itself and to have some legitimacy.
Those conditions include overcrowding, they include Israeli control of water, fuel, electricity, internet, all of which Israel has cut off at various points in the last week. They include periodic bombardments and we're also talking about a place where half the population is under the age of 18. Children are spending their entire lives under these conditions and are shaped in many cases into people with a lot of hatred toward the state of Israel.
Brooke Gladstone: Let's say this 9/11 analogy, though not perfect, is at least instructive. I've noticed that it's being used in two disparate ways. The first being your take. Don't go crazy. Don't let this horror give us license to ignore history and context or license not to care about innocent lives. The second being that since this is 9/11, there is no response to small. The latter was echoed by George W Bush last week. He said.
George W Bush: For that's gone on too long. Surely, there's a way to settle this through negotiations. Both sides are guilty. My view is one side is guilty and it's not Israel.
David Klion: In a way, it was almost vindicating to see George W Bush say that because here's a president whose instincts after 9/11 caused a lot of problems that we're still dealing with. For him to essentially reiterate the exact simplistic mannequin and worldview that he's so famously had after 9/11 tells you something about the dangers of this moment and the examples to be avoided.
Brooke Gladstone: You think that the comparison to 9/11 could inspire restraint?
David Klion: I hope so.
Brooke Gladstone: Was there a particular moment that inspired you to write this piece?
David Klion: I wrote this piece because the publisher and co-editor of n+1, Mark Krotov and I were having a conversation. He's an old friend. I'd only written for him once before, but we were having a conversation about how distraught we felt and how distraught so many people we knew felt, and how insane a lot of people we knew felt. This was only a few days in to quote the old poem that "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
Brooke Gladstone: The center will not hold, William Butler Yeats.
David Klion: Yes, exactly. We felt that what was needed was less a policy prescription, that op-ed and more a piece that would capture what it feels like to live through these times, to know that this has happened before the helplessness, that you feel knowing that terrible things are going to happen, that you can call out and demand not happen. You can and you will, but you know on some level it's not going to work. That some of it is unavoidable. That sense of deja vu, I guess.
Brooke Gladstone: I'm wondering whether you would read the last paragraph of your article. It starts with the remark of a campus anti-war activist on the night that Bush announced that the US had begun bombing Iraq.
David Klion: Certainly. They're already dead. I recall a campus anti-war activists saying to me on the night Bush announced that the US had begun bombing Iraq. He was right. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were about to die in Bush's folly. Their fates already decided. At the time, I understood and somewhat appreciated what the activist was saying, but I also was parochial enough to wonder whether he even cared about the Americans at ground zero who were literally already dead. Never mind that Iraq had nothing to do with what had happened to them.
Today, though his words echo in my head, as I think about the Palestinians in Gaza, and the agony of knowing that they're already dead, no matter what any of us feel, or think, or say.
Brooke Gladstone: David, thank you very much.
David Klion: Thank you. I'm really glad I could do this.
Brooke Gladstone: David Klion is a contributing editor at Jewish Currents and writes for many publications, including The Nation and The New Republic. That's the show. On the Media is produced by Eloise Blondiau, Molly Schwartz, Rebecca Clark-Callender, and Candice Wang with help from Shaan Merchant. With enormous thanks to our beloved producer, Suzanne Gaber, who gave us everything she had every leak, and now sadly for us, she's going to give it to another show. We miss you already, Suzanne.
Micah Loewinger: Our technical director is Jennifer Munson. Our engineer this week was Andrew Nerviano. Katya Rogers is our executive producer. On the Media is a production of WNYC Studios. I'm Micah Loewinger.
Brooke Gladstone: And I'm Brooke Gladstone.
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