Press TV has conducted an interview with Jennifer Loewenstein, a professor at the Wisconsin-Madison University, from Madison, to discuss the situation in Palestine.
What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: What do you think is the overall underlying cause to what we’re seeing taking place in Gaza today?
Loewenstein: The underlying cause is land. Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967. They have been illegally held since then. Israel has put hundreds of settlements in the West Bank and 600,000 settlers continue to live there illegally.
The peace negotiations go nowhere because the Israeli prime ministers have no intention of giving that land back.
Press TV: You take, “holding onto it tenaciously” – when we look at Gaza Strip and we see the missiles falling on this very densely populated area, does it appear to you that that word, that that’s a correct phrase that the Israelis are “holding on to the land tenacious” or are they trying to basically – it appears to punish the Palestinian people even more? –Your take.
Loewenstein: I think it’s both. They’re holding onto the land much more than tenaciously. They have no intention of ever giving it back. There’s also a long tradition of collective punishment.
I disagree with the other speaker about the historical roots of this conflict. It goes back to the 1880s.
In the First World War when Lord Arthur Balfour declared the Balfour Declaration, he had no right to do so because the British had not yet even conquered the Gaza Strip or the area, or Palestine, when they issued this declaration. The British had no right to do that in the first place. They were colonialists and occupiers themselves.
There’s something wrong with the interpretation of this conflict even in our textbooks, in our media and among our government pundits here in the United States. We don’t understand this conflict in its roots. We don’t understand that the entire land of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians.
Press TV: You said that in the United States people do not understand the reality of what has happened and what is going on? Why do you think that’s the case?
Loewenstein: One, because we’re taught that it’s the case in our schools, and that teaching is repeated in our newspapers and by our politicians, and until the American public can learn otherwise, which they have plenty of opportunities to do given the amazing access they have to alternative media on the internet, we are going to stay ignorant and, I must say, complicit in the crimes that the United States is involved in and responsible for by allowing Israel to continue its criminal policies against the Palestinian people and many other people in the Middle East, I should add.
Press TV: We hear this continuously especially in the mainstream media, that Israel has responded to the aggression from Hamas. Of course what isn’t talked about is the tight crackdown on Palestinian areas – the West Bank and also the Gaza Strip – prior to this happening.
What isn’t talked about is if then Hamas is the aggressor, then you would assume then that the aggressor, that the casualties would be greater on that other side; but we see as of this broadcast 135 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and at least 1,000 injured.
On the other side, the only casualty that we have so far is an Israeli soldier. Tell me in your perspective, what does it say?
Loewenstein: You know, first of all Hamas did not start this latest conflict. Hamas never ordered the kidnapping and murder of three Israelis, and this is what Netanyahu told the Israeli people and this is what we’re hearing in the United States.
Secondly, I think it is a gross misrepresentation of the facts that somehow the Israelis and the Palestinians are equal parties in this conflict. The occupied and the occupier are different people. Those who are slaves and those who are kept under occupation have the right to resist regimes that are discriminatory or that occupy them. I think Israel up to now has been extremely lucky that it has not seen far more resistance among the Palestinians. I don’t condone violence. I prefer non-violent resistance. I still, never-the-less, think that Israel has no right what-so-ever to attack people it is illegally occupying.
I think, once again, it has complete disregard for the lives of civilians.
It is using an excuse. The excuse is Hamas, to continue holding on to territories it does not own, that it has no right to. We don’t hear about that in the West.
We don’t understand that these territories have been illegally occupied and settled. This is a colonial settler state that we are talking about. Israel is a colonial settler state.
Its crimes against the Palestinians are not sporadic. They go on every day. This is not much of an escalation of those crimes. We just don’t hear about the number of deaths of Palestinian civilians on a day-to-day basis, that’s blocked out of our media.
Just seeing three Israelis in the newspaper after they were kidnapped and killed is enough to make people indignant and angry against the Palestinians.
Where are the thousands of faces and names and biographies and families in mourning of the Palestinians? When are we going to see them? When are they going to have the same value of human life as the Israelis and the Americans?
Press TV: You go ahead, Ms. Loewenstein, I’ll let you answer the question [posed by the previous guest speaker, Bob Ayers]. Go ahead, ma’am.
Loewenstein: First, I have to comment on your guest’s comments about colonial settler states. The United States is indeed a colonial settler state, perhaps the worst one around today. It exterminated 100,000,000 Native Americans in North America from 1500 until the beginning of the 20th century, and we have never made reparations to those people. That is absolutely correct and I speak about that often.
As to the second part of your question, would you repeat that again?
Press TV: Well, I am running out of time but I’d like you to address at this point right now with the situation in Gaza. We hear about these rockets and we hear about this going on, do you think there is like a disconnect, as if we don’t understand the personal stories that are behind it? We say it very easily, that 100 rockets have been fired, but if we look at the statistics on the ground, and I understand that you have had a personal experience, please tell me about the situation.
Loewenstein: To compare the rockets being fired by Hamas militants over the border into Israel with the fourth most powerful military state in the world, and the second most powerful among NATO nations, I have to say that that’s criminal.
Your other speaker’s interpretation of the 1973 war is equally full of propaganda. It’s unfortunate that we hear it because for example the Egyptians never attacked Israel in that war. They invaded the Sinai desert, which was occupied Egyptian land, and they had a right to take that land back. I can’t imagine anyone saying otherwise.
Yes, today a friend of mine in Gaza saw his neighbor’s house blown up while the residence of that family were inside that house. The people inside that house were not Hamas militants. In fact, there were no Hamas people in that house at all. There were people in the streets in fact shouting ‘you’ve hit the wrong house’.
Because even if hitting a Hamas house were legal, and it is not, there’s something wrong with an army claiming precision-guided missiles that accidentally drops a bomb on completely innocent people again and again and again in every single war. The overall casualties between dead Israelis and dead Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs in the Middle East are so disproportionate that to talk about Israel as a victim is a crime.