Life and Death in Occupied Palestine

Journalist Mariam Barghouti discusses the recent violence and the reality of her life in the West Bank.

Photo illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept, Getty Images


On May 7, Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem during evening prayers. Hamas responded a few days later by launching rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel retaliated with its own strikes, and the violence escalated. Mariam Barghouti is a Palestinian American journalist based in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. She joins Ryan Grim to discuss this latest flareup in the Israel-Palestine conflict and what U.S. media is missing.

The video referenced at the end of the show is Mehdi Hasan’s “Blowback: How Israel Helped Create Hamas.”

Ryan Grim: I’m glad your Internet hung in. How is the internet over there?

Mariam Barghouti: Oh, it’s a good question. So the internet here is weak. But also we’ve been dealing with digital interference on days where there’s a call for protests. So I can receive tweets and WhatsApp messages, for example, but I can’t send them

RG: Oh wow. So you can go online and you can read social media, but you can’t participate in it. Quite a metaphor in there.

MB: Yeah. Yeah.

[Deconstructed theme.]

RG: That was Mariam Bargouti, calling in from Ramallah, and she’s our guest later in the show.

I’m Ryan Grim. Welcome to Deconstructed.

From a distance, it can feel like the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is on a doom loop of repetition. Newscasts over the years are hard to tell apart.

Newscaster: Protests in the streets. Airstrikes from above.

Newscaster: The tiny, poverty-stricken Gaza Strip has been shattered by Israeli airstrikes. Around 50,000 people have now fled their homes.

Newscaster: Two hundred and seventeen Palestinians, including 63 children and 13 people in Israel, including two children, have died since violence erupted.

Newscaster: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the airstrikes on Gaza will go on as long as needed.

Newscaster: Israel says it’s targeting militants. But according to Mohammad al-Hadidi, there was no warning before the strike that killed his wife and four sons. Only his five-month-old baby Omar was saved from the rubble.

RG: The White House response out of the gate has stayed the same, too. Biden didn’t mention Palestinians in readouts of his first calls with Netanyahu, in which he repeated the standard mantra:

President Joseph R. Biden: Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory.

RG: And Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained that the White House didn’t want to push Israel too hard:

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: The best way to end an international conflict is typically not to debate it in public. Our focus and our strategy here is to work through quiet, intensive diplomacy.’

RG: State Department Spokesman Ned Price wouldn’t even condemn the killing of children:

Saeed: You know, the Israelis killed 13 people just now, including maybe five or six children. You condemn that? Do you condemn the killing of children?

Ned Price: Saeed —

Saeed: I’m asking, do you condemn the killing of Palestinian children?

NP: Obviously, and these reports are just emerging. And I understand, I was just speaking to the team, I understand we don’t have independent confirmation of facts on the ground yet. So I’m very hesitant to get into reports that are just emerging.

RG: Meanwhile, Republicans made sure not to miss an opportunity to blame Democrats for the whole thing.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn: What President Biden needs to realize is whether it’s Hamas, or Hezbollah, or, for that matter, China, they are going to test him. Right now he is perceived as being a weak leader.

Rep. Jim Jordan: In just 118 days of the Biden administration, we went from a secure border to chaos; we went from energy independence to gas lines; we went from peace in the Middle East to attacks on Israel. And now Democrats are talking about not allowing Israel to purchase arms from us in the middle of a war! That’s how radical they are.

RG: But this time, things actually are different. Rep. Mark Pocan reserved an hour of floor time in the House of Representatives, and Democrat after Democrat used it to let loose on the Israeli government.

Rep. Ilhan Omar: Every single death in this conflict is a tragedy. Every rocket and bomb that targets civilians is a war crime. I feel the pain of every child who is forced to hide under their beds because they fear for their life and every parent who deals with that anguish. And I wish we as a nation treated that pain equally. But right now, we are not.

Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez: This is our business, because we are playing a role in it. And the United States must acknowledge its role in the injustice and human rights violations of Palestinians.

RG: Never before in history had Israel faced so much public criticism from Congress. And some of it came from the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress. Rashida Tlaib’s mother was born in Ramallah and her father in East Jerusalem.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib: I wanna read something a mother named Eman in Gaza wrote two days ago. She said: “Tonight, I put the kids to sleep in our bedroom, so that when we die, we die together.” [Voice breaking.] And no one would live to mourn the loss of another one.” This statement broke me a little more because my country’s policies and funding will deny this mother’s right to see children live — her own children live — without fear, and to grow old without painful trauma and violence.

RG: In the Senate, Jon Ossoff led nearly 30 Democrats calling on Biden to urge a ceasefire, and not long after, Biden told Netanyahu he supported one.

Now, supporting a ceasefire and demanding one are two different things, and Netanyahu was not particularly quick to take Biden up on his suggestion.

Earlier this week, Joe Biden made a stop in Detroit to talk up the electric-car industry. But as soon as he stepped off the plane he was confronted by Rep. Tlaib, who pressed him to do more.

Newscaster: President Biden greeted just moments after arriving by local Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat and one of his harshest policy critics in the conflict.

Newscaster: He traveled to Michigan to tout U.S. support for electric vehicles but he had barely gotten a foot on the ground there when he had a face-off.

Newscaster: — the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, Congresswoman Tlaib has been publicly criticizing the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis.

Newscaster: They spoke on the tarmac for nearly eight minutes. And President Biden went on to praise Congresswoman Tlaib in his remarks.

JB: I admire your intellect. I admire your passion. And I admire your concern for so many other people. I pray that your grandmom and family are well. I promise you I’m going to do everything to see that they are in the West Bank. You’re a fighter and God thank you for being a fighter. [Scattered applause.]

RG: On Thursday evening, Israeli media reported that Israel had finally agreed to a ceasefire. What seems to have had the most effect on the ground was a general strike being carried out by Palestinian workers, a reminder of how dependent Israel is on workers from the occupied territories.

Newscaster: A general strike shuttered stores across Israel and across the occupied territories.

RG: The other thing that has changed is the situation on the ground. Over the last decade, Israel has aggressively fortified its wall and its security apparatus — and it has rapidly expanded settlements in the West Bank and throughout the occupied territories, in clear violation of international law and norms.

One thing often missing from this conversation is what all of this looks like from the other side of those checkpoints.

MB: The settlements here in the West Bank are usually more violent settlers that really don’t believe in Palestinians at all.

RG: That’s our guest today, journalist Mariam Barghouti, who is based in the city of Ramallah on the West Bank. She joins us now.

Mariam, welcome to the show.

MB: Thank you for having me.

RG: So can you tell us a little bit about the neighborhood that you live in?

MB: So I live in Ramallah, which is considered the de facto headquarters of the Palestinian Authority.

RG: Mhmm.

MB: And it is located in the West Bank. It’s, you know, surrounded by checkpoints almost in every direction, and it is considered “Area A” which means it’s under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, but military incursions by Israel are commonplace here.

But my neighborhood is relatively quiet.

RG: How much has it changed since you’ve lived there?

MB: A lot. Ramallah has changed drastically in the past couple of years, especially with this attempt of turning it into this metropolitan city by the Palestinian Authority and stationing themselves here as the de facto headquarters. You’ve seen old homes demolished that kind of date back to the 60s and the 50s and replaced by commercial buildings, becoming more densely populated because it is the center of job opportunities of non-governmental organizations and international non-governmental organizations, as well as media spaces. So it’s changed heavily. And it’s also becoming gentrified in different areas.

RG: What’s daily life like there? How much freedom of movement do you have? If you leave your place, how far can you go? before you run into a checkpoint?

MB: Not very far. And it’s kind of misleading to suggest that there is a distance, because flying checkpoints are commonplace, where the Israeli military can just station itself in any direction depending on the day and what’s happening. And you’ll be stopped like any set permanent checkpoint.

RG: So you could leave, go to a restaurant, there’ll be no checkpoint ,and then when you head home, there could be one on the way home.

MB: See that’s the thing. It depends. So within Ramallah, the city center itself, there are absolutely no checkpoints. I have relatively free access to movement and you can even pretend that there is no occupation here. So it’s a little more subtle and clandestine in Ramallah.

But it’s not just the Israeli military occupation. In Ramallah, we’re also watched and surveilled by the Palestinian Authority police. So just because we’re not physically stopped at checkpoints, we are still stopped in our ability to express freely and our ability to pursue our lives freely as well.

RG: What is the relationship nowadays between — not to get too off-track — but between younger Palestinians, the PA, and the police force of the PA?

MB: It’s a very antagonistic relationship. The Palestinian Authority has constantly acted as the arm of Israel in the West Bank. And in terms of youth, there’s a huge sense of distrust towards the Palestinian Authority and their police.

Recently, at protests in support of what is currently happening in uprisings around the Palestine, the Palestinian Authority started arresting Palestinians. And in Ramallah near the Muqata’a, which is the headquarters and the presidential compound, essentially, Palestinian police pull the gun on protesters and youth. So the relationship is — I don’t think there is a relationship, if I’m honest.

RG: What has been the Palestinian Authority’s posture toward these protests, in general, over the last couple of weeks? From the top?

MB: It’s a hesitant support. So the Palestinian Authority commonly monopolizes or weaponizes Palestinian protest for their own gain. And I think, right now, they’re afraid that it threatens their own positions of power, because they were created under the Oslo Accords; they were created within the system of the Israeli military occupation here. And they feel threatened in terms of whatever little power and jurisdiction they have could go away, as well.

RG: I’ve heard some people argue that one reason that Hamas kind of stepped into this confrontation that was mostly taking place elsewhere, outside of Gaza, was to sort of show up the PA, or to kind of establish itself as somebody willing to stand up where the PA leadership wasn’t.

What do you make of that, and how have people where you live received Hamas’ kind of intervention into this?

MB: I think that’s a disservice and an insult to the situation here. And it’s an oversimplification of it.

Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian political factions generally, have had a very distraught relationship. But especially with Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority, and the PLO, with the division between Gaza and the West Bank, I don’t think Hamas is trying to show muscle power, basically, in the face of the Palestinian Authority. And, if it is, let’s also give Palestinians the agency and the recognition that we’re more intelligent than that.

RG: Mhmm.

MB: Right now, as we’ve been under siege for 15 years, if you hear Palestinians ululate what is happening in regards of the Hamas response, it is not a ululation to mass, it is a callout to end the siege, it is a callout to stop the systemic violence on the Gaza Strip.

If you’ve been imprisoned, if you’ve been held in an open-air prison for 15 years, you’re gonna kick and scream and shout by any means possible and available to you. This focus on Hamas — because it is firing rockets, because it is using armed confrontation — is a disservice, again, to the Palestinian people.

RG: Hamas is often described in the U.S. media as a terrorist organization. What’s your response to that? And what do people in your generation feel about that label?

MB: So the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the PLO, was declared a terrorist organization by Israel and the U.S. before that. Every Palestinian political faction has [been] or is on the American terrorist list. But currently, the PLO became Israel’s best friend and the Americans only discuss any affairs of Palestinians with the PLO.

And let’s remember things like Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist, and now he’s very glorified and glamorized, even in the U.S., so organizations or any confrontation of an oppressed group is almost always initially called a terrorist organization until people begin to see the unequal power dynamics that are present within the context. So contextualizing the situation, I think, will allow us to redefine terrorism. And if anyone is confused about what terrorism is, maybe they should look up what terrorism means in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. And it’s the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.” This is literally Israel.

RG: The general strike seems like it’s been extraordinarily effective at getting the attention of Israeli elites. Can you tell us a little bit about how that was organized?

MB: So the way that a strike was called for was Palestinian youth trying to showcase how dependent Israel is on Palestinians, in terms of its economic growth and its own advancement as a state. And this wasn’t really organized in a way that you would assume confrontational movements do that. And Palestinians adhered to that strike. Many of them have lost their jobs in the process. Many of them were faced with brutal violence from Israeli police, and army, and settlers.

RG: When did the youth resistance to the status quo in the occupied territories really kick off? Like, the movement that you’re a part of? What does that date back to? And have there been moments that have really accelerated it? And is it organizing around any particular immediate or medium-term goals? Or is it strictly looking at long-term liberation?

MB: So the youth mobilization in Palestine goes back — maybe let’s start in 1948.

Palestine is mostly a youthful population. So anyone that began that confrontation has always been part of that category of the population. So we really can’t confine it to a specific moment and I think that’s unfair to all the contributions of the previous generations, in terms of pushing the Palestinian struggle forward.

The present, intermediate demands are very simple, and they have been said for decades, in the case of Gaza, they have been said for 15 years. Lifting the siege is one, off of Gaza. Let us start and begin there. The second is ending the apartheid, breaking the apartheid wall, recognizing Palestinians with Israeli citizenship as Palestinians to stop the defragmentation of our population, because half of us are in diaspora — it wasn’t enough that we had to strip what little remains in historic Palestine from their identity. And the long-term goal is freedom. And I really don’t understand why everyone is so afraid of that.

[Musical interlude.]

RG: You were, what, 10 or 11 when the apartheid wall went up? How have you seen it change, just on-the-ground dynamics since it went up?

MB: So the apartheid wall is different in different areas. It’s not just the eight-meter concrete wall that you see near Qalandia checkpoint. In other areas, it is this barbed wire that is manned by Israeli soldiers. It has different variations of it. And it continues to grow and extend and take over Palestinian lands, year by year, month by month, and it is used under the pretext of security.

For me, the most striking part is seeing it from quote-unquote the other side, where they concealed it so well that it looks like it’s part of the general scenery within the Israeli communities and settlements.

For me, the way I’ve seen it change is how it becomes more solidified is terrifying. So Qalandia checkpoint, for instance, near Ramallah, and it’s one of the main checkpoints, and the only checkpoint where Palestinians with permits from the West Bank can enter Jerusalem. I’ve seen it change over the years from becoming just one block of concrete with an Israeli soldier stationed there to resembling an airport terminal. It also has private security forces, not just Israeli soldiers. So that permanence has been the most terrifying change that I’ve seen throughout the years.

And it’s similar in other areas of Palestine, where checkpoints that were just small blocks with an Israeli soldier have become more similar to highway tolls between states or airport terminals. They’re solidifying their colonial takeover and annexation of Palestinian land.

RG: Correct me if I’m wrong, you have American citizenship, right?

MB: Yes.

RG: Does that help you get through these checkpoints in any noticeable way, relative to other Palestinians, other residents of Ramallah?

MB: No. So Israeli policy is that whenever I travel through the Allenby Bridge, so I can get to Jordan and then travel globally, because we don’t have an airport, they stamp my American passport with my West Bank ID. And they basically record the number of my passport so that it’s very obvious to the soldiers that this is a Palestinian, not an American, because internationals do have more freedom of movement here.

No, the American [passport] doesn’t make my movement easier, nor does it save me from arrest or being shot. Israel really doesn’t care.

I was arrested in 2014 by the Israeli military under fabricated charges. And one of the soldiers told me: “your American passport will not protect you.” Israel has no respect for international law or humanity; why would we assume that the American passport means anything to them, when presidents like Biden are still giving them military aid? Basically saying: Here, even our citizens kill them.

RG: Right. And you were working as a journalist then, when you were arrested? Working as a translator on that day, is that right?

MB: Yeah, I was a translator at the time.

RG: And how long were you jailed? And how did that eventually resolve? Although “resolve” might not be the right word?

MB: “Turn out”? “Develop”?

RG: Right. Right. How did that develop? How long did they keep you behind bars?

MB: So yeah, I was translating for journalists at the time. And when I was arrested, it was actually after our presence in Nabi Salih, the village that we were in, at a flying checkpoint where the soldier basically opened the car doors and pull us out very violently, and we were with two other American journalists, one of them was Ben Ehrenreich, and they handcuffed me and handcuffed another Palestinian, but she had Israeli citizenship, so, of course, the hierarchy of oppression came into play. And in front of us, the soldiers were talking to each other on what crimes they wanted to accuse me of. And one of them was stone-throwing, because that is the easiest crime to be incarcerated for here. They’ve arrested children as young as 10 for it. And as the soldier was fabricating, I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe that I would be taken to jail.

And I was. I was sentenced to jail. I spent a week in jail, in HaSharon Prison, which is technically located within Israel proper, which is illegal under international law. My transfer from occupied territory to an occupier’s. And the only reason I was released was because we had this on record. It was filmed the moment that the soldier accused me of throwing stones, and the Israeli court couldn’t do anything. So they said: OK, well, the week she spent in prison, let that be her sentencing. And then they made me plead guilty for being in a “llegal protest.” But you know, raising the Palestinian flag was considered illegal at some point. Our mere existence is illegal.

And that was that story. And it is, I think, representative of the stories of many Palestinians, because of the conviction rate here, which is 99.8 percent within the military court. And remember, Ryan: This is a military court. They took me to a military court.

RG: When you travel internationally, does it feel different psychicly or spiritually to not have those walls around you and that constant surveillance? Or is it something that even follows you around the globe?

MB: It definitely follows around the globe because of the Israeli lobby machine that kind of targets anyone that is vocal on Palestine, not just Palestinians, but Americans, Europeans, Latin Americans.

But I do feel that freedom where I’m just not scared a soldier is going to pop up in front of me with a gun, that the smell of tear gas isn’t commonplace. I feel safer speaking out a bit more about the oppression that is happening here, because they can’t come and raid my house. In Ramallah, they can come and raid my house at any time, and just arrest me. And again, it’s so easy to fabricate charges within the military court.

So yeah, I do — I feel a little bit more liberated, I suppose.

RG: What’s your sense of how Netanyahu’s short-term politics are playing into this particular episode? And are there just some short-term, internal, domestic politics that are driving his push to continue this assault? Is he receiving some type of internal domestic benefit?

MB: I don’t know if it’s “benefit” or not — maybe within his own circles he thinks it’s “benefit” — but this is a prime minister that’s been accused of corruption. This is a prime minister that declares a war on Gaza every time elections come around. This is a prime minister that was being attacked by right-wing Israelis and “left-wing” Israelis, even though I don’t believe that’s a thing anymore.

So if anything, Netanyahu is just sticking to the same old song of: OK, let me deflect by bringing up a war. It’s not so much a benefit as it is a deference from the attention on him as a corrupt leader for his own people.

RG: How has the diplomacy between countries like Israel and the UAE, and Israel and Bahrain playing into this? Do you think Israel feels more emboldened having built these Gulf alliances?

MB: I think it felt more emboldened building those alliances, but the current movements around Palestine are actually threatening those relationships — not between the leaders, but between people, between the masses, between civilians that are calling out not just Israel, but their own leadership. They’re placing pressures on those that claim to represent them.

Israel wasn’t emboldened by the Gulf as much as it was employing the Gulf for its own political games, to showcase itself as an ally in the Middle East as a state that is solidifying its presence here, and establishing diplomatic relationships with these countries that previously saw Israel as “an enemy state.”

RG: As somebody who reads, watches the American media, participates in it, what do you think it is that the U.S. media get the most wrong about this situation? And, in particular, getting wrong this time around?

MB: Right. So I mean, what I’m saying now is they’re calling it the “Israel-Gaza conflict.”

It was problematic as it is, the Palestinian situation, being called a conflict, like it’s two equal sides, when one is using disproportionate violence against the population they’re occupying. But now they’re calling it the Israel-Gaza conflict, as though Gaza is not under a siege, but a sovereign state with a military.

I think media in the U.S. is so afraid. I mean, I know of media outlets getting reports to say the Hamas-led Ministry of Health, as though that has any relevance to the ethnic cleansing and the systemic bombing of Gaza or those realities. And U.S. media outlets are, it’s not just Palestine, though. They’ve done this terrible coverage on U.S. white supremacy. And they’ve done this coverage on the aggressions in Syria, and in Bahrain, and in Guatemala. So it’s really a problem within the reporting there.

Since when was journalism defined as showing two sides opposed to showing the reality? That’s what baffles me.

RG: And can you also talk a little bit about the development of the settlements over the last 10 years or so? And in your everyday life, how do those settlements affect the geography of where you live?

MB: It’s a really good question. So I’ve seen the changes over the past 10 years, specifically around the villages that are threatened by increased settlement expansion from Nabi Salih, and the West Bank here near Ramallah, to al-Walaja near Bethlehem. And I was, I started taking videos of the streets as we drive past them. And every single time, the settlements come closer and closer, and this became a conversation between me and my friends where we’d say, “Wow, I feel like I can sit in the living room of this house near this settlement now.” It’s very creepy, and eerie, and terrifying just how fast the annexation happens.

I want to clarify two things. One, we forget that Tel Aviv is a settlement; that Tel Aviv began as a neighborhood, a very small community, and slowly Palestinians got dispossessed and displaced from their homes, and then it became a city.

And that’s what we see in the West Bank. Ariel is one of the largest settlements here in the West Bank, and it has its universities and shopping malls. And what I’ve been seeing is that as Tel Aviv became this metropolitan city with its gentrification and diversity, it reminds me of Williamsburg in New York.

We can see the settlements here in the West Bank are usually more violent settlers that really don’t believe in Palestinians at all. I don’t think they see us, but why would they when it’s gated communities and we’re just the people that are standing in their way with the next mountain that they can take over?

In terms of certain dynamics, what I’ve seen is a lot of them are Americans. A lot of these settlers here in the West Bank are American settlers; in Hebron, a lot of them more from the U.S. — they would come and tell me, “Oh, I’m from New York,” very proudly, as though that’s a mark of civilization, or that’s a mark of their democracy.

There are people that think of Palestinians as savages as the, quote-unquote uncivilized population. So these are kind of the dynamics that I’ve seen at least.

RG: And I think in the U.S., because when you say settler, Americans think of like the 1880s.

MB: Mmmm.

RG: Getting into some horse-drawn carriage and heading out to Oregon.

MB: Yes. [Laughs.]

RG: But that’s not what’s going on. I mean, can you describe what these settlements look like, and compare them to what you might find in the United States?

MB: Right. So, but what happened in the U.S. is colonialism, also.

RG: Right.

MB: I don’t want to not recognize that. We need to recognize what happened in the U.S., because part of why the U.S. —

RG: Right, there were people living there.

MB: Yeah, part of why the U.S. won’t speak up about Israel is because it can’t hold its own self accountable. And that’s part of the problem.

But here, the settlements, if you go and see them, they’re gorgeous. They are like villas, swimming pools, very luscious green areas. They’ve taken such strategic areas, usually on mountain tops; military-wise, they’re just very strategic. And these are just average people coming, and living here, and carrying on their lives, and building families, and communities, and having dinner. It’s so easy to not show the aggression that is behind them. But these are also settlers that call me “sharmouta,” which means whore, if they run into me.

I’ve been slapped by a settler before, when we were protesting at a store near an Israeli police station in the West Bank, and the Israeli military, obviously, didn’t do anything.

But there’s such a deeply rooted violence in the way they built these settlements. But this isn’t shown to American media. They’re not shown how the eviction process starts very slowly, starts with these individuals coming to this Palestinian home and then asking the government that it’s their rightful lands, and then the Israeli Supreme Court starts the procedure, and then the Israeli military starts raiding these homes, and then the Israeli settlers just walk in, and Israeli border police come and they slowly start taking out the furniture. And any Palestinian families that confront this are taken to jail.

The process is slow. It is subtle, but it is very violent. So it doesn’t happen overnight, Ryan. It is a very slow process.

RG: The West Bank is now something like 60 percent settlements. Since settlers and people living in the occupied territories are in such close quarters, what kind of public interactions are there between these two populations? Are there separate stores? I’m just curious what the social life is in a place where you have this massive portion of the occupied territory being occupied by settlers?

MB: I mean, have you ever been in like the gated communities of the white suburbs of America?

RG: Mhmm.

MB: It’s kind of similar to that, except it’s violent and it’s the military that’s protecting the entrance points for the settlements. And car plates here, Ryan, you have white car plates for West Bankers and then yellow car plates for those with Israeli citizenship. And so the Israeli military and settlers can distinguish between Palestinian cars or Palestinians with West Bank IDs and Israeli cars. And if you’re driving towards the settlements even in a yellow plate car, but you look Arab — and that’s racial profiling on behalf of the military — you will be stopped and your ID will be taken from you. And if you have a Palestinian name, like, for instance, if I had an Israeli citizenship, Mariam Barghouti, I could be harassed at the checkpoint; I could be shot at the checkpoint.

And that’s how it is. It’s apartheid. It is segregation. No, we don’t interact with Israeli settlers, because they have settler-only streets that Palestinians can’t drive on. How do I describe apartheid to someone who hasn’t experienced it?

RG: Right. I’m trying to think what more you would need to qualify as apartheid there? And I can’t think of much more.

MB: Yeah. And the fact that, I mean, I go to a military court, for translating for journalists and an Israeli settler who burns a Palestinian alive goes to civil court in Israel and gets community service. So if that’s not apartheid, I don’t know what is.

RG: Among the young people today, the Palestinian Authority still talks about a two-state solution —

MB: [Laughs.]

RG: [Laughs.] What’s the response to that from your generation?

MB: I’m surprised that that debate is still alive. Because it’s exactly that: a debate. Our generation is trying to move towards action.

Any solution or any attempt at speaking about what state and how requires, first and foremost, the end of the siege on Gaza, the end of settlement expansion, and the return of the lands that have already been taken here — 60 percent is a huge number. But also the recognition of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship as Palestinians, and then come and talk to us about solutions. Until these are met, any debate is just ambiguous enough to continue this process of displacing Palestinians.

RG: Mariam Barghouti, thanks so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

MB: Thank you. Thank you so much.

[Musical interlude.]

RG: That was Mariam Barghouti.

The role of Hamas in this round of the fighting reminded us here at Deconstructed about a video essay produced by this show’s previous host, Mehdi Hasan, on Israel’s role in creating Hamas. As a matter of history, it’s worth revisiting.

Here’s Mehdi:

Mehdi Hasan: The Palestinian militant group Hamas has carried out brutal acts of terror against Israeli civilians. And Israeli and American leaders are always keen to tell us how dangerous and evil Hamas is.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: The inhumanity of Hamas.

President Barack H. Obama: I have no sympathy for Hamas.

MH: But what if I told you that Israel helped create Hamas?

Officially Hamas was founded in 1987, at the start of the first Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, against the Israeli occupation. But its roots were planted much earlier.

The Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was a half-blind, disabled Palestinian cleric and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood had been repressed by the Egyptians in Gaza prior to 1967. But once the Israelis invaded and occupied the Strip, they didn’t just turn a blind eye to these Islamists — they encouraged them.

See the Israelis, especially the right-wing Israelis, wanted to undermine the power of the dominant Palestinian political force at that time, the nationalist PLO, at the heart of which was the secular Fatah Party of Yasser Arafat, their bête noire. By empowering Sheikh Yassin and the Muslim Brotherhood, Israeli leaders thought they could divide and rule the occupied Palestinians — play them off against each other, secular nationalists against religious Islamists.

So in 1978, when Yassin wanted to officially register his Islamic Association, which was basically the precursor to Hamas, the Israelis were only too keen to help. Yassin built and grew a network of Islamist social institutions across Gaza, including schools and clubs, and mosques, and Israel help fund some of those projects.

Most American politicians have no clue about any of this, although the former Republican Congressman Ron Paul once made this point on the floor of the House.

Rep. Ron Paul: Hamas was encouraged and really started by Israel because they wanted Hamas to counteract Yasser Arafat.

MH: Arafat himself told an Italian newspaper: “Hamas is a creature of Israel.” He even claimed that former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin admitted as much to him, calling it a fatal error.

Now you might be wondering: Why should I believe mad Ron Paul or the famously shady Yasser Arafat? Well, you don’t have to. You can believe top Israeli and U.S. officials who’ve basically owned up to all this. David Long, a former Middle East expert at the U.S. State Department under Ronald Reagan, told journalist Robert Dreyfus: “I thought the Israelis were playing with fire. I didn’t realize they would end up creating a monster.”

[Credits theme.]

RG: That was Mehdi Hasan, and that’s our show. If you want to watch that full video, entitled “Blowback: How Israel Helped Create Hamas,” we’ll link to it on the show page at

Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. Laura Flynn is our supervising producer. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

And I’m Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief of The Intercept. If you’d like to support our work, go to — your donation, no matter what the amount, makes a real difference.

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