Ceasefire Calls Grow

Israel rejects ceasefire calls and begins ground invasions of Gaza as the civilian death toll climbs.

Photo illustration: The Intercept; Photo: Getty Images

More than 3,000 children have been killed in Gaza since Israel began bombarding the enclave three weeks ago. The number of children reportedly killed in the conflict has surpassed the annual number of children killed in conflicts around the world since 2019, according to Save the Children.

This week on Intercepted, Murtaza Hussain is joined by Khaled Elgindy, the director of the Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs at the Middle East Institute and author of “Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, From Balfour to Trump.” Hussain and Elgindy discuss the latest developments in the war on Gaza, the U.S. government’s role in this crisis, and what the future may look like as the violence continues.

Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.

Murtaza Hussain: Welcome to Intercepted. I’m Murtaza Hussain.

The past weeks have seen an intensification of the crisis in the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli military has proceeded with the early phases of a ground invasion into the territory. According to estimates, as many as 9,000 Palestinians may already be confirmed dead in the assault, the majority of them civilians.

Despite pronouncements from the Israeli government that the goal of the operation is to eliminate Hamas following its deadly October 7th attack that killed 1,400 Israelis, there’s little sense of how this goal can be achieved, nor what price Israel is ultimately willing to pay to pursue it.

Joining us now to discuss the possible future course of this conflict is Khaled Elgindy, the Director of the Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs at the Middle East Institute, and the author of the book “Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump.”

Khaled, welcome to Intercepted.

Khaled Elgindy: Thanks for having me.

MH: So, Khaled, we’re speaking on Monday and, over the past week, we’ve seen major demonstrations around the world calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, following a very, very harrowing few weeks in which Israeli ground forces have begun an invasion into the strip — including bombardment from the air, and drones, and sea, and so forth — that may have killed about 8,000 people to date.

Can you talk briefly about what is going on in the Strip at the moment? And also, what we’ve heard from Israeli officials about what their plans are to continue with this offensive?

KE: Well, obviously, it’s hard to know exactly what the situation is on the ground, not being there but, by all accounts, it’s quite horrific. The bombing campaign has not stopped in 23 days. And, on top of that, obviously, I think people know that Israel has cut off all food, medicine, water and fuel to the entire population of Gaza: 2.3 million [people].

And, up until now, in the past 23 or 24 days, a total of 94 trucks of humanitarian supplies have entered, which… The basic subsistence needs of the Gaza population are at least 100 trucks per day. So, if you imagine, in 23 days, only a tiny fraction of what’s needed has entered.

Hospitals are completely overstretched, running out of fuel, and there’s really no safe place for civilians in Gaza. The north, for the most part, has been depopulated. 1.4 million people have been displaced to the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

So, there’s an enormous strain on healthcare workers, but just immense trauma. The scale of destruction, I think, is impossible to overstate. Entire neighborhoods have been wiped out, entire families have been wiped out. It’s quite horrible in almost every imaginable way.

MH: You know, Khaled, one of the things which has been most alarming about this offensive — including before it actually began — were some of the statements by Israeli officials about what their intentions and their goals are for this invasion. And we’ve seen Benjamin Netanyahu and many, many other current and former Israeli military and political officials talk in very stark terms, very extreme terms about what they hope to see happen in Gaza.

Can you tell us a bit about what the statements and express intentions of Israeli officials have been to date?

KE: Yeah. As you said, the Israeli political and military leadership is speaking in extremely stark terms, in, really, annihilationist terms. They talk about eradicating, annihilating, eliminating Hamas in its entirety, as both a political and a military movement. I think they have not climbed down from that place. The rage mindset is still very much in place inside the Israeli leadership, but I don’t know anyone who thinks that that’s actually an achievable goal.

Certainly, Hamas’s military capabilities can be wiped out. You can even wipe out the leadership, but it’s almost impossible to completely eradicate a political movement, and there will always be others who come to the fore, even if the entire leadership is wiped out. So, some grownups somewhere ought to be talking the Israelis down from that tree, because it is a recipe for endless death and destruction, because it’s not achievable.

The problem is that the United States has more or less adopted the Israeli objective of destroying Hamas, despite the fact that it’s not something that can be achieved. It’s hard to know exactly what the administration is communicating privately, but from their outward stance, they are echoing the objectives of the Israelis, albeit in less apocalyptic terms than what is coming from the Israeli leadership.

In Netanyahu’s speech over the weekend, I think he did make a reference to international law, and that Israel was abiding by it, and even talked about the mythology of the most moral army in the world. And so, of course, we naturally abide by these things. He did say it, at least, but it’s clear that it’s garbage.

I think in response to the fact that it’s now a much more frequent talking point from American officials, he had to respond and say, well, of course, we do that. But, at the same time, references a Bible passage that is essentially calling for genocide.

MH: Yes. I saw that. The Amalek.

KE: The Amalek, yeah.

MH: Yeah, that’s right.

You know, recently, a very terrifying development was the cutting of telecommunication services to the Gaza Strip, so many, many people, journalists and ordinary people documenting their lives, there were no longer able to communicate with the outside world, or with their families. Then we’ve seen, at the end of the weekend, that the service returned, and there were some reports that that return may have been due to U.S. pressure on the Israelis to reconnect the strip to the global internet.

Can you talk a bit about what we know about this telecommunication situation specifically? And also, what forms of leverage does the U.S. have over Israel’s behavior as it proceeds with this invasion?

KE: Well, obviously the United States has enormous leverage with the Israelis. I think it’s clear that the United States was the force behind reinstating or reactivating the communications in the Gaza Strip. For whatever reasons, that seemed to be a red line for the Biden administration.

And, obviously, it’s quite dangerous if people can’t communicate, if people are injured, if people are trapped, if people … In addition to ordinary people just trying to document their lives, or stay in touch with loved ones outside of Gaza, or even within the Gaza Strip, the implications of a total communications blackout for 2.2 million people is horrific. That, I think, clearly shows that the United States can use its leverage when it wants to.

There are other things that Israel has cut off from the population, like food, and medicine, and water, and fuel, that would seem, also, to be something that the administration can weigh in, and perhaps they are. But, for whatever reason, the Israelis are not budging on that, and that’s where I think we’re seeing a real failure in diplomacy. It’s a moral failure, it’s a diplomatic failure. The inability of the United States and the most powerful nations in the world to overcome what is very clearly a form of collective punishment and a war crime, to deny an entire population of the basic life needs is, I think, inexcusable, and something I imagine history will not look favorably upon.

MH: You made a very interesting point earlier, that Israel’s stated military objective of destroying Hamas root and branch, the political and the military wing,  is really something unattainable, or it’s something which is so broad and so vague that it would ensure endless war, effectively, in the Gaza Strip.

It’s something I’ve written about as well, too, and others have spoken about on The Intercept. But I’m curious in your own take. What is Israel’s possible exit scenario from this conflict? And, obviously, when you get involved in the conflict, we should think about the day after, immediately. Do we have any sense of what they think the day after would be, given that they’re going to occupy Gaza at the end of this, presumably, and be responsible for the strip after Hamas is no longer in power, as per their plans?

KE: I don’t think there’s a lot of thought being given to the day after on the Israeli side. I think, based on what we’ve seen in the past… In 2006, for example, they declared a very similar goal of wiping out Hezbollah, and that war, that was quite destructive and quite deadly, obviously, they didn’t succeed. Many people will recall when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 with the express goal of destroying the PLO.

So, history shows that it’s not achievable, and the reality is that… Clearly, the Israeli side, they have not learned those lessons but, also, it’s clear that they don’t have a day-after formula. They’re not particularly concerned with who is going to govern this space in the aftermath of the operation or the military campaign.

I think that the expectation is that the international community will somehow figure it out and be able to pick up the pieces. And I’m fairly certain, just from talking to people inside the administration, they also don’t have an idea of what the day after looks like, nor are they demanding that from the Israeli leadership as a condition for their continued unconditional support for the war effort.

So, right now, everybody’s sort of making it up as they go along.

MH: What’s particularly shocking is that it’s only been a few weeks of the operation, and there have been about 8,000 — conservatively — casualties reported in the Gaza Strip, which is only a region of maybe 2 million people. And this war, Israeli officials are saying it can go on for months, can go on for even years, some have said.

Is there a tolerance level that you’ve perceived in the administration, beyond which they may not continue supporting this? Or, what can we say about the Biden administration’s own calculus? Because, obviously, the death and destruction in Gaza is also triggering reactions around the world. People are reacting with great emotion and great outrage to what’s happening, and this is only seems to be getting worse and worse, particularly given the way the Israeli military is conducting the operation.

KE: Yeah, very much so. We have heard the administration say — maybe more loudly — that Israel needs to abide by international law and to respect the rules of war, when I think it’s fairly clear to everyone that there is nothing close to that happening on the ground. The statistics are quite horrifying.

Seventy-three percent of the 8,000 people who are killed — almost three quarters — are women, children, and the elderly. And then the remainder, of course, being men, it’s hard to know exactly how many of them are combatants versus civilians. But it’s clear that the overwhelming majority of people being killed are civilians.

Yesterday, also, I saw a very disturbing statistic: almost 3,200 children have been killed in the past three weeks, and that number is higher than all children killed in all conflict zones all over the world for any year since 2019. That is just a shocking level of death and destruction that should be unacceptable to the international community.

So, the tragic reality is that, unfortunately, the Biden administration, and even Western European countries, do seem to have a fairly high tolerance for Palestinian civilian deaths and injuries. It’s not clear where their red lines [are]; I’m sure they have them, but they haven’t articulated any. And, in fact, the Biden administration has said publicly that there are no red lines.

Of course, the message they’re communicating privately might be different, but to publicly state that there are no red lines when we are seeing the scale of death inside Gaza that we’re seeing, I think is irresponsible on the part of any leader, but certainly on the part of the most powerful nation in the world.

MH: You know, in recent weeks, the U.S. has deployed troops to the region, and there’s two aircraft carriers in the Eastern Mediterranean as well, too. And, obviously, they’ve been providing political support in public to Israel, and diplomatically at the U.N. as well.

Are there other practical ways in which this operation could not continue without U.S. support? You know, specific types of weapons or intelligence support that the U.S. provided that we know about, that provide us leverage if we were to put pressure on Israel to not continue the operation, even in a practical sense?

KE: Yes. I mean, the United States has many levers. They could withhold any of those kinds of military assistance, personnel, in an advisory capacity, but even just the spoken word.

We’ve seen in the past the United States matters to Israel’s decision making. What the United States thinks is very important, because there is no one in the world who would argue that the United States does not have Israel’s back and have their best interests in mind. And so, like I said, there needs to be a grownup somewhere who will tell the Israelis, “This is too much. You’ve gone too far.”

So, I think, even the spoken word, the ability of the president to pick up the phone and tell the prime minister, “You need to stop,” or to lay out much clearer red lines publicly, that is another way, I think, to signal to the Israelis that American support is not unlimited. But, for the time being, it is unlimited. Tragically.

MH: So, Khaled, on Sunday, President Biden issued a statement following a conversation with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, talking about the situation in Gaza, and he made a very interesting comment in part of the statement.

He said — I’ll quote — “We reaffirmed our commitment to work together and discuss the importance of protecting civilian lives, respect for international humanitarian law, and ensuring that Palestinians in Gaza are not displaced to Egypt or any other nation.” End-quote.

So, in the past few weeks, there have been statements from Israeli officials and leaked documents from Israeli Intelligence, stating that one of the military goals or the most desired end-state for Israelis would be the deportation — ostensibly permanently — of Palestinians from Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula, where they may live in tent cities or refugee camps and so forth, and the Gaza Strip would effectively be ethnically cleansed.

Does this statement by Biden indicate anything positive in the sense of pressure against that sort of outcome? And can you speak a bit about the issue of humanitarian corridors between Rafah and Gaza that has been brought up since the start of this conflict, and how they tie into this idea of forced deportation?

KE: Yeah. Obviously, the idea of forced displacement of part or all of the population in Gaza is a major concern, and has been from the outset, for Palestinians, and for others. I mean, there was clearly that potential; once you move 1.4 million people to the South, I think it’s logical for people to draw the conclusion that maybe the goal is to push them over the border into Egypt. And we know that Israeli leaders have talked about this in the past, and they’re talking about it now.

The Ministry of Intelligence — which is not actually an intelligence service, and is maybe more akin to something like a policy planning department, they’re sort of an internal thinktank — but the fact that they are putting this on the agenda in government circles is horrifying, and that seems to be a message that was received in Washington, enough to the point that the president felt the need to state that explicitly, that forced displacement of Palestinians is not on the table. But it took 23 days to get to this point, when those fears have been out there for a long time.

And so, we’re seeing the start of what we might call red lines emerging from this administration, but I don’t think they have a clear sense of — between now and whatever the objective is — what other red lines are. I think, really, they’re just kind of, as I said, making it up as they go along.

So, that humanitarian corridor is obviously something that is important. You need to have some safe zone inside Gaza where people can access health care, food, water and so forth. Right now, there are no places in Gaza that are safe, even in the South, where supposedly people were supposed to be safe. The south of Gaza is also under bombardment.

So, a humanitarian corridor, it depends on what we mean. Are we talking about a corridor inside the Gaza Strip? Or inside Egyptian territory? Or something that overlaps the two? Who would set it up, who would monitor it? Who would ensure its safety? Who would be supplying the humanitarian assistance that reaches there? All of those things are being discussed.

But, you know, here we are, entering the fourth week of this massive bombardment of Gaza, and this humanitarian catastrophe, and we’re still not there. Again, I keep coming back to this same conclusion of a complete diplomatic, moral, political failure in almost every way.

MH: Well, Khaled, I wanted to ask you about something you wrote a few months ago before this conflict started. In The Hill, you wrote an article about the conditions in Gaza at that time, and you actually used a quote which is very resonant now; you said that “The next violent eruption in the Gaza Strip may be just around the corner.”

Can you talk about what was going on in Gaza before this conflict started? Because, for many people, it seemed to have started on October 7th, and their perception of it is that way. But what was the context in which that attack occurred?

KE: Yeah, right, context is under attack. There is a backlash against people who are trying to insert logic and reason into this discussion. To even hint that there is a context is seen by some as a justification for Hamas terrorism which, of course, is absurd. I mean, nothing happens in a vacuum, there is always cause and effect, and part of the cause in Gaza is, you have 16 years of a suffocating blockade that has eviscerated Gaza’s economy. It has, in the words of the United Nations, made Gaza unlivable for its inhabitants.

So, already, people were talking about a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Gaza has been suffering from this humanitarian crisis for a very long time, and it progressively gets worse. The suicide rate in Gaza has been soaring in recent years, and there was this sense of despair and hopelessness. There was no respite, there’s no horizon, there’s nothing around the corner.

And I think one thing people don’t understand about the Gaza blockade isn’t just that it has destroyed any semblance of normal life in Gaza for an entire generation. But nobody actually knows what it would take for it to be lifted. The Israelis, you get different answers when you ask them, depending on who you ask, military leaders, political leaders. It just became part of the new normal. And it was that sense of endless grinding, suffocating punishment that I think led me and others to say, eventually, there’s going to be an explosion. And of course, there was.

MH: You’ve talked about the diplomatic failure of the U.S. in allowing the situation to come to pass, but also in their response. Has there been a different situation internationally?

I know that the U.S. has taken a stand on Israel’s side at the U.N., oftentimes against great international opposition. What can we say about the response of the rest of the world, including other major powers like China or Brazil? And Russia and India and so forth, which are becoming more influential in aggregate, globally? Is the U.S. mostly isolated in its stance on Israel at the moment, and how significant is that?

KE: I think with each passing day, the U.S. becomes more isolated. We see this in the various ceasefire votes, or votes in the General Assembly for humanitarian pauses. The United States is very much on the lopsided end of those votes in voting against those measures.

So, what we saw initially after the October 7th attacks on Israel was this enormous outpouring from virtually everywhere. From every corner of the globe, from every continent, but particularly strong from the United States, Europe, and other Western nations, and [who] were quite vocal in declaring what was, up until then, usually an American talking point, and that is: Israel has a right to defend itself, period.

There were no red lines articulated, there were no conditions articulated by West European nations. Even when Israel cut all food, medicine, water, and so forth to the entire population. There was outrage when the Russians did that very same thing in Ukraine, and total silence from the West.

But since then, we’ve seen European countries more and more willing to call for a ceasefire, willing to be critical of … I don’t say “critical,” but willing to talk more forcefully about the need to protect civilians, and sort of rolling back some of that rhetoric, that green-light, blank-check-type rhetoric that we saw in the first a week or so after the attacks.

MH: Khaled. One other thing I want to ask you, too, as well: the world is so focused on Gaza right now but, obviously, in the West Bank, where there’s an Israeli occupation, there have been a spate of killings and increased pressure on Palestinians there. Can you talk a bit more what’s going on in Israel and Palestine holistically, and the security situation and the political situation as developing at the moment?

KE: Yeah. Well, we’ve seen a huge uptick in violence in the West Bank since the Gaza War started. I think more than 100 Palestinians in the West Bank have already been killed in the past three weeks, just in the West Bank. And we’re seeing a major spike in settler terrorism against Palestinians as well.

Oftentimes with the aiding and abetting of the Israeli army — which is standard but particularly dangerous now, when passions are inflamed — there are these emboldened extremists in the West Bank who want to take out their rage on any Palestinians, and are doing so quite violently. The army is also participating in that violence.

There is a major crackdown happening in the city of Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp. We’ve seen airstrikes carried out in the West Bank in Jenin for the first time in 20 years. So there’s a very, very dangerous situation right now across the occupied Palestinian territory. The most acute suffering, of course, is happening in Gaza, but right now, the West Bank is ablaze and the attention of the international community is obviously elsewhere.

So, I think there is a sense on the part of both the military and the settlers that they can take advantage of that distraction and kind of do whatever they please, and we’re seeing quite a lot of destruction happening in places like Jenin as well.

MH: In response to violence, there’s been big protests around the region, in Jordan, and Egypt, and other countries directly bordering Israel, Palestine. Can you talk about the prospects of political consequences in other countries as a result of this violence? And, furthermore, how could that lead into potentially a regional war? A war bigger than we’re seeing right now in Gaza, that could involve Lebanon, Iran, and other countries in the region if this is not stopped in a timely manner.

KE: Yeah. I think the situation in Gaza has really inflamed public opinion across the Arab world. We’ve seen, as you said, massive protests in the Arab capitals. In some cases, the largest protests in Arab states since the Arab Spring more than a decade ago. That is certainly alarming for those regimes.

They don’t want to see a repeat of mass mobilization, and they have also dealt with those protests quite harshly, but they understand that the clock is ticking and, the longer this goes on, the more angry the public will get. Not just at the United States and Israel and the West, which they clearly are quite angry at the perceived and, frankly, very real double standards that they’re imposing — but also at their own leadership.

They are, I think, increasingly going to direct their anger at their leaders and this inability to respond. People are asking the question of, speeches at the United Nations aren’t enough. You need to do much more as Arab leaders to defend the rights of Palestinians and to speak up on their behalf. Because, right now, both Palestinian and Arab public opinion feel as though Arab states have abandoned the Palestinians.

MH: Khaled, I just want to pivot a bit to the bigger picture.

So, obviously, we’re both based in the U.S., and the U.S. political establishment supporting Israel is considered very axiomatic, and they have their own historical reasons for doing so, and the way it’s viewed is kind of distinct from the rest of the world.

Can you talk a bit about how this conflict is viewed in the global South, you could say? And the reason I ask this question is, I was watching a speech by Lula Da Silva — the leader of Brazil — recently, and he referred to the conflict, what was unfolding there, as, effectively, a genocide against innocent civilians. Something unheard of; you wouldn’t hear that from an American or even, really, an E.U. leader. But it clearly shows that there is a divide on this subject between one block of countries and another. Can you talk about how the rest of the world sees Israel-Palestine outside the West, in general?

KE: Yeah. I mean, I do think that this war and the campaign against Gaza, the manmade humanitarian catastrophe that has been inflicted on Gaza has really been a turning point, I think, in the global order.

The global South increasingly is being vocal about this double standard. It’s very hard, frankly, even for many of us in the West to take American and European proclamations about an international rules-based order and international humanitarian law with any degree of seriousness if it’s possible to starve an entire population for 23 days while bombarding them, and killing more than 3,000 Children, and destroying wholesale sections of cities. If that’s possible, if that’s seen as within the limits of international humanitarian law, then those concepts don’t mean anything.

And I think the contrast is very stark. Not for folks in the West — maybe a handful of people see that contrast — but certainly for the Global South, where the United States and the West sort of rush to Israel’s aid in its moment of distress, but allowing Israel to commit atrocities of its own with impunity and, frankly, in some cases, even support. Open, direct support.

So, the very notion of a rules-based order in international law, I think, has been emptied of meaning. It’s as though those rules apply only to the people in the Global South, whereas perpetrators in the countries of the Global North are essentially immune from those same rules. And I don’t think that contrast has ever been more clear than it is now.

MH: Khaled, last week we had Yousef Munayyer on the show, and we’re talking about what may happen the day after this conflict. And, with the caveat that we don’t know how big this conflict may get and what the conditions are — regionally, or in Gaza and Israel — at the end of it, obviously, many of us or most people have seen the conflict ending politically in one of two ways: either a two-state solution, or a binational state including Israelis and Palestinians.

Following this violence and the kind of mutual traumatization of Israelis and Palestinians, what do you think could be a realistic outcome for a political solution? Because, obviously, at the end of it, there’s still going to be millions of Israelis and Palestinians living in this territory, and they have to find some way of managing that peacefully.

What may still be or what do you foresee as being a realistic path forward, once the fighting eventually ends?

KE: Yeah, that’s a good question. That’s the million-dollar question. And it’s very hard to talk about the day after when we don’t really know what the day-of looks like. We don’t know what the end game is. Does Hamas still exist? Does Gaza exist? Are there people in Gaza? Are people displaced? Is this another kind of ethnic cleansing happening in the Palestinian history?

So, we don’t know exactly where this ends, but there’s no question that — certainly on the Israeli side — the trauma and anger and rage of October 7th is being felt and hardening hearts, and there’s no question that that same rage, anger, bitterness, sense of abandonment, probably at greater levels, is happening in Gaza among Palestinians. And not just in Gaza, [but] among all Palestinians everywhere.

It’s hard to imagine anything positive coming out of this scale of death and destruction, and so, that’s been my fear all along. In addition to the human costs, allowing this to continue at this level, this level of violence and destruction, is so irresponsible, because you are just sowing the seeds for future bloodshed, and bitterness, and instability, and violence.

And that’s just, really, I think that’s an abdication of the responsibility of the United States and other Western powers. So, I don’t really see anything positive coming out of this either. People sometimes talk about, now that the Palestinian issue is back on the agenda, it’s going to receive more attention, and maybe we’ll see some kind of political process unfold in addition to dealing with the horrific humanitarian fallout, but I don’t really see that happening.

I don’t see the Americans investing much in that they haven’t been willing to invest in this issue. And I think the international community will be so distracted with just picking up the pieces of whatever is left of Gaza from a human and humanitarian standpoint — massive reconstruction, massive assistance that needs to flow in whenever this all stops — and there’s not going to be any incentive, really, to go beyond that. Certainly, an Israeli government that is the most extreme in history is not going to be interested in pursuing any kind of political process that would lead to a Palestinian state.

So, I don’t know where this ends, but it will probably take a generation before we see the conditions for any kind of resolution, whether it is two-states or one-state.

And let’s not forget, also, on the Palestinian side, you have a complete leadership failure. I mean, the decision by Hamas to undertake this attack knowing full well the costs that would be inflicted on Palestinians, I think, was also irresponsible. Maybe they over calculated, maybe they didn’t anticipate being quite as, you know, quote-unquote, “successful.” But they have failed and, certainly, the leadership in the West Bank has failed as well.

So, I don’t see any prospect for moving forward without the emergence of a more credible, effective and coherent Palestinian political leadership, and we’re just not seeing that right now. That’s a necessary but insufficient requirement for any progress, politically or diplomatically.

MH: Obviously, the U.S. has been a huge enabler of the Israeli military and political establishments, continued occupation of the West Bank, and blockade over Gaza. And now that the war is going on, they play a very integral role in facilitating that as well, too.

What would you recommend the U.S. administration do in the short term and long term to put a lid on this conflict, and bring it to some sort of long-term conclusion? And how do you see —if you see — any daylight between a Biden administration and a prospective Trump administration if it comes to power in 2024?

KE: Yeah. I think what’s urgently needed now is a ceasefire. I’m not sure what it will take to convince administration officials that the stated goals of destroying Hamas are not going to be achieved. The Israelis are going to need some kind of face-saving measure to allow them to stop bombing without having fully achieved their stated goals. The Americans can help them do that if they’re willing to. Hamas will also need a way to climb down from where it is. But, really, I think it has to come from Washington.

Washington has to be able to say, here’s what is needed for a ceasefire. Here are red lines and guardrails around what you, Israel, can and cannot do. That’s just a minimal requirement, but eventually there’s going to have to be some articulation of what a ceasefire will entail, short of the fantastical goal of wiping Hamas out.

MH: And just after that, too, do you see a difference between this administration and, prospectively, another administration?

KE: A Republican administration — there’s no question — would have even fewer red lines than the current Biden administration. So it’s likely to give an even brighter green light, if that’s possible. I think if this were a Republican administration right now, we’d probably see no references to international law, even in the abstract, or to talk of humanitarian corridors. I think that’s entirely likely, that none of those would even be on the table.

So, as bad as it is now, I think it could actually be even worse.

MH: I was curious how Palestinian Americans are feeling at the moment, given they’re watching this happen in Gaza. Many people have families in Gaza and the West Bank, too. How was the reaction and the sentiment among Palestinian Americans seeing all this unfold, given, especially, the fact that the U.S. is putting very few guardrails at all in the Israeli response.

KE: Yeah. I think it’s safe to say that Palestinian Americans in particular — but also, more broadly, Arab Americans, and I would even say the American Muslim community — are quite traumatized by what we’ve seen in the past three and a half weeks, the unconditional support that our elected leaders have lent to Israel, and a delayed or minimal response to the humanitarian needs of Palestinians.

I think a lot of Palestinians in this country, and Arab Americans, feel dehumanized. That it’s not very often that you see this stark juxtaposition of the intense humanization of Israeli victims that we saw in the first week or two after the attacks in Israel, and we watched the media and everybody knows their names, and their family members, and we have this round the clock coverage. Meanwhile, right next door, Palestinians are dying by the hundreds every day, and it’s almost completely invisible.

There’s much more attention paid to it now, but that initial juxtaposition of thoroughly humanized Israeli civilians and totally dehumanized or negated Palestinians was very jarring, I think, certainly for Palestinians, but even for other Arab Americans. I have many friends in Gaza, and friends who have family in Gaza, and virtually every one of them has lost not just one or two members, but multiples. One of my dearest friends lost 27 family members over the course of a week.

So it’s devastating. It’s devastating that our elected officials don’t recognize the humanity of Palestinians enough that they can speak out against it. It’s very easy to do. You can still support Israel and express solidarity for Israeli civilians, and you can even support Israel’s right to self-defense without negating the humanity of Palestinians.

The fact that that many of them can’t, the fact that our elected officials and media are angry when Palestinians or their supporters go out into the streets to support, to express solidarity for Palestinians who are dying in horrific numbers. The fact that they’re seen as supporting terrorists; that’s so dehumanizing. And it’s really taken a toll, I think, on almost everyone I know in the Arab American and Muslim communities.

MH: Khaled, thanks for joining us today on Intercepted.

KE: Thanks for having me.

MH: That was Khaled Elgindy, the Director of the Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs at the Middle East Institute, and the author of the book “Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump.”

And that does it for this episode of Intercepted.

Intercepted is a production of The Intercept. José Olivares is the lead producer. Our supervising producer is Laura Flynn. Roger Hodge is Editor-in-Chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed our show. Legal Review by David Bralow. And this episode was transcribed by Leonardo Faierman. Our theme music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky.

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Thank you so much for joining us. Until next time, I’m Murtaza Hussain

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