Discussing Israel/Gaza on right-wing talk radio

I had an unexpectedly substantive discussion of the Middle East and the "Islamic threat" on "The Hugh Hewitt Show" last night.

Published January 6, 2009 12:05PM (EST)

(updated below - Update II)

Last night, I was on The Hugh Hewitt Show to discuss the Israeli attack on Gaza -- or what The New York Times now actually calls "Israel’s war on the Islamist rulers of Gaza" (apparently, there was no such thing as the U.S. invasion and destruction of Iraq -- it was merely "America's war on the Ba'athist rulers of Iraq").  Here's just a sampling of what, even by the Times' own reporting, "Israel's war on the Islamist rulers of Gaza" caused yesterday (and much of what is going on remains unknown because Israel is still preventing journalists from entering Gaza in defiance of their own Supreme Court's order to allow access):

Israeli troops commandeered high-rise buildings in three eastern districts of Gaza City, expelled residents and shot militants in the streets . . .

At least one school run by the United Nations in Gaza — and closed because of the fighting — was hit by Israeli fire, killing three Palestinians sheltering there. . . .

More Palestinian civilians, including about 12 children, were killed on Monday and fuel and water supplies were severely strained for hundreds of thousands. The humanitarian relief systems functioned poorly because of the inability of suppliers and ambulances to move around despite Israeli efforts to facilitate truck deliveries across the border. . . .

Palestinian medical officials estimated that the death toll during the war reached 550 on Monday. The United Nations estimated that about a quarter of those killed were civilians.

Israel said it had hit some civilian targets because they housed rockets, launchers or militants. It offered limited evidence of its claim. . . .

Inside Gaza City, windows are blown out, electricity is cut and drinking water scarce. . . .

Maxwell Gaylard, United Nations humanitarian affairs coordinator, said at a Jerusalem news briefing that because of the attacks, people could not reach available food.

Children are hungry, cold, without electricity and running water, he said, “and above all, they’re terrified. That by any measure is a humanitarian crisis.”

Haitham Dababish, emergency chief at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, said that seven members of the Abu Aeisha family were killed earlier Monday after an Israeli naval shell hit their house in the Beach refugee camp in western Gaza City. The father, mother and five of their children died.

Eleven civilians belonging to an extended family, the Samounis, were also killed when a missile fired by an Israeli warplane struck the relatives’ house in which they had sought shelter in the Zeitoun neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, witnesses and hospital officials said.

Meanwhile, a Hamas rocket, for the first time, reached the most northern point in Israel of any rocket yet, falling in Gadera, situated a mere 20 miles south of Tel Aviv.  One Hamas rocket "crashed into an empty kindergarten in the city of Ashdod, littering the floor with dolls and shrapnel."  Another "slightly injured a three-month-old baby."  As today's unsurprisingly pro-war New York Times Editorial put it -- without any recognition that it might be an argument against the war -- "550 Palestinians and 5 Israelis have died so far."  And:  "The longer the Israeli incursion. . . the more Hamas’s popularity grows among its supporters."

I expected last night's Hewitt interview to be rather confrontational, perhaps to the point of rendering meaningful discussion impossible, but nonetheless decided to do it because I believe that, in general (with some exceptions), it's always better to accept rather than decline opportunities to convey one's views.  I also think people who publicly advance political arguments have an obligation to address objections to their position.

But my expectations were wrong.  Credit where it's due:  the interview was perfectly civil and actually quite substantive.  It was a long interview but they broadcast it in unedited form.  I had ample time to explain my views.  The questions were certainly adversarial, grounded in Hewitt's vehement support for this war and his broader embrace of the standard "War on Terror" pieties.  But that's fine.  All views should be subjected to adversarial scrutiny.

The transcript is here.  For those who prefer to listen to the interview, the first part is here, beginning at roughly the 19:30 mark.  The second and final part is here.


UPDATE:  In addition to the U.N. school referenced above, Israeli shells hit another U.N. school today, this one killing at least 40 civilians:

Israeli tank shells killed at least 40 Palestinians on Tuesday at a U.N. school where civilians had taken shelter, medical officials said, in carnage likely to boost international calls for a halt to Israel's Gaza offensive. . . .

People cut down by shrapnel lay in pools of blood on the street. Witnesses said two Israeli tanks shells exploded outside the school, killing at least 40 civilians -- Palestinians who had taken refuge there and residents of nearby buildings. . . .

The deaths raised to 75 the number of Palestinian civilians killed on Tuesday alone, according to medical officials.

All wars -- even the most just and necessary -- entail civilian deaths, so incidents like this don't, by themselves, prove the war is wrong.  But they are absolutely a vital factor to consider, to put it mildly.  And, as always, it's crucial to underscore that these attacks are partially funded by the American taxpayer, undertaken with U.S. arms provided for this purpose, and enabled by use of the American U.N. veto power to protect Israel in everything it does.  How anyone thinks this is in Israeli or -- especially -- American interests is truly mystifying.


UPDATE II:   James Wolcott is particularly worth reading today, on the "operative  level of the moral intelligence" of Marty Peretz's assistant and other standard American media commentary on Israel/Gaza.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

MORE FROM Glenn Greenwald

Related Topics ------------------------------------------