How Israel Commodifies Mass Killing Through Its “Palestine Laboratory”

January 18th, 2024 - by Jeremy Scahill /The Intercept

Israel Is “Battle-testing” Its Military Equipment
on Palestinians — and Selling It Abroad
Jeremy Scahill /The Intercept

(December 13 2023) For more than two months, the Israeli military has waged a scorched-earth campaign against Gaza, and the death toll has risen to over 18,000 Palestinians, including more than 7,000 children. Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank, violent Israeli government-armed and funded settlers continue their violent campaign to purge Palestinians from their homes as the Israel Defense Forces lay siege to Jenin and other cities.

This week on Intercepted, Jeremy Scahill discusses the dystopian game show that Israel is subjecting Palestinians to in Gaza, kettling them into an ever-shrinking killing cage. While the scope of the war against Gaza is unprecedented, it has been preceded by a decadeslong cycle of regular Israeli ground and air attacks against the Palestinians of both Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Independent journalist nAntony Loewenstein discusses his groundbreaking new book, “The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World.”

For two decades, Loewenstein, a co-founder of Declassified Australia, has reported on Gaza, the occupied West Bank, and Israel, having lived in East Jerusalem for several years. Loewenstein breaks down how Israel markets its defense and intelligence technology to nations across the world, boasting of how it has been “battle-tested” against the Palestinians. He also discusses the weaponization of accusations of antisemitism against critics of Israeli policies and wars and the formal efforts in the U.S., Germany, and elsewhere to categorize opposition to Zionism as antisemitism.

This is the last episode of 2023. Thank you for listening this year. We will be back with more episodes in 2024.

Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted. Welcome to Intercepted. I’m Jeremy Scahill.

The events of the past week or so should obliterate any doubt that the war against the Palestinians of Gaza is a joint U.S.-Israeli operation. Last Friday, as the Biden administration stood alone among all of the nations of the world in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was busy circumventing U.S. Congressional review to ram through the approval of what he said was an emergency sale of more than 13,000 tank rounds to Israel.

Now, it’s not a shock that the United States is sending weapons to Israel, but remember that over the past month or more, Antony Blinken has been zipping across the Middle East, he’s been appearing on scores of television networks, in a sort of PR tour that is aimed at selling the world this notion that the Biden administration is deeply concerned about the fate of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents. And he said — just as the ceasefire was ending earlier this month and Israel resumed its scorched earth campaign — Blinken said that the U.S. had gotten assurances from Israel that they’re going to try a little bit harder not to kill so many civilians.

So, at the same time that you have Blinken saying these things, and you have the United States vetoing the call supported by a vast majority of nations in the world for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza… And, by the way, this was an extraordinary move on the part of the U.N. Secretary General, who invoked a seldom-used rule at the U.N. to try to demand that this ceasefire be imposed on Israel, and it was the United States standing alone that vetoes it. You have Blinken, though, at the same time saying, oh, but, actually, we’ve been telling Israel to tone it down a bit in the mass killing. And you have Blinken saying, oh, we care so much about Palestinian lives. And then they’re ramming through an emergency transfer of tank rounds to Israel.

So, these events, just of the past week or so alone, should decisively flush all of those platitudes that Blinken and other U.S. officials have been offering about concern for Palestinian lives, it should just flushed into a swirling pool of blood.

And what we have seen is that the Biden administration is sort of trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, you have Biden all-in supporting his — as he calls him — his great, great friend Benjamin Netanyahu and this scorched earth campaign. On the other hand, they’re saying, oh, well, we’re trying to moderate Israel a bit. And the propaganda from Joe Biden, and from his administration, has gotten so extreme at times that even the Israeli military has told them, maybe you should be a little more careful in some of the things that you’re saying.

And, just to remind people, Biden falsely claimed that he had seen images of, quote, “terrorists beheading children.” He didn’t see those images. And then Biden knowingly relayed that unverified allegation as a fact, even though Kamala Harris and other advisers had told him this isn’t verified, Biden publicly questioned the death toll of Palestinian civilians.

None of this is an accident, and I don’t think you can attribute it to the fact that Joe Biden exaggerates all the time, or he stumbles into gaffs. I mean, everything we know about Joe Biden’s 50-year history of supporting and facilitating Israel’s worst crimes, I think it leads to only one conclusion, and that is that Biden wants Israel’s destruction of Gaza, including… It comes along with 7,000 dead children so far?

Biden can’t say that he doesn’t understand that. Biden can’t say that he can’t do anything about it. He must want it to happen. I don’t see how you can draw any other conclusion.

The horrifying nature of the October 7th attacks that were led by Hamas in Israel, they in no way morally or legally justify what Israel is doing to the civilian population of Gaza. More than 18,000 people have died in a roughly 60-day period. Nothing in this world justifies the industrial scale level of killing children.

So, you know, it’s the truth. What the Israeli state — with full political and military backing of the United States government — what the Israeli state is engaged in has far surpassed any basic principles of proportionality or legality. And Israel’s own crimes dwarf those of Hamas. They dwarf those of Hamas.

And yet, Biden and other U.S. officials continue to defend the indefensible, rolling out this tired, well-worn, twisted notion that this is all Israel’s right to self-defense. Think about that. Think of what this would mean … If we applied that rationale, the rationale promoted by both the U.S. and Israel, constantly hammered down our throats, that this is self-defense.

Imagine if you apply that standard that the U.S. and Israel say should be the standard, apply that to 75 years of history leading up to October 7th. How many times throughout that period would the Palestinians have been, quote-unquote, “justified” in massacring thousands of Israeli children? Systematically attacking Israeli hospitals and schools? How many times would the Palestinians have been acting in, quote, “self-defense?” As they raised whole neighborhoods to rubble, as they transformed Israeli civilians apartment buildings into concrete tombs that they are buried under, or that they are buried under alive, and they then become their tomb. That justification — self-defense — only works for Israel, because the Palestinians can enact no such destruction upon Israel and its people.

The Palestinians have no army, no navy, no air force, no powerful nation states that are providing them with the most modern and lethal military hardware. Unlike Israel, Palestine doesn’t have hundreds of nuclear weapons. No, Israel can burn Gaza to the ground, burn its people to the ground, because the U.S. facilitates it, politically and militarily.

National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby recently got really angry when he was asked — this happened on December 6th — he’s asked about Israel’s widespread killing of civilians, and here’s what he said.

John Kirby: It is not the Israeli Defense Forces strategy to kill innocent people. It’s happening; I admit that. Each one’s a tragedy. But it’s not like the Israelis are sitting around every morning and saying, hey, how many more civilians can we kill today? Let’s go bomb a school, or a hospital, or a residential building, and just cause civilian casualties. They’re not doing that. They’re trying to go after Hamas, and it’s a very difficult task.

When Hamas — oh, by the way, in addition to deliberately slaughtering people — is deliberately hiding themselves in residential buildings, in hospitals, in tunnels, putting the innocent people of Gaza directly in the crossfire. Now, you tell me, is that right?

JS: Now, there are a lot of problems with John Kirby’s rant — he’s the National Security Council spokesperson — but one big problem with what John Kirby is saying there is that attacks against civilians, schools, and hospitals, that is exactly what Israel is doing, and it’s doing it repeatedly. It’s irrelevant what John Kirby believes the IDF’s intent to be.

For two months, numerous Israeli officials and lawmakers have said that their intent is to collectively strangle the Palestinians of Gaza into submission, death, or flight. John Kirby’s claims are also just decimated by the revelations in the recent investigative report by the Israeli media outlets +972 and Local Call — and we’re going to be talking more about this in a moment — but that story, which was based on interviews with several Israeli military and intelligence sources, described how Israel knows precisely the number of civilians present in buildings that it strikes. And, at times, it has knowingly killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians in order to kill one single alleged top Hamas commander.

As Israel ratchets up its killing machine again, as it keeps this scorched earth machine going, it gives lie to all of Antony Blinken’s pronouncements and Biden’s pronouncements about caring about Palestinian lives. No lie has been too obscene to justify this wholesale slaughter of people that the Israeli defense minister called “human animals.”

According to this campaign, there’s no such thing as a Palestinian child. There’s no Palestinian hospitals, there’s no Palestinian schools. The U.N. is Hamas, journalists are Hamas. The prime ministers of Belgium, Spain, Ireland; they’re Hamas. Everything and everyone who dissents in the slightest from the genocidal narrative is Hamas.

The government spokesperson for Israel, Mark Regev, he recently defended the practice of stripping Palestinian prisoners down to their underwear by saying the following.

Mark Regev: First of all, remember, it’s the Middle East, and it’s warmer here. And, especially during the day when it’s sunny, it’s to be asked to take off your shirt. It might not be pleasant, but it’s not the end of the world. And, as your report said, we are looking for people who would have concealed weapons, especially suicide bombers with explosive vests. We have to make sure they’re not wearing those.

JS: This is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention. First of all, they take videos humiliating these men who’ve been captured, and then they distribute them around the world on social media.

But also, it’s important to point out that, despite Israel’s claims that there’s these mass surrenders happening of Hamas fighters laying down their weapons, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that of the hundreds of Palestinians that have been detained and photographed in the Gaza Strip, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of them are actually affiliated with Hamas in any way.

And, by the way, Israel hasn’t even produced any evidence that that 10 to 15 percent are affiliated with Hamas. Or, more specifically, that they are armed Hamas guerrillas engaged in terrorism.

So, what we have here is clear evidence that Israel was both violating the Geneva Conventions and engaging in an immoral theatrical production in which Palestinian civilians were forced at gunpoint to play Hamas fighters in an Israeli propaganda movie.

These two-months-plus of scorched earth bombing, of invasion of Gaza, should cause everyone in the world to pause and ask themselves: what are you going to do about this? All of us have a moral obligation to stand up and say, enough. Our governments need to be held accountable.

We’re going to be talking today with a journalist who spent extensive time living in occupied Palestine, who has a new book out that describes the technology, the military hardware that Israel has been testing for many, many years on Palestinians, in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

I’m referring to my friend, the independent journalist, Antony Loewenstein. He is an independent journalist and author, and his latest book is called, “The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World.” It’s published in the U.S. by Verso. He’s also the cofounder of the investigative news site, Declassified Australia.

Antony Loewenstein, thank you so much for being with us here on Intercepted.

Antony Loewenstein: Thanks so much for having me.

JS: We’re going to talk a lot about the work that you did in your book, about the time that you’ve spent on the ground in Gaza, in the West Bank, the reporting that you’ve done, about how Israel has effectively used what it calls the battlefield in Palestine as a testing ground for new military tactics, new military technology.

But first, I want to get your analysis of how those dynamics have played out in Israel’s military campaign against Gaza.

AL: The Israeli response to Hamas’s brutal attack on October 7 has been, on the one hand, very much part of a long historical arc. The brutality of it … I mean, the brutality of the Hamas attack is worth noting and acknowledging, but the Israeli response, which was always going to be utterly devastating, with 110 percent Western support. I mean, the only Western countries that have expressed some degree of criticism has been Ireland at times, and the Spanish government in the last month or so. But, in general, the entire Western world has been 110 percent support, apart from occasional comments.

But, as I often say to people, don’t look at what people say, look at what they do, and much of the West has given huge amounts of weaponry — the U.S., particularly, but also Germany and other nations, too — to Israel. Rushed weapons, in fact, to Israel since October 7. But the Israeli response has been of a scale and brutality which really is unprecedented since Israel’s birth.

There’s obviously been countless wars between Israel and Palestinians, and Israel and its Arab neighbors, but the scale and the speed with which Israel has slaughtered Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are civilians, has … I don’t want to say it hasn’t shocked me. I mean, the facts of it are shocking, everyone has seen the videos and the photos, and I have friends in Gaza who are … I mean, suffering would be an understatement. They are deeply traumatized, their homes have been destroyed. They’re essentially refugees in their own territory, so they are profoundly trying to survive on a daily basis.

But the Israeli military response, the indiscriminate nature of it, with complete Western support, has been of a scale … There was a report in the Financial Times this last week which essentially said, based on their own analysis, that the rate of destruction and the speed with which it’s happened, is akin to the U.S. bombing Germany at the end of World War II. Far more than any other conflict since World War II.

Now, of course there have been huge amounts of other wars in the last 80 or so years, many of which have killed far more people, to be sure. But the scale and the speed of it is unprecedented, essentially, this century and, basically, for the last 80 years.

So, that amount of damage, using the most sophisticated Israeli weapons which, of course, are designed to be indiscriminate. Yeah, I’ve been staggered, and stunned, and appalled, and disgusted, because it’s being done in my name, as someone who’s Jewish myself.

JS: There was a story that was published by two Israeli media outlets that came out a couple of weeks ago at the end of November, and the lead investigative reporter was from +972 Magazine. Again, an Israeli investigative journalist publishing in Israel. And the title of the article was “A Mass Assassination Factory Inside Israel’s Calculated Bombing of Gaza.”

And in the story, it describes how the Israeli military … And, by the way, we should note that it is a story that’s based on seven Israeli military and intelligence sources, some former, some current, who have participated in attacks against Gaza. And at the heart of this investigation were a number of very, very relevant details, one of which is that the Israeli military is using a system called Habsura, or The Gospel. And, according to the article, it is largely built on artificial intelligence, and can, quote, “generate targets almost automatically at a rate that far exceeds what was previously possible.”

This AI system, as described by a former military intelligence officer, essentially facilitates a, quote, “mass assassination factory.” And the sources told +972 that the increasing use of AI based systems like Habsura allows the Israeli army to carry out strikes on residential homes where a single Hamas member lives on a massive scale, even those who are junior Hamas operatives. And it also talks about one specific case, where the Israeli military command knowingly approved the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in an attempt to assassinate what they described as a single top Hamas military commander.

And there’s a quote that I think everyone should hear from one of the sources, the Israeli source. It says: “Nothing happens by accident. When a three-year-old girl is killed in a home in Gaza, it’s because someone in the army decided it wasn’t a big deal for her to be killed, that it was a price worth paying in order to hit another target. We are not Hamas. These are not random rockets. Everything is intentional. We know exactly how much collateral damage there is in every home.”

When I read this article, I thought of your work, Antony, and I’m wondering if you can pick up from there, and talk about the broader context of how Israel is using artificial intelligence. But also, what this says about the nature of the Israeli attacks against Gaza right now.

AL: One of the amazing things about that report — and it’s certainly a very reputable outlet, I’ve written for that outlet myself over the last five or so years — is that it really deepens our understanding of some of the reporting I’ve done myself, and others have done in the last decade or so.

What the piece talks about, really, is how, pretty much since 2014 extended into 2021, when Israel has fought these seemingly never-ending wars between itself and Hamas, that there is a growing, as you say, use of AI targeting. And, of course, the way that Israel gets those so-called targets, which I think is worth noting, is through a range of ways. Obviously, drones, various surveillance technology.

One other thing that’s also worth saying is that so much of the Israeli intelligence is not just coming from Israel, it’s coming also from the U.S. And I’m a coeditor and cofounder of an organization called Declassified Australia, which does investigative work around Australia’s relationships with the world, including the U.S.

We had a report about a month ago which kind of went viral, which essentially said that — which is directly related to what this +972 report says — there’s a key U.S. intelligence base in the center of Australia called Pine Gap. It’s been around for about half a century, and it was a key intelligence gathering base for the U.S. War on Terror; a lot of the so-called targeting the U.S. used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria was coming from Pine Gap. That was partly released through Edward Snowden documents and other releases. And we discovered through a reliable source that, since October 7th, the Americans are giving Israel real-time intelligence to be used in their war in Gaza.

Now, how Israel’s using that is not entirely clear, but it’s part of what Israel is gathering, apart from on-the-ground sources and, of course, over the years, because Israel’s been blockading Gaza for nearly 20 years. They have a lot of human intelligence, both Hamas operatives — we don’t know how many, but no doubt a number of Hamas operatives are working for the Israelis — and a number of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, who over the years have been often blackmailed to provide intelligence. So, all that information is put into this system, and is, as the report says, providing huge amounts of datapoints and alleged targets.

And it’s also worth saying that so much of the reporting in the last years, and particularly since October 7th around AI-enabled warfare, either done by the Israelis or the Americans and others, goes under the guise of suggesting that it reduces civilian casualties. In fact, there’s literally no evidence for that argument. In fact, the evidence is for the opposite. That, in fact, AI-enabled warfare is deliberately causing more civilian casualties, which is exactly the point.

And in some other reporting around that +972 story, it became very clear that one of Israel’s aims — which has no basis in history whatsoever — is that the aim is to make the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza is so distraught, so angry, so devastated, that they will turn against their Hamas rulers. And there is literally no precedent in history for a people who are being bombarded, and killed, and starved, and essentially obliterated, who somehow think, oh, okay, I’m going to now rise up against Hamas or some other leader; it just doesn’t happen. It’s deluded thinking, and it’s only able to happen because of a complete American impunity, that, essentially Israel is able to do this, to kill massive numbers of civilians on an unprecedented scale, a speed of which we haven’t seen in, really, this century or beyond.

And Israel will claim that it’s using AI-enabled warfare, and I don’t doubt the veracity of that story, but it’s important to note, finally, this idea: they’re doing it both for domestic audiences in Israel and an international audience in an attempt to try to rally support for Israel. But also, importantly, to try to get international clients for their technology.

What I mean by that is, I’ve been reporting in the last few months — and I’ve been doing this obviously longer than that, but particularly since October 7th — that a lot of what Israel is doing in Gaza is not a secret. What I mean by that is, they’re promoting it on social media, they’re putting it on Instagram, and Twitter, and Facebook, and other social media platforms. So-called “real live footage,” or the bombing of homes of alleged Hamas militants, so Israel claims. That is not just done for a domestic or international public; it’s done, as it has in the past in Gaza, where weapons are being tested in real time for global audiences, for global markets.

So, in months and years to come, there was an interesting quote in a follow up story in The Guardian around that +972 story that essentially said from a U.S. official, other countries are watching what Israel is doing. And that is a clear message to me, as I’ve seen before for years, that they are doing this not solely for foreign markets, of course, but partly for that purpose. That, ultimately, the technology that Israel is using in Gaza, mass killing on an unprecedented scale, many other nations want a piece of that in their own wars, in their own counterinsurgencies. And that’s what disturbs me.

JS: Antony, we also saw a parallel version of this playing out with the war in Ukraine, where you have all of the premier weapons manufacturers in the world  certainly all of them in the United States — but also new startups that are manufacturing smaller kamikaze-styled drones, that are single-use drones that can be … And Ukraine has been just awash in drone warfare. Not just huge tier-one- or tier-two-level nation state drones, but also smaller drones made by smaller players, that can be swarmed where you use them in batches of a dozen or more drones attacking a target, and each with a single explosive on them.

And these defense companies have really salivated at the opportunity to test their new gear on the battlefield against Russia in Ukraine. And your work has described how Israel has been doing that because they have a quote-unquote

“battlefield” right next door, and they can always create a reason to test the newest toys, which is a very long tradition of the war industry.

But can you walk us through some of the other technologies, or weapons platforms, or intelligence platforms that you’ve documented Israel to be testing on Palestinians, perhaps with the intent of growing the export market, or showing other nations what’s possible?

AL: It’s worth saying that — at least in relation to Russia Ukraine, because it does very much relate to Israel — is that very soon after Russia invaded in February last year, there were huge amounts of European nations that were literally begging and coming to Israel wanting missile defense shields and various other defense equipment, and Israel was selling them [at a] huge scale.

Last year — we don’t have the figures for 2023 yet, but for 2022 — Israel had the highest number of sales in its history: twelve-and-a-half billion [dollars] U.S. And some of that was going to, because of the Russia-Ukraine war, I think we’ll find out more about the 2023 figures next year. But Israel battle tests huge amounts of weapons.

And I guess the context, in a way, for my book is that, I was pretty frustrated in the last year seeing so much of the coverage in the western press around Pegasus; some listeners will know Pegasus as a spyware that essentially can be put on your smartphone, and anything can be listened to, documented, taken down. Even if the phone is off, your microphone or camera can be controlled and listened to. And it’s been bought by dozens and dozens of nations around the world, democracies and dictatorships.

But I was so frustrated with so much of the media — and there was some good coverage about this, for sure, some good journalism — but there was also this weird blindness that had framed the company behind that, NSO group, as a rogue company. But somehow there’s this rogue Israeli company selling this incredibly powerful technology to countries around the world that are then using it to spy on their own populations, from India to Bangladesh and beyond, which is fundamentally misunderstanding the point.

Yes, the company NSO is a private company, but essentially it’s an arm of the Israeli state, just like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and others are arms of the American state, as you’ve documented, Jeremy, yourself, over the years. So, yes, Iraq and Afghanistan post-9/11 were great testing grounds for U.S. weapons. The Ukraine war is currently being used, as you say, by huge amounts of nations to test new weapons, including drones and other surveillance tech, for that matter. Israel has used Palestine as a testing ground for years, both the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

So, what does that include? That includes huge amounts of drones, both armed and unarmed surveillance equipment, and biometric tools in the West Bank. When Palestinians have to go through checkpoints to go from point A to point B, there’s facial recognition technology, there’s biometric tools. All this is regularly tested in Palestine on Palestinians.

Of course, the Palestinians don’t consent. They often don’t know exactly what’s happening. It’s documented by human rights activists, or organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, or journalists. And so often I’ve seen, in country after country after country around the world, how this technology is then sold and appears in their own context, in other places where It’s been promoted by Israel as battle tested in Palestine. In inverted commas, it “works in Palestine.” And, therefore, it is sold and promoted as being very effective in other places.

So, just a few quick examples. The European Union in the last years, after 2015, when there was a large number of refugees coming from Africa, and particularly the Middle East, and Syria, were determined to never allow that to happen again. That, if you’re Ukrainian and white, they’ll let you in … If you’re Christian, essentially. And not that I have a problem with Europe welcoming Ukrainians, they deserve all the protection they can get. But if you’re brown or Black, clearly, it’s a fundamentally different situation.

So, Europe has created this fortress-type Europe, and one aspect of that are the Israeli drones that are flying 24/7 over the Mediterranean. They’re unarmed, but they’re essentially the eye in the sky for the E.U.. And they have been battle tested over in Gaza in the last decade or so, and they’re used, essentially, to show the Europeans — called Frontex, which is the border security arm of the E.U., which is based in Warsaw in Poland — who should be rescued and who should not be. And the E.U. has made a decision, unofficially, but it’s the reality of letting people drown. So, Israel is a key part. of that infrastructure, and the only reason the E.U. bought those drones was because they’ve been battle tested in Gaza.

And there’s finally another example. There’s been huge amounts of — along the U.S.-Mexico border — there is a huge infrastructure of Israeli surveillance equipment, massive surveillance towers made by Elbit, which is Israel’s biggest defense company. And the only reason that was contracted by, originally, Obama — continued by Trump, and completed by Biden, so this is really bipartisan — is that these kinds of technologies have been battle tested in Palestine, in the West Bank and Gaza.

So, one thing I was trying to show in the book [was] understanding how what’s happening in Palestine never stays there. It’s almost like global Palestine, the Palestinian-ization, almost, of the world.

JS: Also, just to stay on the issue of Israeli drones for a moment, it’s a war that has not gotten nearly the attention it deserves. But you have the Azerbaijan war against Armenians, and against Armenia. And, of course, Israel helped fuel Azerbaijan’s campaign in the Nagorno-Karabakh, and supplied it with powerful weapons to Azerbaijan. And there’s been media reporting basically saying that, because Azerbaijan’s air force was not as modern or as devastating as some other nation states that the Israeli drones were a definitive factor in the Azerbaijani attacks against Armenia.

AL: Definitely, that was the key point. And one of the reasons why Israel has been so keen to befriend that nation is because they’re desperate to spy on Iran, and that country is a neighbor of Iran. And, therefore, Israel has a massive presence in that country.

And I think, in some ways, there’s been so much coverage in the last — I mean, since October 7th, of course, but for years — on the situation in Palestine, which is obviously bad enough. I mean, the occupation in Palestine, having reported on this for 20 years, I was living in East Jerusalem between 2016 and 2020, and have been reporting on the conflict for nearly 20 years. Having seen up close the actual reality of the situation in Palestine is bad enough for Palestinians, and getting worse every day, even before October 7th.

But what I guess disturbed me even more, which is probably why I wrote the book, was that I was seeing how these issues were bleeding into other conflicts. And one of the issues, for example, when you have a close relationship between Israel and India, which is one of the key relationships that receives far too much attention now. When India is now the world’s biggest nation, world’s biggest so-called democracy, world’s biggest population. And a key ally of India, particularly since Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, has been Israel.

Now, India’s doing what it’s doing for its own reasons, not doing it because of Israel. But, to me, it’s really revealing that a nation like India is importing huge amounts of Israeli defense equipment, spyware, and other kinds of tools, and they’re inspiring each other. You have key Indian officials talking openly about being inspired by the occupation of Palestine that Israel is perpetuating, wanting to do something similar in Kashmir — the northern part of India, which is a Muslim majority area — to bring Hindus, essentially, to settle the land, so-called colonize the land is what India is doing at the moment.

And that kind of relationship between Israel and India reminds me — I talk about this in the book — of Israel and South Africa. Nations that were both … Well, all those nations were ethnonationalist states. But they were, East South Africa, of course, in the end became a pariah state, but for decades it was not a pariah state at all. It was on parts of the left, but it was welcomed by the international community.

I guess I give all these examples to show that the Palestine laboratory and what’s happening in Palestine, including what’s happening right now, Jeremy, in Gaza, being tested, whether I’ve seen in the last two months huge amounts of new tech being developed, new weapons that I speak to people in Gaza that is being … New weapons Doctors have never seen those injuries before. New kinds of drones, new kinds of surveillance.

All this, as I said, all this is not being done solely to sell to global players, not at all. But a key part of Israel’s almost DNA now is to promote and test these weapons in real time, which are then sold. What’s happening in Gaza right now will be sold in months and years ahead to other nations that are desperate for it.

JS: There’s also been video that Palestinians have taken showing unarmed Israeli drones that hover down to people’s homes, including in fairly remote locations, and then play an audio message. I don’t know if it’s live or it’s a recording, but one of the videos that I saw is basically threatening the residents of this home, that if “you leave, we’re going to be watching you.” I mean, it really is Orwell-level stuff.

I’ve always found this creepy, because this isn’t new, and the Israelis have been doing this for a long time, but the phone calls that people get … Palestinian journalists have gotten phone calls telling them that they’re being watched. We’ve seen the families of multiple journalists killed in what appear to be targeted strikes. You have Palestinians getting SMS messages; one of them that was recently reported on was sent just ten minutes before an IDF attack said, quote, “The IDF will begin a crushing military attack on your area of residence with the aim of eliminating the terrorist organization, Hamas.”

And what, Antony, Palestinians in Gaza have been told to do — and this goes back to December 1st — by the Israeli military, the IDF has an Arabic language webpage, and they have an Arabic language spokesperson and that runs Twitter accounts. Starting on December 1st, after the United States supposedly secured an agreement from Israel that it was going to maybe, possibly try to not kill so many civilians, Israel rolls out this totally dystopian app that they want Palestinians in Gaza to download. And it’s basically an interactive map of Gaza dividing the strip into hundreds of numbered zones, and on the IDF website, there’s a QR code.

And so, Israel — and this clearly is aimed much more at the Biden administration’s lip service that it’s paid to Palestinian civilians needing to be protected than it is toward the actual population, but let’s take it for what it’s worth — they’re telling people who don’t have access to clean drinking water, who are basically starving, who are on undoubtedly on the verge of horrible health pandemics, who are constantly having to scramble to find somewhere, anywhere, possibly safe, they’re telling them to go online, scan this QR code, and then constantly be monitoring IDF social media channels to figure out which block they can go to so that they don’t get killed. It’s like a grotesque reality show where, if you make the wrong decision, you and your family can be maimed or killed.

But all of this is rooted in tactics and technology that you’ve written about, it just is happening on a grander industrial scale right now.

AL: It is. And it’s also worth saying that that ridiculous dystopian plan is also directed at Palestinians, many of whom literally don’t have access to mobile phones or the internet. I mean, just that very basic fact…

The friends I have in Gaza, who I’m trying to be in touch with as much as possible, despite the major communication problems, because there’s a war going on, have said to me, they’re in areas — according to that map that you just mentioned, Jeremy — that apparently are safe, and they’re sending me photos and videos. It’s being attacked. It’s being bombed. Everyone in Palestine knows … Everyone, really, I think. I mean, the U.S. administration knows this: there are no safe places.

And now you have a situation where huge amounts of Palestinians are being pushed into a smaller and smaller territory near the Rafah border, on the Egyptian side. And one thing I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is how increasingly I am reminded of what happened at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009.

For listeners who don’t remember that, there was a brutal civil war in Sri Lanka for decades between the Sinhalese majority government and the Tamil Tigers, and the Tamils were fighting for an independent homeland. And, in 2009, this war came to a horrible conclusion where Israel, amongst others, was supporting the Sri Lankan government, and the government, essentially, was pushing more and more and more Tamils into a smaller and smaller and smaller part of Northern Sri Lanka.

And the end result was probably around 40,000 Tamils were killed; the vast majority were civilians. And yes, the Tamil Tigers were destroyed, its leader was killed.

I have that comparison in my mind a lot at the moment because, as I say in so many examples, the end of that war in 2009 brought no accountability. There was no war crimes investigations, there was none of that whatsoever for the Sri Lankan generals and others who were involved in that.

Fast forward to 2023, what Palestinians can do in Gaza, who are essentially trapped into a smaller and smaller part of the strip there, where they are moving closer and closer to Rafah, which is, essentially, if that border opens there, it would be into Egypt and the Sinai. That there are only so many options here of where this conflict can go, right?

I mean, Egypt either opens its borders; in other words, it’s been bribed enough by the Americans or Israelis to do so. And it hasn’t gotten nearly enough reporting in the Western press, but I read lots of reporting in the Israeli press and elsewhere that Israel has been essentially trying for two months to bribe the Egyptian regime over and over and over again to take in huge amounts of people. There was a report a few days ago in one of Israel’s biggest newspapers — Israel Hayom, which is close to Netanyahu — which is a plan being drafted, apparently, with some support in the U.S. Congress, of bribing neighboring Arab states, including places like Iraq, who is hardly in a position to take, really, anybody, to essentially take billions of dollars in from the U.S. and take in Palestinian refugees who are in need at the moment.

I mean, it’s almost hard to know what to say about that kind of plan. My book ends with this idea that I was fearful — and I wasn’t the only one saying this of course — but fearful that this conflict would take a dark turn if there was some unimaginable event. A war, an attack … Of course I didn’t know what that was going to be. And October 7 happens, and so many of the aims, and dark ambitions, and dreams of many in the Israeli political elite … And let’s be clear, many in the Israeli public as well.

I think people often like to say that this is being led in Israel by a handful of crazy far-right lunatics close to Netanyahu. It’s simply not true. I have a quote in the book of a study from 2016, which is a long time ago now, that said that nearly half of Israeli Jews supported ethnic cleansing; in other words, forcibly removing Palestinians. Now, can you imagine what that figure would be today?

I mention all this because this ties into the broader, I guess you’d say, agenda of where Israel appears to be going. Of a state that is so extreme, so belligerent, so off-the-leash, while at the same time developing the most sophisticated weapons in the world.

The U.S. remains the world’s biggest arms dealer, as you’d know, Jeremy; 45 percent of the world’s weapons still comes from the U.S., and Israel’s 10th. Now, Israel’s not going to be number one anytime soon, but it’s 10th. In terms of spyware, though, it’s actually nearly number one, if not number one. It’s a global leader in this. And when you have a, as you say, an unwilling population on Israel’s doorstep for over half a century and no guardrails on what Israel is doing, including after October 7, you are almost incentivizing Israel to develop even more dystopian ways of surveilling and killing people, and that’s essentially what’s happening now in real time

JS: Yeah. I think you’re making several crucial points there.

One also is, if you’re looking at Israeli TikTok or other social media, it’s flooded with the most vile, racist mocking of the suffering of Palestinians, and there’s a real bloodlust that you can sense.

And I agree with you. I think that, for years, there’s always been this attempt to sort of say, well, this is the extremists, this is the far-right agenda, but we are seeing that agenda being embraced by people across the political spectrum in Israel. And you’re hearing openly genocidal comments being made, not just from random posters on social media, but from government ministers, from members of the Knesset.

And I think it’s worth fleshing out a bit what you just mentioned, because it’s very important. This notion that one of the plans on the table seems to be, essentially, killing as many people as you can in Gaza, forcing as many of them into Rafah, with the hope that, eventually, you can just stick them in the Sinai desert.

And we also should say, many Israeli media outlets have broken very, very important stories throughout the duration of this conflict, and it’s really worth it for people who care about these issues to monitor what’s being said in Israeli media. But my colleague Ryan Grim at The Intercept some weeks ago flagged a story from Israel Hayom, which is considered to be something like an official organ for Netanyahu; this is an Israeli media outlet. And what Ryan said is that Netanyahu tasked his top advisor, Ron Dermer, who’s the Minister of Strategic Affairs, with designing plans to, quote, “thin the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip to a minimum.”

And he’s citing Israel Hayom, and the paper reported that the plan has two main elements. The first is to use the pressure of the war and the humanitarian crisis to persuade Egypt to allow refugees to flow to other Arab countries. And then, the second is to open up sea routes so that Israel would, quote, “allow a mass escape to European and African countries.”

And just to make it clear to people: Ron Dermer, who’s originally from Miami, Florida, is a Netanyahu confidant, and he previously was Israel’s ambassador to the United States, and he has close relationships with many members of Congress. So, it does seem that these plans are being actively discussed.

There’s also been talk among Egyptian journalists of attempts to sort of bribe Sisi, the dictator of Egypt, into allowing an essential resettlement of large parts of Gaza into the Sinai Peninsula.

AL: Definitely. And I think the context for this is so important.

I have a lot of quotes of this in the book, but listeners can find this very easily on Google. There [are] amazing amounts of Israeli politicians for years, not just since October 7, openly saying — and I’m paraphrasing various quotes — “we need to finish the job we started in 1948.”

So, Israel is kind of a schizophrenic society in a way. On the one hand, there is still profound denial about what happened in 1948 — mass ethnic cleansing, the forcible removal of 750,000 Palestinians — there’s still profound denial about that. Obfuscation, ignorance. On the other hand, there’s many politicians who say, oh no, no, we did ethnic cleansing. We didn’t finish the job, we need to keep doing it whenever we can. We’re looking for our right moment. And this is what October 7 potentially has offered many in the Israeli political and, frankly, media and, frankly, public establishment.

Now, how this plays out, as you say, I saw that report, too — I mentioned it before — in Israel Hayom about an idea of “thinning out,” so-called, the population. Whether that happens it, to me, is incredibly unclear, when you don’t know what’s going to happen. But, ultimately, this is sort of, I think, a longer term plan.

I think there was a realization a number of years ago by a lot of, I would say, savvier Israeli politicians, that it was very unlikely that you’re going to be able to get rid of all the Palestinians in one go — it just wasn’t going to happen. Through a war, through some kind of mass ethnic cleansing — but you can do it piecemeal, step by step by step. And you make life, as Israel is doing, utterly intolerable for huge amounts of Palestinians in the West Bank. To the point now — even since October 7, although it’s been happening for a long time — at least 15 Palestinian villages have been ethnically cleansed.

And what I mean by that is that, these people have not been all killed, or hundreds have been killed by Israel, but I’m saying these villages have had no choice but to go, to leave their homes, their ancestral homes that have been there for generations, because settlers and Israeli soldiers have made their lives utterly intolerable. That is the plan here.

The plan being that you make life so difficult for so many people that they essentially either become refugees in their own land — these people are now basically nomads within the West Bank — or you “convince them,” in inverted commas, to leave.

And, as you rightly say, the Western media is obsessed with Netanyahu, and he is a duplicitous figure, there’s no defense of him here. But the problem is not just Netanyahu. If he goes tomorrow in his political life, [and] I can’t imagine it’s going to be very long now, the likely replacements — Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, other people who are seen within Israel as supposedly more centrist or moderate — on the key issues, Jeremy, [regarding] Gaza, the West Bank, there’s no difference. There’s no difference. They believe in endless occupation, they believe in colonization, they believe in deepening settlements. There’s no difference.

Gideon Levy, who’s an amazing Israeli journalist and a good friend of mine, one of my personal journalistic heroes, has said for a long time — he’s directing this particularly to the Israeli public, those who are on the left, who utterly opposed Netanyahu — you are making a mistake. By all means, Netanyahu is an awful figure, sure, it would be great if he wasn’t Prime Minister. But does anyone honestly believe … He wasn’t Prime Minister, by the way, last year. For a whole year. You think there was much difference? There was no difference. There wasn’t the far, far, far right in the cabinet. Yes, sure, and that’s obviously an awful thing. But ultimately, there’s no difference on the key issues.

And that, to me, is kind of the moral collapse that has happened and has, frankly, always been there, in huge parts of the Israeli political [sphere] … And, I guess, the public [sphere]. And, as someone who’s Jewish — although I’m not religious — but someone who’s Jewish, who has seen how that moral collapse has not stayed in Israel. It’s permeated into vast parts of the global Jewish community, to the point where, since October 7, to be sure, there have been amazing — obviously non-Jewish too — but Jewish protests. Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, If Not Now in the U.S., doing prominent, high-profile protests against what’s happening in Palestine. And I applaud those people, I’m friends with some of them.

But the fact is, the vast, vast majority of Jewish groups — including on the so-called Zionist left — have gone 110% behind Israel, behind the war. Not calling for a ceasefire, that, to me, is the moral collapse of what Israel has brought to the global Jewish community

JS: Well, we can go back to the aftermath of 9/11 in the United States, and you saw a very similar dynamic unfold in America as well, wherein the entirety of the United States Congress, you only had one lawmaker Representative Barbara Leigh of California, who voted against the blank check that Congress gave the Bush administration to wage this borderless global war. And so, there’s one level on which we see that this nature travels from place to place; we certainly saw that in the United States in the aftermath of 9/11.

But I wanted to just shift gears for a moment and ask you about natural resources and Gaza. There have been reports that the Gaza Marine field, which is 20 miles off of Gaza’s coast, it’s an undeveloped reservoir. There’s an estimation that there’s 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and there’s been discussion in Israel, in the United States about exploiting this.

And in late November, Joe Biden’s energy security advisor, Amos Hochstein, was in Israel. He was talking about a number of issues, but one of the things that he said during his visit — and this is a quote — he said, “There’s an opportunity here to develop the gas fields in offshore Gaza on behalf of the Palestinians.” As soon as we get to the day after, and this horrible war ends, there are companies willing to develop those fields.

Talk about the natural resource component of this, and whether you see that as a factor in why Netanyahu and others in Israel want to essentially seize Gaza. Is there a “there” there?

AL: I think there is something there, but I would say, similar, to me, [to] how I viewed the Iraq war in 2003. Meaning that, the Iraq war to me wasn’t solely about oil, it was about a range of things. It was about U.S. dominance and attempts to try to knock out what they perceive would be an easy enemy.

JS: Yeah. And I want to just make it clear, I’m not implying that is the nefarious thing that really is driving the whole thing. I’m very interested because you’ve studied this, and you also understand the context of the politics of natural resources, how much of a factor this is, and if you know anything else about it.

AL: I think it’s a factor, but I don’t really see this as a major factor.

What I mean by that is, there’s been talk for a long time — really in some ways, since Hamas took over Gaza a number of years ago, although this gas reserve you’re talking about was only discovered relatively recently — but there’s been long talk of almost … There was a so-called vision of some Israeli politicians a number of years ago, of sort of having a floating city offshore in the Mediterranean near Gaza, to sort of provide some kind of Singapore-like development. I mean, kind of delusional ideas.

And any kind of potential gas reserves — and I have no doubt from what I’ve read that they exist there — to benefit whom? Like, when that comment, as you said before, was talking about benefiting Palestinians, which Palestinians? Who’s going to control Gaza after this is over? Who is this? Is it the Palestinian Authority who the U.S. and Biden says is their desired option here, which is a deeply corrupt, unpopular body running the West Bank? Is it someone else? Is it bringing in some discredited Palestinians from overseas? Is it kind of an Ahmed Chalabi-type situation, that they bring in some Palestinian who hasn’t been to Gaza for years?

Some people have asked me about how important the gas fields are. I think that there is an American and Israeli desire to think of how — particularly the American under Biden — a way to potentially fund any kind of redevelopment when that happens. Because, let’s be clear, the Arab states have said, so far at least, very clearly — most Arab states, many — they have no interest in massively helping to rebuild Gaza. Who’s going to do it? You think the Israelis are going to do it? They won’t do it. Now the Northern part of Gaza is apocalyptic. It’s flattened. The Southern part of Gaza is well on its way.

So, yes, on paper, it would be, I guess, possible to exploit some of those kinds of resources off the shore of Gaza. But I am deeply, deeply skeptical of that being anything viable anytime soon, knowing the politics of the situation.

And also, finally, what was remarkable living there for years was how little, for a self-described Western state, climate change was even talked about in Israel. It’s kind of remarkable. Yes, there are people, of course, who are interested in the climate crisis; I’m not saying no one cares, they do, particularly in Palestine and parts of Israel where the temperatures are soaring nine months of the year. But, in general, it’s remarkable how, in the Israeli government, there’s barely any interest in planning for what that looks like. A country that is scorching hot nine months of the year.

And I’m not defending what’s happening in the U.S. or parts of Europe in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, but in Israel, that conversation’s barely begun. Barely begun. And that’s always struck me as remarkable, for a country that is so centered where it is, in a place where water is so scarce. And yet the conversation turns too quickly to potentially exploiting gas off the coast of Gaza.

JS: Antony, as you mentioned earlier, you lived in East Jerusalem, you’ve reported extensively, you lived there, you’ve reported extensively from the occupied West Bank. And what we’ve seen since October 7th and, really, since Israel started to intensify its attacks against Gaza, is a second front also intensifying, where you have Israeli — not only Israeli military forces — but you have, essentially, Israeli-funded terror squads, known as Israeli settlers, that are, with the full support of the state, the full arming by the state, terrorizing and expelling Palestinian civilians from their homes. You have the Israeli military laying siege to Jenin. You have had drone strikes that have started to ratchet up in the West Bank. You have thousands of people who have been arrested. You have people being arrested for things that they put on their status on WhatsApp. You have children and other people under the age of 18, as the Guardian newspaper called them, being rounded up and stuck into the military gulag system, the military justice system.

Talk about that other part of the war, where Israel now has sort of taken off all the gloves and all the leashes, and it’s a full siege now in the occupied West Bank.

AL: This really goes to the heart, I think, of what Israel has become, and it goes back to what I was saying before. That, for so many years, many in the West have chosen to frame what’s happening in the West Bank and the extremism within it as a few bad apples. Yes, there are some extremist settlers. Yes, they do terrible things. Yes, they attack Palestinians. Isn’t that terrible? Isn’t that awful? But, really, overall, Israel and the Palestinians are kind of doing their best to manage the situation.

Whereas what has happened — and this has undeniably, as you say, accelerated since October 7 — is, what was once a relatively small fringe extremist bunch of Jewish fanatics from the late 1960s has metastasized into a full-blown, incurable cancer within the Israeli and Palestinian space. And what I mean by that is: you now have roughly 750,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, all there illegally.

Now, they’re not all fascists, but a sizable proportion are. I mean, they’re all there illegally, but they’re not all violent. And a sizable proportion, not just extremists, but their vision is essentially the Taliban. Their vision is Iran — obviously Jewish, not Muslim — a theocratic Jewish state. And I think there is still a profound reluctance in the West, the U.S., and elsewhere, to come to terms with that.

This doesn’t mean every Israeli Jew is a theocrat. In fact, there’s obviously a sizable amount of Jews in Israel who fundamentally oppose that. Of course, that’s true. But those groups, those political parties, those interests have essentially won, for now, and they control the state. I’m not just talking about this year under Netanyahu’s current government. I’m talking about, for years.

Now, yes, this year, with the far-right government, and since October 7, there has been a massive acceleration of, as you say, violence against Palestinians, settlers coming to Palestinian villages and threatening them with death unless they leave within 24 hours. Mass destruction of olive groves that Palestinians rely on. And I’ve spent time often in these areas for, really, close to 20 years, both with Palestinians … But also, I’ve spent quite a lot of time with fanatical Jewish settlers, as a journalist, rather than as a friend, just to be clear.

I think, a real … I can only put it down to profound denial. It’s almost a sense that so much of the West can accept that there are Christian fundamentalists, there’s obviously Muslim fundamentalists, there’s Hindu fundamentalists. There is still a real reluctance, I would argue, since the Holocaust, to come to terms with the fact that there is a sizable proportion of the Israeli public who are utterly fanatical, who are theocrats. Their aim is to ethnically cleanse Palestinians, either kill them or forcibly remove them.

And you have an entire global network of many in the evangelical community in the U.S., particularly, the global Jewish diaspora, that support this. And I don’t think enough of the West has come to terms with that. This is what is being created. And I would argue it’s irreversible.

I’m not saying the situation there can never change. I think it can. But, on the current trajectory, the aim — and it’s accelerated since October 7 to be sure — is to make life for Palestinians utterly impossible. To make them refugees in their own territory, to convince them to try to emigrate, if they can get a passport for somewhere else, god knows where. This is the vision.

Even this year, before October 7, some listeners will remember, there were Jewish-led pogroms against Palestinians in various West Bank villages. People killed, villages being burnt down. This is what is going on on a daily basis. And I note, in the last few weeks, the U.S. and parts of the E.U. are now talking about — and the U.S. is doing that — blocking visas for extremist settlers to, say, come to the U.S.

Now, okay, great. But firstly, I don’t think an extremist settler in Hebron is going to be too concerned that he or she can’t have fun in Manhattan. That’s not the solution here. The solution is, it’s being funded.

JS: Unless they’re originally …

AL: From America.

JS: Yeah. I mean, the question also is, what are they going to do about the sizeable number of American citizens that have gone and stolen Palestinian homes?

AL: And it’s also worth saying this, finally, that the American government still allows tax deductible donations in America to support violent settlers in Palestine. It is insane. And there’s been lots of attempts to try to reverse that, but the U.S. government won’t listen.

JS: Antony, in the time we have remaining, I want to also get into this issue that is happening across Europe, it’s now happening in the United States, I’m sure there are equivalents in Australia as well. But in the United States recently, lawmakers passed a resolution stating that anti-Zionism equates to antisemitism. You have Joe Biden who, throughout his political career, even though Biden is a Catholic, he says you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and I’m a Zionist. At the White House Hanukkah celebration this week, Joe Biden said that if there wasn’t a state of Israel, that no Jew in the world would be safe.

Talk about this weaponization of antisemitism, and the deployment of allegations of antisemitism against people — including Jews, probably you get this hate mail also — who are criticizing the tactics of the Israeli state, or are offering a political critique of Zionism.

AL: You know, real antisemitism — actual hatred of Jews, attacking synagogues, attacking people who wear religious garb, or vile comments online — is real. I mean, it’s obvious to say that, but it’s real, and it’s growing in parts of the world. There’s no doubt about that, and it worries me and many other people.

What is happening at the moment — before October 7, and it’s been turbocharged since — as you say, it’s not just the weaponization of antisemitism in an attempt to try to stop or criticize or silence critics of Israel, but it’s an attempt, in a way, to provide eternal insurance and protection for anything Israel does. The idea that members of the U.S. Congress who voted for that resolution that anti-Zionism is antisemitism — many of whom, by the way, who openly associate with actual antisemites, far-right white nationalists, that sort of detail seems to have been often ignored — is grotesque.

And, also, to be clear, as someone Jewish myself, anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. Anti-Zionism has been a long tradition in Judaism, that people, growing numbers of young Jews, importantly in the U.S., Jews are saying, we do not support our identity being hijacked by a fundamentalist Israeli state long before October 7, and certainly very much since. And that has become a generational split, I might add, in much of the Jewish community.

What I see happening in Europe — and I’m an Australian citizen, but I’m also a German citizen — and what’s happening particularly in Germany, and other states too, but certainly Germany, is a real perversion and misunderstanding of their own history. Most of my family were killed in the holocaust, and the ones that got out escaped to wherever they could get a visa in 1939. U.S., U.K., Australia, etc. And How Germany — when I say Germany, the German elites, many in the German art world, many in the German media, many in the German intelligence services — are not just ignoring the lessons of history but, somehow, by criminalizing any display of support for Palestine.

In the last years, I have a number of friends in Germany who are protesting peacefully for Palestinian rights, wearing a keffiyeh, the Palestinian scarf, supporting BDS — Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions — marching in the streets peacefully, violently abused and assaulted by police, simply for the act of supporting Palestine.

JS: And Antony, just to add another layer to what you’re accurately describing here, there have been hundreds of arrests of people for speech- and assembly-related offenses. And, in Germany, there’s also discussion of passing a law that would make as a requirement to be a naturalized citizen of Germany a signed statement recognizing the right of the state of Israel to exist.

There’s also a criminalization; you’re not allowed to use terms that apply to the Third Reich’s pogrom and mass murder of jews in the 30s and 40s, you are not allowed to use those terms to describe the actions of the Israeli state. I’ve been talking with lawyers who are representing people who’ve been arrested on these speech-related charges, and it’s chilling to see this spreading. This has happened for a long time in Germany. This has been on the books, but it’s now spreading to the United States and elsewhere, this notion that Israel should have a carved-off special place in the law, where criticizing them with words, criticizing their actions, criticizing actions that even leading holocaust scholars have said may constitute genocide, that that somehow is going to be criminalized, but only in the case of Israel. This is devastatingly dangerous.

AL: So dangerous. And it really shows that Germany — and, again, when I say Germany, meaning the German elites and other parts of German society — are trying to absolve their historical guilt for what happened in the 30s and 40s by manifesting itself in uncritical support for indefinite Israeli occupation and colonization. As if, somehow, that will cleanse their spirits, will cleanse their guilt. That, somehow, by criminalizing Palestinians, by Palestinian expressions of self-determination, whatever it may be, this is just an abomination of history. But, also, it fundamentally misunderstands the trajectory of where a lot of Europe is currently going.

We had an election, what, a month ago in the Netherlands, where a far-right political entity won. In the German political space, the far-right AfD party has a very decent chance, they’re already in the parliament there, could well do far better in the next election. Various parts of Europe are moving to the far right, and the idea that the focus is on criminalizing or silencing criticism of Israel, when many of these groups that are surging in political support have a history of being neo-Nazis, of associating with Holocaust denial. This is the danger, that somehow we are — when I say we, the people who are pushing these kinds of arguments — are willfully ignoring the lessons of history.

Now, what I see happening in the U.S., even in the last few weeks, of these fairly hapless heads of American universities, who go in front of Congress and some far-right Trump-loving Republican challenges them on their definition of what is antisemitism, and one of them has resigned. The idea, somehow, that there is a profound environment in American universities against Jews is fanciful.

I’m not denying, to be clear, that there’s not antisemitism in some American campuses. Of course there is, undeniably. I’m not denying that for a second. But the idea somehow that it’s unsafe for Jews to exist in a space if they hear the word Palestine, if they hear the word apartheid in Palestine, somehow is antisemitic, is so absurd. And, frankly, is backfiring, because real antisemitism, violence against Jews, discrimination against Jews because they’re Jewish, is rising. That’s where the fight needs to be.

And of course, let’s face it, all these culture wars that are being pushed by elements in the GOP in America and elsewhere is an attempt to try to ignore the fact that it’s pretty damn hard to sugarcoat what Israel’s doing in Gaza. The photos and videos don’t lie. We know what’s going on, the devastation, the utter indiscriminate nature of what Israel’s doing.

But let’s ignore that. Let’s focus on the fact that some hapless head of Harvard didn’t say the right words in front of Congress. I mean, that is just a gross simplification and distraction.

JS: Antony Loewenstein, I want to thank you so much for all of your work. People should check out all of your books, but in particular The Palestine Laboratory. And I want to thank you for not just your work, but also for being with us here on Intercepted.

AL: Thanks so much, Jeremy. It’s been a pleasure.

JS: That was Antony Loewenstein, an independent investigative journalist and author of the new book, “The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World.” It’s been published in a number of countries in the U.S. You can find it through Verso Press.

And that does it for this episode of Intercepted. This is our last episode for this year. I want to thank you so much for joining us all throughout this year, and we’re going to be back in 2024 with all new episodes.

Intercepted is a production of The Intercept. José Olivares is our lead producer. Our supervising producer is Laura Flynn. Roger Hodge is Editor-in-Chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed our show. Our legal review is done by David Bralow and Elizabeth Sanchez. 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 year, I’m Jeremy Scahill.

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