Live Show: Gaza Siege and the Liberal Handwringing Industrial Complex

Citations Needed | October 18, 2023 | Transcript

Citations Needed
41 min readOct 19, 2023
Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 18, 2023.


Nima Shirazi: Hello, everyone, welcome to a Citations Needed livestream. I’m Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson. Of course you can follow Citations Needed on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed, become a supporter of the show if you are so inclined through We are 100% listener funded. We are coming to you live tonight. I am not at home, this is not my home. I’m on the road. But we decided to hop on this live stream to discuss recent, for lack of a better phrase, recent developments in Palestine and Israel. And of course, the rhetoric that we are seeing here in the United States and elsewhere. Incidentally, today could go down in Citations Needed history as Citations Nation Day where purely coincidentally, both myself and also Adam and Sarah Lazare posted articles in The Nation about what’s going on in Gaza. And so we thought that would be a good kind of starting place for this conversation. Because we both happen to show up in The Nation today. So hey, congratulations, Adam.

Adam: Congratulations.

Nima: You’re like, I publish literally all the time. [Laughs]

Adam: I wrote there like five years ago. No, my wife, partner, whatever term you wish to use, she has a relationship with The Nation she was wanting to write it. And so I wrote with her, we wrote it together. We were, we started writing it at 10 o’clock at night because the situation was moving so fluidly. We had to sort of wait till the last minute and that there was a real building of momentum to try to pressure, if not a meaningful amount of people in Congress, at least people claiming the moniker of quote-unquote “progressive,” whatever that means. Obviously, that’s a pretty flexible term, as indicated by the last week. And so just to give a recap of that piece, specifically, it was about, a very curious thing was happening. Starting on Tuesday, Wednesday, when the death count in Palestine started to grow, killing roughly 333,040 people a day on average.

Nima: About 100 kids a day.

Adam: About 100 kids a day, the death toll for children just surpassed 1000, I think maybe one number I saw was 1200. But I think the more conservative estimate is 1040. There’s no such thing as a conservative estimate of dead children. So this is part of something that Israel does every couple years. They do it more, they do it most aggressively I guess every eight or nine years. The generals used to call it “mowing the lawn.” They don’t call it that much anymore for PR reasons. But basically, there’s some sort of back and forth or some sort of Hamas or non-Hamas confrontation and then Israel punishes, collectively punishes Gaza, which is a strip of land that’s about 140 square miles that they lob bombs into this time was different and so far that a lot more Israelis die than usual usually, like in 2014 Protective Edge I think only six Israelis died this time, the number’s well over 1300. So this was sort of military attack, as opposed to sort of normally kind of lobbing these pretty half-assed missiles into south Israel. And so that’s different so therefore, I think their logic of which I think it’s fair to say, as a kind of almost a kind of Bronze Age like collective punishment. ‘You killed our people. We’re not going to like sending commandos to go try to find people because that’s risky. And we don’t really want that.’

Nima: It’s like 1,000 eyes for an eye.

Adam: And even though there’s even though there’s according to Israeli officials to almost 200 hostages, we’re just going to lob bombs, and they launched almost 6500 bombs in about nine days, which is more bombs, and they a lot they launched more bombs in a week than the US launched the entire month of any of the campaigns against ISIS, ISIS in 2014, 15, 16, 17, or 18.

Nima: The number of children that Israel has killed in these airstrikes is more than double the total number of children killed in Russian attacks on Ukraine.

Adam: Right. So those are some points of reference in terms of of getting outrage. But unlike, of course, Hamas attacks and unlike Russian attacks, the US, my tax dollars pay for this. The US government does this ostensibly in my name by funding and arming Israel, who in turn does it ostensibly for those in Israel and supposedly every Jewish person in the world for whom they they claim to represent, and as the body count began to grow over the last week, there was an effort for people to say, Holy shit this is getting, and then of course, they had an evacuation in sort of an internal evacuation order, which many believed, including Ken Roth, who the former head of the Human Rights Watch wrote an op ed in The Guardian today calling it a sort of precursor to ethnic cleansing, precursor to genocide, assuming malicious intent for which many genocide scholars think we have plenty of evidence since the Israeli generals don’t, are not as filtered. They sort of keep going on media and talking about how they’re doing collective punishment. How there are no civilians. The President of Israel recently said about three days ago that he basically admitted to collective punishment due to cutting up water and electricity on Gaza because they, they they’re not rising up.

Nima: Yeah. They hadn’t risen up and overthrown Hamas.

Adam: Not clear exactly what that would look like. I’m not sure that would get really get rid of the problem, even if it did happen.

Nima: Also, can we just be clear that if there were like, if there were a like snap election right now, and every single Palestinian in Gaza voted for Hamas, it still would not justify collective punishment. Just to make clear.

Adam: Also, alternatively, zero percent votes for Hamas still wouldn’t change the fundamental problems.

Nima: Exactly.

Adam: Let me finish my thought.

Nima: I was gonna say, so Sarah, and Adam, wrote this piece in The Nation. If you’re, in case you want to read along or look it up as you well should, it is an excellent piece. It is headlined, “It’s Time for Dems to Stop Handwringing and Demand that Israel End Its Bombing.” And yeah, so, Adam, please do continue about this kind of crocodile-tears lawyer speak, you know, talking point tour that all these politicians are doing.

Adam: Right. And so there was, obviously we all knew where this is going it’s you know, over 2700, 2800 dead now. Again, even based on the kind of medieval collective punishment logic, it seems like okay, it seems like Israel’s got it out of their system, right, even if you kind of do this bromide about Israel having a right to defend itself. Like, at this point, it’s purely gratuitous. I think so far Israel’s claimed they’ve killed like a dozen Hamas leaders, which puts I think the proportion of supposed Hamas leaders to dead children at six or seven to one, so I are sorry, no, try that again. Puts it at around 130, 140 to one. So you know, if I told you there’s a serial killer loose inside of an elementary school that 130 kids and to prevent him from killing again, I’m gonna blow up the school you would think I was, that was not a morally or logically sound thing to do this logic supposedly to kill these Hamas militants, they have to keep landing bombs on a defenseless population, which again, it’s important to note they don’t have defenses. They don’t have bunkers, they have no server, they have no surface to air, they can’t intercept any of these. There’s they’re literally just waiting to die.

Nima: And incidentally, the Hamas you know, fighters, militants, whatever term you want to use, that entered Israel and massacred so many people. We also heard in the days following, how many of them the Israeli military, the IDF, had killed. Upwards of like, I mean, hundreds, 1500. So the idea of the people who perpetrated this violence on on Israelis in southern Israel, it’s not like then they all vanished into the night.

Adam: Presumably some did because they took a lot of hostages. Most died.

Nima: Because they took hostages. The thing is, like, there were 1500 dead Hamas members who had perpetrated this, this violence, and yet now there is also still this, you know, bombing campaign and collective punishment. I just want to like, it’s not like literally then all the perpetrators completely disappeared, and like, went back to Gaza.

Adam: So, so, yeah, so there was this effort to get to the sort of politics and it’s just kind of catching up for those who who may or may not be familiar with the kind of ins and outs I know, it’s happening very fast. And people may, you know, people have jobs, they don’t have time to keep up. So there was an effort to say, Okay, well 20, you know, 2800 dead Palestinian civilians, more or less all civilians. Obviously, 700 I’m sorry, over 1000 children, like okay, you sort of made your point, when do we stop, because you’re not going to like and today even Israel kind of acknowledged that they’re not going to like eradicate Hamas, which was their initial alleged plan because like everyone knows that’s impossible and not going to happen. And so long story short, a bunch of people came out with initially, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, around October 8th, 9th, they called for a ceasefire deescalation. This received immediate pushback from AIPAC, the pro-Israel and more conservative lobby, they claim to be both, and J Street, which claims to be the sort of progressive version of AIPAC, whatever that means. And they basically said, If you suppose —

Nima: Just like nicer, nicer apartheid.

Adam: Yeah, if you call for a ceasefire, we’re going to basically blackball you, and this happens, and so a lot of them got scared. To their credit, progressive activists, if I’m missing anyone, I’m sorry, but groups like, If Not Now, Jewish Voice for Peace. Obviously, various, you know, Palestinian activist and antiwar activists, people who again operate behind the scenes rather without without fame or acknowledgement, had been campaigning to call for a ceasefire. And then that sort of started to build up steam. I think, as the images came back, the genocidal rhetoric, the collective punishment, the cutting off of water gas, sort of no pretense of kind of targeted. And so a lot of liberals kept having this image of Israel doing this kind of targeted, which is all bullshit anyway, even if it could exist, right.

And so we had tweets from people like Christopher Murphy on October 14, “Accountability for Hamas can be achieved without unnecessary harm to civilians. As the U.S. assists Israel in its response to the terrorist attacks, our mutual focus should be on minimizing harm to innocent people, especially children, inside Gaza.” Elizabeth Warren said, “Democracies like the United States and Israel” — I love the flattery, the self-flattery and the flattery of Israel. Again, most apartheids are not really democracies, but that’s neither here nor there — “must uphold the rule of law and protect innocent civilians. As Israel responds to Hamas’s terrorist attacks, it must minimize civilian harm, including the Palestinian children, Israeli hostages, and U.S. citizens.” Ed Markey, the Senator from Massachusetts along with Elizabeth Warren, he did, he did my all-time favorite line that about half of these days, which is “deeply concerned.”

Nima: “Deeply concerned.”

Adam: “I am deeply concerned about the safety of innocent civilians in Israel and Gaza, including Massachusetts residents who may be unable to return home.” And so what you have here is you have a typical liberal kind of handwringing complex. This was language that was put out by and so at the same time that the State Department through Tony Blinken, Nima, listed a bunch of words, originally reported by the Huffington Post, later confirmed by the Washington Post saying you couldn’t say like deescalation, ceasefire, in bloodshed or or, or I think the other one you weren’t allowed to say was reduce fighting or some sort of indication of, basically anything that says Israel can’t should probably not just keep bombing an open air prison forever.

Nima: Right. So they, they because Israel–

Adam: Israel works with a lot of these pro-Israel groups and says, This is our military strategy, you need to like create space for us within American politics to let us kind of blow off our steam and kill, frankly, 10, 15,000 Palestinian civilians. This was a sort of plan ostensibly to target Hamas, but I don’t think anyone credibly believes that. And then they needed to create space. And so what you really need to do is have a bunch of liberals because again, liberals as these images of children being brought out of rubble dead and all these horrific images coming out of Gaza. The sort of brutality of it, and how quick it happened. Clearly, liberals were stuck in a place where they needed to support the White House, because they’re Democrats and they’re partisan hacks. And also they themselves are Zionists and take a lot of money from pro-Israel groups. But they need to maintain this image of being progressive. So what do you do in that situation? There’s pretty much only one thing you can do. And it’s to look Very Concerned, capital V, capital C, Very Concerned.

Nima: Possibly even Deeply.

Adam: Maybe if you’re lucky, Very Deeply Concerned. I think we even had one of those. And so we’re throwing up all the adverbs. And so this became the pose. And this was all very suspicious, because what you notice in the Warren, Murphy, all these different statements that were coming out from the supposed liberal Democrats was not the word ceasefire, or any indication that they wanted Israel to stop the bombing, which is of course, the thing causing the humanitarian crisis for the most part, along with the blockade and the cutting off of humanitarian water and electricity and fuel, right, because you can’t, you can’t operate water without electricity. You can’t really operate anything without fuel. You can’t operate hospitals without fuel, so people are gonna die from that. And I remember thinking, wow, this is really suspicious. And then there was a memo that was passed around by CIP, which is the Center for International Policy, where Matt Duss is now.

Nima: Former Bernie Sanders foreign policy adviser.

Adam: And he’s also friends with Tony Blinken, who’s the Secretary of State. He has praised, he praised Tony Blinken, said he was gonna center human rights. Obviously, that didn’t really work out. And then the CIP statement, and they again, they have, the Center for International Policy, they have a reputation as being like progressive foreign policy, did the same thing, concern troll handwringing. This was October 13. Later on October 15, they said a temporary cessation of, temporary so they can get humanitarian aid but did not call off Israel to stop its bombing. Win Without War also released a statement that did not call for the end of bombing. This all seems somewhat choreographed. Of course, these things are choreographed, these decisions are made behind the scenes, the you know, Win Without War, and CIP, are very much partisan organizations. The memo was out that Biden was not going to budge. You know, he’s been a Zionist for 50 years, he’s pro-Israel. This was not going to change. He’s visiting Israel Wednesday.

Nima: I want to note that that Biden, that, Adam, you saying Biden has been a Zionist for 50 years, is not speculation, and not throwing around a term that like, you know, could have people feel a certain way. Biden literally is on record.

Adam: Well, Zionism is an ideology.

Nima: I know that.

Adam: I know you know that.

Nima: [Laughs] I’m just saying, you know, really, literally, it’s on the record, saying like, ‘I am a Zionist.’

Adam: Those are the words he uses.

Nima: Yes.

Adam: And so this was all very suspect to me. This looked like partisan messaging from partisan nonprofit groups that receive partisan money. And these are ostensibly supposed to be the progressive organizations. And at the same time, there was more pressure from groups like just foreign policy and others who to say, Whoa, whoa, we need to end this now enough with this, this concern-trolling appeals to international law from a country that routinely violates international law, right. It violates about a dozen international laws on a daily basis by its illegal occupation, right. So this kind of facile ‘pillar of national law’ is a way you look busy, and what is liberalism, if not at its core about looking concerned and looking busy in and of course, we’ve talked about witnessing politics without doing politics, you sort of and so you have this language here where Elizabeth Warren sounds like someone who’s kind of an observer, right? She’s sort of Amnesty volunteer with a clipboard. She’s, she’s passively observing history, right, ‘I’m concerned, we’re deeply concerned. I’m watching it closely.’

Nima: ‘If only I could do something.’

Adam: You have a direct line to the most powerful person on Earth. You can now you can both publicly and privately lobby him to call for Israel to stop bombing right, not pull back, not have greater consideration.

Nima: He’s the head of your party.

Adam: Right. And so none of these people, not even the sort of progressives who did end up calling for a ceasefire, so to update this, by the way, sorry, to be clear. Today, around the same time as our article came out, so we actually were able to put it in there because it happened about an hour before it posted. There was a resolution by Representatives Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Andre Carson, Summer Lee, Delia Ramirez, that was co-sponsored by Chuy Garcia, Jonathan Jackson, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar. I don’t ever have the other names here, but there’s a couple more. Jamaal Bowman. They supported a ceasefire so that, I think that when people were watching the mass demonstrations, and the progressives getting chided on social media and elsewhere for not supporting something so simple, so basic, so such a moral no-brainer, which is like, even if you buy into this, again, medieval logic of ‘let’s just kill a bunch of civilians to get recompense for what Hamas did,’ or, you know, forget the conditions, forget the you know, the apartheid. Forget everything else, just if you haven’t, if you have that logic, we can all agree that, that they’ve gotten it out of their system, it’s time to call a timeout. Sort of moral no-brainer, right? Even if you accept the sort of liberal Zionist line that they have a quote unquote, “right to defend themselves,” whatever that means, in the context of bombing, lobbing bombs into an open air prison, which again, speaks to a sort of more existential issue perhaps at hand. Right. And that this was, this was now going to be a litmus test for like, are you serious? And of course, you have the parallel issue, Nima, which we talked about, which is about there’s this weird thing where, you know, to their credit, people like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, they use, they are using, they are using the language of ethnic cleansing. They’re saying Israel’s doing ethnic cleansing, while Biden simultaneously has categorically, without reservation, supported everything that Netanyahu has done. They did some mild chiding, recent chiding in the last two days where they say, Hey, maybe you shouldn’t occupy Gaza. I think that was the main criticism he had, or they need to be more concerned with Palestinian lives, this sort of liberal bullshit rhetoric. And that in about, you know, three or four or five months, they’re gonna say, Hey young voters, you really need to vote for Joseph Robinette Biden, and they’re gonna say that with a straight face.

Nima: For a more progressive, freer, more equal, more caring, more compassionate world.

Adam: Right. In about four months, and you even saw Mehdi Hasan sort of already sheepdogging, saying because Trump said some genocidal stuff and he’s like I, you know, I’ve heard a lot of people say that, you know, especially Arabs and Muslims saying they’re not going to vote for Biden, but this is the alternative, and it’s like really, you’re gonna sheepdog while they’re, the bodies are still being pulled out of rubble, that was pretty cynical, sorry.

Nima: While Biden is sending more money, more military aid, more weapons to Israel.

Adam: And I’ve heard this from multiple people, social media, real life, saying ‘I am not going to vote for Biden.’ Now, we don’t endorse or not endorse candidates on the show, you can do what you want. But there is a sort of jarring juxtaposition from saying, like, Hey, this, this guy is assisting a genocide. And I think some may have even used that term. And if not saying ethnic cleansing, right, which is maybe a little bit more of a measured claim, because it doesn’t require mens rea. And to saying, Oh, by the way, I’m really, I’m really pumped and excited to vote for Joe Biden. And the hope is, right, the sort of this is a again, I totally understand that this is a flea flicker, I don’t think what you know, Sarah and I write or you write in The Nation or, or what happened is, you know, a lot of these progressive groups do and it probably will end up mattering that much, but that the Hail Mary, to use another football analogy, is that they’ll at least see if not for moral reasons, because I think that’s, they’ve already, they have all the like pro-Israel zombie phrases in their head right to defend themselves. I don’t think they’re doing much moral thinking here, right? Yeah. But at the very least, the hope is, you can do the cold calculation to say like, you’re not going to win the White House. Democrats are going to, if you don’t have young voters, and voters disproportionately support Palestine, they also kind of want, they generally side with the underdog. And people can see who the underdog is here.

Nima: It’s very clear.

Adam: After you know, October 7, when the when it was retribution time, like, what I think what I think Israel, a lot of pro-Israel commentators thought was going to happen, that they were going to get the kind of Ukraine treatment where like, once this horrific attack unfolded, that everyone was going to kind of rally around them to do this, go get ’em. And I think that’s what they were banking on, a lot of their messaging seemed to be banking on that. And then, but the problem is, is like the Russian military is 10 times bigger than the Ukraine military. So even while the CIA is helping, or the US Defense Department helping one side, that like people intuitively can understand that Ukraine is a smaller country than Russia, they understand that they are, they are in many key ways the underdog in that conflict, very obviously, right. And they’re the ones who were invaded versus the ones invading.

Nima: And that is completely inverted.

Adam: And that’s not the case here. Because people aren’t stupid. They can look at a map, they can say–

Nima: Right. The analogy simply doesn’t work.

Adam: They can look at the grumbled, you know, they can look at so that you can even if you even if you’re pro-Israel, one, one can still understand that like–

Nima: Maybe the nuclear-armed occupying force, that has the most powerful militaries in the history of the world might not be the underdog here.

Adam: Right. And so they didn’t really get that treatment, because the apartheid has made it so cartoonishly one-sided, again, even with this unprecedented, quote, unquote, “unprecedented attack,” which, you know, it is in terms of against Israel. That it was, it was sort of a hard sell, especially as the body count began to mention, as the genocidal rhetoric from senior leaders, including the President of Israel came out where it was like, Oh, wait, there’s a there’s a very clear possibility here that the goal is to basically make Gaza unlivable, so they all move to the Sinai. And they’re going to use IMF loans that Egypt has to try to parlay that into creating what what has been a very popular plan on the on the right for for some time now in Israel, which is what they call the new state solution, which is to effectively make the Sinai and parts of Gaza and southern Gaza into a Palestinian state and basically hand it over to Egypt. Yeah, completely militarize the border, and then annex the West Bank. And that’s been a plan that’s been floated for many years. This seems like you know, again, Netanyahu wouldn’t be the first leader to ever use a crisis to advance ulterior agendas. So it’s not like it’s totally out of the question. This is where a lot of the fears from ethnic cleansing are coming, which is like, Oh, they’re trying to get like, at the very least half of the population to three-quarters of the population to basically go to Egypt, because, in Zionist lore right sort of extreme right-wing Israeli lore, Palestinians are just frustrated Egyptians and frustrated Jordanians, are not a real people. And so they may as well just go, they’re just Arabs, right. This is why people frame it as sort of Israeli-Arab conflict, because it sort of flattens the existence of Palestinians, as you know.

Nima: And why Israel and a lot of Israel supporters call Palestinians who currently reside within the pseudo-borders of Israel, Arab citizens of Israel as opposed to Palestinian.

Adam: Because that necessarily implies distance.

Nima: It de-nationalizes the people.

Adam: Right. And so this this is why the fear, people started beginning to use the word genocide, which is a word I use very carefully. I sort of traditionally don’t use it in the context of Israel-Palestine in a micro level, macro level, like Yeah, what what the Nakba was, was a genocide. I think that’s pretty clear. But like, if you’re doing forcible population transfers from Gaza, into Egypt, which is to say, from taking Palestinians out of Palestine, and putting them somewhere else, but that is a textbook definition. Right?

Nima: We’re also talking about a population in Gaza, many of whom are refugees from, from Palestinian villages in what is now southern Israel, or at least the descendants of those refugees. So they understand what it means to be told to leave and then not be allowed back.

Adam: Yeah, so because everyone, so everyone —

Nima: Terrorized into leaving your home, and then you will never be allowed to return. So there is really, I mean, I think the kind of strong thought, and this is beyond the fact that like, there are a lot of elderly people, sick people now, wounded people, wounded and dying people, people who are hospitalized, who literally cannot just like pack up and leave, there’s also no clear routes for them to take. Ambulances are being bombed, roads are being bombed by Israel, as they say, you know, evacuate so so the whole thing. I mean, we talked, you know, our tagline includes, you know, the term PR along with media, power, and the history of bullshit, and there’s so much PR going on in the evacuation call, in the, you know, reports that Israel spread all over that, you know, they, you know, returned water service. Well, you know, water pumps don’t also work if if the electricity’s still off, or if you bomb them. So I mean, there’s there’s also this aspect of that evacuation order. The, you know, Egypt needs to open, the Rafah Crossing, which now has been bombed multiple times by Israel, because also of the very real history of ethnic cleansing, you know, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine to create the State of Israel, wherein people were, you know, people whereas Palestinians were threatened, terrorized, massacred, often out of their homes, never to be allowed back.

Adam: So yeah, let’s talk about the forcible transfer to Gaza, and why even like normie mainline organizations are saying this looks proto-genocidal, right, even to sort of be reserved here. Why people like Ken Roth, who again we criticized two weeks ago, but is actually pretty decent on this —

Nima: I know. [Laughs] Sure. It’s a low bar.

Adam: Well, he’s he’s, you know, again, these the legal technical lawyer stuff, I think, well, it gets you so far. But But Israel is this weird artifact from like, the 19th century, they do like a 19th-century style colonialism.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: And whenever you criticize that, they’re like, Well, what about the United States? What of this? It’s like, no, no, they’re evil. They’re just evil in like, more sophisticated ways, like you’re doing old school, you know. And the, the issue with expelling people into the Sinai, the sort of, why it kind of reeks of that is because what they’ll say is they say, Oh, well, you know, Hamas lives within the population. Therefore, we have to move them out of the way to kind of, I don’t know how that works exactly. I guess they can’t go with the population. I don’t know. They want to see tunnels. I don’t know.

Nima: If you’re a member of Hamas, your feet are cemented into the floor. So when everyone else leaves, you’re left there.

Adam: Yeah, it’s like when you pull the tablecloth, all the stuff. Hamas just goes, What? little cartoon eyeballs. They say, Oh, well, Hamas is sort of lives with the population. Therefore we have to just do it, we have to remove the population. That is literally what every ethnic cleansing in the history of ethnic cleansings has said. They’ve always said this is not an ethnic cleansing. That’s the military operation. They live amongst the people. Therefore the mean, literally, I mean, I name names. That’s the pretext they’ve used.

Nima: We are doing our best to save civilian lives by moving them out of harm’s way.

Adam: This is why when the first idea of like, humanitarian corridor came up, a lot of Palestinian academics and writers were like, Whoa, whoa, wait a second, like you’re spinning in a humanitarian corridor as some humanitarian gesture would really, again, without any kind of assurance or enforcement mechanism, which there’s none, how do we know we’re going to come back? The easiest way to prevent the human suffering is to just stop the bombing, not dislocate, not this not sort of having a more humane way of doing a Trail of Tears into the Sinai.

Nima: Well, yeah.

Adam: This is what this is what makes the humanitarian aid, because it became very trendy as well for people like Elizabeth Warren and and even some people who signed the call for a ceasefire to call for a humanitarian corridor and in and of itself, it’s not necessarily bad because they have to go somewhere, but the obvious question that sort of no one was addressing, which is like, how are they going to come back? Because the last time they were told they were going to come back, they didn’t come back.

Nima: Yeah, Israel has the right of return, which is guaranteed under international law, and we know that international law doesn’t mean anything, even though we keep hearing Israeli generals say that, of course, they’re conducting everything.

Adam: And the White House and others are just ignoring this question. Like, whenever they get asked, like, Well, okay, they’re gonna go, but like, how do they, you know, they’re gonna come be able to come back to Palestine. They’re Palestinian, they’re not Egyptian, how are they going to come back? And they say, Well, you know, they sort of kick the can down the road. And so you have this, all the spin going on where like, forcible transfers of population are being presented as a bleeding heart solution to the problem in a way that’s like, kind of nakedly cynical. Yeah.

Nima: And so, about an hour ago, you know, half hour before we started this live stream, Adam, President Joe Biden, tweeted out his latest statement, and it is this and it connects very closely with everything we’ve been talking about, everything that you and Sarah wrote today, and it is this reading Joe Biden’s tweet from 9:26 pm Eastern Time, October 16 2023, says this quote: “On Wednesday, I’ll travel to Israel to stand in solidarity in the face of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack. I’ll then travel to Jordan to address dire humanitarian needs, meet with leaders and make clear that Hamas does not stand for Palestinians’ right to self determination.” That’s the tweet. Let me ask you, Adam, what is missing in that tweet?

Adam: I mean, Biden in his White House had made it clear again, this is someone who, you know, I, again, I don’t want to act like Bernie Sanders in this situation, had he been elected, would have been Edward Said, but I do go back to the like 2020, Iowa primary when AIPAC spent millions of dollars smearing Bernie Sanders on the night of the Nevada primary, South Carolina primary, unprecedented amount of money, I think they spent like $10 million on like, two days where they had ads just non stop. Again, that’s nothing to do with Israel, I think they had to do with, I think it was like, you know, I forget what it was, it was something facile. ‘Oh, Bernie wants to like, take away your health insurance or something. He wants to take away your Medicare.’ Kust totally like cynical lies. And they got their money’s worth. Again, I don’t think Sanders is great. Like you see you can his comments on this. I’ve been all over the place. But at the very least the AIPACs of the world don’t trust him.

Nima: Right.

Adam: And if and he definitely, I think it’s fair to say it would have been better, I don’t think it would have been good by any objective metric, it would have been better than Biden, it’s sort of hard to be worse. And I think back to that a lot, because the ROI on that has been tremendous, because Biden has pledged more aid to Israel, billions of dollars more. He’s he started every cliche in the book, his dead-eyed press secretaries and dead-eyed State Department officials, who all know they’re fucking on the wrong side of this. They’re not stupid, they can look at the pictures like anyone else. But they just have to repeat these kinds of braindead liberal Zionist talking points, about ‘Right to defend themselves, blah blah blah.’ It’s like, nobody believes this. It’s sort of like, Yeah, but what about, like, the existential problem with the apartheid and the occupation and the inherent, like, dehumanization, and, and, and like, all these kind of major issues that activists I’ve been pushing, you know, have been bringing up and pushing for for years for years, both in within Israel and, and outside of it, and within Palestine, and outside of it, that he just, it’s just, it’s all like a weird 1995 script. It’s like Hamas, you know, terrorists and this and that. It’s all sort of simplistic, and they’re just like evil. This sort of that kind of comes out of nowhere. That’s purely ideological. It has no like, the conditions aren’t created by anything. And if you sort of talk about conditions they’re somehow rationalizing, which is a favorite, rather than saying, like, again, what did the very, that we talked about, what happened the very next day? What did Haaretz do, their kind of liberal newspaper, they blamed Netanyahu, they blamed the people who torpedoed any kind of peaceful solution. Yeah, again, everyone’s super, everyone’s super smol beans in the United States about this review, you suggest —

Nima: Well, if you suggest that history began, you know, any more than five minutes before the first, you know, Hamas member crossed into Israel last Saturday, then somehow you know, you’re too-sooning this, or you’re what-abouting or you’re not actually you know, dealing with the situation at hand. None of that really matters. You know, this kind of violence is still, you know, totally unacceptable and therefore any consequences rationalized. This is actually a lot of what I wrote about in my piece in The Nation that also came out today. So weird.

Adam: What makes it weird for the record is that neither one of us have written for The Nation in like five years.

Nima: [Laughs] We also, I wake up this morning, and we have the show, Adam, but like, you know, we don’t really talk to each other. That’s not true.

Adam: We’re friends, Nima. I’m under the impression that you and I are friends, he’s like, Yeah, man I gotta go.

Nima: [Laughs] But I think it is funny that over the weekend, I just think it’s funny that for all of our kind of constant talking, neither of us mentioned that we were writing this article.

Adam: Not that interesting, I guess, but it was just bizarre. Because I never write for The Nation.

Nima: And then randomly, it comes out. Anyway, my piece is entitled “Solidarity with Palestine Is Not a Crime” and it documents a lot of how, you know, speaking, just very basic, basic truths is, you know, deemed to be, whether it’s, you know, antisemitic or siding with Hamas or just simply not allowed at this time of mourning only for Israeli victims and therefore, justifying subsequent Palestinian victims.

Adam: Well, the major sporting events have been quite absurd on this, as Dave Zirin wrote.

Nima: Absolutely, Dave Zirin also wrote in The Nation.

Adam: The Nation, incidentally, The Nation is on a roll today, their editors have been busy. The Nation’s been pretty good on this for a long time, with notable exceptions, but yeah, the NFL and Major League Baseball are doing a charity drive just for Israel, just for Israel. Right. And it’s like, you know what to do? First of all, I don’t really have a problem with that although, again, Israel is while it’s not like a rich country, it is not a nearly as poor as obviously as Palestine. And also, of course, the US has already has already pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in additional humanitarian aid to Israel, whereas they have not done that in fact, they not much of Europe cut off and the US cut off Palestinian aid even though it’s it’s already just for the PA to like, run their, you know, sort of Potemkin regime in the West Bank that has no moral or legal authority. But it’s you know, it keeps people alive. And so like even that it’s like you they couldn’t even do, you because you’re not allowed to do the Israel aid in the Palestinian because it sort of flattens it or whatever it sort of I’ve even heard a lot of these guys say it’s both sides, and I’m like, whoever taught the right wing both sides these days we need, we taught the right wing gaslighting, we taught him the bad faith standpoint, epistemology, you know, a crime is up because I perceive it as that it’s like, no, that’s not It’s not lived experience. It’s just you’re watching Tucker Carlson every day.

he said, Okay, what’s your plan? And they’re like, oh, they don’t only have one. They’re like, kind of winging it. They’re just because again, they don’t want to acknowledge what their plan is, which is collected punishments always been their plans. Just vengeance is just vengeance and Bronze Age siege warfare, which again, is not, it’s a much more extreme version of what US sanctions are in many ways, right? Cutting off, weakening the economy and what they do to Venezuela, etc. But this is sort of a more hardcore, more Bronze Age version of it. And they sort of say that, you know, they kind of keep saying that they keep saying, like, you know, an eye for an eye. And you’re like, Well, what about the civilians? And they’re like, oh, there’s there’s no real civilians here, you know, they they voted for Hamas, you know, fucking 18 years ago, whatever. And again, like you talked about, it wouldn’t matter if they did.

Nima: Right, but the fact that like, nearly half the population of Palestine are children. And so again, by any metric, you know, the last election in Palestine was, like, 2006. The idea that Hamas is like, you know, in control of that much, I mean, like, it’s still, it’s a pseudo-government within, you know, under occupation. But even so, it’s like, you know, there’s a fraction of the current population of Gaza right now, who actually voted in that election many, many years ago. And there has not been an election since. So again, all of these, all of these talking points are just PR. Are just, you know, age-old Hasbara, which kind of like Israeli term for, you know, Deeply Concerned explaining.

Adam: Yeah, so let’s, let’s get to the current state of events. So this resolution, there was also a letter that was, by a bunch of different, I think they’re up to like 35, maybe less, maybe 20-something–I don’t know the exact number, forgive me–calling on a ceasefire, which is sort of a pretty again, seems like a bit of a chip shot, doesn’t even really address the existential issues, doesn’t talk about apartheid or America’s military support, just saying, Hey, would you mind not bombing a defenseless population? And that’s kind of been–

Nima: Because we can see what you’re doing. I mean, I also think, I also think Netanyahu wants to keep bombing for so long that then like, literally no news can get out of Gaza? Because like, there’s no electricity?

Adam: Well, that’s why they cut off the internet.

Nima: They cut everything off. And like, you know, still news is getting out, obviously.

Adam: But not as much, and you can tell.

Nima: You can tell it is having an effect.

Adam: And electricity, the amount of videos, the amount of testimonials and tweets and such went down significantly. Because again, you don’t really want people to see this stuff. And, again, if you look at some of the snap polling in Israel on this, the amount of people who blame Netanyahu even within Israel, and of course, we’ve had many testimonies for various reasons, sort of both were kind of like you didn’t protect us reasons, which are kind of nationalistic, but also the general belief that he basically let Hamas do it for its own cynical ends, which has become fairly mainstream within Israel itself. And then you have the issue of, how long? You know, what kind of, again, Biden going there signals that this is that they’re going to redouble their support. The, thinking the outrage is gonna kind of blow over. Because bombing people until they forcibly relocate is the definition of ethnic cleansing.

Nima: Biden’s not going to travel to Israel to call for a ceasefire? Like, that’s not what–

Adam: No, what they’ll do is–so they’re doing the exact same playbook they did with Saudi Arabia for years. In fact, it’s the exact same playbook. And here’s what it is. It’s twofold. Number one, you don’t change material support. Right? You arm, fund, support at the UN. Right. So Samantha Power, the great erstwhile human rights icon, as Samuel Oakford referred to her, you keep supporting, but what you do is you leak things through rags like Axios or Politico, saying that you’re very sad about it, you sort of, you have to publicly sort of feel bad. And you say, Behind the scenes, we’re changing them from the inside. We talked about this in our last episode.

Nima: They’ve had very, very stern and frank conversations.

Adam: So we’re gonna get a bunch of leaks on Wednesday about how Biden sort of scolded Netanyahu to reduce civilian casualties. Again, these things that are very, it’s all unfalsifiable. It’s not actionable, it can’t be proven or disproven. You can’t really do anything. But the point is, you need to look sad, and you need to look concerned, and you need to look like you’re changing things from the inside. But at the end of the day, when it comes to

Nima: You can say you care about like humanitarian need.

Adam: Because they’re very worried about how this plays domestically. It’s both for internal propaganda with the State Department and also the Democratic base doesn’t generally like to view itself as being the party that bombs fucking children, you know, poor children in the Middle East, but of course they are. They were in Saudi Arabia. Of course, Yemen just didn’t have as much media exposure simply by virtue of the fact that it was more remote, poor, and had less proximity to sort of a large populated area. A lot of these deaths were kind of unseen. But you know that 400,000 people died in that war, the vast majority of them were civilians, the majority of those civilians killed by Saudi Arabia and UAE, war planes and US missiles. And so you have to have this like, this two-pronged, I’m sad, but also I’m changing it from the inside that way. And Samantha Power really perfected this. And Ben Rhodes later perfected this when, when she wrote her self-serving memoir, after she said nothing the whole time she worked at the UN with Obama about Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which again, killed thousands and thousands of children. She said, Oh, behind the scenes, I was like yelling at them. And it’s like, I have no way of verifying if that’s true. How do you prove or disprove that and also, to the extent that that’s true wouldn’t have been far more powerful and effective, if you resign? Well, what they did is they, for 22 months, the Saudi war was going on for for 22 months, while Obama was in office, right beginning in March of 20 2015. And he left in January of 2017. And the last month, right 21 out of the 22 months, they sold them whatever they wanted, and the very last month, they prohibited like one missile one out of like six or seven, yeah, for a month, and then Trump came back in and literally like three weeks later, they will take utterly meaningless, and so it’s a similar game, what we’re gonna get over the following weeks what to look out for is going to be the similar script, is going to be nothing’s going to change right material support, money. They’re gonna be they’re gonna block any idea of a ceasefire, any block any of that stuff. But they have to maintain face with their base and with kind of basic moral, I guess, sort of good company, right? Because you still have to go to your kind of Human Rights Watch campaign fundraisers, and your Emily’s List, and your like, labor forums, and you have to go talk to the youth about climate change, right, he’s gonna have to do all that bullshit over the next six months. So there, there has to be a maintenance of a kind of liberal image. And you’re so you’re gonna get all these leaks about how Biden is pushing them to reduce civilian casualties. And he’s really sad about it, and really wants to reduce harm, and he wants to create a humanitarian corridor, and he wants to turn back on electricity. So they do this bullshit good cop, bad cop thing, where the most powerful man in the history of the world is always presented as an observer. History happens to Biden, he doesn’t actually make any of these decisions he has no he has no real authority to–

Nima: He can have stern conversations. But at the end of the day, Israelis are gonna make their own decisions about–

Adam: The ethnic cleansing is going from a 10 to an 8.5. And if we had Trump in office, it would be a 10 but we have a Democrat, so it’s 8.5 and I feel good about it. That way, you sort of keep basically the status quo, you sort of keep the kind of pro-Israel status quo and let them you know, do whatever they want to do to these to these poor Palestinians without any defenses or air defenses, but you but you, you can maintain a sort of liberal pretense to you a) can sleep at night, b) internal propaganda, because again, literally two days ago, he went to Human Rights Campaign to give a speech, right, this kind of one of these horrible neoliberal corporate reputation laundromats. We’ve criticized them on the show before, they somewhat infamously gave an award to Raytheon for their diversity. And then and then in that same press release announced Raytheon was giving him a large donation. They take money from from various weapons contractors, Lockheed Martin, Chevron oil companies, so he goes to that, but they’re ostensibly a LGBTQ organization, but they’re like the sort of Pete Buttigieg version, they’re very corporate. And I think that shows progress, you know, again, LGBTQ can also be corporate hacks, right? They’re not inherently left wing. And, and he goes there and he gives the speech and he was interrupted by protesters, but it’s like it’s like a perfect place you go when you’re trying to do reputation laundering, because that’s what HRC, it’s a reputation, they also got in trouble their president was a hatchet man for Andrew Cuomo and smeared Andrew Cuomo, his accusers, during his his sexual harassment, controversy, their head of of HRC was, had to be let go because he was basically doing double duty being a hatchet man friendship, Cuomo. This is kind of who they are, they’re partisan hacks. And so, if you’re Biden, you’re gonna that’s what you’re gonna do, you’re gonna sort of go to these groups and, and do reputation laundering, because this is, I think, going to get extremely ugly, and Democrats aren’t going to do anything really, I think to stop it, or at least the sort of mainstream, quote-unquote. And so the goal is to look busy, to look concerned, to look sad, but ultimately, at the end of the day, you know, they’re not really going to do anything to stop it. They’re certainly not going to call on Israel to stop it.

Nima: No.

Adam: I know that in 2006, somewhat infamously, Hezbollah when they had their war in July of 2006, which killed I think, 1,200, forgive me if I’m not getting the right number. They bombed the airport, killed 50 people, Israel bombed the Beirut airport in their war against Lebanon. And Israel lost that work. But one of the reasons they stopped when they stopped was supposedly Bush told them to, like cut it out. So to be clear, like the president can stop Israel, if not entirely, there’s a lot of leverage there. Right? There’s this idea that, you know, a lot of people say, Oh, Israel runs the US government and you know, sort of antisemitic but, of course, the US has pretty much in many ways runs Israel, especially when it comes to whether or not they’re they’re permitted to commit ethnic cleansing on a mass scale. There’s a lot of reason to believe that Biden if he really wanted to, he could stop it now if he really wanted to. But he chooses not to, because he–

Nima: In fact, I think he’s gonna go to Israel and announced that like, they’re getting more weapons.

Adam: Yeah, they’re definitely going to give him more money, because I don’t again, I don’t, it’s not like they, you know, they’re hurting for cash here. And so this is I think, what you’re going to see, this kind of double game, that they literally ran on Saudi Arabia was less potent because Saudi Arabia got less media attention, but you had the same thing. We had all these leaks about how Obama was sad. I think there was one. And 2016 there was a State Department one about how they’re worried that the US could be exposed to war crimes, ICC, it’s like they are not, they what are they, the ICC cops are going to come arrest Obama? Give me a fucking break. Nobody believes this shit. It’s for consumption, for internal, and for public consumption. So they look like they’re super concerned. And that also that everything’s sort of out of their hands, right, there’s that there’s these wily Middle Easterners in Egypt, but also Saudi Arabia and Israel, that are forcing us to look the other way, they’re forcing our hand. That way, we keep our hands clean, you know, our image clean. And that that really is what we’re going to, I think what we’re going to be seeing what we’ve already seen, but I think more and more we’re gonna see is this idea that, that he’s he’s doing the he’s doing the Serpico, he’s changing it from the inside.

Nima: Changing it from the inside. We’re having stern, frank conversations. Before we go, we also want to urge it’s been dropped in the livestream chat a couple times during this conversation, but we definitely urge anyone who is able to, who is watching or listening to this, to donate to a couple of really amazing organizations that are doing crucial work right now. There’s the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which you can find at, you can donate through their page. Again, that’s Middle East Children’s Alliance. They’re amazing. They urge you to do that if you are able to do that. And there’s also Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, another amazing organization. So please do look up PCRF as well and donate there, if you can. But before we end this livestream, there was one kind of behind the scenes, Israeli general leak that we’ve heard recently about the ongoing campaign of violence against Gaza. And that, you know, there’s the ongoing question of well, remember, there are upwards of 200 Israelis being held there. Right. So how is this bombing campaign going to affect them? What’s actually going to happen? And the quote from the general, I’m gonna paraphrase, sorry, but the line from the general is that this campaign will be executed as if there are no hostages.

Adam: It’s the, we don’t negotiate with–

Nima: We don’t negotiate, obviously, but, you know, therefore, that’s not going to deter us. That’s not going to add any mercy to our bombing campaign. Considering the backlash that the Netanyahu administration is getting in Israel, of course, we don’t really hear that here. You know, if you read an outlet, like Haaretz, you know, you’d see that and it’s like a normal thing, because they talk about their own politics in Israel in a way that we understand here.

Adam: We have this very silly idea that like, I don’t know, when people talk about the ground invasion, whether it’s going to happen when it’s, you know, because a lot of times–in 2018, they bluffed a ground invasion because they wanted to draw fighters from their tunnels or whatever. But, you know, it shouldn’t matter because this is kind of like a macho form of morality. But I think also on a basic level in terms of how people perceive this, there’s something very cowardly about lobbing bombs into a defenseless population, right. Like, morality aside, it’s just–

Nima: So you can show more kind of macho muscle by sending in–

Adam: But they don’t really have that, because I mean, when’s the last time fought a real war, a real ground war. Well, probably 50 years ago.

Nima: ‘73?

Adam: 1973. They did a little bit of a mini-invasion in 2014. But that was when they sent in their commandos because they had like hardcore fucking commandos that I would not want to mess with. But like, their infantry, their like regular soldiers, their like kids, they’re like 19-year-old kids from Long Island and shit, they’re like not. They’re not grisled fighters, right, Hezbollah has been fighting for, you know, 10 years and before that, for 15 years, 15 years, if we include the 2020, 2006, and so like, I think there’s also kind of a feeling that, that there’s so there’s such asymmetry here. I’m not saying a ground invasion is like good, because obviously, that’s bad for a dozen other reasons, because it’s going to be accompanied by more bombing. But I think as far as like, why the sort of public sympathy hasn’t really been as uniform as they expected was, is I think, on a basic intuitive level, people understand that there’s something very chickenshit about throwing bombs into a defenseless population.

Nima: But then they’re just gonna weaponize people’s kids, by sending them into Gaza.

Adam: Of course, again, I’m not saying I’m not saying it’s, because either way, they’re still going to do the bombing. Right. So it’s not better, but I just meant in terms of public sympathy, I think that’s been a major factor. Because again, I think initially, it’s like, Oh, this is like, obviously horrible and there’s public sympathy but, but then you squander it when you sort of say, Alright, well, we’re just gonna spend the next week killing 1000 children because that’s some kind of medieval logic.

Nima: But what we’re also not seeing all that much, and I’m not saying it is it is it is rampant on Israeli press outlets or news channels because I don’t think it is, but certainly more than here in the US is hearing from family members of, Israeli family members of people who were killed in the attacks over a week ago who are not calling for you know, bloody revenge. Rather they are saying we don’t want anyone else to die.

Adam: Because again, it’s not a huge logical leap again, it’s intuitively in a moral and immoral way it makes sense but it’s not a huge logical leap to see the cycle of bombing Gaza into the Stone Age killing 1,000 fucking children right. Your child is your entire world. 1,000 children in just over a week, like it doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to say like this is not sustainable. Again, even if you use the kind of nationalist logic of what’s good for Israelis, this doesn’t make any sense. Like no one really thinks they’re just out there killing a bunch of bad guys, like no one thinks that everyone knows this is just collective punishment, and killing you know, if someone kills your child, God forbid, like, would I want someone in the name of that to go around again, these people have more courage than 99% of American press because it does take a lot of courage I think to say that at this time, especially in that country, because it is scarring it’s basically you know, that it’s 9/11 for them times five in some ways depending on your measure. The idea that we’re just going to do this eye for an eye but not even eye for eye, an eye for you know, 10 eyes, 12, 50 eyes, totally innocent children, right, these poor children, it’s just it’s the definition of irrational, there’s no plan. There’s no strategy. It’s just pure, punitive–

Nima: Retribution.

Adam: Tit for tat. But in such a grossly, grossly disproportionate way again, even if you accept the premise of proportionality, which I think is obviously very contested in a settler colony, but it’s you know, it seems like it would be a pretty much no-brainer for anyone who claims to be progressive or liberal to say, Let’s stop the the you know, let’s cut Israel off at 1,000 dead kids. It seems like a reasonable thing to do, but evidently it’s not. So those those lobbying on the hill and those lobbying campaigning behind the scenes, those putting their bodies on the line in protests right now, I know there’s a massive protests going to be going on I think Wednesday or Thursday in Washington DC, more every day, all these demonstrations, all these Palestinians, obviously the Palestinians who are resisting every day. They’re trying to say like the very least can we put a pause to this horrific incident then deal with all the other stuff later? And I don’t know if it’s gonna, it’s gonna work but definitely keep trying. ‘

Nima: Yeah. No, absolutely. And once again, if you are able to and inclined and looking for really wonderful organizations, non shitty organizations, vital, crucial organizations to donate to, to give what you can to, please consider Middle East Children’s Alliance, and Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. There they’re both fantastic, we on the show are giving to them as well. And we hope that if you are able to, consider joining us in that. They need as much as they can get right now.

But that will do it for this Citations Needed livestream. Thank you for joining us on this surprise, feed, Monday night, when there’s just been so much going on that, Adam, you and I just you know, thought it would be good to talk it out. So really thank you so much, everyone, for joining us, for supporting the show. And of course you can follow us on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed. If you are not already a supporter of the show, consider becoming one at, but first and foremost give to MECA or Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Thank you, everyone, for listening. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed’s senior producer is Florence Barrau-Adams. Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Mahnoor Imran. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again, everyone. We’ll catch you next time.


This Citations Needed live show was recorded with a virtual audience on Monday, October 16, 2023, and released on Wednesday, October 18, 2023.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.