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What The Conflict With Israel Looks Like To 2 Palestinians

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yesterday, we spoke to a senior adviser to Israel's president. That adviser's name is Mark Regev. Today, we're going to hear what the conflict looks like from Gaza. Steve Inskeep placed a call to find out.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We reached Omar Shaban last night in his Gaza home. And as we spoke, he heard a distant sound.

OMAR SHABAN: Maybe you now hear the voice of another airstrike. I don't know what it is. It's not that close to my house, but it's in the area.

INSKEEP: Are you saying that in the distance, you heard an explosion that sounded like an airstrike? And you've certainly heard enough of them to know.

SHABAN: Yes, it will take me a couple of minutes to make some phone calls and to know what it is.

INSKEEP: We didn't find out then. But a short time later, Israel's defense forces said they were, in fact, striking more targets inside Gaza. Omar Shaban is an analyst who runs a Gaza think tank. And we'd called to review the violence of the week.

Why did the leadership of Hamas choose this moment to send, ultimately, 1,500 rockets across the border into Israel?

SHABAN: We need to look at the small picture, and we need to look at the big picture. So the Islamist faction in Gaza who claim that they are defending Islam - they have to act to show that they are validating their narrative. So what happened in Gaza - it came as a reaction to the development in Jerusalem. This is small picture, but the big picture is that Gaza has been under siege for the past 15 years. This is not the first time.

INSKEEP: So you're reminding us that this is a very long-term story, that there are many people who've been all but imprisoned in Gaza for many, many years. But in the immediate circumstance, you're saying, Hamas felt it was weighing in on the conflict on the streets of East Jerusalem. And then, of course, Israel bombed Gaza, not for the first time by any means. How widespread is the devastation where you are after the last several days?

SHABAN: Unfortunately, so much destruction. Until now, until this moment, 100 people were killed in three days. Three hundred people were injured. Three big towers, each one of 15 floors, were brought down. There's a humanitarian crisis that will happen soon 'cause the water network was damaged greatly. This kind of escalation - and to intensify the hate, help the radicals, I have to be frank - it's not easy for me as a Palestinian to say this in Gaza, but this is creating the enemy of the future.

INSKEEP: From Hamas's perspective, have they gained in any way from this exchange of fire?

SHABAN: This is a very good question. Look. They - a lot of destruction happened into Gaza. This is not the first time. Hamas expects some money to come from certain country to reconstruct this Gaza again and regain popularity, regain narrative because they prove that the Palestinian not only in Gaza but even inside Israel - there are protests in 40 cities inside Israel by the Arabs. So the whole region is boiling.

INSKEEP: Omar Shaban is an analyst in Gaza. Yesterday, we also called a Palestinian living inside Israel. Within Israel, Jewish Israelis fought on the streets this week with Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israeli media said Arabs beat a Jewish driver. Israeli TV carried live images of Jews attacking a driver who was presumed to be Arab. And Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and activist, says numerous Palestinians have been targeted.

DIANA BUTTU: So I live in the port city of Haifa. Haifa is a mixed city. It's got - the majority of its residents are Jewish Israelis. But there is a sizable Palestinian population. And in the city, there are certain pockets where Palestinians reside. These are Palestinians who remained after the 1948 Nakba. And there were gangs of Israelis who went around carrying Israeli flags, chanting, death to Arabs and targeting the cars that are owned by Palestinians. For example, if they saw that there was a Quranic verse that was hanging from the car, we ended up seeing that quite a large number of cars were attacked with tire irons, with clubs - and all the while as the police simply looked on.

INSKEEP: When you're Palestinian, even if you're a citizen of Israel and you're inside Israel, do you feel that you are regarded at times as a kind of enemy within?

BUTTU: Yes. Oh, yes, most definitely. As a Palestinian in this city, there have been times where I've been too afraid to speak Arabic because I don't know who is looking at me and what they're thinking. There are times when I'm afraid to walk around the city with my mother because my mother wears hijab. There are statements that I hear when I go to places like the grocery store or to a medical center where you hear this anti-Palestinian sentiment that is so routinely expressed. And we hear this not just from Netanyahu, but virtually every politician that is inside Israel has made their career - every major politician, let's say - has gotten a boost in their career from making these anti-Palestinian statements. They have a following, and there are people who believe in them. And it's not at all surprising that we're seeing these attacks happening.

INSKEEP: When the prime minister and other officials say we cannot tolerate this violence - we will not tolerate this violence - is that an effective message in your view?

BUTTU: No, not at all because what they mean is that they're going to go out and protect Jewish Israelis, but they're certainly not going to do anything to protect Palestinian citizens of Israel.

INSKEEP: Mark Regev was on the program, an adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu. And in speaking about what he describes as the Israeli-Arab community - I know there are different terms for it - he says "they're 20% of the population. They're active in politics. Many voted for parliament, the Knesset. Some were elected to the Knesset. We see them in all walks of life in Israel." These are quotes here. "But some of them," Regev says, "have got an identification with their Palestinian brothers and sisters. We understand that, but we can't tolerate violence. That is clear." What do you think of that description?

BUTTU: See - this is exactly the problem - is that he came - Mark Regev came to this country. In other words, Israel came to us. We didn't come to Israel. And so what they're attempting to do is they're attempting to not only define who we are, but they want us to simply accept that us and our brothers and sisters and cousins have been ethnically cleansed and just accept it and move on with it. We still see to this very day, 73 years later, there's this level of racism and discrimination that is not going away. It's actually becoming more and more and more entrenched.

INSKEEP: Is violence justified, then?

BUTTU: I'm not somebody who is going to talk about what the response should be. I do see where violence is coming from in terms of, like - I do see why there are reactions that are violent.

INSKEEP: Palestinian lawyer Diana Buttu lives within Israel and is one of many voices we're hearing throughout this week of conflict. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.