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Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Protests; "Jewish State" Bill Controversy; Imagine a World

Aired December 1, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: as clashes erupt again on the streets of Hong Kong, a member of the government calls

on Beijing to respond to protesters' demands.


EMILY LAU, DEMOCRATIC PARTY (HONG KONG): We are asking Beijing to keep its promise. And we don't want a fake democracy. We want an election

in which the people can have genuine choice.


AMANPOUR: And the controversial bill in Israel that's fueling fear among Arab Israelis.


AHMAD TIBI, ARAB MEMBER OF THE ISRAELI PARLIAMENT: We would like to be equal and we'll never, never, never accept any superiority to any

Israeli Jew just because he is Jew and I am Arab Palestinian.



AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Hong Kong tells democracy activists to stay off the streets and warns them not to mistake police tolerance for weakness. But the protesters say

they are not giving up.

So what next? After police, armed with batons and pepper spray, faced off against protesters throwing bottles and helmets, over the weekend and

into the work week, we saw some of the most violent clashes for more than two months of the Occupy protests, which are demanding that China agree to

full democracy for their region.

The trouble started on Sunday when police tried to clear out one of the protest sites and demonstrators then surrounded the government

headquarters, briefly shutting it down. More than 50 people were arrested.

Emily Lau is a member of the Hong Kong legislature and she's chair of the Democratic Party. Earlier she told me that she supports the call for

democracy but does not want a violent showdown.


AMANPOUR: Emily Lau, welcome to the program. Thank you for joining me.

LAU: You're welcome.

AMANPOUR: Has the movement come to a critical point right now? We've seen a huge uptick in the way police are trying to empty the streets of the


LAU: Well, I think people are getting frustrated because we do not get any response from Beijing and from the Hong Kong government. But the

students want to escalate the action and their confrontation with the police, and resulting in police brutality.

What we need is a response from Beijing to our demand, which is very reasonable, for democratic elections. So we will keep that up. But I hope

the people will exercise maximum restraint. We want to conduct the struggle in a peaceful and non-violent way.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that some of the protesters, the students, perhaps are being hijacked by saboteurs?

Do you think there are sort of provocateurs amongst them?

Or is it just a sense of frustration that's boiling over?

LAU: I think it's both. The students themselves, they want to see more action. But there are people, maybe agents funded by Beijing, and

other forces to try to stir up trouble. It's a very complex political situation here.

AMANPOUR: So you're in an interesting position. You're a member of parliament. You support them beyond some of the tactics you've just been


A lot of people say, look, we understand these young students. They want their total freedom and their total democracy. But this basic right,

this basic law, this idea that the Chinese have said of universal suffrage was never going to be a full and complete suffrage like we in the West

understand it.

LAU: Well that's true. It's very difficult to ask for democracy from the Communist regime in Beijing. The Chinese saying, it's like going to a

monk, to a Chinese monk, to ask for a comb, because he would never comb his hair. He's got no hair.

But anyway, this time around, the central government has given us a promise that we can elect a chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017.

That's why we are asking Beijing to keep its promise. And we don't want a fake democracy. We want an election in which the people can have genuine


AMANPOUR: Well, how can you do it?

Because clearly what seems to be going on is that -- there's a sort of thrust and parry; the students are on the streets. The Chinese have not

intervened. By and large, the police have sort of given the students their head a little bit.

Isn't this all about how you do it?

What are the tactics?

If you're saying we must have some way to have our demands met, what is the way, other than street protests?

LAU: Well, I think that it's time for us to see that, if we've been blocking the roads for such a long time, it's now to continue the movement

in another way. We can go to the districts, explain this to the people.

Why is it that we are fighting so hard? And the students, I think they are beginning to realize that you keep escalating the action, you keep

having confrontation with the police, you will lose the support of the Hong Kong people and the international community.

So I think I have confidence in them, although there are agents who are trying to provoke more confrontation. And we don't want to flare up.

And the last thing we want is a Tiananmen in Hong Kong.

AMANPOUR: Yes, you do seem very, very anxious to send that message loud and clear.

Do you think that that's ever possible?

I mean, would China really ever do that after what happened in 1989?

LAU: Well, I don't think Beijing wants a massacre in Hong Kong. But neither will they give us what we want.

We are just a tiny city of China. But Taiwan is watching. The Taiwanese people just had their election, the KMT, the government of

President Ma Ying-jeou was trounced because the people don't like the way President Ma conducted relations with Beijing.

So if Beijing really wants to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwan people, they had better be nice to Hong Kong.

AMANPOUR: What about China being nice to the British government?

Right now they have stopped a parliamentary delegation from coming to Hong Kong. I mean, we've found it kind of extraordinary. It's not like

the Hong Kong government stopped it. It's the Chinese central government's stopped it.

What is that all about?

LAU: I think it's just absolutely ridiculous. I received a letter from the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons,

Sir Richard Ottaway, last month, saying he's coming to Hong Kong in December and would like a meeting with me and with other people as well,

I'm sure.

And it's really so disgraceful for Beijing to tell the MPs that they can't come.

Well, I hope the MPs will have some sense of decency -- OK, they can come; they cannot barge into Hong Kong, but I hope they will conduct a good

investigation of how Hong Kong has developed since the change of sovereignty and come up with a report that can make the British people hold

their heads up high, showing they have discharged their responsibility for Hong Kong, because they ran Hong Kong for 1.5 centuries and handed us over

to China without giving us democracy, without protection for our human rights.

They have a moral and political responsibility.

AMANPOUR: And you make that point very forcefully. So I ask you, the Chinese also say, well, hang on a second. We're giving Hong Kong more than

the British ever gave.

LAU: Beijing has made a pledge to the Hong Kong people and to the international community that we will be able to elect the head of

government here in 2017. And we are not going to allow Beijing to wriggle out of it.

So we want a truly democratic election. Taiwan is watching; the world is watching and we hope that President Xi Jinping will think very carefully

and accede to our demands.

AMANPOUR: Emily Lau, thank you so much indeed for joining me tonight.

LAU: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Now here in Britain, it's been announced that for the first time the most popular name for newborn boys is Mohammed; while over in

Israel, Mohammed and Ahmed and Yousef and the rest of the nation's Arab citizens are crying foul over a controversial new nationality bill.

Is Israel playing politics with its democracy? Up next, Arab and Jew on a very public fight over what exactly it means to be Israeli.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Israel's government may be on the verge of collapse as the country grapples with its most basic identity. Is the country Jewish or democratic

or is it both? Can it be both? As its 1948 Declaration of Independence demands.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed a controversial nationalities bill that some call a sop to his right wing. If passed by

the Senate, rather by the Knesset, it could make Jewish law the basis for Israel's legal system. An early draft would have removed Arabic as the

official language and while Israeli Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the population would have individual rights, the new law would remove their

national rights.

Members of his cabinet, former security chiefs and his own attorney general, not to mention the nation's president as well as friends of Israel

in the United States have all condemned the proposal.

And as Netanyahu holds crisis talks with coalition members in Jerusalem right now, Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of the Knesset, joined me

here in the studio to tell me that they will never accept the enshrining of second class status.


AMANPOUR: Ahmad Tibi, welcome to the program.

TIBI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: This bill, what will it do to relations between Israel's Arabs and its Jews?

TIBI: It will -- says definitely that, according to the law, Jews are superior; Arabs are inferior and this is an official racial discrimination.

We say that all the time. We said that according to the basic law of Israel -- because Israel has no constitution -- Jewish and democratic, the

definition of the state of Israel for the last 50 years is oxymoron. You cannot be democratic, believing in equality between all citizens, and

define yourself as an ethnic definition Jewish.

This bill of Benjamin Netanyahu, the nationality bill, is totally proved what I said during the last decades (ph), that in Israel, Israel is

democratic towards Jews and Jewish towards Arabs.

AMANPOUR: Well, then let me play you this little bit of an interview with the minister of tourism, Uzi Landau, who says, no, you will have your

equal rights.


UZI LANDAU, ISRAELI TOURISM MINISTER: It's a natural basic law that is saying what is clear to every country, that Israel is Jewish and the --

and democratic as France is French and democratic and Britain is British and democratic.

That is, there is an identity to a country and, at the same time, all of the rights of all of the citizens, all minorities (ph) are fully



AMANPOUR: Now it must be said that he is one of the right-wing ministers and MPs who have pushed this through.

Isn't he right, though?

All your rights will be respected. It says so in Israel's Declaration of Independence.

TIBI: Definitely no.

Yes, France is French and democratic. It is not Christian and democratic. Israel should be democratic, not Jewish and democratic. I

will not accept at any case that he will be superior to me because he is Uzi and I am Ahmad.

According to the new bill, Israel will be defined as the only -- the homeland of the Jewish people only. They are totally vanishing their

history, the narrative, the existence --

AMANPOUR: Because it is right now the homeland of the Jewish people. I mean, that's what it was created for, right? That's what the Declaration

of Independence says.

TIBI: Even according to the Declaration of Independence and I have a lot of critic (sic) about it, there is a phrase talking about political

rights for the Arab community.

According to the new bill, even the equality, the word "equality" was removed by Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the Israeli basic law.

Do you know, Christiane, that there is no value of equality in the basic law of Israel?

Always they are removing the value of equality. That's why in all fields of life there is a huge gap and discrimination between Jews and

Arabs -- land allocation, budgets, education, employment -- all the fields of life. We are struggling in order to be equal and we are not.

AMANPOUR: And I also understand that the initial draft of it, the very hardline draft, negates Arabic as an official language and just gives

it special status.

How do you react to this?

When Benjamin Netanyahu was asked why, why do we need this bill, he basically said you, 20 percent of Israel, which is Arab, are trying to deny

our national rights. They'd like to establish autonomy in the Negev around the Galilee, those areas obviously with large concentrations of Israeli


TIBI: I am the representative of --

AMANPOUR: Is it true?

Are you trying to --

TIBI: It is misleading. You and the whole international community and the Israeli public, we are demanding to be equal citizens with

political and civic rights. We did not demand or ask about these things that Mr. Netanyahu is trying to frighten the Israeli public.

We would like to have equal terms for two neighboring towns, Jewish and Arab. We want the civic citizenship will be equal. And we are not --

the prime minister, who in the last weeks, is asking and demanding from Arabs to move, to get there just because they are demonstrating against

this policy.

He is asking us, intimidating us that our citizenship would be revoked because we were so much angry after shooting of Kheir Hamdan in Kufr Kana

in Galilee. He is saying so because the definition of Israel is Jewish and Arabs are not being (INAUDIBLE) or seen as an equal citizen.

AMANPOUR: Why do you think this is all happening now?

And what will this do to an already, as we've seen, very tense situation right now between Arabs and Jews?

TIBI: There are two or three pyromaniacs in the Israeli cabinet.

AMANPOUR: Pyromaniacs?

TIBI: Yes. Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Benjamin Netanyahu is smelling elections soon and he lost some votes to Naftali Bennett.

We are the victims. This inflammatory declaration invents (ph) are -- and mainly to bring back radical right voters to his camp and he -- and we

are paying the price and the Israeli so-called democracy, which is not absolute democracy. It's a democracy for Jews.

Ethnocracy -- I even call it idiocracy (ph). We are not there. We are the indigenous people. We were not came to Israel as immigrants by

plane or ship. We were born there, Christiane. And we would like to be equal and we'll never, never, never accept any superiority to any Israeli

Jew just because he is Jew and I am Arab Palestinian. We (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Ahmad Tibi, thank you very much indeed for --

TIBI: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And listening to that is the former director of communications for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yoaz Hendel, who

joins me now live from Tel Aviv.

Mr. Hendel, welcome; you obviously heard what member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi said, that they will never, never accept this.

So what is the reason -- I mean, is this just politics as usual? Or is the whole country shifting to what some are saying a bit of an

undemocratic tilt?

YOAZ HENDEL, FORMER NETANYAHU COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: So first of all, I would like to speak about this so-called democracy as Ahmad Tibi

called it, the so-called democracy that Ahmad Tibi served in the parliament when he can say whatever he like and he can support even part of the

enemies of Israel and even part of the groups that for sure not support Israel.

So in our democracy, you can say whatever you want; you can live. You can do whatever you like and you can be part of the parliament. So this

is, first of all, to explain the so-called democracy as Ahmad Tibi said.

Now to your question, to answer your question, I think that the -- first of all we see here a kind of mix between politics and a real need for

Israel to have constitution. Now this basic law that you all discussed about is actually a kind of a law that supposed to define what is Israel.

Now Israel, by the U.N. in '47, and by the Declaration of Independence in Israel after that, it's a Jewish state and a democratic one at the same

time. I know that Ahmad Tibi would like to see another country which is not national state. But Israel is a national state. There are other

national states by the way, the fact that there are Muslims that cannot accept the fact that we have a David star on our flag and they cannot

accept the fact that there is a Jewish symbol as other national state, this is a kind of I think a contradiction regarding what is, I think, it's a big

question about them understanding about democracy --

AMANPOUR: Well, listen --

HENDEL: -- or Muslim leaving Britain in --

AMANPOUR: -- let me just ask you then. I mean, you say he has the right to speak in parliament. Well, he is an Israeli citizen. So that is

his right. But the question here is that everybody's focusing on is why do you need to do this? Israel's Declaration of Independence, it makes it

clear that it is the nation state for the Jewish people but that it guarantees the political and social rights regardless of anything of their


And now this new bill would presumably allow individual rights but would remove the national rights of your minority, who've been there ad

nauseam, since the beginning of the state.

Why would you do this?

And was is smart to do this, given the uproar it's caused amongst Jews and amongst your friends in the United States and elsewhere?

HENDEL: So I would like to surprise you and to tell you that there are no national rights for Arabs in Israel. They are individual rights,

like minorities in other national states. Now it's impossible to live in Britain and to say that you don't want to swear to the Queen because she's

the head of the Anglican Church and this is the religious thing. It's impossible to live in Switzerland and to say that you don't like the flag

because there is a red cross --

AMANPOUR: But Yoaz --

HENDEL: -- on the flag. And it's impossible to --

AMANPOUR: -- your declaration --

HENDEL: -- in Finland and to say -- yes?

AMANPOUR: -- are you really telling me that there, under the Declaration of Independence of 1948, the enshrining of national rights for

your Arab minority was not a fact?

Are you not? Because that's what everybody else says.

HENDEL: No, it's not. The -- I'm just -- constitutionally, I must tell you that the independent declaration is not -- has no power at all in

the Supreme Court or wherever in Israel. It's a nice declaration, but there is no -- any connection to the -- to the definition of Israel and

this is what this law is trying to do, to create a constitution. Now it create a few basic laws that the '90s regarding our democratic character.

Now we need to define also the other side in order to help and to create some normal definition of Israel as Jewish and democratic.

AMANPOUR: OK. Well, as you see, some people believe that's very difficult. And I said including your friends in the United States, who are

saying why do you need to do this after 66 years of a functioning Declaration of Independence?

Are you not concerned about your friends, the strongest supporters of Israel, taking exception to this?

And do you believe that there will soon be new elections over this and other matters?

HENDEL: So I have concerns and I must tell you that the timing and the political arena inside Israel, it's quite effective in a negative way.

And I think that the -- we see here some kind of opposite outcomes from this bill right now because if you took this bill four years ago, you could

see that right -- the big supporters of this bill like Tzipi Livni and Kadima Party, which is center left and now they are actually the same

people are deny this law and the one that was refused -- that refused to deliver this bill, like Benjamin Netanyahu now is one of the biggest


So it's all about politics. But what one needs to do is to read this bill carefully and to understand that this is a bill that's supposed to

create constitution in order to maintain Israel as democratic and as Jewish because this is our state, our character. And I understand that there are

people that would like to see another Israel, which is not Jewish, only democratic. But this is the only Jewish state in the world. And we would

like to keep it like this.

AMANPOUR: Yoaz Hendel, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

And as we have heard Arab Israelis fear this proposed law. They fear that it will cement their second class status. Prominent supporters of

Israel in the United States warn how badly their nation was harmed by denying rights to their black minority.

The ramifications of the shooting of Michael Brown by a white officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson are still being felt across the country with

demonstrations and a planned nationwide walkout from schools and workplaces in protest of the decision.

And today we remember the civil rights struggle almost 60 years old and activist Rosa Parks, how one single act of defiance transformed a

nation -- when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as Israel's Arab minority works to prevent the passage of a bill that would sharply curb their democratic

rights, they say, and as Hong Kong's pro-democracy Occupy movement continues to demand full democratic rights, imagine a world where occupying

one seat on one bus can spark a world of change.

That happened 59 years ago today, when Rosa Parks, a black woman, got on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and refused to give up her seat when a

white man demanded it. She was promptly arrested and that led to a year- long bus boycott. It was led by Martin Luther King. And a legal triumph, segregation on buses, was ruled to be unconstitutional.

A watershed moment in the history of civil rights, it was the beginning of a deliberate campaign of civil disobedience, which in some

places continues to this very day. In the U.S., the shooting of the unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, as we just heard, has led from violent

street protests to silent symbolism on the football field.

This weekend, the St. Louis Rams came onto the field with their arms raised, using the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture, that was sparked by

Brown's killing. The same symbol has been adopted by protesters in Hong Kong as local police continue to use force there. It is hard to imagine a

world without Rosa Parks sitting down for equal rights, one tired seamstress whose refusal to budge still inspires six decades on.

And that is it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see the show online at, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.