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Trump Administration Reinstating Death Penalty; Support for Death Penalty Decreasing According to Pew Research; Robert Blecker, Professor, New York School of Law and Ruth Friedman, Represents Inmate Scheduled for Execution, are Interviewed About Death Penalty; "The Red Sea Diving Resort," A New Film About Israeli Mossad Agents Helping Ethiopian Jews; Gideon Raff, Director, "The Red Sea Diving Resort," and Daniel, Mossad Agent Involved in "Operation Brothers," Are Interviewed About "The Red Sea Diving Resort"; ; America Education System. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 2, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: One thing we should do is we should stiffen up our laws in terms of the death penalty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Why is President Trump reinstating the federal death penalty now after nearly 20 years? Reactions from both sides of this debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Red Sea Diving Resort, it's a hotel we can use to smuggle the refugees through Sudan to Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The extraordinary true story of how undercover agents used that resort to smuggle Ethiopian Jews to safety. The film's director and one of
the real-life Mossad operatives join the show.
And how segregation still impacts America's education system even today. Investigative Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones talks to our Walter Isaacson.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
As the 2020 Democratic hopefuls took to the debating stage this week, we have been looking at some key issues that impact Americans throughout the
election like health care and gun violence.
Tonight, we're digging down into another important topic that was raised in the last debate and that is capital punishment. The burgeoning U.S. prison
population came up in the debate with most candidates going Joe Biden's tough on crime record. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Since the 1970s, every major crime or every crime, major and minor, has had his name on it. And
sir, those are your words, not mine. And this is one of those instances where the House was set on fire and you claimed responsibility for those
laws. And you can't just now come out with a plan to put out that fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Nearly all the Democrats are against capital punishment, but the Trump administration is reinstating the federal death penalty, clearing the
way for five inmates to be executed as early as December. The death penalty is still legal in 29 states. And currently, there are nearly 2,600
death row inmates but there haven't been any federal executions in nearly 20 years and public opinion is shifting.
According to Pew Research, support for the death penalty is decreasing overall. Senate Democrats, including presidential candidates, Kamala
Harris and Cory Booker, have sharply criticized the administration, introducing legislation to ban the death penalty, which they say is
arbitrary and racially biased.
So, why has President Trump decided now is the time to bring back the death penalty?
To discuss the political, moral and legal issues at play, I'm joined by Ruth Friedman, an attorney representing inmates on death row, and by Robert
Blecker, a death penalty advocate and professor of criminal law and constitutional history at New York Law School and he's also the author of
the "Death of Punishment."
So, let's go first to you, Mr. Bleker in Newton, Massachusetts. What is the context, first and foremost? I'm curious as to why this is an issue
that is coming up now after this 20-year moratorium, if you like.
ROBERT BLECKER, PROFESSOR, NEW YORK SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, it's partly a function of who the attorney general is and who the president is.
Obviously, if one opposes the death penalty, as the chief executive or a primary executive, as attorney general, one won't seek it because executive
prerogative is very much part of the constitutional system, executive digression, executive prerogative.
And just because Congress has enacted statutes that permit the death penalty, it does not mean that the executive is required to go for it. So
now, we have an executive who believes that the worst of the worst deserve death as punishment. And so, this is an executive that's going for it.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, in that case, just to bolster that contention of yours, I'm going to play a series of soundbites to this regard by President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When people do this, they should get the death penalty. Anybody that does a thing like this to innocent people that are in temple or in
church, we had so many incidents with churches, they should be -- they should really suffer the ultimate price.
If we don't get tough on the drug dealers, we're wasting our time. Just remember that. We're wasting our time. And that toughness includes the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was the president talking in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting at the synagogue and about the opioid crisis and the
drug dealers. Where do you come down on what kinds of crimes should be capital and particularly federal capital crimes?
BLECKER: Well, those are two related but separate questions. In terms of -- and I'm no spokesman for the president and my strong suspicion is that
the category of those he would include for execution would not be the same group, although they would be overlapping as I would.
For me, it's only for the worst of the worst of the worst. And Aristotle said, and he's right, that evil exists [13:05:00] in the extremes. So, if
you're asking me essentially who they are, they are at one extreme the sadistic serial killer, the multiple rapist/murderer, especially of
children, but not just. And at the other extreme, they are the cold and the callous and the one who feel absolutely nothing.
So, at one extreme you have the sadists who get this intense pleasure out of imposing extraordinary pain and excruciating pain and suffering on
others. The other extreme you have the callous. In terms of drug dealers, he and I part company.
AMANPOUR: Can I put up a graph we have? Because this shows how public attitudes are shifting and somewhat changing towards the death penalty in
the United States. Essentially, it is true some 56 percent support and favor the death penalty but you can see from the graph that it has been
coming down since 1994. But what do you say, I guess, answering people's views around the country on this issue?
BLECKER: First of all, the support rose slightly last year in the United States. Secondly, the question that is asked to which this is a response
is the question that tends to undercount support for the death penalty. The standard question that's been asked by the gallop poll, for example,
for decades now is, are you in favor for the death penalty for someone convicted of murder? Well, how is someone like me supposed to answer that?
In 95 percent of the cases, I'm against the death penalty for someone convicted of murder. It's only the worst of the worst of the worst. The
poll questions never give the specifics. Are you in favor of the death penalty for someone convicted of the rape and then murder of a child? Are
you in favor of the death penalty for someone who breaks into an all-Black church from a racially hatred -- from racial hatred then kills several of
them? If you give concrete examples, you will find the public opinion rises.
Secondly, since you ask about context, if you look worldwide, even with all the shaming posts World War II, the recent polls in many of the Western
European countries, especially countries like Poland and the Czech Republic show that's still a majority, in some cases substantial majority support
the death penalty. Canada is almost 50/50.
So, the point is that worldwide and in the United States, intuitively, we know morally, emotionally that the worst of the worst of the worst deserve
to die and that there is no substitute punishment that is equivalent and that is justified.
AMANPOUR: Let's point out, obviously, the stats because you brought up the sort of international stats. And the United Nations basically says 170 out
of 194 member states have either abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. It is clear, according to the figures, that the federal death
penalty is disproportionately used against people of color. In sentencing, there's a racial bias. 34 of the 61 people on federal death row are
African-American, Latino, Asian or native Americans.
Those are statistics you have to grapple with because we've seen so many exonerations, we've so much bad lawyering in the past that has led to some
BLECKER: In terms of the United Nations and the countries that abolish the death penalty, those are the elites abolishing the death penalty. You
know, it's funny, we're often asked why is the United States the only Western democracy with the death penalty? First of all, it's not the only
Western democracy with the death penalty. But secondly, it's the only democracy that is acting like a democracy.
Every European country that abolishes the death penalty, I believe, with the exception of Ireland abolished it in the teeth of overwhelming public
support for it. Not that public support for it makes it necessarily right. If it's wrong it's wrong and the public could be misguided. But if you are
talking about translating the people's preferences into policy, then you've got to look at the people's preferences. Not the preferences of the
You move to racism. Racism is -- and race is a very complex question. I spent decades inside the nation's only all-Black prison system in Lorton,
Virginia, interviewing convicted killers and their families. And what you find are several alternative explanations separate from racism itself.
Number one, most killings are same-race killings, that is Whites killing Whites and Blacks killing Blacks.
When the prosecutors consult the victims' families as to what their preference is, a Black victim's family, especially in the inner-city, is
much more likely to be sensitive to the conditions that produced the killing themselves and they will realize that their bad fortune (ph), their
child tragically dead now could just as easily have been defended. And so, what they'll say is, "Enough. Enough. We don't want the death penalty."
And that doesn't show that they're devaluing Black life, that shows that they're valuing Black life.
Secondly, inner-city Black on Black killings tend to take place in poorer districts. And the death penalty is expensive. And so, the prosecutors
will tend not to go for it. The odds that a White killer in the same circumstances will get the death penalty as a Black killer are very good.
In fact, the early studies [13:10:00] showed that it is slightly more likely that a White killer will get the death penalty. The discrimination
takes place on the race of the victim.
AMANPOUR: OK. I'm really interested in your latest op-ed. Because it's not just a legal tact that you take, it's a sort of a moral tact. And you
basically say, "We who call for proportional punishment justify the death penalty not because it can deter other vicious killers, not because once
we've captured these murderers, we have no other way to keep us safe, not because we can't imagine how we could rehabilitate them. Those of us who
believe in retributive justice find these justifications ultimately irrelevant." And then you go on to say, "We tolerate too little today and
hate too much. But unfortunately, there is a time to hate and there are people whom we should detest. They deserve to die. We should kill them as
soon as legally possible." Tell me how you justify that.
BLECKER: Yes, that's correct. Let's not forget that the preamble to the United States constitution after calling for a more perfect union calls for
justice. And for me, the ultimate question is not a utilitarian question, it's not a question of costs and benefits, it's not a question of future
benefits, it's not a question of deterrence. Although, I believe that the death penalty is a greater marginal deterrent. Most studies disagree with
that. But all of that is irrelevant.
The question is now what good it will do in the future, the question is what's bad has been done in the past and what is deserved. Every moral
question is ultimately an emotional question. So, yes, I am a retributivist. That's not -- retribution is not equivalent to revenge,
although they come from a common wellspring of a desire to inflict pain and suffering on those who have inflicted pain and suffering on us.
The difference between retribution and revenge, although for both the past counts and in accounts independently future benefit, the difference between
the two is that retribution, unlike revenge, has to be limited, has to be proportional and has to be appropriately directed.
BLECKER: So, that we retributivists are just as concerned with not over punishing as we are with adequately punishing. And that's why I say I
split with the president, I'm sure, and many of the people whom he would select to execute who I think deserve very serious punishment but do not
deserve to die.
AMANPOUR: And that's the moral question. Thank you, Robert Blecker. Then I am going to now turn to Ruth Friedman where she obviously fiercely
opposes the federal death penalty and she calls it arbitrary, racially biased and full of poor lawyering.
So, welcome to you Ruth Friedman from Washington, D.C.
RUTH FRIEDMAN, REPRESENTS INMATE SCHEDULED FOR EXECUTION: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Can I first ask you to respond to that view of the moral imperative, that retribution is justified, it is not want and revenge and
it is designed for narrow purposes?
FRIEDMAN: Well, I'm glad to hear, first of all, that we agree it is not a deterrent. No study says that it's a deterrent or meant to make anybody
If we're going to have a death penalty, then it has to be even handed, it has to be fair. And that is not the death penalty that we have. These
talks about -- Professor Blecker was talking about the worst of the worst. This -- how do we know that this is the worst of the worst? There are
thousands and thousands of murders committed in this country every day yet, a small select few are chosen for the death penalty.
When you look at the federal death penalty, you find that almost half of the people on federal death row come from just three states, Texas,
Missouri and Virginia. Does that mean that the worst murderers in the whole country are only committed in those three states?
You pointed to racial bias, which we see it's the same numbers in the federal death penalty that we see in the state death penalties all over the
country. It's the same kind of errors that we see that you've been talking about. That goes to the heart of morality, as well. How do we make these
choices? This is not the way we do it.
AMANPOUR: I want to go back to the worst of the worst, where you were questioning about who it is.
AMANPOUR: I mean, obviously, Timothy McVeigh was put to death by the federal government. And he committed an act of terrible terrorism all
those years ago. And I think that's what people like Robert Blecker point to in terms of treason, terrorism, the murder of children and others. You
represent one of these on death row currently, right, on federal death row?
AMANPOUR: Several of them.
AMANPOUR: Many of them are accused of killing children, at least the five who have been selected under this directive by the attorney general right
now for their punishments to start as early as December. Do you believe your clients are innocent?
FRIEDMAN: I think it is extremely difficult to know given our system and I believe fully that there are innocent people on the row. I believe there
are innocent people who have been executed. And I'm going to respond to that to what Professor Blecker said. We have a situation where 166 people
were exonerated. They were exonerated. This is not just a situation of prosecutorial misconduct or other kinds of errors. You see those all over
the systems, both the federal and state systems. Those -- they were exonerated [13:15:00]. They were innocent.
So, we have a situation where we have a federal program -- we have a governmental program, which includes the states, that is wrong, some 1
percent at the time. Would we accept that in any other system except for criminal justice? What we do here is we pick out what we think the facts
are of the case and we say this is a terrible case. Therefore, we need to be killing this person. You have a death penalty. You have an entire
system that affects a lot of people. Every murder is a tragedy. Every murder and every victim that has to suffer through that is an unspeakable
AMANPOUR: We're going to play this soundbite from Emily Bazelon who I interviewed about excessive prosecutorial power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMILY BAZELON, AUTHOR AND LAWYER: We've seen a shift where its really prosecutors making the key decisions. And the reason that matters so much
is that the main job of prosecutors in the United States is to win convictions. They are also supposed to be ministers of justice, but their
incentives are really to convict people. They're not neutral.
And so, in these very crucial ways, the American system has shifted. And we didn't talk about this when we were making sentences harsher in the '80s
and '90s. We didn't say, "OK. It's time to shift all the power and discretion to prosecutors." So, it's this feature of the system that was
not really intended or planned but has all kinds of consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And in your cases, have you come across that phenomena?
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely. The death penalty, even more than the typical case, it's written by politics. That's how these decisions are made. They are
made -- and particularly in, you know, what are upsetting cases as murders are. They might make a community very upset. They are driven by a need to
solve, to convict, to sentence to death.
And so, in those cases, particularly, I think you see prosecutors overreaching. You have in the federal death penalty the same kind of
problems with junk science and hiding deals and the like that you see in the states all the time. And it's -- that is a big problem. And yes, so
there is a kind of overreaching that we see.
I think many people think the federal death penalty is somehow different from the state death penalty. It's the gold standard. It's done really
well. And that's not the case. When you start looking at it, you see exactly the same problems that you see elsewhere. And that makes us unsure
if are we picking the worst of the worst? Are we picking people who aren't innocent? Are we picking people who are not extremely vulnerable for one
reason or another? Or had a different lawyer or a lawyer who actually knew what the rules were and how to follow them would be alive? That's not an
AMANPOUR: Yes. I want to ask you about the distinction between exonerated and innocent. We know that the Central Park Five were innocent from the
get-go. They weren't just exonerated many, many years later, but they were actually innocent and there was a rush to judgment. And they were
children, most of them, at the time. And now, there's been a lot of storytelling about their case, whether it was the documentary by Ken Burns
or now the series on Netflix, "When They See Us," by Ava DuVernay.
AMANPOUR: I'm just going to play a little soundbite from an interview I did with Ava on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVA DUVERNAY, DIRECTOR, "WHEN THEY SEE US": We get to a place where we're looking at a case that is tried, boys are sent away for crimes that they
didn't commit, for crimes that there was no physical evidence for and who served, really, really tough time. Cory Wise has spent almost 14 years in
prison. He went directly to Rikers Island at the age of 16 and endured troubling -- terrorizing behavior within those -- while in the custody of
the State of New York. So, that's really what it was. New York State.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How do you feel about whether public opinion should be the shaper of what happens in these kinds of cases?
FRIEDMAN: To respond first to the Central Park Five, and it's an absolute tragedy. Public opinion pray for the death penalty goes way down when
people are -- said, "What do you think about life without parole as an alternate punishment?" And then people say, "That's fine." And you see
more people turning away from that.
Public opinion, one thing, I think it's very important to know and it's been true in reaction to the setting of the execution dates last week is
that it's a large circle of voices who are responding. You have a lot of conservatives now coming forward and saying, "We're not comfortable with
this. It's a government program that doesn't work." And as conservatives we're not comfortable with that.
Some people are taking a stand in favor of what they consider a consistent pro-life stand. Some people are very concerned about the waste of
resources. You asked police chiefs around the country, "What do you need to make your department work better? What do you need to make the people
of your community safer?" They never say the death penalty. It's way, way, way at the bottom of the list. It's usually more police resources.
So, you see people turning away from this and that's what happened steadily. In the '90s, we put about -- we executed close to 300 people a
year. Now, it's down to the 30s and 40s. We are sentencing so many fewer people all over the country. And so, [13:20:00] to see the federal
government lead in the complete opposite direction is deeply disappointing.
AMANPOUR: Ruth Friedman, thank you so much for joining us.
FRIEDMAN: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: And from that very emotional story, we turn now to a daring, true adventure and it's the subject of a new film, "The Red Sea Diving
Resort." It's about a group of undercover Israeli Mossad agents who ran a deserted hotel in Sudan as a front to smuggle thousands of Ethiopian Jewish
refugees to safety and to new lives in Israel.
The operation took place in the 1980s in the midst of a civil war when many Ethiopian Jews were fleeing religious oppression. Images of famous later
air lifts called Operation Solomon was seen around the world. But it was this particular mission, known as Operation Brothers that caught the
attention of "Homeland" creator, Gideon Raff.
I spoke to him alongside one of the real-life Mossad agents whose identity we've hidden at his request and we're not using his surname.
Gideon and Daniel, welcome to the program.
Gideon Raff, you are the director. Let me just first ask you about this story. I mean, you live, you were brought up in Israel and yet, you didn't
know about the air lift and about these incredible operations to bring Ethiopian Jews out. How did you first learn about it?
GIDEON RAFF, DIRECTOR, "THE RED SEA DIVING RESORT": Well, I knew about the bigger operations later in the '90s and I grew up on those images, of
course. But I did not know about this one operation that used a hotel in Sudan as a cover to keep our agents on the ground there.
And I got a call from my producer, Alexandria, who told me this story and we flew to Israel and met with many of the people who were involved in
these operations and many of the Ethiopian who have left their homes courageously and embarked on this journey to Sudan. And I was just so
inspired and so humbled by their stories that I had to tell it.
AMANPOUR: Let me turn to Daniel, you were, in fact, involved in the original Mossad squad, the intelligence team, Daniel, that found this
location. And we do have a very nice brochure from the time of how it was advertised by you all as this diving resort. But give me a sense of the
undercover that went into, Daniel.
DANIEL, MOSSAD AGENT INVOLVED IN "OPERATION BROTHERS": OK. About 70 kilometers north of Sudan, we came across this village and then I spoke to
the guardian, which was the local Sudanese, who told me that the village had been abandoned a few years earlier and it was under the responsibility
of the Ministry of Tourism and actually, the vice minister.
So, I went to Khartoum and met that guy, discussed with him, negotiated with him and then we came to an agreement and I became the general manager
and I signed a contract with them.
AMANPOUR: So, Daniel, you became general manager of a hotel, right. You didn't actually tell the Sudanese government that you were looking for a
front operation to air lift Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Is that correct?
DANIEL: How could we? You know, this is Arab country. We're talking about Jews. That doesn't go together.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you had guests who came to the hotel not knowing what you were doing, correct?
DANIEL: Of course. We had guests and we had people coming from Europe and from Sudan and from other Arab countries. And there was -- I was not
managing directly the hotel. I had a team. In the team, there were some guys who were -- at the same time, were operating undercover to get the
Ethiopian Jews from one place to the shore. And one of my team was a lady. And she was actually running the hotel and doing all the logistics. You
know, it was a real hotel. We had to feed them and to give them -- and it was not easy because there was no supermarkets in the area.
AMANPOUR: So, Gideon, pick up the story. I mean, here you are taking this real-life story. I mean, it sounds extraordinary that a bunch of Mossad
agents can at the same time run a hotel, feed these people, I don't where you got your provisions from in the middle of the desert, and organize this
unique air lift and sea lift.
RAFF: Yes. And it's important to say that the Ethiopian community was as active in their own rescue as the Mossad agents were. So, while the Mossad
agents were driving at night after taking care of the tourists at the hotel to the refugee camps down south, the community leaders in the camps would
arrange the families that would go on the trucks and then would be smuggled to sea.
And I would -- I sat with -- I spent a lot of times with the Ethiopian Jews who have embarked on this journey and with the Mossad agents. And hearing
both their stories, I knew we have an incredible story to tell and important [13:25:00] one, a timely one.
AMANPOUR: So, we want to play a little clip because it is, you know, about the process that you're just talking about and particularly, you know, how
the Ethiopians were agents as well in this operation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS EVANS, ACTOR: I need you to get on this truck. It's your turn. You're going home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there are still hundreds crossing the border every week, thousands more Ethiopian still.
EVANS: The Mukhabarat has your name. They are after you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that the (INAUDIBLE).
EVANS: They know you're smuggling people out. You won't get to anybody if you're dead. You've done enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enough? Enough is when all of us are in Jerusalem, all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: You know, it's interesting. And, actually, Daniel, I want to turn to you because that is a conversation between the lead Ethiopian and
the Mossad agent, Ari, who was in charge of this particular part of it. How difficult was it to persuade him to leave and how many more Jews were
there that needed to be air lifted?
DANIEL: The film manages to show in a very good and emotional way the relationship that we developed as Mossad and Israelis with the leaders of
the Ethiopian Jews that came by foot from Ethiopia to Sudan.
You know, this operation could not have succeeded if there was not a total cooperation and understanding between all of us, you know. The leader,
what you call the leader, was the first Ethiopian Jew that came to Sudan and we became very close. And almost -- I mean, we actually became
brothers. This is why I called this operation, Operation Brothers. But it was all over the place.
I mean, we needed the assistance of young people that would lead those groups at night, avoiding being discovered by the (INAUDIBLE) army and
police to the place where we were waiting to get them to shore or the landing strips where we landed the aircraft in the middle of the dessert.
So, this was a combined operation between Jews coming from Ethiopia and Jews coming from Israel.
And the film shows it in a very good way. I had the opportunity to talk to the actors. They were very interested to know what really happened there.
And I think they managed -- and Gideon managed to lead them in a way that you can see that.
AMANPOUR: Gideon, so tell me how dangerous it was for the Ethiopian Jews. It was obviously very risky for Mossad for obvious reasons. But how
difficult and dangerous was the trek for the Ethiopians themselves?
RAFF: It was extremely dangerous for them. These are people who, for thousands of years, dreamt coming to Jerusalem. Yerusalem as they say.
And they left their homes in the middle of a civil war that was raging through Ethiopia and they've marched hundreds of kilometers through the
desert. Many of them lost loved ones to sickness, to wild animals, to be robbers, to rapists.
Yesterday, I spent my evening with an Ethiopian Jew who did the journey when he was five years old and lost his older sister to malaria and her
parents buried her in the desert and continued walking toward Sudan with the hope of arriving in Israel one day. Then there were -- many of them
stuck in these refugee camps for too long where the conditions were very, very bad. And the numbers are about 4,000 people that they've lost, which
is a fifth of the people who've left for Israel. So, they went through hell.
AMANPOUR: Again, Daniel, I mean, let's just emphasize this fact. Here you were, Israeli Mossad agents fronting this hotel story in a country, Sudan,
that was hostile to Israel. What would have happened, do you think, and what plans did you have, back up plans, in case you were discovered?
DANIEL: The aim -- I mean, the -- what we wanted to do was too important to think of the consequences. For us, it was like -- you know, it was like
accomplishing the dream that the forefathers, those who created the State of Israel, we were actually realizing the dream and the dream of the
Ethiopian Jews to return to Zion.
You know, Zion is a biblical world. And so, of course we knew what could. Back up plans, we had. I don't know how much those plans would have
functioned, but it was too important, you know.
AMANPOUR: We've seen lots of pictures of the subsequent arrivals, right. So you see these pictures of Ethiopians in the '90s getting off the planes
and being so thrilled.
And a lot of observers, and in fact, a lot of Ethiopian Jews themselves say the highlight, the greatest celebration, the best moment was their arrival
date. And it's kind of gone downhill from there.
You know, there's a lot of complaints and protests and complaints about being treated unfairly. There were recently protests because a young
teenager of Ethiopian descend was shot in Israel. Just talk to me, Gideon, about the promise that was maybe betrayed somewhat for the Ethiopian Jews.
RAFF: Well, I think the -- like I said the Ethiopian Jews have for thousands of years dreamt of coming to Jerusalem to a place that they
thought was perfect. And I think in recent weeks, we see that the Ethiopians are fighting to make that place as perfect as they were dreaming
They are fighting to end discrimination. They are fighting to end bigotry. They're fighting to get equality.
And I can't think of a more noble and just cause for their struggle. I think, you know, civil rights are taken, not really given. And I think the
Ethiopian community is on the way to achieving what they wanted in making the society better and more equal for all of us.
AMANPOUR: Daniel, do you believe that the government and the state of Israel need to treat these Ethiopian Jews who you risked your life to bring
to Israel, who risked their own lives, do you believe the state needs to do better to step up and make them equal citizens under the law?
DANIEL: I've been involved with the Ethiopian Jewish community since the time when I was participating, I was commanding those operations. So I
know how difficult it is for them to integrate for many reasons.
But I've seen and I can see now how good they're doing. You know, you don't hear about the engineers, and the lawyers, and the doctors and the
businessmen and high tech people but that's the majority of them.
Now, of course, Israel is a melting pot like the United States used to be. It's a melting pot. People are coming from so many parts of the world.
It's not easy to live together. And you know, I'm sure you know under which conditions, the Israel state is living with not many friends around.
So everything has an influence.
I think, you know, it's not a question. I'm not defending the government or attacking them.
I think the government is doing whatever it can and it depends more on the people themselves to be tolerant and to love each other, you know, and it
will happen. It's happening. That's my belief.
AMANPOUR: It's very interesting that you said and I picked up on it. Israel is a melting pot like the United States used to be. So I wonder
whether you meant to say that.
And I ask you both because, in the film, there is a scene of a -- with a female Mossad agent basically says, you know, in describing all of this
we're all just refugees, aren't we? Are you sending a message Gideon and Daniel?
RAFF: Well, to me, this was a movie that was not only an amazing historical story and an inspirational one but also a relevant one. We're
living in a world where dozens, sometimes hundreds of people die in the Mediterranean, drown in the Mediterranean, people seeking a better future
for themselves and their kids.
And they're still willing to take that risk knowing they might not reach that other shore. I think we have a responsibility as part of the same
family, as part of the human family, to help each other and not to erect walls but to actually build bridges.
AMANPOUR: And, Daniel, because, obviously, not to make too fine of a point of it but Israel erected one of the biggest most visible walls between
itself and the West Bank. When you see that line in the film where a female colleague is depicted as saying we're all just refugees, aren't we?
What was your message?
[13:35:00] DANIEL: It's very human. You know very well the story of the Jewish people. I'm not going to go back to it.
But in myself, I was not born in Israel. And most of the -- I think all of the members of my team were born in some other countries and came emigrated
to Israel. So I'm not sure about the question of refugees but we're a country of immigrants.
AMANPOUR: Daniel, thank you very much indeed. And Gideon Raff, director of the film, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
DANIEL: Thank you so much.
RAFF: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And "The Red Sea Diving Resort" is now out on Netflix.
During the Democratic debates this election cycle, race has risen to become one of the most important topics up for discussion. Recall the first
debate when Senator Kamala Harris broke out with the conversation around bussing and school desegregation.
Well, now we take a moment to delve into that complex history with Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning journalist for the "New York Times
Magazine". She has entered the nuances of racial injustice and efforts to counter it with our Walter Isaacson.
WALTER ISAACSON, CONTRIBUTOR: Nikole, thank you for being with us. Tell me, we've become more segregated in our public school system in America
than we were 30 years ago. How did that happen?
NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Well, a couple of different things happened. After Brown v. Board of Education,
about 10 years after Brown v. Board of Education, the federal government got pretty serious, finally, about enforcing the mandate of Brown.
And you saw a great deal of desegregation occurring in the south largely because federal courts were ordering the desegregation to happen. You
didn't see a great deal desegregation happening in the north.
But what begins in about the 1980s is federal courts begin to close out those court orders in the south that were requiring districts to do things
to integrate kids. And once those orders got closed out, school districts started to implement policies that have led to re-segregation.
ISAACSON: But one of the things I notice is that the north didn't get under those orders then they started fighting the federal push to
desegregate schools. And northerners joined with southern segregationists in fighting this, right?
HANNAH-JONES: Absolutely. So the north could pretend to be racially egalitarian as long as courts were not ordering northern communities to
integrate. But as soon as courts started saying actually you have to integrate your schools, too, then you saw really the same type of
resistance occurring in the north that you saw in the south.
And white community fought these desegregation orders, school board fought the implementation of the desegregation orders and you saw a pretty large
rebellion. And Richard Nixon, of course, runs on understanding the common cause between white people in the north and white people in the south was
that they didn't want to integrate their schools in neighborhoods.
So he implements what is called the southern strategy. And he unites those voters, both north and south, around the issue of integration or opposition
integration and he wins.
ISAACSON: One of the real battlegrounds, surprising to me, when I was growing up on desegregation and on bussing was Boston. What happened
HANNAH-JONES: What happened in Boston is a federal judge, Judge Garrity, after being presented with the evidence, determined that the segregation
that black children were experiencing in Boston was also (INAUDIBLE), that it was a matter of public policy and official policy.
And the order to bussing program and the resistance there is kind of stuck I think in the national fight. It was a place where desegregation was very
violently resisted. Part of what people critique with that is that the bussing program was largely leaving affluent white communities intact and
it was forcing really the more poor and working-class white communities to desegregate with the black communities.
And so it was a lot of resistance because it was a sense that, you know, liberal, wealthy white people who weren't going to have to deal with the
issue of desegregation were forcing this upon the white communities that didn't want it.
Whether that's fair or not, I'll leave that to history. But I think when we ask why, the truth is, desegregation in Boston was very carefully and
White Americans in Boston largely did not want to live in integrated neighborhoods or send their kids to integrated schools. And so when the
law came and said that you had to, they resisted it.
ISAACSON: What are the two most segregated school systems in America today?
HANNAH-JONES: I mean all of the most segregated schools is almost in the north.
ISAACSON: New York and Chicago.
HANNAH-JONES: New York and Chicago, Detroit, and you can kind of go down the list. The two most segregated states, New York is the most segregated
state for black children and California is the most segregated state for Latino children. So it really kinds of exposes that myth that race is a
problem of the [13:40:00] south when race is really a national issue.
ISAACSON: Bussing worked in say Charlotte, North Carolina and that was big bussing case. And that became a very integrated school district for a
ISAACSON: Right. And then what happens?
HANNAH-JONES: Judges in the south are ordering desegregation. And there's a realization that because our neighborhoods are also so segregated, it
becomes very difficult to implement integration unless you actually provide transportation to bus black kids into white neighborhoods and white kids
into black neighborhoods.
And lower court judge orders this in Charlotte. Actually, the county -- it was a county-wide school district called Mecklenburg and it goes all the
way to the Supreme Court. So the first time the Supreme Court takes up bussing as a tool of desegregation is in 1971 and the court upholds bussing
as a way to integrate schools.
Only three years later, the Supreme Court will strike down bussing in a northern case that comes out of Detroit where a judge tried to deal with
the fact that northern cities have lost white population to white suburbs, orders bussing across school district lines from the City of Detroit to the
suburbs. And the Supreme Court says that's too far and it strikes it down.
Of course, it's a different Supreme Court by that time. Between '71 and '74, Richard Nixon appoints four conservative justices which is kind of a
remarkable number. And those he justices decided to start turning back school desegregation.
ISAACSON: And does that knock out the bussing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg too?
HANNAH-JONES: No. So Charlotte's bussing was within one school district. The way that the -- the difference largely between how school districts are
ordered in the north and the south, the south because it was much more agrarian, it tended to have one big county-wide school district.
So any time a judge would order a desegregation order down south, it would kind of naturally would be a metropolitan order. Because it was a county
district, it would touch the city, the suburbs, and the rural areas.
In the north, you tended to have much more highly fractured school districts. So within a single county, you may have 10, 20 different school
districts. And so that -- the Detroit ruling only dealt with bussing across school district lines.
But I think when the court struck down bussing across district lines, what it failed to acknowledge is that all of these suburbs, these white suburbs
that were in Detroit had barred black people from moving into the suburbs and that is why they were white. And I think the court just failed to
ISAACSON: Was one of the unintended consequences or perhaps even --
HANNAH-JONES: Right, intended.
ISAACSON: -- that bussing and desegregation when enforced that way encouraged whites to move out of the inner-cities and move to suburbs where
they had separate school districts?
HANNAH-JONES: So I think that's certainly the myth around bussing which you hear all the time, is that bussing caused white flight. But when you
look at what was happening in urban areas with large black populations all across the country, they were all experiencing white flight before bussing
was ever ordered.
Now I certainly think that the Supreme Court's ruling in the Detroit case, which said you can maintain segregation as long as you just move across the
invisible municipal line into a white community, that certainly accelerated white flight.
Because it became very clear to white people that if you want to avoid integration, just move from Detroit to a gross point and you can maintain
your all-white schools. So you did see an acceleration following that ruling.
But it wasn't -- I mean I think we've gotten really caught up in blaming bussing but really it was desegregation. So bussing was just the tool but
the orders were that schools had to integrate. And that's really what white resistance was to, was to integrating schools.
ISAACSON: Were you bussed as a child?
HANNAH-JONES: I was. Though as a child, I didn't realize I was being bussed.
So I'm from the Midwest and I started being bussed in second grade. It was a voluntary bussing program where black families on the black side of town
could opt-in to have their kids bussed for desegregation. So from 2nd grade to 12th grade, I rode the bus for about two hours every day, one hour
each way to go to an all-white school.
ISAACSON: And that was in?
HANNAH-JONES: Waterloo, Iowa.
ISAACSON: And did it work, do you think?
HANNAH-JONES: Yes, I think it definitely worked for me. I got access to the best public schools that my town had to offer versus the segregated low
performing schools that served my neighborhood.
So I think that's really when we think about what desegregation was attempting to do, it was trying to break up these cast schools where we
were segregating black children and then depriving those kids of resources. It wasn't easy.
I don't think most kids or most families if they have a choice, want to leave their neighborhoods and go to another neighborhood to attend school,
ride a bus for a long time. But it certainly was better than the alternative, which was not getting an adequate education.
[13:45:00] ISAACSON: So when you watch the debate between Kamala Harris and the Vice President Joe Biden --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not only that but you also work with them to oppose bussing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ISAACSON: -- on bussing. And people say bussing didn't work. What is your answer?
HANNAH-JONES: I think if you're going to believe that bussing didn't work, or desegregation, I think we use bussing to avoid talking about
integration, you have to ignore the entire region itself. So the south in 1964 still almost complete apartheid when it comes to education, only two
percent of black kids were attending desegregated schools 10 years after Brown v. Board.
And once you started seeing the federal government get serious about enforcement and desegregation orders being enforced and bussing programs
being implemented, the south within seven years went from the most segregated region of the country to the most integrated.
And to this day, the south remains the most integrated region of the country because of bussing and because of court orders. So that certainly
would be considered a success story to take a region from apartheid to the most integrated in a very short period of time.
We say that the bussing failed outside of the south because we saw communities losing a lot of white population. Most northern cities never
really underwent real integration.
But that's not a failure of bussing. That's really a failure of us as Americans who resisted desegregation, who used every tool we could to
ensure that desegregation would not reach most communities. And yes, outside of the south, desegregation hasn't been successful mostly but
because we never gave it a chance to be successful.
ISAACSON: Ever since Kenneth Clarke wrote about the need for immigration, he talked about how the outcomes for black students, if they got to be in
school with whites, would be better. And likewise, in your life, you saw that. You went to a desegregated school and your outcome turned out to be
You even talk about how you and your husband are able to enter into a room and have great conversation because you went to integrated schools. Give
me specific examples about why the outcomes from integrated schools are better.
HANNAH-JONES: Sure. So we have a lot of data on this now. And school desegregation had two impacts.
One, the only thing that ever worked to narrow the achievement gap on scale. So mostly our American viewers will have seen a host of school
reforms. All of them that were supposed to close the achievement gap and none of them have.
Desegregation actually worked the best but also desegregation changed kind of the trajectories of black students lives who got access to desegregated
schools. It changed them in the ways that really mattered which aren't test scores. No one cares at our age what your test scores were in third
But what it was able to do was those kids actually transformed their lives. They were able much less likely to live in poverty.
They were more likely to go to college. They were less likely to go to jail. They were even healthier. They live longer.
Almost across everything that you could measure, desegregation had the effect that Kenneth Clarke he said it would which was that it broke apart
racial casts for those kids. It allowed them to transcend their circumstances.
And the reason that that's true is not that there's something about white children that makes black kids smart if they get to sit next to them. But
we've always intertwined race with resources in this country.
So you can look at the data being collected by the Department of Education today and the whiter the school, the better quality teachers it has. The
better quality instruction it has.
It has more advanced classes. It's more likely to offer Physics. It's more likely to offer Algebra, better technology.
Race still drives so much of the way that we a lot our educational resources. And what getting black and white kids in the classroom did was
it, for the first time, allowed black kids to get the same resources that white children get.
ISAACSON: You grew up and you went to an integrated school as an African- American. Your husband also, I think, partly because it was military schools African-American but went to integrated schools. What are you
doing with your daughter now that you live in Brooklyn?
HANNAH-JONES: So I've been writing about school segregation for a very long time. I've spent a lot of time in segregated schools and I've also
spent a lot of time around people who advocate on behalf of black children in segregated schools but who would never send their own kids to schools
So when my husband and I moved to New York City, one of the first things I was thinking about is what am I going to do with my own child when she
becomes school age in one of the most segregated and unequal school districts in the country?
And ultimately, my husband and I decided that we were going to enroll her in one of those segregated high poverty schools that I write about. That
morally one cannot say that those children deserve the same education as your child, but then you seek to [13:50:00] remove your child from those
So we made a conscious decision that we were going to not be another one of those families that abandoned those children but that we were going to put
our child in that school and invest in that school.
ISAACSON: So the school that your daughter went to and is going to was predominantly African-American?
HANNAH-JONES: Yes. So the school is more than 90 percent black and Latino. And more than 90 percent free and reduced lunch which is an
indicator of poverty.
ISAACSON: It's a very difficult, it would seem, personal thing to say, on the one hand, I want what is best for my child. And on the other hand, I'm
committed to social justice and don't want to leave other people behind.
ISAACSON: How is that -- I mean that must be a tough wrestling you have to do?
HANNAH-JONES: I think, you know, that's why this issue is so hard for so many parents. Because they have their state of value but you also don't
want to feel like you're doing wrong by your child. I think that's why the issue of school desegregation, in particular, is so challenging.
I think what I'm trying to get parents to do is rethink about what we think is best for our child. And to think of our children as part of a larger
community and not just feeling that we are to fight for our own kids' advantage because you can't say you want equality and advantage at the same
So when I think of my daughter, I don't feel like the role of her public education is just so she can get really good grades, go to Harvard, and
make a lot of money one day. I think the role of public education is to teach my daughter to be a good citizen in this country and to think about
other people in the things that she does.
And in that way, I know that she's getting a great education in our schools. She's also not ever going to have to give up the academic parts
because I can pay for tutoring. I can do whatever it is that she needs.
But I think the argument that I'm really trying to make is understanding that if we want all kids to have access to the same things, we have to tie
our fates together. This is what desegregation understood. This is Brown v. Board understood.
As long as I don't have to worry about what is happening over in that school, then I don't. But if my child is in that school, then I'm going to
be certain that certain things happen.
And I can tell you, having a "New York Times" reporter in a school changes what happens in that school. I bring a certain power to that school that
the parents who live in (INAUDIBLE) housing project across the street never can. That's really what integration is about, it's sharing that power and
not just hoarding all those resources for ourselves.
And by the way, those who are hoarding the resources already have an ordinary amount of them. They already can provide every single thing for
their child. I think it is immoral to then try to take the best public schools, as well.
ISAACSON: How would you make the argument to a white family to say your kid will benefit more if it's in a fully integrated school?
HANNAH-JONES: I mean there's a couple of things. One, not all the research shows that white children do not suffer academically for being in
integrated schools. That's the most common excuse that white parents give about why they can't do it, is they think it would be bad for the children
There's no evidence whatsoever that says that. The evidence says the opposite.
But the other thing is we live in a country that is rapidly changing, that is getting more brown and more black. And in order for you to be able to
go out into the world and deal with your fellow citizens, you can't live in an isolated bubble. That is not reflective of the real world.
What the research shows is that white kids in those integrated schools, they become better thinkers. They -- you can imagine having in a news
meeting, right, when everyone is sitting around, telling -- coming up with story ideas, when you have people from different backgrounds, you get
different story ideas.
You have to sharpen your thinking because you just don't have everyone who is confirming what you think because their experience is the same as yours.
So it actually helps those students to become better students and better thinkers.
But also what the research shows is they're less prejudice themselves, that they're more likely to live in integrated neighborhoods themselves.
Because while integrated schools break down racial cast for black children, they also break down the sense of superiority and isolation that white
And they really start to be able -- to see people who are different than them as not being so different after all. And I think in a country like
this, that's a very positive thing.
ISAACSON: Nikole, thank you for being with us.
HANNAH-JONES: Thank you so much.
ISAACSON: I appreciate it. Good to see you.
HANNAH-JONES: I appreciate it. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And that is it for now. Remember, you can listen to our podcast and see us online at amanpour.com. And you can follow me on Instagram and
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.