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Interview With Jordanian Queen Rania Al Abdullah; Interview With ICO International Communities Organization Middle East Director And "The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit From Hamas" Author Gershon Baskin; Interview With Democratic Strategist Waleed Shahid. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 24, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Israel continues bombing Gaza. Doctors say the entire health care system is on the verge of collapse. My World exclusive with Jordan's Queen Rania on
the humanitarian catastrophe and the plight of Palestinians.
Then, Hamas releases two more hostages. Yocheved Lifshitz describes her ordeal. And what now for the others? I'm joined by veteran Israeli
negotiator Gershon Baskin.
And President Biden's unequivocal support for Israel impacting his support amongst young Democrats. Political Strategy Waleed Shaheed talks to Hari
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
I went through hell, the words of 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz as she spoke of being kidnapped and held hostage by Hamas in its underground
tunnel system in Gaza. She was released alongside her neighbor and friend, 79-year-old Nurit Cooper. Yocheved's 83-year-old husband is still being
held, along with over 200 others. As Israeli public opinion starts to shift towards saving them as the top priority.
Meantime, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is calling for humanitarian pauses, as the U.N. relief agency is saying it'll halt
operations by tomorrow in Gaza if no fuel is delivered.
The Ministry of Health there says more than 2,000 children have been killed. We cannot independently verify those numbers. On this program last
night, Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah told us they have a term now at the hospital he's working at, wounded child with no surviving family
Ibrahim Dahman is a CNN journalist in Gaza. We brought you the story of him fleeing his own home with his young family when Israel warned Gazans to
leave the north. Here's another installment of his diary as he desperately tries to escape via the closed Rafah Crossing point into Egypt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IBRAHIM DAHMAN, CNN JOURNALIST (through translator): Are we going to die today?
That's what my son asks me since we fled Gaza City.
Life in Khan Younis is difficult.
We're staying with at least 150 other displaced families from the north, eating the bare minimum to survive.
We spend our time watching airstrikes.
And filling the water tank.
It's like drinking toilet water.
Our children drink toilet water.
Because there's no electricity, my children can't see the horror online. And spend their time playing with other children.
Over the weekend, we were told to go to the Rafah crossing. So, we loaded our car to try and flee again.
On the way, there was a lot of destruction. At the crossing, other families full of hope, were also trying to escape. But that hope quickly faded. We
were told it's now closed.
We were at the Rafah Crossing. We were hoping to enter the Egyptian side, but the crossing was closed. It's only opened for humanitarian aid.
We make our way back, avoiding the chaos. Hoping that tomorrow, will be better than today.
We hear airstrikes in the distance.
Are you scared?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: No, I am not scared.
DAHMAN: But I can see the fear in his eyes, the same that's in mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And we will continue following Ibrahim's ordeal
Jordan is home to 40 percent of the total registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East according to the U.N. That is simply a huge number,
especially for a small country. Jordan's Queen Rania is herself of Palestinian descent, and she's joining me now for a world exclusive from
Amman, the capital.
Queen Rania, welcome to our program.
QUEEN RANIA AL ABDULLAH, JORDAN'S QUEEN: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you first as an Arab, as a Palestinian, as a human being, a mother, how you're feeling ever since October 7th?
Well, look, Christiane, I cannot begin to describe to you the depth of the grief, the pain, and the shock that we are feeling here in Jordan, all of
us are united in this grief, regardless of our origin. We are just -- just can't believe the images that we're seeing every single day coming out of
Gaza. We're going to bed seeing those images and waking up to them.
You know, I don't know how to -- you know, as a mom. We've seen Palestinian mothers who have had to write the names of their children on their hands
because the chances of them being shelled to death, of their bodies turning into corpses are so high.
I just want to remind the world that Palestinian mothers love their children just as much as any other mother in the world. And for them to
have to go through this is just unbelievable. And equally, I think the people all around the Middle East, including in Jordan, we are just shocked
and disappointed by the world's reaction to this catastrophe that is unfolding.
In the last couple of weeks, we have seen, you know, a glaring double standard in the world. When October 7th happened, the world immediately and
unequivocally stood by Israel and its right to defend itself and condemned the attacks that happened. But when we -- what we're seeing in the last
couple of weeks, we have -- we're seeing silence in the world. You know, the countries have stopped just expressing concern or acknowledging the
casualties, but always with a preface of declaration of support for Israel.
And, you know, are we being told that it is wrong to kill a family, an entire family at gunpoint, but it's OK to shell them to death? I mean,
there is a glaring double standard here, and it is just shocking to the Arab world. This is the first time in modern history that there is such
human suffering and the world is not even calling for a ceasefire
So, the silence is deafening. And to many in our region, it makes the western world complicit, you know, through their support and through the
cover that they give Israel that it is just -- it's right to defend itself. Many in the Arab world are looking at the western world as not just
tolerating this, but as aiding and abetting it. And this is just horrendous and it's deeply, deeply disappointing to all of us.
AMANPOUR: Queen Rania, I'm going to ask you more about this and go deeper into this -- you know, into your feelings about this. But first, I want to
ask you, you know, the Israelis are shocked to their core, the grief, the - - you know, what happened to them has never happened in that way since the holocaust and they are shaken to their core, as I said, and the grief. I
just want to get from you what you felt on October 7th.
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: Well, of course I was shocked. And, you know, Jordan has made his position very clear, we condemn the killing of any civilian,
whether Palestinian or Israeli. That is Jordan's ethical and moral position. And it's also the position of Islam. Islam condemns the killing
As my husband mentioned recently, the pact of Omar, which was issued on the gates of Jerusalem 15 centuries ago, that's 1,000 years before the Geneva
Conventions, orders Muslims not to hurt a -- not to kill a woman, child or elderly person, and not to destroy a tree or hurt a priest. And so, this is
what we believe are the rules of engagement at time of war. But they need to apply to everybody. So, yes, there was the shock and there is the
condemnation. But why isn't there equal condemnation to what is happening now?
I just want to emphasize that what happened on -- this conflict did not begin on October 7th, although it has been being portrayed as that, you
know, most networks are covering the story under the title of Israel at war. But for many Palestinians, on the other side of the separation wall,
on the other side of the barbed wire, war has never left. This is a 75- year-old story, a story of overwhelming death and displacement to the Palestinian people.
It is a story of an occupation under an apartheid regime that occupies land that demolishes houses, confiscates land, military incursions, night raids.
You know, the context of a nuclear armed regional superpower that occupies, oppresses, and commits daily documented crimes against Palestinians is
missing from the narrative.
AMANPOUR: Queen Rania --
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: You know, for too long, Palestinians lives --
AMANPOUR: I'm sorry to interrupt you, I want to ask you a specific question, because you're using a lot of words which clearly many in your --
you know, in the Arab world have used. Words like apartheid and the rest. But you know that you are going to come under a lot of criticism from
Israel and its supporters. And I'm wondering whether you're coming out to speak --
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: But let me just emphasize --
AMANPOUR: I know --
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: But let me just emphasize that apartheid is a designation that was given not by Arabs, but by Israeli and international
human rights organizations.
AMANPOUR: You wrote in an Instagram story just in the last week, it isn't self-defense if you're an occupying force and you show the destruction of
Gaza. And you have posted a video of yourself from a presser in 2009 during that war saying, it is heartbreaking to see how little has changed. The
world cannot remain silent. This has to stop.
Do you feel that you have a particular voice, you know, as queen of Jordan in a country that has a peace treaty with Israel to speak up?
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: It's not about me. It's about speaking up for humanity. You know, this is not about, you know, being pro-Israeli or pro-
Palestinian. This is about choosing people, the everyday people on both sides. And, you know -- and explaining again that the Palestinian people
have for too long been living under oppression and dehumanization, you know.
You know, they suffer daily indignities and human rights violations, whether they're being jailed or humiliated or harassed, they do not have
freedom of movement, there are over 500 checkpoints scattered all over the West Bank. You have a separation wall, which is deemed illegal by the
International Court of Justice that has separated the territories into 200 disconnected enclaves.
And, you know, you've seen the aggressive expansion of settlements on Palestinian land, and those have interrupted the territorial contiguity of
the territories and has deemed an autonomous, independent Palestinian state not viable. So, you're seeing all these. This is the background of this
conflict. There's a hyper fixation on Hamas now because of the -- that happened the last couple of weeks. But this is a problem that far precedes
Hamas and will continue after Hamas. This is a fight for freedom and for justice. And that is what needs to be heard.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you this question then? Because, you know, quite a brave -- I think she's Saudi anyway, a journalist on the Saudi television
network, Al Arabiya, took this and hammered Khaled Mashal, the former head of Hamas, and said to him, the butchery -- well, that's my word, but she
said, what everybody's seen on their screens has, you know, turned the world away from the Palestinian cause. And just to expand, people are
saying, Hamas and what it did has brought this down on these poor people of Gaza. Do you accept that?
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: Well, I believe -- I do not believe in -- as I said, in the killing of civilians. But this is a story of violence that has been
going on now for so long, and this violence needs to be condemned But at the end of the day, what we're seeing today and what people need to
understand is that, yes, you know, under the guise of the right to defend itself, we are witnessing atrocities.
You know, every country has a right to defend itself, but not through any means, not through war crimes, not through collective punishment. You know,
6,000 people -- civilians killed so far. 2,400 children, how is that self- defense? We are seeing butchery at a mass scale using precision weapons, you know.
So, for the past two weeks, we have seen the indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza, entire families wiped out, residential neighborhoods flattened to the
ground, the targeting of hospitals and schools and churches and mosques and medical workers, journalists, U.N. aid workers, how is that self-defense,
you know? Why is it that whenever Israel commits these atrocities, it comes under the banner of self-defense? But when there's a violence by
Palestinians, it is immediately called terrorism? Is the word terrorism just reserved for -- exclusively for Muslims and Arabs?
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask then because --
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: There's a real double standard here that we're seeing.
AMANPOUR: Your husband, King Abdullah --
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: And there's also a false symmetry that we see.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this, your husband, King Abdullah --
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: There's the false symmetry because these are not two equal -- people in the conflict. You know, one is an occupier and one is
the occupied. One has a military, one of the mightiest in the world, and the other doesn't have a military at all. So, there is a false symmetry
here that is being drawn.
And there's also, you know, when you say the right to defend itself, that does not say the entire story. It doesn't say the story of the violation of
international law, international humanitarian law. It doesn't tell you the suffering and the and the story of an occupation.
You know, Israel is in violation of no less than 30 U.N. security resolutions that require it and it alone to act, to withdraw from
territories occupied in 1967, to stop the settlements, the separation wall, the human rights violations. This is at the crux of this issue. It is not
this hyper fixation on Hamas.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, you know, to sort of elaborate because your husband, King Abdullah, I believe it was last weekend at the summit of Arab
leaders in Cairo, he said, the message the Arab world is hearing is loud and clear. Palestinian lives matter less than Israeli ones. Our lives
matter less than other lives.
I know you've said a lot about, you know, your feelings about what's going on right now. But do you think in general, that that's true, that even
world leaders and others, and you meet a lot of them and so does the king, which is why he said that, I assume?
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: Well, like I said, you know, it has been very disappointing to see the double standards in the world today. To see that,
you know, the strong condemnation of what happened on October 7th, but very little condemnation of what is happening today.
Why isn't there a call for an immediate ceasefire? We are seeing staggering human suffering happening today. You know, why is the narrative always
skewed towards the to the Israeli side? You know, the western media and policymakers are quick to adopt the Israeli narratives. When Israel
attacks, Palestinians die. But when Israelis die, they are murdered in cold blood. It's a massacre.
So, even like on October 7th, we've seen the situation described as savagery, barbaric, bloodthirsty, cold blooded, you know, but we're not
seeing that terminology being described in the situation today, even though the atrocities are of greater magnitude.
I'm not arguing accuracy, Christiane, I'm arguing equivalence and double standards here. When the President of the United States is -- told that,
you know, he has evidence -- he has seen evidence of children beheaded, only to retract because the IDF said that there's no proof of that. That is
Even at your network, Christiane, you know, the CNN website at the beginning of the conflict reported a headline of Israeli children found
butchered in an Israeli kibbutz. And when you read through the story, it hasn't been independently verified. Now, my question to you, would you
publish such a damning yet unverified claim made by a Palestinian?
AMANPOUR: Queen Rania, I just need to stop you right there because there have been pictures shown by the Israelis and our journalists who have been
down there. I'm not talking about beheadings. I'm talking about baby's bodies riddled with bullets and things. But let's -- it is just all so
horrible as you say.
I want to ask you about what Jordan has said and your husband, the king, has said, that there is a -- there has been, anyway, an attempt or
suggestion to move Palestinians who are trying to seek -- you know, seek safety either into Egypt or into Jordan, your country. And the king has
said, this is a red line. I think the plan by certain of the usual suspects to try and create de facto issues on the ground, no refugees in Jordan, no
refugees in Egypt.
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: Well, look, the people of Gaza now are facing two choices, either they leave or they face death or collective punishment. So
essentially, they're giving a choice between expulsion or extermination, between ethnic cleansing and genocide. And no people should be given --
have to face that kind of choice.
And what my husband was referring to is the people of Palestine should not -- of Gaza should not be forced to be moved again. They're -- most of the
residents of Gaza are already refugees. And right now, at least a million have been displaced from their homes. So, we do not want another mass
displacement of Palestinians like what happened at the Nakba in 1948. And that's what my husband meant about this being a red line. The Palestinians
have the right to remain on their land.
AMANPOUR: Yes, because they were concerned about so-called forcible transfer and never being allowed to come back. There have been quite a lot
of protests in your own country, as in many other parts of the world, and you have explained what is shaping up, and that is a very different
narrative about what's happening depending on what part of the world people come from and certain leaders come from. There's a most definite taking of
sides. That's absolutely going on as you illustrated.
What about, though, or are you kind of used to it now and have to manage it, the protests on the street, even against the 1994 peace treaty, are you
concerned about the anger and the wider war or the wider instability in countries like yours or in others around the region?
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: Well, you would be concerned if there's division, but we are absolutely united in our stance. We all believe in the same thing. We
are all feeling the same pain. We all want the same thing. And so, I think there's a lot of unity in the Arab world.
And as I said, there is a sense of, do our lives matter less? You know, why is it that when people are coming to represent, you know, the Palestinian
issue at the top of an interview, they have to have their humanity cross- examined, they have to present their moral credentials, you know, do you condemn? And we don't see, you know, Israeli officials being asked to
condemn. And when they are, you know, you just -- people are readily accepted by our right to defend ourselves. I have never seen a western
official say the sentence, Palestinians have the right to defend themselves. And so, you know, we are seeing this.
When -- even in western democracies, you know, freedom of speech is apparently universal value, except when you mentioned Palestine, when
people gather to -- you know, to -- in support of Israel, they're exercising their right to assembly, but when they gather for Palestine,
they are deemed terrorist sympathizers or antisemitic, you know. So, you know, you're seeing these double standards and it's creating all of this
disillusionment in the Arab world and in many who are just seeing the injustice.
And I just want to emphasize, Christiane, that at the end of the day, there is no military solution to this issue. Wars are never won. They're always
losses on all sides. Victory is a myth that politicians make in order to justify immense loss of life. There can only -- even if Israel goes and
defeats every last -- or kills every last Hamas member, then what? Haven't they left a trail of terrible memories, horrific memories that will just
create a new generation of resistance that is fiercer and more violent?
Because, you know, at the end of the day, it's -- you can only have a political resolution to this. And my husband has for so long always
emphasized that there could be no peace and stability in the Middle East without a political resolution. So, even if you're an ally to Israel, you
are doing it no service by giving it blind support.
AMANPOUR: Well, we hope --
QUEEN AL ABDULLAH: You know, expediting and expanding the provision of lethal weapons to Israel is only going to expand this conflict, is only
going to prolong and deepen the suffering. There can never be a resolution except around the negotiating table, you know. And there's only one path to
this, and that is a free sovereign and independent Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel. That is the
only path that's going to get us there.
AMANPOUR: Well, any, many analysts are already talking about that. And we hope that something like that can emerge from these ashes and this
catastrophe. Queen Rania, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
So, let's return now to those hostages who have been released by Hamas. Yocheved Lifshitz is speaking here about her ordeal, describing in some
detail how and where she was held in Gaza.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ, FREED ISRAELI HOSTAGE (through translator): I went through hell that I could not have known. I was kidnapped on a motorbike on
my side while they were driving towards Gaza.
As we got there, the people told us that they are people who believe in the Quran and that they will not harm us and that we will get the same
conditions they get in the tunnels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Gershon Baskin is a longtime hostage negotiator. He played a prominent role in the release of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in 2011.
Shalit had been held hostage by Hamas for five years. Baskin now says he's in touch with both sides in an unofficial capacity. And he's joining me now
from Jerusalem. Gershon Baskin, welcome to the program.
GERSHON BASKIN, MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR, ICO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITIES ORGANIZATION: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: I was struck -- well, let me ask you, what did you make of Yocheved -- sorry. What did you make of her coming out and talking about
her ordeal? What do you think she said that was interesting to you as a negotiator and as somebody, you know, who wants to know as much as possible
of what they experienced?
BASKIN: Well, I think that what she said is a reflection of what Gilad Shalit also said in private to us when he was released, that Hamas had
rules that they held by in keeping the hostages as opposed to what they did in the civilian communities.
Shalit, for instance, was kept in captivity for five years and four months with the same four people who were living with him throughout the ordeal
that he went through. And this is a reflection of what we heard from Yocheved Lifshitz was -- as well. She was not abused physically. Of course,
it was quite a traumatic ordeal for her and no one should have to go through that.
I think the word should be a little bit assuring for the families of the 220 hostages who remain behind. But there's still significant reason for
concern. Because it's not at all clear that Hamas is holding all the hostages. We know that Islamic jihad took hostages and PFLP and other
individuals. And we saw the behavior that took place inside the civilian communities and at that music and dance festival where a massacre took
place, committed by Hamas.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, she comes out after this awful ordeal and she -- and she's talking. So, she said -- for instance, we'll play a couple of her
soundbites. And I want to play them consecutively because they're quite short. So, here's how she describes what she saw and where she was and how
she was treated
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARONE LIFSHITZ, DAUGHTER OF YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ, FREED ISRAELI HOSTAGE: There are a huge network of tunnels underneath. It looks like a spiderweb.
Y. LIFSHITZ (through translator): Close doctor who came to see us every two to three days. The paramedic took it upon himself and took care of
medicines. If there were not medicines, they would bring substitute medicine, equivalent medicines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, first describing the spiderweb, and I wonder if that's news to you or did you know about that? And then, of course, she says, you know,
that she was treated well, as you said, the others were too, in your experience. I guess because they are currency.
BASKIN: They are certainly currency. The spiderweb of tunnels has been called by Israel the metro of a whole network completely underneath the
Gaza Strip. And this is reflective of the reality in Gaza over the last 17 years that Hamas has ruled. They've invested a huge amount of money in the
underground tunnels and bunkers, whereas they didn't invest the same amount of money in the welfare of the people living there, unfortunately. If they
did, perhaps we would have a different reality today.
But I think also that the wider message -- and this is following up on the message of Queen Rania, is that it should be no surprise to anyone that
we've arrived at such a horrific situation. It has to be a wakeup call for Israel that you cannot keep another people occupied for 56 years and expect
out peace. You can't lock 2 million people in an open-air prison and expect there to be quiet.
And for the Palestinians, it should be a wakeup call that if you support radical, fanatic leaders and refuse to recognize the other people living in
your land as having the same rights that you do, then you're going to suffer this.
This is the most traumatic events for Israel and Palestine since 1948. And the only hope is also, in the words of Queen Rania, that we have a wake-up
moment at the end of this tragedy. I call it the day after tomorrow, because tomorrow will be too soon to draw these kinds of conclusions. But
it's obviously that the people who brought us to here are leaders on both sides need to go. We need a new generation with a new vision. And I hope
that the trauma doesn't prevent us from looking forward.
There's no doubt that we will remember this. It will become part of our narrative. Each side will continue to blame each other for it. But we
Israelis and we Palestinians need to learn that we have to look forward and not only backwards. Our history will never change. It's our future that we
have a chance of changing.
AMANPOUR: Gershon Baskin, that's very brave to say at this point that your leaders who have declared war -- obviously, you're saying the same about
the other side, but your leaders need to go, and there is a lot who we -- you know, we asked the idea of what about the intelligence failure? What
about the military failure? What about all of this? What about Netanyahu thinking he could manage Hamas? And they say, yes, all of this has to be,
you know, investigated afterwards and accountability afterwards.
So, the afterwards presumably is when they succeed or not in what they say their war aim is, which is to defeat Hamas as a military and a political
entity. So, I want to ask you, because you know them, and you have even written, I have no official authorization as a negotiator, but as far as I
know, I'm the only Israeli citizen who has contacts both with the leadership of Hamas and the leadership of Israel.
That in itself is an extraordinary thing given -- you know, given the amount of contact, adverse contact you have. So, right now, what are you
saying to the Hamas people that you know? Are you in touch with them?
BASKIN: I've had very deep conversations with them. Some very, very difficult conversations. I keep emphasizing to them that regardless of what
they did, they now need to do the right thing. And the right thing is to free the civilian hostages. As was said by Queen Rania and King Abdullah,
it's against the Quran, it's against Islam to hold women, children, elderly people, sick people as hostages. They need to do the right thing.
Now, my understanding is that there is a proposal being discussed that was transmitted to Israel from Hamas by the Qataris. The Egyptians are also
involved. There seems to be a blockage in moving forward with an Israeli ceasefire in exchange for the civilian hostages.
According to the "Wall Street Journal," it was reported that the issue of entering -- of allowing fuel to enter Gaza is the blockage. Israel doesn't
want to fuel the Hamas war machine, but yet, we have a civilian humanitarian crisis of unbelievable proportions. The hospitals will stop
functioning. Will stop having electricity to provide lifesaving care for people. And we need to find a solution.
This is a stupid problem that's blocking a possible release of civilians and a ceasefire that would allow people in Gaza to breathe for the first
time in two weeks, and we need to find a solution. Why can't the International Red Cross or the Qataris who put this forth -- this proposal
fourth or the Egyptians tell Israel, we will accompany the full fuel trucks into Gaza, we will bring them to the hospitals we will ensure that Hamas
will not steal the fuel?
We need to solve this stupid problem in order to enable hostages to be released in for a ceasefire, stopping the bombing to occur at least for a
period long enough for people to get help, to seek refuge, to find a place to stay overnight, to have food and water to drink We have to wake up to
the reality that tomorrow we are still going to be here, Israelis and Palestinians, and we are going to have to find a way to live together. We
need to find humanity within us, even in this horrific moment.
AMANPOUR: You know, you said a lot of incredibly important things just now, and it's really interesting to see you find common ground in certain points
with Queen Rania, because the divisions have become so intense now about who to side with, who to stand with, and she talked about a double
So, I want to ask you, it appears the Israeli public opinion, according to journalists in Israel, are shifting towards not so much crushing, as the
government said Hamas as a first priority, but saving the hostages. Do you think that's the case? And remember, you negotiated the release of Gilad
Shalit for some 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, some of which, some of whom went back and committed the crimes that happened on October 7th. I mean,
it's a really -- yes.
BASKIN: Yes, four of the hostages -- four of the prisoners released in the Shalit (ph) were responsible for killing my wife's first cousin a year
before Shalit was abducted. So, this is personal. It gets personal for all of us.
I think that we have to understand that if there's an opportunity to free hostages, that everything has to be done to do that, and I think the
Israeli government postponing the land incursion is a reflection of the attempts to try every avenue possible to free the civilian hostages.
Let's face it, Israel has a moral responsibility to them because it failed to protect them. The most basic function, the responsibility of a state is
to protect its citizens and Israel failed to protect the citizens of Israel who live along the Gaza border. They have a moral responsibility to bring
Yes, it has been the primary directive since October 7th of the Israeli society, of the government in the army to remove the ability of Hamas to
govern in Gaza and to threaten Israel. And I think that Israel is committed to getting that job done. But I think you're absolutely right that the
moral weight of the responsibility of the country to save human lives and to bring the hostages home is now coming to the front.
And I don't think it will put off forever the incursion on the ground, but at least for now, there is this small window of opportunity with a ticking
clock that needs to be exploited by our friends in the region, by the Qataris and the Egyptians and the Red Cross and anyone else who can help.
The Americans have weighed in. There's been a parade of international leaders coming here. President Macron was the first person who visited
Israel and also took time to visit President Abbas in Ramallah. I think we need international pressure now to get a ceasefire and to release the
AMANPOUR: Gershon, can I play a piece of video that has created a huge, you know, uproar in Israel, and that is of Yocheved as she came out and she was
obviously being talked to by the Red Cross. And, you know, she's there and she turns around and she delivers a human gesture and a handshake to, I
guess, somebody who was her captor.
It's Hamas video that they that they put out. She was, you know, leaving and saying goodbye, I assume. What do you make of that? What do you make of
BASKIN: Well, I think, first of all, it's important to know who she is. She's a woman who has volunteered for years of driving Palestinian children
and their mothers and fathers to hospitals inside of Israel for medical treatment. She has been a member of Women Wage Peace, Israel's largest
peace movement. Also, another woman, Vivian Silver, from Kibbutz Be'eri, was abducted and is held hostage in Gaza. She was one of the founders and
leaders of Women Wage Peace.
I assume that Yocheved speaks some Arabic and she probably tried to communicate with her captors. I imagine that if I, God forbid, was being
held in Gaza, I would make every opportunity to befriend the people who are holding me because my life is at stake. I think we also have to remember
that her husband is still being held hostage in Gaza. And had she come out and immediately done something completely opposite, maybe it would endanger
the life of her husband.
But I think it was those kinds of humane gestures that are important to show. I know a friend who did research on Holocaust survivors and ask the
question, why do some Holocaust survivors become these people who are very, very anti-Arab and others are in the peace camp?
BASKIN: And what she found in interviewing many Holocaust survivors who were part of the peace camp is that there was a moment when they were going
through the horrendous suffering during the holocaust that someone made a humane gesture, someone gave them a piece of bread or gave them a night
stay in a home or gave them a blanket, and those gestures of humanity what would transform their worldview later and enable them to support peace with
the Arabs rather than being against them.
AMANPOUR: Gosh, Gershon Baskin, you have such incredible firsthand important experience and your perspective has been invaluable tonight.
Thank you so much for joining us.
BASKIN: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: And as we've discussed, President Biden says it's not time for a ceasefire, sparking anger not only among some liberal Democrats in
Congress, but also young Muslim and Arab American voters. Votes from these communities in the Swing State of Michigan were instrumental to Biden's
2020 presidential win. But senior Democratic strategist Waleed Shahid tells Hari Sreenivasan that's at risk for 2024 as this new war ignites politics
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Waleed Shahid, thanks so much for joining us.
We have seen protests in different cities around the country. We even saw one in the Capitol. There were lots of people who were sitting in, in the
Capitol building, calling for a ceasefire. Tell me, what are the organizations trying to raise awareness of and accomplish?
WALEED SHAHID, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, the coalition calling for ceasefire as a multifaith, multiracial coalition made up of people of all
backgrounds. We are an antiwar pro-peace coalition. We believe Israelis and Palestinians deserve peace and we want to see an end to the violence.
We believe that more bombs and more bloodshed will lead to more bombs and more bloodshed. So, we're calling on President Biden and Congress to push
for a ceasefire and hold our ally in Israel accountable for atrocities that the Israeli government has committed against Palestinian civilians and also
call on Hamas to release the Israeli hostages.
President Biden has had leadership to resolve some of the worst armed conflicts and worst occupations in our world history. And he used
diplomatic leverage and political pressure on our allies in South Africa and in England and in Ireland to bring the parties together, put an end to
the violence and address the political grievances of the parties involved, and that is the same sort of method he should be using today rather than
allying with a far-right regime in Israel that is hellbent on vengeance and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
SREENIVASAN: What's the response been from the White House?
SHAHID: The response has been pretty disappointing. I mean, we have a president, in his address, who essentially is green lighting Netanyahu's
far-right governments attacks against Palestinian civilians. The Israeli government is led by a far-right coalition that holds Palestinians
collectively responsible for the atrocities committed by Hamas.
I just don't see a plan from this White House. This White House is acting like as if we are in a world from 10 or 15 years ago in which Arab
Americans and Muslim Americans and young people are just going to sit back and support a president and support a party that greenlights someone who
believes that Gaza -- greenlights someone in Israel who believes Gaza should be burned to the ground, who doesn't believe in a two-state
solution, who doesn't believe that Palestinians are equal in the eyes of the government as Israelis.
And so, we're severely disappointed from the response from the White House, and we will keep pushing to get members of Congress to call on President
Biden to push for peace and not war.
SREENIVASAN: There were several progressive and further left groups within hours of the attack on Hamas, they were publicizing efforts and marches and
protests in support of Palestine without any mention of the civilian loss of life on Israel. Were you concerned when you saw those statements and was
there -- were there efforts to try to push back and say, well, we can't be this way?
SHAHID: The thing said at some -- by some of these fringe rallies and fringe activist groups about condoning Hamas or thinking Hamas is
legitimate resistance are absolutely horrendous.
SHAHID: The thing I will say is there is not a single member of Congress or any elected official in government who stands by any of those things, that
any of those activists said in the first couple days of this rally. You can't find a single member of Congress who doesn't mourn the lives of
Israeli civilians, but you can find hundreds of members of Congress who have said nothing about the loss of Palestinian casualties -- Palestinian
And that -- the fairness and the bias that our government has toward treating Israeli lives as if they are more valuable and more precious than
Palestinian lives, to me, is utterly disgraceful as a Democrat and as an American. We condemn, all the progressive members of Congress have
condemned anyone who has said anything supportive of Hamas in the past few days. You can't find a statement defending Hamas from an elected official.
But Lindsey Graham has said, we should burn -- that we're in a religious war and we should toast -- we should tear the place apart. Max Miller said
we should turn Gaza into a parking lot. Far-right Israeli officials have said there is no such thing as a Palestinian. Far-right officials in the
So, we have dehumanizing, genocidal rhetoric from American politicians, Israeli politicians, people with power. These aren't 19-year-old college
students. These are government officials who have access to funding, to bombs, to the highest levers of government. And that's why I think a lot of
progressives and a lot of activists are frustrated is that we are held to account for dumb things -- hurtful things said at rallies, but none of
these politicians with actual power are being held responsible for things they're saying about Palestinians.
SREENIVASAN: Do you think when it comes to the activists that are on college campuses that the pressure from, for example, more progressive
groups on the shortcomings of the Biden administration and the critiques that you've articulated are going to lead more Muslim Americans to set out
the election cycle when the alternative is a president who -- a former president and perhaps a future president who wants to expand a Muslim ban?
SHAHID: Yes. So, on the Friday rally, which was a Friday prayer service on the on the Washington Mall, I talked to dozens of Muslim and Arab
Americans, many of whom are lifelong Democrats, have voted Democrat in every election, voted for President Biden, and nearly all of them said they
cannot bring themselves from an ethical or moral standpoint to vote for a president who supports a far-right leader in Israel, who doesn't believe
Palestinians are human beings, doesn't believe they should be treated equally as Israelis.
And that really scares me. I don't think any of these voters are going to vote for Trump. I think they're going to sit out the election, just like
many people sat out 2016. I think they are also -- could potentially vote for a third-party candidate like Cornel West who does have daylight --
there is a lot of daylight between President Biden and Cornel West on this issue.
And if Cornel West makes the ballot somehow in Michigan or Georgia, wins 1 or 2 percent, you can say that that state belongs to Trump. I don't support
that. I don't want Trump in the White House, but that is the feeling I'm seeing across, as a Democratic strategist, as someone who supports the
party, as a member of the party, that's the trend I'm seeing across the country. Lifelong Democrats are saying they don't think the party sees them
as human beings.
And so, I really urge if you -- and I really urge President Biden and Democratic advisers around him to take seriously that the only way you can
win Michigan in the statewide election is by holding on to the Arab and Muslim American vote. That also is true of Georgia. And people are not
seeing themselves being treated with humanity, because of people with names like theirs, faces like theirs, and Gaza are being bombed indiscriminately
through bombs that are being funded by this president.
SREENIVASAN: Last week, he made an address to the nation where -- I want to get his quotes right -- it says, the U.S. remains committed to the
Palestinian people's right to dignity and to self-determination and that he is "heartbroken by the tragic loss of Palestinian life."
I mean, he did negotiate the first shipments of aid to get into Gaza and announced that the U.S. is providing about 100 million in humanitarian
assistance. Is this not what we would expect a president to do?
SHAHID: I'm sure the people in Gaza are thankful for the bandages and humanitarian aid that they're being provided by -- in part because of
President Biden. And I think what they want most is for the bombs to stop dropping on them and so that bandages aren't necessary.
Look, this conflict is escalating and President Biden has no plan to de- escalate the situation. Iran has threatened to also get involved. We are moving toward a situation that is going to get into another escalated
Middle Eastern conflict that Americans do not support.
In response to Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. worked to get countries around the world to join the U.S. and the E.U. to sanction
Russia, but many countries in the Global South refused, feeling that the U.S. and the E.U. had self-interest and has ignored and exacerbated several
atrocities around the world that are similar to what Russia has committed against Ukraine.
The U.S. said they were defending the rules based international order, but many countries in the Global South felt that the U.S. and Europe were
pursuing their own narrow self-interest. So, when the U.S. provides $14 billion of unconditional military aid to a far-right government Israel that
does not believe in a two-state solution, they openly declare their intent to commit war crimes.
Well, how -- what is -- how is that a rules-based international order? Basically, the way it feels too much of the Global South is the U.S. stands
for peace and human rights when it suits our interest, but then turns a blind eye when our ally does the exact same.
So, I think this from the international perspective, I don't think -- everything President Biden has tried to do to reset the clock when it comes
to the horrible things Trump did to ruin America's image abroad, this conflict is going to do the exact same thing that all the things that Trump
did to make America's image horrible in the eyes of the -- in the world, this is very similar -- a very similar scale where it feels like the U.S.
stands with peace when it suits our interest only and not when it involves another situation.
SREENIVASAN: And you had a State Department official last week, Josh Paul, resigned over our support for Israel. We had, I think, 411 members of
Capitol Hill staff, both Jewish and Muslim sign a letter, you know, basically demanding an immediate cease fire in Gaza. Do you think that --
do you hear from -- is -- are these actions effective?
SHAHID: I think they're very effective. And you know, if you are a government official watching this, you are the main reason why -- President
Biden has even said a word to Netanyahu to demand humanitarian aid. The people in the White House and the people in Congress, the staffers who are
standing up and saying, enough is enough, is the main reason why we're moving this forward.
But I will say, I'm very concerned that my Democratic Party leadership has its head in the sand when it comes to the 2024 election. The path to the
White House runs through Michigan. And Michigan runs through Dearborn and Detroit, which are the two of the largest Arab American and Muslim American
cities in the country.
And just on Friday, Representative Debbie Dingell, who's not Debbie Dingell, who's not a leftist, who's not a major progressive, said she's
represented that community for years. And she said, she's concerned about the 2024 election.
I know how important it is to defeat Trump as a Muslim American, as a Democratic strategist, but the blank check of violence our president is
providing Bibi Netanyahu, Muslim Americans oppose it, Arab Americans oppose it, young people oppose it.
And so, Michigan -- just like there was low Democratic turnout for Hillary Clinton in 2016, what I am seeing is there will be low Democratic turnout
for Joe Biden in 2024 in the same state where -- that Hillary lost.
SREENIVASAN: Is there a generational gap here in - I mean, it seems President Biden is from a different era of politics where the actions that
he's taking, the approaches that he's taking are probably consistent with the way the Congress functioned, the way that governments functioned with
each other for the majority of his life, right? And you see maybe a different generation of not just politicians, but the electorate who have a
different set of expectations, like the ones that you're articulating?
SHAHID: I think that's a big part of it. Look, but it's also a pre-9/11 thing when it came to, Ronald Reagan -- people forget this, but Ronald
Reagan, President George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton held the Israeli government way more accountable than anyone post 9/11 did. I think there's
been this fear and culture of Islamophobia that has pervaded since 9/11 where we cannot treat the Palestinian people and their authorities in the
West Bank, the Palestinian authority with equal footing as the Israelis.
On the voter level, there's absolutely a generational thing as this millennial generation that opposed the Iraq War in 2003 comes to political
age, comes to voting age, the Democratic Party is fundamentally different than it was 15 years ago. And I think President Biden, his chief of staff,
the advisers around him are thinking about this Democratic Party as if it was from 15 years ago.
But look, Arab and Muslim Americans are now civically engaged, are politically engaged. We didn't have a Rashida Tlaib 15 years ago. We didn't
have an Ilhan Omar. And that -- having those political representatives, having that political voice makes more people more courageous to step out
more courageous to protest.
I remember after 9/11, like, so many Muslim families, even though they're experiencing hate crimes or bigotry, were afraid to speak out, were afraid
to protest, were afraid to rally because of the chilling culture because of the Patriot Act. Now, you have a new generation, many of whom were born in
this country, who are inspired by the civil rights movement, are inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and are saying, no, I am an American, I
deserve my voice to be heard, and I am going to protest my government, and I'm not going to be afraid.
And I think that that is the reason you're seeing so many people, thousands of Jews, thousands of Arabs, thousands of Muslims, thousands of young
people oppose this. The vast majority of voters under 45 do not support sending Israel more weapons without any strings attached to address the
political grievances of the Palestinian people. And if that doesn't happen, you can say goodbye to Michigan.
SREENIVASAN: You had 13 Democratic members of Congress introduce a resolution to call for a ceasefire, whether or not that is allowed to get
to a full vote, et cetera, and that idea to be expressed in the full House, how does this rift end up manifesting?
SHAHID: I think this will be a deep rift going forward. You know, many people have reached out to me and said, you know, Waleed, like a year from
now, who knows what happens. But people will remember that this president took five days to call the family of Wadea Al-Fayoume. People will remember
that the Capitol -- the members of Congress held a bipartisan vigil for only Israeli civilian, mourning only Israeli civilian deaths and not
We have a member of Congress, Josh Gottheimer, who according to "Politico," according to "The Intercept," said that all Muslims are to collectively
blame for what happened in -- to Israeli civilians from Hamas. Not a single member of Congress and Democratic Party leadership condemned Representative
And when you have -- when you -- this comes back to the fundamental point, are Palestinian lives equal to Israeli lives in the eyes of our government?
And until that question is addressed, you will continue to see this rift deepen on the elected level, on the staff level, on the voter level.
Morale is -- as you've seen resignations, as you've seen letters across government bodies in this country, morale is incredibly low if you work in
government right now. And that will continue to deepen unless people feel like they are treated with equal respect equal humanity as Jewish
Americans, as Jewish Israelis, who also deserve dignity and respect and humanity.
But I have so many people in my life who are Democratic strategists, progressive strategists, government officials who feel sick to their
stomach showing up to work because they're being silenced, they're not being treated equally, they're being kicked out of rooms, they're not being
allowed to attend meetings. They're being told they're Hamas sympathizers, that because they're Muslim, they don't see -- or they're Arab, they can't
see this correctly. And, you know, this is what I mean, like, 15 years ago, we didn't have this level of Muslim American or Arab Americans in
government offices as much as we do now.
And so, I just think the Democratic Party is fundamentally shifted, but I don't think President Biden's thinking about the party has shifted.
SREENIVASAN: Democratic Strategist Waleed Shahid, thanks so much for joining us.
SHAHID: Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London