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Interview With United States Army Europe Former Commanding General Ben Hodges; Interview With Anti-Corruption Foundation Head Of The Investigation Department Maria Pevchikh; Interview With Artist Marina Abramovic; Interview With Harvard Divinity School Visiting Scholar And Sinai Temple Maxx Webb Emeritus Rabbi David Wolpe. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 12, 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.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy comes to Congress. Could the war be won or lost 5,000 miles from the home front? I ask Ben Hodges, former U.S.
Army commander in Europe.
Also, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is still missing. His close aide, Maria Pevchik, shares her worries.
Then, the extraordinary Marina Abramovic, the performance artist who brings a whole new meaning to body of work.
Plus, the collision of free speech and antisemitism at some American universities. Harvard backs its president, while Hari Sreenivasan speaks
with Rabbi David Wolpe, who resigned from an advisory group there over the issue.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Nearly two years ago, President Joe Biden and his NATO allies rose up to defend Ukraine and help stave off Russia's illegal invasion. Billions of
dollars, tons of armaments and ammunition was sent and the battle for democracy was well and truly joined. Biden and his allies promised that
they would support Ukraine for "as long as it takes."
Until now, that is, when the U.S. Congress decided to insert politics over the U.S. border into this existential fight against Putin's autocratic
Russia, holding up about $60 billion in new military aid as the White House warns that current funding could run out in just a few weeks. Here's House
Speaker Republican Mike Johnson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: This is an important battle for all the reasons we know. But I don't think it is a radical proposition
to say that if we're going to have a national security supplemental package, it ought to begin with our own national security first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But Biden has invited the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to Washington to make his case at a make-or-break moment. He
told Capitol Hill, if Ukraine loses, that means Putin wins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: All free nations need to be confident in themselves, in their strengths, in their leadership, so that
dictatorships' doubt themselves and their power to undermine freedom. When the free world hesitates, that's when dictatorships celebrate, and their
most dangerous ambitions ripen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: In Moscow, Putin is watching closely, while heavily bombarding the people of Ukraine. Retired General Ben Hodges led U.S. forces in
Europe, and he's been a strong supporter of Ukraine, and of what's at stake on the battlefield and off. And he joins me now from Frankfurt, Germany.
General Hodges, welcome back to the program. We've often spoken about what needs to happen, and you've often had an optimistic view of what Ukraine
can manage with full U.S. support. Are you concerned at the moment that this support is in question?
BEN HODGES, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, UNITED STATES ARMY EUROPE: Yes, I am Christiane. This war is at a tipping point. We, the West, have -- I'm very
proud of what the administration in the West have done and what we have provided Ukraine, but we have failed the critical test of deciding what is
the strategic outcome that we want. We have not said we want Ukraine to win.
And so, because of that, we've been hesitant and incremental in decision making and approving what would be sent to Ukraine. And so, we've stopped
short of providing them what they needed to actually win.
The Kremlin has adopted a long war strategy because they can see that they have no other hope except to wait for us to give up. That's why they feed
hundreds of thousands of soldiers into the meat grinder every day to convey the impression that they have endless resources because they can see that
we are beginning to get tired or lose interest.
And every time the Congress stumbles like they are right now or hesitates, that's oxygen for the Kremlin's desire for this long war strategy.
AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you because the congressional vote is incredibly important and Zelenskyy is there trying to make his case. You've
probably seen these kinds of things before or maybe not. Has this kind of funding for a key American international national security issue being held
up by a recalcitrant Congress? And in your mind, what should the administration do? Should it agree to a -- you know, to more whatever it
takes, compromise on the immigration and border security?
HODGES: Well, this is not the first time, of course, that funding has been held up for different reasons. That's not new. I think what's new is the --
for the first time in my life, that the Republican Party has turned its back on Ukraine and is enabling Russian aggression. This is the party of
Reagan. I never would have imagined that. This is a sea change in American foreign policy.
Now, the burden is also, though, on the administration. The president and his team have got to explain to the American people why this is in our
interest. Speaker Johnson is not correct when he says they need to focus on American security. This is about American security. This affects our
economy. It affects the possibility of us ending up in a NATO conflict. And of course, China is watching.
If the Chinese see that we lack will and industrial capacity, then I don't think they'll be too impressed with anything that we say about the Indo-
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you to lay it on the line for Americans and maybe even people in Congress? If the Ukrainians were not the foot soldiers in
their own war against this Russian invasion, if, you know, Russia had invaded a NATO country, would we not see American boots on the ground or
such thing? I mean, in other words, isn't Ukraine doing America and the West work for it in this case?
HODGES: Actually, Ukraine is doing exactly what NATO was created to do, was to stop Russia from invading or devouring Europe. Not one American soldier
has been lost in this conflict. So, for relative terms, a very small percentage of our defense budget, Ukraine has taken about 300,000 Russian
soldiers off the battlefield, has wrecked, plus the sanctions we're doing has wrecked Russia's defense industry. They're having to import really
poor-quality artillery ammunition from North Korea and drones from Iran.
So, Ukraine is doing something that helps us. It protects all of Europe. And they're not asking for American troops, they're just asking for the
tools to actually win.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you whether it sounds plausible to you, the U.S. has released some figures that around 87 percent of Russia's active-duty ground
forces are no longer there, the ones that existed before, you know, February 2022 and now. Does that ring reasonable to you?
HODGES: Absolutely. I mean, the Russians have had to -- from the original 140,000, 150,000 that they started with back in February last year for the
large-scale invasion, since then, they have gone through a couple of partial mobilizations.
They have emptied their jails. They have pulled all of their troops away from the border with Finland, Estonia, and Latvia, as well as some of the
troops that they have stationed in Georgia in order to feed the machine that they have in Ukraine. They have lost an enormous amount of casualties
on top of equipment, ships, aircraft. They have been attrited significantly, yes.
AMANPOUR: And on the other hand, Ukraine, we know because we're hearing it, we've heard their head of the military talk about a stalemate. We know that
the Russians are dug in heavily. We know that just this attrition is costing huge amounts of lives on the Ukrainian side, which they cannot
And today, we're hearing, an M.P. talking to CNN earlier, basically saying the following, Kyiv can be turned into the second Mariupol and totally
erased because we see hundreds of drones flying to Kyiv every day. But they're not using the missiles a lot yet. In other words, Russia's not yet
using its missiles. So, we're waiting for a massive attack of hundreds of drones and then hundreds of missiles. And if that -- and if there's nothing
to put them down with, that's it. We are done.
How grave do you think the situation for Ukraine is right now? Even Zelenskyy is saying, you know, if we lose Putin wins, we might have to, you
know, resort to guerrilla warfare.
HODGES: Well, this is a war for the survival of Ukraine. I mean, they are fighting literally for their national survival and Russia, clearly, has no
concerns about using drones, missiles, rockets and artillery against civilian targets.
So, what the member of parliament is talking about, of course, is this relentless, air war, if you will, going against civilian infrastructure as
they did last winter. So, that's going to continue.
And so, providing adequate air and missile defense for Ukraine is an important part of helping them get through this. But that's not going to
decide the outcome. What's going to decide the outcome of this war is the ability of Ukraine to continue actually fighting.
What they will be doing, I think, over the next few months, they will be reconstituting units that have been worn out. They'll be working to improve
the resilience and power of their -- power generation systems there in their cities. I think that they will be working on improving the efficiency
of their recruiting system there. They still have a lot of manpower available in Ukraine.
So, I think there's things that they will continue to do. And also, I think we'll see a lot more sabotage happening in Russian occupied parts of
Ukraine and even inside Russia. And more pressure on the Russian forces in Crimea.
So, the Ukrainians are not going to sit around and wait and hope that something good happens, they're going to keep moving with or without us.
AMANPOUR: Can I just switch over to the war raging in the Middle East right now? Brown University's Cost of War Project reminds us that over 432
civilians were killed as a result of direct fighting in America's post 9/11 wars. That's Afghanistan and Iraq. The Gaza death toll stands now at nearly
18,000, according to the Palestinian health authorities.
So, I want to ask you a question. How can the Israeli army -- how should it, the military, avoid civilian casualties? And given what happened to the
United States, partly because of all those civilian casualties and the backlash, what will happen, do you think, to Israel if civilian casualties
keep mounting like this?
HODGES: Christiane, if you'll allow me, the Hamas attack on Israel, by the way, is not a coincidence. Hamas did in one day what Putin could not do in
two days, which is pretty much make the world forget about -- Putin could not do it in two years, make the world forget about Ukraine.
I think that Iran, Russia's most important and closest ally, supporting Hamas, did this to support Russia. Russia's benefiting from this attack in
Israel more than anybody.
Now, to your point, the -- I have a problem with the mission statement that comes from Prime Minister Netanyahu. He told the Israeli Defense Force,
destroy Hamas. That was it. Destroy Hamas. There's no political dimension to the strategic end state he described for his military. And if there's no
strategic end state, then the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, obviously ends up using kinetic force only.
But if the strategic end state includes a political dimension, such as we have to live with our Palestinian neighbors at the end of this, that will
inform how Israeli Defense Forces go about their task of destroying Hamas.
Right now, I think, given the attitude of the Netanyahu government, on all aspects of this, I don't see it getting any better, unfortunately, and that
does not bode well for the ability of the United States to continue to support Israel.
AMANPOUR: So fascinating, as we continue to watch both these wars. General Ben Hodges, thank you very much indeed. And of course, it's 432,000
civilians who were killed in those U.S.
Now, to Russia, where is Alexei Navalny? It has been seven days since his team had any contact with him. He is, of course, the Russian opposition
leader who's been jailed for years.
This morning, he failed to show up for a court date. Adding to the concerns, Navalny has suffered serious health issues while in prison.
Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed questions about Navalny's whereabouts, saying, "The Kremlin has neither the intention nor the ability
to monitor the fate of prisoners."
Maria Pevchikh is Navalny's close aide and runs his anti-corruption foundation, and she's joining us now from headquarters in Vilnius,
Lithuania. Maria, welcome back to our program.
So, just can you give us an update? Is there any more news in the last few hours? Have you received any more information about the possibilities of
where Alexei Navalny might be?
MARIA PEVCHIKH, HEAD OF THE INVESTIGATION DEPARTMENT, ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION: I would love to give you an update, Christiane, but we don't
have anything new and that's exactly the problem. It's been a week since we haven't heard anything specific from Navalny and we are desperately looking
for an update, for some sort of information, for clues that would help us locate him. But sadly, for more than seven days now, we have absolutely no
idea where he is.
AMANPOUR: What do you think, when you think about it, with all the experience you've had, when you talk to all his lawyers and aides and the
people who are in fairly contact -- constant contact with him until now, what do you think is the reason? What do you think could have happened?
PEVCHIKH: I think it's reasonable to say that it must be connected to Putin's presidential campaign, to the campaign that has been announced last
week. Putin is going to run for the elections for the fifth time in March 2024. And it was officially announced last week. And around this time,
maybe a day or two before that, this is when we have lost touch with Navalny. And I would imagine these two events are interconnected.
We have also announced our own campaign, anti-Putin campaign, antiwar campaign. And I think the ultimate purpose of this extreme isolation that
we're dealing with now is to silence Navalny and cut him off from the outside world entirely.
So, it's very likely that this is the way that Putin is going to manage his presidential campaign, and he would love it to be as quiet and as smooth as
AMANPOUR: So, are you saying, because, as I said, Dmitry Peskov said they had neither the ability, the capacity nor the willingness to monitor
prisoner's whereabouts. But obviously, he's a major figure, and he's a major party prisoner. He's a major thorn in their own side. So, they got to
know where he is, and what his state is.
Do you think that this is going -- the isolation will continue until the election or thereafter?
PEVCHIKH: It's -- it is possible. And of course, every time Peskov opens his mouth, it's very likely to be a lie. So, we are sure that the Kremlin
knows exactly where Navalny is and we are also sure that the Kremlin, from day one of Navalny's imprisonment, that they are dealing with him on a day-
by-day basis at the highest available level at the president's administration.
We don't know exactly what his plans are, and this is also a terrifying thing. We know that the very same people who keep Navalny in custody right
now, before that, have authorized his murder. Before that, have attempted to poison him with a chemical weapon with Novichok.
So clearly, these people have zero boundaries. These people have no respect to human rights, and they are capable of absolutely anything, and I hope
that by talking about this, by bringing spotlight on Navalny, we will pressure the Russian government to release an information, some information
about his whereabouts, because it's -- it is unreasonable that such a high- profile prisoner, one of the most well-known political prisoners in the world right now has gone missing.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you just to go back to something we spoke about when -- you know, during the filming, the documentary that won the Oscar. Before
Navalny went back to Russia, I asked him about his decision to return. This is a little bit of what he told me, just a short excerpt from our
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: He's the reason why our -- the whole country is degradating. He's the reason why people are so poor. We
have 25 million people living below the poverty line. And the whole degradation of system, fortunately for me, including system of
assassination of people, he's the reason of that. And I want to go back and try to change it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: He being Putin, obviously. When we spoke, you said that you, you know, believe he made the right decision to go back. Do you still think he
made the right decision?
PEVCHIKH: I'm still convinced he did, and as difficult as it is to say it. Well, just look at what happened, even more people live below poverty line
now, even worse, things have happened, more murders, more political imprisonment, and Putin -- since that interview that we've just, has
started -- has launched a war, a full-scale war against Ukraine.
So, now, it really -- doesn't it make more sense now why Navalny went back? That's exactly why he did it, because it's -- somebody needs to stop this.
Somebody needs to be brave enough to say no and to fight this dictatorship. And Navalny being the leader like he is, he's leading by example.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And paying a very heavy price. Maria Pevchikh, thank you so much for joining us.
Now, in contemporary art, there is the world before Marina Abramovic and the world after. The Serbian artist is a celebrated pioneer of performance
art. Rather than working with canvas or clay, she uses her body as her medium, forcing audiences to interact with her in ways that range from
uncomfortable to downright dangerous.
The Royal Academy here in London has taken on the daunting task of presenting a definitive retrospective of Abramovic's work. And when we met
there recently, she showed me through some of the installations while also demonstrating why she is truly on an extraordinary journey. And at 77, she
remains an unstoppable leader in her field.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Marina Abramovic, welcome to the program. There is performance art and then there is you. Just to walk around this exhibition really makes
me wonder, are there any limits that you will not go to? Your body is your tool and it is extraordinary what you do to it.
MARINA ABRAMOVIC, ARTIST: But this question, I can answer with another question, who create limits? Who create limits? I think we do, you know,
and I think it's very important to -- when I get an idea, that I am not interested in the idea I like, I'm interested in the idea I hate, and I'm
incredibly scared of, because that means there is a problem that I have to solve. And then I like to do it.
So, the only thing that I'm doing, I'm using my own body in order to stage that kind of fears in the front of the public I'm going through, if I can
go through, you can do too.
AMANPOUR: So, the way you've performed going through is through a door, where originally you and your lover at the time stood in a doorway, naked.
And the challenge was for the visitors to walk through you. What fear were you addressing there? And what did you aim to accomplish?
ABRAMOVIC: No, first of all, you know, the main idea was there was a big performance festival in Italy at that time, very early in 1977. And we were
thinking, what are we going to do with this festival? But you know, the idea was, if there's no artists, there will not be museums. So, artists are
the door of the museum.
So, we want to be, in a very poetical way, the door of the museum. To do that, we have to rebuild the door smaller. So, it's really narrow,
actually, entrance. In those days, it was impossible. In MoMA, it was already not possible. In many other museums, you have to have a second
entrance that people have an alternative.
But it's 1977, we had the radical way of doing stuff, which now, because of political correctness and so on, we are not able to do anymore. So, the --
we have lots of restrictions of the -- of art today.
And then, the idea was, we go through. And the fear was, really, to be naked and to have hundreds and hundreds of people passing so close,
chatting your body, and have this intimacy. Not easy. Not even mention stepping on your feet. And --
AMANPOUR: And did that happen?
ABRAMOVIC: Oh, yes, many times.
AMANPOUR: And did people either intentionally or not touch you in areas that you didn't want?
ABRAMOVIC: In that particular work, there were people so intimidated, they would go very close, they would try to avoid eye contact, and they would
say, scusa me, in Italian, excuse me, which was beside the point, we create the situation.
There was one only man who had a small camera, and just passed very fast, and took photo of our genitals.
AMANPOUR: That is very weird. But here's the question, Marina, you say that in the intervening years, you've had to provide alternative spaces for
people who are uncomfortable of experience that close intimacy.
A, is that a censorship? And B -- self-censorship? And B, how do you react to society's how could she do that? This is just so naked. This is so, you
know, too revealing, et cetera?
ABRAMOVIC: If I will read the criticism from the '70s, I will never leave the house. I was completely crucified. My mother and father, first of all,
when I was doing stuff like a Bernie (ph) Star, communist star on the square in Belgrade, there was a question in the communist parties about the
education I had. Professors was thinking that I should be put in mental hospital. It was -- everybody was against it.
I had to believe so much in this kind of form of art, until now, that actually this form of art, really, I think that's the incredibly important
because it's immaterial, it's time-based, you have to be there to watch it and see it, and it's highly, highly emotional. And it's the only way I can
AMANPOUR: What are you saying here, Marina? This is quite --
ABRAMOVIC: I made the skeleton exactly my size. And by lying, I'm lying and the skeleton is breathing. I just want to know, you know, how that feels,
Sufis said, life is a dream, and death is waking up. I just want to know that moment, because the moment that I want to die is without fear, without
anger and consciously. Three things. And that's something that I -- and you need to train during the life, it doesn't come just like that.
AMANPOUR: Death is a huge part of your life and your work.
AMANPOUR: You're always thinking about death?
ABRAMOVIC: All the time. So, here, you --
AMANPOUR: So, what -- how do you stay happy and positive?
ABRAMOVIC: I'm hilarious in real life. I'm honestly ready to standup comedy. I have so much -- I need to laugh. Because work is so heavy.
AMANPOUR: And this here is dramatic. What caused you to -- this is your reflection on the Balkan Wars.
AMANPOUR: And I covered the Bosnia War.
ABRAMOVIC: Yes. You know, you can't clean the blood. And I'm cleaning blood, which is never can be, but they also create a metaphor that this can
be in any war anywhere. Here, when we open the show, Palestinians, Israelis, Ukrainians, Russians, they're all here in this room.
AMANPOUR: And the drama of the performance was you sitting on these bones, which are real cow bones, real meat, real blood?
ABRAMOVIC: Real blood. Six days I do this, six hours a day. Six hours, you know, counting.
AMANPOUR: How did that affect you spiritually?
ABRAMOVIC: It's -- you know, I really -- I'm very proud of this piece because I know this piece could be forever. Doesn't matter -- it was my war
that I was showing on Balkan, but after that, you can be used anywhere. And this is so important, that artists should not create something which is
temporary. You have to create something which is transitory, that have transition to any war, any time, any place.
AMANPOUR: So, we're sitting in this room, which is very important because it has your -- almost your signature piece, of the Chinese -- the Great
Wall in China. And it was designed for you and your lover, Ulay, to walk from each end. That's a total of 5,000 plus kilometers. You walked about
ABRAMOVIC: 2,500 each.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. It took you what? Three months or so to walk. What were you meant to do when you met? And what did you actually do?
ABRAMOVIC: So, this project started after we lived with Aboriginals of Central Australia, one year in the desert. And we realized that time, the
astronauts, when they land on the moon, said that only two visible buildings made by hand, human hand, is the pyramids and Great Wall of
China. And we had the idea at that time in the desert, let's walk Great Wall of China.
In eight years, we were writing to Chinese government letters. In eight years, we were getting very friendly answers, but we didn't move anywhere.
The idea was to walk this Chinese wall, and we meet in the middle, and we married. And eight years, Chinese don't answer.
So, we finally found the one man who was a specialist on China politics. And we show him all these letters. And he said, he started laughing. I
said, what is so funny about it? He said, you know, Chinese have 17 ways to say no. And in these eight years, they exercised all 17 ways. I mean, so,
we have to go through the government, the Dutch government and the Chinese government. And finally, after eight years, we got permission to walk the
great of China. But at that time, our relation was ending.
But as we never give up anything, we say, OK, now we're going to walk. Instead of marry, we're going to say goodbye. And one of our friends,
Americans say to us, why are you just didn't make phone call? He missed the whole point.
AMANPOUR: But I mean, seriously, it must have been very painful, no, when you finally met after all those years of work, after something that was
meant to be a celebration of your love and your unity, actually, it was the dissolution. Was it emotional? Did you cry?
ABRAMOVIC: It was incredibly emotional. First, emotional for a few reasons. Because before, if you, you know, lose love of your life, you still can go
back on your own work. But in this time, I was 40 exactly, and all our work for 12 years was signed with two names.
So, we -- both of us didn't have any more our own work. So, for me, it was just, you know, I lost the love, but I also lost the work. I was nowhere to
come back. And this was an incredibly depressing moment of my life.
AMANPOUR: And then, a few years later, you went back to an amazing performance that went viral around the world, "The Artist is Present." It
first showed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I think. And what happened? Because something like 1,500 people came and sat next to you and
tried to stare you out. But on one occasion, your former lover came.
ABRAMOVIC: Yes. But actually, I invite him as a -- you know, the guest of honor and that moment with absolutely no idea he is going to ever sit with
me. This was not even the question.
So, when he came and just appear in the front of me, you know, I never break the rules. I am -- like I'm a soldier. I am warrior. I do things
absolutely as I decide. This was the only time I broke the rule. Because in the front of me, it was a man I love so much, and it was in front of me,
somebody, it was not the public, it was life itself.
So, I put my hand on the table and touch him and just cry. It was one of these moments that it was so intense.
And it's so interesting how the young people in -- on -- become a kind of viral everywhere because people realize real emotions, because I have like
flashback of 12 years, all the goods, all the best relations easy, it was not easy, it was hell, it was wonderful, it was passionate, it was all at
AMANPOUR: And it was a rule that you broke because I was one of them who came and sat in front of you. And I know people try to make you laugh, try
to make you break your gaze, try to make you, you know, not be as disciplined as you were. And I was staggered by how passive and
unemotional, but your eyes, you know, talked. So, it was something for you to break that rule.
ABRAMOVIC: Yes, that was really high emotions. But also, I had very lots of emotion with the people sitting in front of me because I could see
solitude. I could see pain. I could see unhappiness. I could see, you know, the happiness. I could see so many different emotions.
But what's interesting about the sitting, just that moment, and why it's so simple, is when you're waiting first in the line for a long time, finally
you come and sit in the front of me, and you are watched by the people waiting, you're watched by cameras, you're watched by photographic -- you
know, photographer, and you're watched by me, basically, you're nowhere to escape except into yourself.
And when that happened, you kind of show me the true self, and I could see it, and you could see yourself. And then, all the people start crying. I
mean, we have so much people crying. It was really a very emotional moment. And, you know, Klaus Biesenbach, who's the curator of the show, he said to
me, when I gave him the idea, he said, this is ridiculous. Nobody going to sit on this chair because it's New York. Nobody have time. This chair will
be always empty. The chair was never empty.
AMANPOUR: And there were lines around the block.
ABRAMOVIC: And people sleeping outside, and last week. It was really something to remember.
AMANPOUR: So, if that was kind of gentle and communicative, one of your exhibitions, which is here now, is a table of 72 objects that you say, do
what you will with these objects, I am the tool, do whatever you want to me. Tell me how that played out, because it turned out pretty violent at
ABRAMOVIC: But you know, I was 23 years old. I was so angry. I was so angry on the public not understanding what performance art is. And whatever I was
doing, I was always judged. And they say, OK, what if I don't do absolutely nothing? I am the tool. I am there with you, and they are the objects. And
you do stuff. I'm not doing it.
And it was incredible to see that. Because I done this in Naples. And in Naples, when the objects did for pleasure, and for violence, including
bullets and pistols, it was incredible.
In the first -- it was six hours. The first one, two hours, nothing really happened. Then they cut my -- they give me rolls. Then they cut my shirt,
then they put the pins in the rolls into my body, then they cut and steal (ph) my scarf and they suck my blood on my neck. Then they, you know, carry
me around. There was so much -- the violence.
Very interesting thing happened. Women didn't do anything. Women told men what to do, and women took -- when I was crying, they would take
handkerchief and wash my face from the tears.
AMANPOUR: How do you interpret that?
ABRAMOVIC: I don't. I have no question.
AMANPOUR: I'm shocked.
ABRAMOVIC: This was happening. And then, the moment, after six hours, the gallery said to me, I am -- you know, it's finished because I was like
absolutely statue, you put the head like this, stay like this, whatever you do, I'm in this position after the six hours he say it's over. I was full
of blood, water, half naked. I was walking towards the public as me. They run away, all of them.
And then I came to the hotel and I look myself in the mirror and I have just piece of white hair, straight.
ABRAMOVIC: Just white, one night.
AMANPOUR: Your head turned white in one night?
AMANPOUR: One streak?
ABRAMOVIC: Yes. After this piece. This was a piece that I realized that I really could be killed.
AMANPOUR: And somebody did point a loaded gun at you.
ABRAMOVIC: Yes. And then, another person came and took the gun, threw it out of the window. It was so much violence.
AMANPOUR: But at what point do the guards have a responsibility? Marina, you could have been killed.
ABRAMOVIC: I know.
AMANPOUR: Somebody could have not just nicked your neck, they could have got your jugular.
ABRAMOVIC: But now, we're talking about performance. When you go into state of performance, you're not you. You're -- you know, you're not little
Marina who can start thinking what all hell can happen. You're super Marina. You're the higher form of yourself. And then, everything's
AMANPOUR: It's almost sort of an out of body experience. Another performance that you did with Ulay was so dramatic as well. And you
explained to me what it's called. But essentially, you're both standing, leaning, he's got the arrow, you've got the bow, and one false move could
have killed you. What was that about?
ABRAMOVIC: This was all about trust. We were born the same day, Ulay and me, which is 13 November. We are both Sagittarius, which is Sagittarius.
That bow and arrow is a symbol of Sagittarius. And we decide to do this thing.
And at one point in one interview, when we split a long time ago, they asked Ulay, but why arrow is facing her and not you? And you know what he
said? He said, but this is my heart, too.
AMANPOUR: Had he just flinched a little bit and lost his grip, the arrow would have gone into your heart.
ABRAMOVIC: It's true.
AMANPOUR: Or somewhere.
ABRAMOVIC: But normally, our performances are mostly very long. This was the shortest performance in my life. It's four minutes and twenty seconds.
It was a lifetime. Lifetime.
AMANPOUR: Were you scared?
ABRAMOVIC: Not when I'm doing it. I -- everything -- my fear is always before, before I get into the front of the public, after, no.
AMANPOUR: So, is this about you and your fears and your extremes of boundaries, or is it about what you're trying to communicate with other
people? What is your absolute motivation beyond taking things that scare you so much and trying to conquer it?
ABRAMOVIC: To me, the most important is really to be an example that you can overcome the fear of pain, the fear of dying, the fear of suffering
that you -- especially emotional suffering that you can actually overcome. And I'm showing them in my own example.
And then, also not to be afraid of failure. You could fail. Everything can go wrong, but failures are so important because failures is a main learning
material. You fail, you stand up and do it again. And that's something that I need to show to the audience. It's all about how to learn to lift spirit
It's so easy to put spirit down. It's so difficult to put it up. You know, to -- you know, I was very, very -- actually, it's a completely different
subject, but in the -- during the Second World War, when everybody was painting atrocities and difficulties of the war and reflecting the
situation, you know, Matisse, he was the only one who paint flowers, entire four years of the war, and I start understanding only now with my 78 years
old why is that, because you need to live the spirit of humanity. You don't need to reflect what is already in front of you.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's a really good place to end, because right now, there's a lot of war, a lot of discord, a lot of inability to communicate.
It's really important to hear you say that. Thank you, Marina Abramovic.
ABRAMOVIC: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The spirit of humanity, indeed.
And now, news today from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard's highest governing body announced that Claudine Gay will remain as president. This
after an uproar about the handling of antisemitism on campus and controversial testimony on the matter in front of Congress.
Rabbi David Wolpe was on Harvard's antisemitism advisory group, but resigned over what he says was the university's failure to take its advice.
Here is Rabbi Wolpe talking to Hari Sreenivasan about that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Rabbi David Wolpe, thanks so much for joining us.
Before we get to the congressional testimony, I want to back up a second here. And what was the purpose of the committee that Harvard formed that
you were a member of?
RABBI DAVID WOLPE, VISITING SCHOLAR, HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL: After October 7th, the president realized once letters had come out and protests had been
exploding all over campus that we had, in her own words, a problem with antisemitism at Harvard. And so, she called me and a couple of other people
and said, would you be willing to be on a committee to help us address this?
And of course, I said yes, and so, did a number of other faculty and alumni. And we were supposed to advise the president on how to tackle this
SREENIVASAN: Got it. So, what has been the work of the committee so far? Have you met? Have you made progress toward things?
WOLPE: Well, we met many times. We met twice a week. Our -- in advance. It was said that our deliberations were going to be confidential, but I would
say -- I can certainly say that we tendered a lot of advice.
SREENIVASAN: OK. And did you feel that the committee was making progress towards the goals?
WOLPE: If I had felt that we were making progress towards the goals, I think I would have stayed on the committee, but it seems to me that the
situation was getting progressively worse and many of the things that I individually certainly felt needed to happen almost immediately didn't
SREENIVASAN: OK. So, now, let's kind of, get our audience up to speed of what happened this past week, and the presidents of Harvard, MIT, Penn all
testified in front of Congress and they were asked by Representative Elise Stefanik, if calling for the genocide of Jews violated the school's code of
Now, each of the three gave very carefully worded answers. What was your concern about that?
WOLPE: My concern was actually even less the content of the answer than the tone of the answer. That is, I was hoping for some indignation for some,
I'm president of a university and I can't stand that there's antisemitism at my university and I'm going to do everything I possibly can to address
it because this is unacceptable and wrong. And instead, you got a sort of, you know, a parade of legalese and equivocation and qualification and I
won't (ph) envision.
SREENIVASAN: Look, I know you're a rabbi and you deal with the matters of the soul a lot more than everyone else, but do you think this is the core
of these three presidents or, you know, look, were they. prepped by their lawyers to mind their Ps and Qs and not say something that might be used
against them later, and ironically, which is what happened?
WOLPE: So, first of all, I mean, my interactions with Claudine Gay, I like her and think she's very thoughtful and good and kind. I mean, I've always
had very good interactions with her. One of the things that you learn as a rabbi is it's very easy to leap to conclusions about people's souls. And if
you don't believe me, just, you know, look on social media, people are doing it all the time, saying, this person is like this and that person is
I think certainly the legal advice played a role, but I also think that self-conception might have something to do with it. If you think of
yourself, as I am leading this great institution, and it doesn't matter what other people are going to say about it, I have to take this stand
because I am the leader of this great institution, maybe that puts a little rocket fuel under your rhetoric, and we didn't see that.
SREENIVASAN: This weekend, the University of Pennsylvania president, Liz Magill resigned. She said in a video that she posted. I want to quote here,
"In that moment, I was focused on our university's long-standing policies aligned with the U.S. Constitution which say that speech alone is not
punishable." She went on to say, "I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a
call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetuate."
What did you make of that?
WOLPE: I think that that's exactly right. I think that it is when you create a climate of anger and intimidation on a college campus, you can't
do what campuses are intended to do, which is to learn and to teach. And that should have been the focus.
And I think what you hear in her words is that she was worried that there would be some stepping over some kind of imagined legal boundary, and in
fact, what she should have been worried about is the stepping over of the moral boundary.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. Claudine Gay also made a statement, she also apologized, in her words, "Let me be clear, calls for violence or genocide against the
Jewish community or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held
Let's talk a little bit about your resignation. So, these events, as we've sort of said them, there's been a committee for antisemitism, you were
invited on board. This testimony happens in front of Congress and then you resign. How come?
WOLPE: Because the testimony reinforced the sense that I already had, that, in fact, our council was not being helpful, was not advancing the cause
that I wanted to advance. And so, it seemed to me actually easier in some ways to be a spokesperson outside of there.
Students were coming to me and saying -- not only students, but also members of the Jewish community, why are you on this panel? It gives it
legitimacy when nothing is happening. And I heard that and I thought that that there was a lot of -- it's a lot of force to that critique.
And at a certain point, I thought, I can't associate myself with a panel that gives me a lot of accountability and no authority.
SREENIVASAN: So, you felt that being on the committee was like you could not activate the change that you wanted to see being part of the structure,
because there's going to be a lot of people saying, hey, look, you kind of gave up the keys to be able to affect change from the inside?
WOLPE: I really think that my experience since leaving is that my voice is amplified. It isn't reduced, and I am still in touch with the members of
the committee and with the administration, and as I said with faculty, students, alumni, donors.
I really believe that this is a critical institution in American life and in world life. And anything that we can do to try to save our key campuses
and make them homes of ideological diversity and real discussion and deep learning is a noble and even a sacred effort.
SREENIVASAN: And I want to go through parts of your resignation statement here, too. You said, "Part of the problem is a simple herd mentality,
people screaming slogans whose meaning and implication they know nothing of, or not wishing to be disliked by taking an unpopular position. Some of
it is the desire to achieve social status by being the sole or greatest victim. Some of it is simple, old fashioned Jew hatred, and that ugly arrow
in the quiver of dark hearts for millennia."
Now, to most people, it's that last line that constitutes antisemitism, right? But for you, other reasons, kind of explain those. Are they just as
bad? How did we get here?
WOLPE: They're not just as bad, but their effects can be just as toxic. So, if you have people screaming from the river to the sea, and even though
they don't know what river and what sea, which we've found again and again when you ask them, they say, wait, the Nile? I don't know.
But nonetheless, the effect on the Jewish students is the same because of those 200 students masked on the steps of Widener Library screaming from
the river to the sea, you don't know who's expressing genuine hate and who just said -- who came along because their roommate said, come, it'll be
fun. So, the motivation may be less poisonous, but the effect can be the same.
SREENIVASAN: Another part of your statement you said, "Ideology that grips far too many of the students and faculty, the ideology that works only
along axes of oppression and places Jews as oppressors and therefore intrinsically evil, is itself evil. Ignoring Jewish suffering is evil.
Belittling or denying the Jewish experience, including unspeakable atrocities, is a vast and continuing catastrophe. Denying Israel the self-
determination as a Jewish nation, accorded unthinkingly to others is endemic and evil."
Now, I understand a little bit of the historical context and the concerns that Jewish people have. But, you know, is there a place for a legitimate
criticism of the actions of a country, Israel, without a negation of Israel's right to exist or the Jewish people's right to exist?
WOLPE: Absolutely. I criticize Israel. I don't know anyone who doesn't criticize Israel, but even those -- among those who love Israel, Israelis
are brutal in their criticism of Israel. We saw hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the streets protesting before October 7th, criticizing Israel.
But here's what I haven't heard. I hear people criticizing Russia, I hear no one say Russia shouldn't exist. I hear people criticize Germany after
the Second World War when the worst country in the history of humanity, nobody said there shouldn't be a Germany anymore. That is reserved solely
for the one Jewish state in the world.
There are 50 Muslim states. I've never heard someone say one of those Muslim states shouldn't exist. Only the Jewish state shouldn't exist. And
that you have to ask yourself, why is it that that is the only state that receives that imprecation over and over and over again? And if it isn't
antisemitism, then it confounds me what it could possibly be.
SREENIVASAN: Well, what is it about our climate today that has created this kind of campus culture, I guess, where, you know, I spoke to a student that
was -- is attending Columbia and, you know, she said she's never felt so constrained about her view in her entire academic life? If she says, for
example, she is for a ceasefire, something that used to be an innocuous phrase, now, she gets called out for saying she's supporting Hamas. And
she's like, no, I just want people to stop fighting. Is that so crazy?
But I don't feel like I can even say something like that because of such a charged environment right now where everything I say can and will be used
WOLPE: I think at this moment, tensions are so high that it is really difficult for people to have genuine dialogue about that. I spoke yesterday
at a synagogue and someone stood up and made a long and eloquent plea about why he thought a ceasefire was justified. And I said to him, I appreciate
your point of view and I think it comes from a humanistic place. I really do. And I want to tell you why it is that I disagree with you.
And that kind of exchange is the way adults speak to each other. And we're trying to train our students to do the same, but it's not always easy when,
you know, people line up into teams. Look, this is not -- by the way, this is not unique to college campuses.
When I was a kid if you asked people, would you marry someone of another race, most people said no. And if you ask, would you marry someone of
another political party? Most people say yes. Now, it's exactly reversed. If you ask, would you marry someone of another race? Most people would say
yes. Of another political party, most people would say no.
Which tells you two things. One is that progress can be made in our world, which is an optimistic thing. And the second is that the polarization is
very bad right now. And that's something that we really, really have to work on, how to have dialogue across views.
SREENIVASAN: So, one of the concerns that came out from that testimony that was delivered by the college presidents was, are we essentially asking
colleges in some way to codify boundaries on speech?
WOLPE: I would say that, again, it's not about the speech in particular, it's about creating a climate of intimidation and fear, which some of the
speech is designed to do. It's about bullying and harassment, not about expression of opinion.
And when you scream at students who are walking their way into the library baby killer, that's not a function of opinion expression, it's a function
of seeking to intimidate and harass with speech. And those are the kinds of boundaries that I think we're used to actually in normal everyday discourse
and universities do have to grapple with that.
SREENIVASAN: So, we have some apologies from these campus presidents. But what can and what should campuses be working on to create an environment
where you can have that intellectual debate without taking specific communities and, you know, attacking them?
WOLPE: So, I'll suggest a couple of things. One is the enforcement of current policies, which I think have been under enforced because people are
afraid of blowback. The second is to educate people about the history of -- just as Harvard did with its long racism project to do that with the
antisemitism, because the hatred of the Jews stands in the center of western civilization. It's not peripheral to it, and we need to deal with
that and with the place of Jews in the creation of our civilization.
And I would say third, we need serious, sustained, and immediate training in what we've been talking about, which is how to disagree with someone
else without screaming, threatening, shouting, in other words, civil discourse.
SREENIVASAN: You know, one of the things that you call for at the end of your resignation statement, we are now in the period where Jews around the
world are celebrating Hanukkah, and you encourage people to make a choice to bring light into the world.
So, this is a time when it seems like we could use a lot of light, not just on college campuses, but given what else is happening on the planet today.
How do we do that? What's an easy prescription for someone watching this program wherever they are in the world to try to bring light into the
WOLPE: I think you bring light, first of all, by listening, genuinely listening to the other. By responding with decency, with kindness, with
respect, with goodness, and also, as has been true for millions of years, you bring light with love. And I think that bringing love to the world and
light to the world is the task of every faith, and I wish that it were more manifest on our campuses and in our country.
And as this new year is about to begin and we're celebrating Hanukkah, I'm hopeful that maybe the future will be a little brighter than this past.
SREENIVASAN: Rabbi David Wolpe, thanks so much for joining us.
WOLPE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Every night here we commit to fostering dialogue.
And finally, you know that it's holiday season when American singer songwriter Alicia Keys makes a surprise appearance at one of Europe's
busiest train stations. She serenaded fans on a public piano donated by Elton John to London's St. Pancras Station, home of the Eurostar. Here's a
bit of that impromptu concert.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALICIA KEYS, SINGER: No one, no one, no one, can get in the way of what I'm feeling. No one, no one, no one, can get in the way of what I'm feeling to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That's it for now. Goodbye from London.