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Interview with International Rescue Committee President and CEO David Miliband; Interview with "The Persian Version" Filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz; Interview with "The Persian Version" Actor Bijan Daneshmand; Interview with Israeli Knesset Member Ofer Cassif. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 20, 2024 - 13:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: A hundred percent of the population in Gaza is at severe levels of acute food insecurity.


AMANPOUR: The International Rescue Committee calls famine in Gaza a profound failure of humanity, blaming it on Israel's blockade and

bombardment. I speak with IRC President David Miliband.

Meanwhile, Israeli settlers set their sights on Gaza, correspondent Clarissa Ward reports.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A call to return to the settlements of Gaza.


AMANPOUR: And the outspoken Israeli lawmaker with a different view.


OFER CASSIF, ISRAELI KNESSET MEMBER: And the vast majority don't want to know about it. It's because it's very hard to see a villain when you look

at the mirror.


AMANPOUR: Michel Martin speaks with Knesset Member Ofer Cassif. Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're pregnant for a gay guy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You knocked up my gay sister.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still gay. I just happened to get pregnant.


AMANPOUR: -- the award-winning comedy that's funny because it's true. We look at the "Persian Version," the sweet and salty breakout hit of the

Sundance Film Festival.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Israeli military action continues to devastate the civilian population in Gaza. A three-day siege at Al-Shifa Hospital is ongoing, though thousands

are sheltering there. The IDF claims the site is being used by Sidja (ph) Hamas terrorists and says it's killed 90 of them.

The bombardment is pushing Gaza towards a devastating humanitarian crisis. A U.N.-backed organization reports that half of Gaza, which is more than a

million people, are on the brink of catastrophic hunger. The British Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, says the status quo is unsustainable. And

earlier this week, the U.S. National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, had even harsher words.


JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Instead of pause to reevaluate where things stand in the campaign and what adjustments are

needed to achieve long-term success, instead of a focus on stabilizing the areas of Gaza that Israel is cleared so that Hamas would not regenerate and

retake territory that Israel has already cleared, the Israeli government is now talking about launching a major military operation in Gaza.

More than a million people have taken refuge in Rafah. They went from Gaza City to Khan Younis, and then to Rafah. They have nowhere else to go.


AMANPOUR: So, the clear frustration of the Biden administration and the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to talk behind closed doors

with Republicans in Congress.

Now, the International Rescue Committee calls the imminent famine in Gaza "a profound failure of humanity and entirely preventable." David Miliband

is president and CEO of the IRC. He's a former British Foreign Secretary. And he himself is a child of Holocaust refugees.

David Miliband, welcome back to our program.


AMANPOUR: So, the WHO, you all, everybody is really trying to sound the alarm of what is, we can see by the pictures, this impending famine. Who do

you blame for this?

MILIBAND: Well, first of all, let's just be absolutely clear that the threat of imminent famine described by the United Nations, is not someone,

an official in New York, writing a press release.

The international phase classification system is a detailed, technocratic, quite small-C conservative look at the facts on the ground. They describe,

as Secretary Blinken said, a million people at level five, that is famine level. The rest of the population, level four is considered an emergency,

level three, a crisis.

So, 2.2 million people don't know where their next meal is coming from. And the million who are at risk of famine, imminent risk of famine, in level

five represent the fastest degradation, the fastest acceleration of a hunger crisis that's ever been seen.

Now, how do you explain that to get you to your question? This is about very straightforward decisions that are being made on the ground about the

number of crossing points, about the number trucks that allow to go through crossing points. About what aid, above all food aid, is allowed to go on

the trucks to go across the crossing points. About the transit of trucks once they are inside Gaza, because you'll know a World Food Programme

convoy was turned back in the middle of the night inside Gaza last week.


So, you've got a series of impediments, blockages, restrictions being put in place on lorries carrying the most basic humanitarian aid. And it's not

getting through to the people who need it. That's why you're ending up in the situation where. What a frankly fourth and fifth best alternatives,

dropping aid from the sky, building a pier that's going to be online in another six weeks, that won't help the people at imminent risk of famine

now. What they need is different decisions about crossing points, about truck numbers, about what goes in the trucks.

AMANPOUR: So, those decisions are in the hands of the Israeli government and the IDF. The U.N. says it has enough food sitting in those trucks that

you're talking about to feed the 2 million people plus inside Gaza. What possible reason could a democracy at war have for denying the basic

elements of survival?

MILIBAND: Well, no good reason has been given. There's one part of the argument which I think is important to get clear, which is that some of the

trucks are being turned back because of allegations that some of the items on a truck might be "dual use." In other words, they might have civilian

use as well as military use.

Let's be clear what kind of items we're talking about. A pair of scissors for use in a health center. My own organization has doctors, orthopedic

surgeons working in one of the hospitals, not the Al-Shifa Hospital, another hospital in Gaza, but they lack the most basic, the saline drips,

the saline at all, the most basic implements with which to do their work. And when a pair of scissors gets found on a truck, the whole truck gets

turned back.

So, we're talking about a really serious set of very localized decisions, but also bigger decisions about the number of crossing points and how

they're used.

AMANPOUR: I want a place -- just so that our viewers and you also really hear from at least one person there of the desperate hunger that they face.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): What has this child done to suffer from hunger? I cannot find him milk for five shekels or a packet of

milk from the agency. There, the normal milk is for 150. There is no work. There is no food. No drinks. We are eating plants. We started eating pigeon

food, donkey food. We are like the animals.


AMANPOUR: I saw you shaking your head. I mean, this reference to them eating animal food is shocking still every time we hear it.

MILIBAND: Yes. And remember, the international phase classification report that came out the day before yesterday, 25 children have died of starvation

already. This is not about rhetoric. This is not actually about politics. This is about human survival. And that's why it's a failure of humanity.

AMANPOUR: You cannot get away from the idea, as many people are saying, including the top representative for foreign affairs of the E.U., Josep

Borrell, that it is deliberate. Here's what he said.


JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: This famine is not a natural disaster. It's not a flood. It's not an earthquake. It's entirely man-made.

Hundreds of trucks are waiting to enter. And it's absolutely imperative to make crossing points work effectively and open additional crossing points.

And it's just a matter of political will. Israel has to do it. Starvation is used as a weapon of war. Yes, starvation is used as a weapon of war.


AMANPOUR: I mean, that's dramatic. You know, I just keep thinking Somalia, Ethiopia, all these famines that we've covered, all these food deliveries,

all these urgent interventions by the U.S. and others to save civilians. Why is this one different?


AMANPOUR: Why is this one allowed to happen?

MILIBAND: Well, we've got a lot of experience of the way in which conflict and the climate crisis are creating, those are man-made, but they're long-

term factors that are driving enormous humanitarian need around the world.

We published our emergency watch list, which actually had Sudan as the number one humanitarian crisis. 25 million people in humanitarian need. I

visited some of them in South Sudan recently. But this is different because of the speed of the onset of this famine, because of the virulence of the

attacks. And I say that plural, because remember, there are 100 hostages --


MILIBAND: More than 100 hostages.


MILIBAND: As well as more than 2 million Palestinian civilians in Gaza at the moment. This is -- the depth --

AMANPOUR: So, even more --

MILIBAND: -- of this urgency. But also, we know the depth of this political crisis. Because every humanitarian emergency is also a political




MILIBAND: This is a political emergency of really global significance. And it's one where our role as humanitarians is to be the expert witness of

what's actually happening on the ground. Because the testimony that you've managed to play of the Palestinian woman from Gaza mirrors what our staff

are seeing on the ground in Gaza, both our own medical staff who are working with medical aid for the Palestinians, who are our partner for our

orthopedic surgeons group, our emergency medical teams, but also local NGOs.

And these are people, it's their community, they're seeing life being lost, livelihood being lost, in front of their eyes in the most dramatic fashion.

And they're appealing, as I'm appealing, for action to be taken.

AMANPOUR: What action, though? Because we keep hearing that. All the people of goodwill around the world are saying action needs to be taken, a

ceasefire needs to happen for humanitarian aid, for the release of these hostages.

Clearly, the Israeli people, that's their number one priority, the release of their hostages. It requires a ceasefire. It's not happening. Al-Shifa

Hospital is again being raided. It's in process right now. So, then again, the question, as Jake Sullivan put it, and you're a former foreign

minister. So, it's a real-life test case here. It means that they are clearing and maybe not holding if Al-Shifa is again being raided. So, this

could be endless.

MILIBAND: Well, that's the fear. Endless but imminent in its threat. I just want to make two points. One, we're absolutely clear, the

International Rescue Committee, as a humanitarian organization, that the dual humanitarian imperative, a legal and moral humanitarian imperative, of

protecting civilians from fighting and of delivering aid to civilians, they can only be met by an immediately enduring ceasefire.

However, secondly, we cannot be in a position where the complicated search for a ceasefire precludes other action in the interim. And that's why I

went through the detail for you of the truckloads, of the limitations, of the turning back, of the dual use, of the passage of trucks inside Gaza.

But it's not just how many go across the border, it's their ability to get to people and then people to get to the food that's needed.

Remember, this is a legal as well as a moral imperative and a legal right that these people have, not just to life and limb to survival, but to aid


And here's the most shocking thing. The fighting has already claimed at least 30,000 lives, the majority of them women and kids.

AMANPOUR: They're now saying 31,000.

MILIBAND: 31,000 lives. The peril that Gazans face is that if the fighting doesn't get them, the famine or the public health emergency, which is

lurking underneath, this public health emergency of not having clean water, that is going to stalk them too. And that's why the urgency for the U.N.

Security Council is not just to be -- to work on the ceasefire, it's got to work on these very practical, very localized decisions.

Because here's the thing, the amount of aid that went in in February, according to David Cameron reporting to the House of Commons, was half that

that went in in January. We're going in the wrong direction. We've got to turn around and go in the right direction.

AMANPOUR: So, you clearly paint a picture, and so do all the humanitarians, of how aid can be delivered and most importantly distribute

it, because it needs to be distributed properly. We saw when the Israelis try to do it themselves, it was a complete disaster. There was shooting.

There were 118 people dead. There was a stampede. All of this. So, it was a disaster.

What does this ongoing humanitarian -- this potential imminent famine do for Israel, not just its standing and its morality, but it's eventual


MILIBAND: Well, obviously the great fear is that the longer the fighting goes on, the longer the desperate struggle for survival of the civilians,

the longer of the Palestinians of ins, the longer the hostages are held, for every day more of humanitarian crisis you put off by three days, the

eventual sustainable resolution of this core crisis. And that leaves the whole of the region less safe rather than more safe. That is the

fundamental fear.

We have operations in Lebanon. We have operations in Syria. We have operations in Iraq. We have operations in Jordan, humanitarian operations.

And I was in Jordan recently, and obviously the whole region is roiled by this. And so, the humanitarian imperative is not just a moral one. We know

from our experience around the world Untended humanitarian crisis leads to further political instability. That's the message too.

AMANPOUR: David Miliband, president of IRC, thank you very much indeed.

MILIBAND: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: Now, throughout this war, many extreme Israelis, including members of Netanyahu's coalition, are setting their sights on resettling

Gaza, which is why these comments by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in- law, are sparking controversy.


JARED KUSHNER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO THEN-PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In Gaza's waterfront property, it could be very valuable to -- if people would

focus on kind of building up, you know, livelihoods, you think about all the money that's gone into this tunnel network and into all the munitions,

if that would have gone into education or innovation, what could have been done.

And so, I think that it's a little bit of an unfortunate situation there, but I think from Israel's perspective, I would do my best to move the

people out and then clean it up.


AMANPOUR: Move the people out, clean it up. The occupied West Bank gets much less attention, but Israeli settlements there continue to expand

against international law. Correspondent Clarissa Ward reports from that troubled West Bank.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High in the hills of the occupied West Bank, a flag flies in the face of a

Palestinian village. God is king, it says.

Two young settlers guard this illegal outpost. Construction hasn't even begun, but we are not welcome.

WARD: So, they are asking us to leave. They don't want to talk to us. They said they've been here for about nine months.

WARD (voice-over): Dotted across the landscape, more signs of the fight to assert Israeli control over Palestinian land. The Arabic names on signposts

crudely erased.

Under international law, the Beit Hogla settlement is illegal, but last February, the Israeli government officially recognized it along with eight

others, a move the U.S. strongly opposed.

We're here because God promised us this land, Azriel Picard (ph) tells us.

Now, these settlers have set their sights on a new prize, one that seemed utterly impossible before October 7th.

Returning to Gaza, they cheer. That is the goal of Zionist settler organization Nachala, one of more than a dozen groups now advocating for

the re-establishment of Israeli settlements in Gaza. A recent promotional video even boasts that Gaza will become the next Riviera.

Daniella Weiss is the godmother of the movement. She's already started recruiting from the 700,000 strong settler community of Israel.

WARD: We're just arriving now at a settlement in the occupied West Bank, and we're heading to a talk that Daniella Weiss is giving to people who are

potentially interested in resettling Gaza.

We are for the land of Israel and Ben-Gvir, she says.

About 20 people gather in a living room of a family home. Weiss knows that for many in this community there is deep nostalgia for Gush Katif, a block

of 21 Israeli settlements that were forcibly evacuated by the IDF in 2005 when Israel left the Gaza Strip.

This is the vision of Gaza, she says. You see all the nucleus groups.

A map has already been drawn up, with six groups laying claim to different parts of the enclave.

WARD: So, they've just been handing out these little booklets that say people of Israel return home, and then underneath a call to return to the

settlements of Gaza.

WARD (voice-over): One of the organizers tells the group they have a representative flying to Florida to raise money. Nachala gets support from

a number of groups in the U.S., including AFSI, Americans for a Safe Israel, which co-sponsored a recent webinar on the return of Gush Katif,

even as the Biden administration has cracked down on settlements in the West Bank.

DANIELLA WEISS, DIRECTOR, NACHALA: There is a very strong support from very prominent, from very, I would say, wealthy people, wealthy Jews and


WARD: In the U.S.?

WEISS: In the U.S.

WARD: Can you name any names?

WEISS: No, I cannot. No.

WARD (voice-over): Back at her home in Kdumim settlement, Weiss tells us she's already enrolled 500 families.

WEISS: I even have on my cell phone names of people who say, enlist me, enroll me. I want to join. I want to join the groups that are going to

settle Gaza.

WARD: I have to ask you though, because we're sitting here talking and we are listening to the calls of prayer.

WEISS: Yes, I'm listening. I hope you are listening to it.

WARD: Which is a reminder, I think, of the people who live here, but also the people that live in Gaza. What happens to them in this vision of this

new settlement with Jewish settlers even in Gaza City?


WEISS: What I think about Gaza, the Arabs of Gaza lost the right to be in Gaza on the 7th of October. Yes, I do hear the mosque, I do hear that the

prayer, things were different until the 7th of October.

No Arab -- I'm speaking about more than 2 million Arabs, they will not stay there. We, Jews, will be in Gaza.

WARD: That sounds like ethnic cleansing.

WEISS: OK. The Arabs want to annihilate the State of Israel. So, you can call them monsters. You can call them cleansing of Jews. We are not doing

to them. They are doing to us. I couldn't make it clearer when I said to myself, as a person, who is preoccupied with settling the land, until the

7th of October I didn't have plans of returning to Gaza. It's clear, I'm not interested in cleansing.

WARD (voice-over): What is clear is that Weiss' views, traditionally seen as extreme in Israel, have become more popular since October 7th.

In late January, Jubilant crowds packed an auditorium in Jerusalem for the Victory of Israel conference calling for the resettlement of Gaza.

A poll that month from the Jewish People Policy Institute found that 26 percent of Israelis advocate the reconstruction of the Gush Katif

settlements after the war is over. Among supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition government, that number jumps to

51 percent.

Several ministers were present at the conference, including far-right heritage minister, Amihai Eliyahu.

In a rare interview with western media, he tells us his political decisions are guided by the Torah.

WARD: Is there anything about Gush Katif in here?


WARD (voice-over): And that settlements in Gaza are needed to prevent another October 7th.

ELIYAHU (through translator): The language of the land says that wherever there is a Jewish settlement, there will be more security. It doesn't mean

there will be absolute security, but there will be more security.

WARD: Why would you advocate for something that many would say is illegal, is immoral, is not supported by the majority of Israelis, and is also very

harmful to Israel in terms of its international standing?

ELIYAHU (through translator): Why do you think it's immoral to take the land from someone who wants to kill me? Why is it immoral to take my land,

which my ancestors live there, which I've even given up to someone who slaughters, rapes, and murders me? What is more immoral than that?

WARD (voice-over): Netanyahu has called resettling Gaza "an unrealistic goal." And most Israelis agree. But that hasn't stopped scores of IDF

soldiers fighting there from posting videos, calling for a return to Gush Katif.

For many supporters of the settler movement what was once a distant fantasy is now a fervent dream.


AMANPOUR: And the U.S. administration also has strongly rejected this vocal, but still minority view. Now, Clarissa Ward there.

In a moment, Michel Martin hears a very different equally outspoken view from the Israeli Knesset Member Ofer Cassif. He's an opponent of the

settler movement and also of the Netanyahu government.

But first, we are going to change track to the "Persian Version." An Iranian-American family comedy that was a breakout hit at last year's

Sundance Festival has been out in the United States and is now opening in Europe. The semi-autobiographical film from director Maryam Keshavarz

brings serious energy to her own migrant experience. Here's a clip from the trailer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my family in a nutshell. The disco king, the troublemaker, JFK Jr. minus the plane crash, the brainiac, the goth, the

hippie, the greaser, and the metrosexual, and me.

Oh, my God. I love Jack Queen's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no. I'm not an actor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're so beautiful in (INAUDIBLE).


AMANPOUR: Now, in the movie the family all gather as their father played by Bijan Daneshmand undergoes a heart transplant. "Persian Version" opens

in theaters, as I said, across Europe this Friday and on Netflix in the U.S. Bijan Daneshmand and Maryam Keshavarz join me now. Welcome both of you

to the program.

So, Maryam, this is essentially a semi-autobiographical story. You obviously wrote it, directed it. What about your life is represented there?

MARYAM KESHAVARZ, FILMMAKER, "THE PERSIAN VERSION": Oh, my god. I think too much probably. Honestly, I just wanted to do something. I grew up in

New York City. I was born in New York My family came from Iran in the '60s. And I just grew up never seeing any images of people like our family.


And I -- you know, when Trump took office, I wanted to show the reality of our community and the levity. And someone said, why don't you dig into your

own family? I said, oh, Lordy, there's so much to dig into. I grew up with seven brothers in one bathroom in New York City. So, there's plenty of


AMANPOUR: In reality.

KESHAVARZ: In reality. In the movie, too. In the movie, it's eight. In reality, it's seven. And, you know, I just dug deep to kind of look at

family secrets as a way to analyze the immigrant experience. So, the movie is a little unusual. It takes place half in Iran and half in America.

AMANPOUR: And people are not used to seeing an Iranian rom-com or an Iranian-American rom-com.

KESHAVARZ: They're not used to having fun, but we're such fun people.

AMANPOUR: No. Yes. I mean --

KESHAVARZ: You know what I mean?

AMANPOUR: I agree. So, it starts and -- well, it doesn't start, but there is a real major sort of opening sequence where you're all gathered, the

family around you as the father, Bijan, you play the father --


AMANPOUR: -- who is now --

DANESHMAND: The older father.

AMANPOUR: The older father. Yes.


AMANPOUR: Who's now enduring a, you know, life-threatening illness, right?


AMANPOUR: And that brings this whole story to light. What made you enjoy playing this part? Have you -- do you do a lot of acting in Britain, in


DANESHMAND: I act in England, yes, for British and American productions, either in the U.K. or Europe or North Africa sometimes. What was very

attractive about this project, it was -- it's a social film and it's happy. It's got some -- and it's got sad moments.


DANESHMAND: And I enjoy playing in movies which are social family disputes and workings, if you like. And I was honored to play her father and nervous

as well, because I wanted to have feedback as to what your father really -- you know, what kind of a character he really was.

AMANPOUR: And I have to say, it is really interesting that, because it's - - essentially, it's based around the very fractious relationship you have you with your mother and you figure out a family secret through your

grandmother when you're left behind with her while the rest of the family is at the father's bedside.

KESHAVARZ: Exactly. It's a really based on a true story. My dad had a heart transplant and my grandmother came from Shiraz and she would only

wanted to stay with me. I had had a falling out with my mom. She was a tough lady growing up. And she said, you've got to come and take care of

your grandmother.

And my grandmother said, do you know why your parents came to America in 1967? And I thought I knew the story. They came because there weren't

enough doctors. They were all in Vietnam. And she's like, that's such a cute story.

AMANPOUR: And then, the father --

KESHAVARZ: Do you want to know the truth?

AMANPOUR: -- came to be a doctor.

KESHAVARZ: Yes, you want to know the truth? They -- you know, they came because of scandal. And I -- it was a fun thing to do because we think of

our parents as so different than us, but actually, the movie is showing the relationship between mother and daughter through different decades. And

like the reason that we have so many issues, my mother and I, is that we're so much alike, unbeknownst to me.

AMANPOUR: And the scandal is real.

KESHAVARZ: The scandal is real.

AMANPOUR: The story is real.

KESHAVARZ: Yes, the story is real.

AMANPOUR: So, the story, essentially, the dad --

KESHAVARZ: It's all your fault.

AMANPOUR: Yes, it's all your fault.

DANESHMAND: He was naughty, yes. He did some bad things.


DANESHMAND: When he was younger. I can't tell you because then the story of the -- you know --

AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, he does have another family.

DANESHMAND: Kind of. He behaved badly when he was younger. He wasn't a bad man. He was a good man. He loved his family. But --

AMANPOUR: That's what makes the family so --


AMANPOUR: But your mother, in real-life, was betrothed to a man more than 10 years her --

KESHAVARZ: Older her -- than her.

AMANPOUR: Yes, and she was only a teenager.

KESHAVARZ: Exactly. And it was really hard thing for me to do. It's like my mom got married at 13. I've heard this story.


KESHAVARZ: At 13. And I cast a 13-year-old girl to play my mother. I knew the story. I've heard it a million times, right? But when you bring an

actor to play your mother, you really empathize. It's like this girl was one year older than my own daughter. And she was playing my mother to have

someone breathe your parents' story. And also, my father. He became a man at 11. His own father died, and he had to become the patriarch of eight


So, for me, I learned so much about my parents, about being empathetic. This film, for me, was a challenge because I had to think of my parents,

not as my parents, but as individuals, teenagers, 20-something-year-olds, who make mistakes and are afraid.

AMANPOUR: And Bijan, it also says a lot about Iran. It says a lot about how things were back then.


AMANPOUR: Yes. Which not many people in the West really know.

DANESHMAND: And even Iranians born post-revolution don't know much, particularly the ones which were born outside of Iran.


KESHAVARZ: Yes. And I think, you know, my mom struggled in the '60s. We think -- I mean, of course, before the revolution there was a lot of

freedom in terms of dress and all these different things. But still, I think women's struggles are a continuous one, even pre-revolution. My mom -


AMANPOUR: And of course, that's going on now.

KESHAVARZ: And now, of course, it's a continuum. People say, you know, the fight for women's rights is an ongoing one. My mom wanted to just finish

school. That was a revolutionary idea then. You know, and now, that's kind of why she's so open to having her story told. She says, time after, how

many, 50 plus years, 60 plus years, that we take the reins.


And this is a mother who home my whole life said, we should not talk about the past. We should not talk about our stories. And here she is. She's

saying, it's time for us --

AMANPOUR: So, she likes this film even though --

KESHAVARZ: She wanted me to tell this. I would never do it without her permission.

AMANPOUR: It portrays her warts and all.

KESHAVARZ: And that's a thing people like me in the film. I'm portrayed as Leila. But the mother, because we see all of what she went through and how

she became a strong immigrant and everything she did for her family, and redefined herself and became the writer of her own destiny, they're like,

you're cool but your mom is a hundred times more interesting. And I said, you know what, she really is because I learned so much making a film about


AMANPOUR: And Bijan, I mean, the film is obviously a great tribute to the women.

DANESHMAND: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: To the women of Iran as well.



DANESHMAND: Totally. I mean, my own mother was a strong person in my family. I relate to that as well.

AMANPOUR: And it's so much --

DANESHMAND: The father figure was an interesting man. He had his dogmatic strict set of principles, the way he lived. He didn't want to sell his

house for a profit, for example.

KESHAVARZ: In America, my dad was a very unique person. I think I'm very much a mix of both of my parents. My dad was so idealistic. They don't make

him like him anymore. He was a doctor that would -- people didn't have money. They -- he would -- they would just bring him a pie or like a knit

sweater, and that was fine.

AMANPOUR: And in the film, again, it merges two worlds. You go back and forth, America, childhood, Iran, you know --

KESHAVARZ: And my smuggling days of --

AMANPOUR: Yes. That -- I want to ask you about that. Let's play just the clip that we have. It's sort of kind of magical realism part of the play.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, Shia Muslims are really into this magic realist stuff. In our family, there's always someone who comes to save the day. His

name is Imam Zaman. He's this amazing saint. I mean, he disappeared a few hundred years ago, like literally disappeared in a thin air one day.

He's a busy guy. A true believer says his name and he appear in times of need. And he can appear in human or animal form. Oh, you're skeptical, huh?

Well, I sort of am too.

This close to getting what she wants, I mean, of course, she pulled the favor from the big guy. My mom really believes in this stuff, and I'm not

sure I do. If she's old world, I'm new world. This is my mom and I's relationship in a nutshell.


KESHAVARZ: It's great to be able to stop time in a movie, isn't it?

AMANPOUR: Yes, it is. And as we said, it won the audience favorite at Sundance. Were you surprised, I mean, by the reaction?

KESHAVARZ: I really -- you never know when you make a movie. It's so bearing your family there. But it was a very weird Sundance. I finished the

film two days before the premiere, and we showed it. I was more terrified because my family was in the audience. But at the end, people got up and


And the head of Sony was like, we've had many films at this festival for 20 something years, we've never had audience stand up and dance. And that was

kind of my agenda, in some ways, for you to go through the rollercoaster of this family. But at the end, want to celebrate. And I think that's kind of

a radical concept, I think, in our part of the world.

AMANPOUR: In our part of the world, you're absolutely right about that. I want to ask you a slightly different question. You -- you've all -- you've

talked about being concerned with repetition, difference, and disruption.


AMANPOUR: Yes, in your art.


AMANPOUR: So, tell me about that, because you're also an artist. I've seen your beautiful paintings.

DANESHMAND: Yes, I make paintings and various works of art. Repetition is very interesting for me. I just believe the whole universe is a series of

repetitive actions. We're all repetitions. I mean, it's like snowflakes, like sperms, but there's always a difference.

And my latest work of art, in terms of paintings, I've been painting Damavans. And I've made over --

AMANPOUR: Which is the classic, iconic, the highest mountain.

DANESHMAND: The mountain in Iran and it's a symbol of fighting the oppressor. It's very symbolic. It's in our poetry. And I've made all these

paintings. They're identical, yet they're all different. Yes.

AMANPOUR: And just quickly before I ask you the last question, playing -- you played in "The Diplomat," which was a very popular series about a U.S.

ambassador here in Britain.


AMANPOUR: What was that like playing in a Netflix series?

DANESHMAND: It was good because, for once, the -- I mean, Iranians get up to many bad things, but they're not always doing the bad things. And in

this particular TV show, we were not actually the people who had behaved --

AMANPOUR: You weren't the baddies?

DANESHMAND: We weren't the baddies.

AMANPOUR: You weren't the baddies.


AMANPOUR: Yes, for once.


AMANPOUR: You know, you've been banned and your films have been banned in Iran. You've done other films about the country. So, in the last 30 seconds

that we have, how is this being seen there? And surely people have seen it.

KESHAVARZ: It has a great reception. I mean, it's been pirated, obviously, and they watch it there. And it's kind of the first film that takes place

half between Iran and half between America. So, it's their story and our story. And I think people are really responding to the humor and the

playfulness and the magic realism aspects of it.

AMANPOUR: And one of the things that was very funny as a kid, you used to travel back --


KESHAVARZ: I was a smuggler. I smuggled like Michael Jackson, Cindi Lauper, Madonna, because back in the days there was no digital downloads.

The only way to get music from America was for me to put them into my underwear. And I was a smuggler.

DANESHMAND: It's one of the best scenes, the airport scene in the film.

AMANPOUR: Yes, it's very good. It is very great. Well, it is a very uplifting and fun film. It really is.

KESHAVARZ: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: It's a great story.

KESHAVARZ: Thanks for having us.

AMANPOUR: Maryam Keshavarz, Bijan Daneshmand, thank both very much.

DANESHMAND: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: And as we said, this will premiere here in the U.K. on Friday.

Now, as we reported earlier, there are loud and differing voices within Israel on the so-called day after the war. We heard the extreme settler

view earlier. And left-wing lawmaker Ofer Cassif is just as passionate about opposing that and opposing Netanyahu's handling of the war, stressing

the need for a political solution. And he joins Michel Martin now to explain why and how he survived the recent effort to impeach him.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Knesset Member, thank you so much for speaking with us.

OFER CASSIF, ISRAELI KNESSET MEMBER: Thank you for having me. My pleasure. An honor.

MARTIN: Before we get into recent events, I wanted to go back a little bit to last month. You've been very critical of the Netanyahu government. You

have argued, and you have made no secret of the fact that you think that this government has been engaging in many sort of anti-democratic efforts,

trying to silence dissent, silence any criticism, cracking down on public demonstrations that would be customary in a democracy.

How did you find out -- and I understand that this is your fellow Knesset members who would move to impeach you, but how did find that they were

moving to impeachment you?

CASSIF: Well, there is a law in Israel that was enacted in 2016 that allows a majority of 90 members of the Knesset out of 120 to impeach

another member of Knesset if one is accused in either being supporting racism or supporting an armed struggle against Israel.

Now, after I signed this petition, which I guess we will discuss later about, I realized that one member of the Knesset, a far-right member of

Knesset, began in getting signatures from other members of the Knesset in order to begin a motion to impeach me. So, that's why I knew about it. And

the rest is for history, more or less.

MARTIN: The specific action that you were accused of is in relation to your decision to support the petition to the International Criminal Court

that would have investigated Israel in relation to its actions in Gaza. You know, South Africa has asked for Israel to be investigated. And you said

that you feel that this is an appropriate thing to do. As briefly as you can, why did you feel that that was important to you?

CASSIF: Well, there are two main things that -- first of all, you know, I do not trust any government to investigate itself. But it's not necessarily

only the Israeli government, but any government. I think that the basis of democracy is that anyone should cast doubts on one's own government.

Since 1949, the State of Israel itself joined to this convention on genocide and actually recognizes the authority of the ICJ in investigating

such accusations. So, for me, it was very clear that the ICJ is the authority to investigate the ongoing in Gaza and not the Israeli government

itself. That was one thing.

The other is that in the appeal of South Africa, as well as in a petition that I joined, and eventually, by the way, there were almost 1,000 Israeli

citizens who signed this petition. There was a very clear call to stop the war. We all know that the death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is more than

30,000. And there are also Israeli soldiers and hostages. We want everyone to live. We don't want victims anymore.

So, it was very clearly for me. Because the government of Israel is not interested in the lives of anyone, neither the Israeli, let alone the

Palestinians, so I find -- found myself obliged to appeal to an international body such as ICJ.

MARTIN: The effort to impeach you failed. It did receive a significant number of votes, but not enough to obviously move forward with the

impeachment. You clearly have not been cowed by this. I mean, this week you gave a speech on the floor of the Knesset in support of the Biden

administration's sanctions against settlers in the West Bank.

Why do you believe that that is the right course of action? Why do you believe that it is appropriate for the administration to place sanctions on

these settlers? Because, as you know, that's -- it's very controversial for a number of reasons. Many people think it's sort of minimalist. Some people

think it's the wrong people. Some people think it's a band-aid. It doesn't really address the situation. Many opinions. But why do you think it was an

appropriate course of action?


CASSIF: I may accept all the things you said, but still, it doesn't rule out the sanctions. I agree that the main, you know, body that should be

sanctioned in this Israeli government, they are responsible for this. The government is responsible for the ongoing programs that settlers carry out

against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Look, I want to be very, very blunt and very, very clear, there is an ethnic cleansing going on in the West Bank before the massacre of 7th of

October. I've been -- literally three or four days before the massacre, the terrible massacre, the (INAUDIBLE) in the massacre that Hamas committed, in

which I personally lost my friends. So, it's very important to say that I - - we totally condemned it. Because, again, some people believe that if I'm against the wall and against the occupation, that means that I support the

crimes of Hamas. Absolutely not. So, I want to be very clear about that too.

So, three or four days before the massacre committed by Hamas, I visited the Jordan Valley, some pastors, you know, communities of Palestinian ones

in the West Bank. And I realized then that already four communities were totally eliminated. They had to flee because of the ongoing daily progress

committed by settlers under the auspices of the occupation forces. We are talking about a size, a territory, doubled in the City of Tel Aviv.

And ever -- and since October 7th, it rised into Palestinian communities that literally perished. There's an ongoing thing ethnic cleansing.

MARTIN: What are you saying? What are you saying? You're saying that in the West Bank -- we're not talking about Gaza now. We're saying in the West


CASSIF: I'm talking about the West Bank.

MARTIN: You believe that the settlers are making an effort to drive Palestinians out by force.

CASSIF: Successful efforts. Successful efforts. More than 20 communities, Palestinian communities of innocent shepherds, poor people that I visited.

I know many of them personally. Good people have nothing to do with, you know, violence or whatever. They are assaulted on a continuous basis, a

daily basis for more for at least -- for years, actually.

It's been more than -- exactly one year since I first sent a letter to Yoav Gallant, the defense minister of Israel. And I said in that letter, as a

member of the Knesset, I said to him, there are vocals going on by settlers against the Palestinians in the West Bank. Please stop it. You have to stop

it first because it's criminal. And secondly, because it's going to blow up the old regime. Everybody is going to pay the price. There's going to be a

bloodshed that we've never experienced. I said that for seven months before the massacre of October 7th.

And ever since, I sent, I guess, another 10 letters of the same kind. Up until now, I haven't got even one reply from the minister. One reply.

MARTIN: Do you think the Israeli public sees what you see in Gaza and the West Bank?

CASSIF: No. They thought -- the media in Israel voluntarily, by the way, it's not, you know, something that the government has been doing or forcing

the media to do. The media, apart from very few, totally hides or ignores from the ongoing in Gaza and in the West Bank. Nobody actually knows about

it. And the vast majority don't want to know about it. It's because it's very hard to see a villain when you look at the mirror.

MARTIN: The polls in Israel show high support for Israel's war in Gaza. In January, there was a group, the Israel Democracy Institute, which I think

is a respected research institute, said that 56 percent of Israelis polled in January said continuing the military offensive was the best way to

recover the hostages.

Yet, the prime minister, Netanyahu, is not popular. That same poll found that only 15 percent want Netanyahu to be prime minister once the war is

over. How do you understand that?

CASSIF: Well, many people in Israeli could blame or at least some of the responsibility for the massacre of October 7 on Netanyahu. And just be so,

he responsible. He is responsible for his long-going policy.


He said explicitly in 2019, and I quote him almost word by word, he said, "Those who oppose a Palestinian State," like he does, "must weaken the

Palestinian Authority and strengthen Hamas." He said so. He said so.

Even Smotrich in 2015 said, and I quote, "The Palestinian Authority is a burden. Hamas is an asset." He said so. They wanted Hamas to be strong as

part of the classic colonialist divide and rule. And they want the beacons of Hamas to be stronger in order to find an excuse and saying that there's

no one to talk to. They wanted it. They passed -- Netanyahu himself, for more than 10 years, allowed millions of dollars to get to the pockets of

Hamas from Qatar. It's not a secret. Everybody knows that. He is responsible.

And people -- because of that many Israelis don't want him as a prime minister. And just be so, they say, you are responsible. You are guilty.

Some even say you are guilty. At the same time, many of them think that the war must go on.

Of course, I'm not there. I have my own criticism, but we do not agree about the war or the assault. There are many that do agree with me,

especially among the families of the hostages, not all of them. Many of the families of the hostages and the victims who were butchered by Hamas

understand that this assault on Gaza will not deliver neither security for the Israelis. No, let alone release of the hostages.

More and more people begin to understand that. And I believe that the atmosphere is shifting slowly, gradually, but it is shifting because of

that -- of this situation.

MARTIN: So, let us turn now to the U.S. rule here. First there was the senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, a senator from New York. The -- I

would say the sort of highest-ranking, most prominent, you know, Jewish elected official in the United States said that the Netanyahu government

should go, that the prime minister is not serving the interests of the people. This caused a huge reaction.

And then, according to the White House, President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Netanyahu, just this week, to warn against this planned military

operation that we are told is coming in Rafah, saying that a major ground operation there would be a mistake.

What do you make of these developments, particularly the White House? Do you think that this is consequential?

CASSIF: Look, I must say I'm very critical of the White House and then of Biden's administration, because, actually, without their consent the

assault on Gaza and this terrible death toll would have never occurred.

I mean, there is a kind of -- you know, if you allow me to use some concepts from psychology, there is a kind of dissonance cognitive. Because,

you know, dissonance cognitive is when one consciously clinging to two contradictory or more contradictory moments. And that's what I see in the

behavior of President Biden. Because on the one hand, he speaks about the dire situation, the grave situation of the Palestinians in Gaza. They are

starving there. So, it is a starvation caused by Israel. And, of course, no medicine, no hospital, spiritual destruction, death toll, et cetera, et

cetera. That could not happen without the support of the United States.

MARTIN: Why do you say that?

CASSIF: Because -- I give you two examples, which for me are the main ones. First of all, every time there is a motion in criticism of Israel in

the Security Council of the United Nations, the United States vetoes the decision. That's a support which I do not accept. I want to be very clear.

It's not a support for Israel and the Israelis. It's a support for the Israeli government which is against the Israelis.

I am -- as an opposition, I am committed to the Israeli public. And I'm trying to do my job. And part of my job is to stand still against the

government if the government is wrong, let alone sins. And the Biden administration, in supporting the government of Israel, is acting against

justice, against the Palestinians, but also against the Israelis.

MARTIN: Except that public opinion, as we've discussed, does not support this government per se, but it does support what the government is doing.

Knesset Member, your views are not in the majority.


CASSIF: First of all, you may be right. That doesn't undermine my obligation, you know, to raise my voice and to represent the thousands and

hundreds of thousands of Israelis who do support my view and let alone people out of Israel.

But we -- I guess that we both would agree that polls are mainly for statistics, but not for political decisions.

MARTIN: So, the White House has said that Mr. Biden asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to send a delegation of intelligence and military officials to

Washington to hear, firsthand, the White House's views, particularly about this planned incursion into Rafah.

We are told that the government -- the Netanyahu government has agreed to send such a delegation. Does that offer any hope to you?

CASSIF: I don't know if you've heard how Netanyahu explained sending the delegation. He said that he's been doing that for -- and I quote, "for

respect," because he respects Biden, Mr. Biden, not because he wants to achieve something or he's ready to, you know, refrain from operating in


I think that to say that invading to Rafah is wrong, it's an understatement. It's going to be a carnage. It's -- the death toll that's

going to be there, the bloodshed that's going to be there, it is going to be even more disastrous than what has been going thus far.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, clearly you remain as outspoken as ever. Do you feel that you are opening up more democratic space, you know, more

space for public criticism, or to sort of maintain these democratic traditions of sort of public dissent?

CASSIF: You know, you probably know this story that just after the American -- United States invaded Vietnam, there was one person who used to

demonstrate in front of the White House. And every time he was asked, what are you doing here alone? You know that you're all alone. Everybody

supports the invasion of the assault of Vietnam. And he used to answer, according to the story, he was told by many that he was not going to change

society. So, he used to say, perhaps I'm not going to change society, but I'm standing here in order to make sure that society doesn't change me.

But eventually, going back to this story, we know that this guy probably did change society because we know what happened later. So, answering your

question, by using this story, I do believe, not only me, but thousands of people -- we went to demonstrate in front of the American Embassy, you

know, a couple of days ago, in calling for the United States to recognize the Palestinian State.

So, it's not only me, it will be very egocentric to say it's me. But people like me, and me together, we are the hope for both peoples of this land,

including the Israelis.

MARTIN: Knesset Member Ofer Cassif, thank you so much for speaking with us.

CASSIF: My pleasure. Thank you. Have a nice day.


AMANPOUR: And the Israeli government has consistently denied any attempt to strengthen Hamas.

And finally, tonight, spring has begun in the Northern Hemisphere, marking for many in the world, not just the promise of warmer weather, but also the

beginning of the ancient festival of Nowruz, the celebration of the Persian New Year.

Some 300 million people are taking part in rituals that symbolize rebirth and reflection from Iran to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the Kurds. Like

these performers donning traditional costumes in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in Tehran, where people are jumping over fire to cleanse their spirit, and

even in the International Space Station, where one Iranian-American astronaut has prepared a customary half-sin.

So, happy Nowruz to all who celebrate. Eide Shoma Mobarak. That's it for now. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.