Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Former Head Of Shin Bet Ami Ayalon; Interview With INARA Founder And CEO Arwa Damon; Interview With "The Myth Of Making It" Author Samhita Mukhopadhyay. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired June 24, 2024 - 13:00   ET



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


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): After the intense phase is finished, we will have the possibility to move part of

the forces north.


AMANPOUR: As Israel's prime minister signals a new war on the northern border, what could come next and when will it all end? I asked Ami Ayalon,

the former head of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency.

And the children suffering inside Gaza. I speak to Arwa Damon, the former war reporter who now heads up the charity INARA.

Also, ahead --


SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY, AUTHOR: Why are we working like this if it's not going to pay off and actually give us the happiness and the support and the

stability that we deserve?


AMANPOUR: -- "The Myth of Making It," the former head of Teen Vogue, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, tells Michel Martin why beneath the glamour, she was

miserable leading one of the world's largest fashion magazines.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. In his first interview with the Israeli media since October 7th, Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu announced a new phase of the war.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): After the intense phase is finished, we will have the possibility to move part of

the forces north, and we will do this, first and foremost, for defensive purposes. And secondly, to bring our evacuated resident's home. If we can,

we will do this diplomatically. If not, we will do it another way.


AMANPOUR: And that has sparked fears of a full-blown war with Hezbollah, which the U.S. has warned could be disastrous. U.S. Sources are even

reportedly concerned that Israel's much flaunted Iron Dome defense system could be overwhelmed.

Netanyahu also made comments that appeared to be a death knell for any Gaza peace deal, which is backed by President Biden and which would have seen

all remaining Israeli hostages released and a lasting ceasefire there. Instead, Netanyahu said he was interested in a partial deal with only some

hostages released. The Hostage Family Forum condemned that as violating Israel's moral duty to them.

One of Netanyahu's fiercest critics is Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Israeli Internal Security Agency, Shin Bet. He disagrees with Netanyahu's

war strategy. And I asked him what hopes Israel could have now of ending this war and getting all their abducted family members back.

Ami Ayalon, welcome back to our program.


AMANPOUR: So, can you explain what your prime minister has been saying to Israeli media about his view of a partial end to this? He said he's ready

for a partial deal with Hamas for some of the hostages. Now, as far as I was aware, the people of Israel's first goal is to get all of the hostages

back. The so-called Israeli plan that the Biden administration stated was precisely for that, or for all. Some people say, like the Hostage Families

Forum, they condemn it. They say he's just walked back from everything.

What's a partial deal for the partial release of hostages?

AYALON: The only way for him to survive in power. That's it. It's the only way for him to make sure that the war will not come to an end. And this is

what he's doing. And I think that he really believes that we do not understand, but we do understand, most of the Israelis.

And today, our prime minister does not represent the people of Israel. In a recent poll, I have here the figures, 76 percent of the Israelis believe

that he should resign immediately. 65 percent demand elections today and 74 -- 75 percent believe that the only way to end this war is by a political

achievement that will enable us to bring back all the hostages. Second, to end the war. And third, to create a regional coalition that will create a

better reality and more safety to Israel.


AMANPOUR: I am really surprised by what you said in that he doesn't want to end the war.

AYALON: Right.

AMANPOUR: I mean, that sounds crazy to me.


AMANPOUR: Well, why? Why not? Israelis are being killed, Palestinians are being killed, Israel is losing its moral high ground, it's becoming a


AYALON: We call it toxic leadership. He's academia. Toxic leadership is a great charisma of a person who lead many people but he leads them to the

wrong place, to the end of Zionism. This is what he's doing. You have to understand that the first cabinet -- in the first cabinet meeting, when we

went to war, after the 7th of October, and we had to go to war, because after the massacre, et cetera, we -- it was a war of defense, but the

decision of do not discuss the day after. What is the meaning?

I'll tell you something. In this war, when you send your people, your youngster to kill, and many of them will die there, when you tell them that

there is no political goal to this war, immediately what happen? The goal, the war becomes the end and not the mean.

Now, when the war become the end, the goal of itself, this is exactly what we see today in the Middle East. We know how to start wars. This government

do not know and do not want to end this war.

AMANPOUR: OK. I'm going to get back to Gaza in a second. But Netanyahu himself said in this so-called interview conversation that they might be

prepared for another war, that the real so-called kinetic combat phase in Gaza could be coming to an end, but that they will move troops and forces

to the north. That means Hezbollah.

Are you prepared? Do you think this is going to happen, a full-scale war again a la 2006 with Lebanese Hezbollah?

AYALON: Whether I think it is a real scenario, if we have not changed our perception of ourselves and the Middle East it is a real scenario. Not

because somebody want, because this is the only option. If we believe only in power, if we believe that war is not the last option, is the first and

only option, this is what we should see.

Our security doctrine should be based on two pillars. Yes, we shall always have to maintain and to preserve a huge military power, but, you know, it

will not -- it will never be enough unless we understand diplomacy, unless we can speak in two languages, we shall not be secure and we should lose

our identity.

AMANPOUR: And why has it taken eight months for the people like yourself -- I know you've been saying it, because you're out of, you know, governing

Shin Bet, et cetera, right now.

AYALON: Well, because I'm in a minority in my people.

AMANPOUR: OK. You're a minority.

AYALON: That's it. OK.

AMANPOUR: But it's suddenly becoming out there, like the head, the head of the IDF has clearly empowered his spokesman, Admiral Hagari, who said last

week that it's just throwing sand into the eyes of the Israeli people saying that you can defeat Hamas. More and more people are beginning to say

what you're telling me now, that there needs to be a day after plan.

AYALON: Yes. I don't blame, but I think that I expected more from our generals. I still remember during the first intifada when Rabin gave us an

order, instructed us to break the bones, and some commanders did it, literally. And the chief of general staff told publicly to Rabin, Mr.

Defense Minister, this is not a military phenomenon. This is a social, political, violent phenomenon. And I expected our generals to say it as

early as possible, the moment that the cabinet accepted this decision, not to discuss the day after, it was clear that this is a never-ending war, and

they should do it much earlier.

AMANPOUR: Do you think -- because you saw the justified horror that was unleashed over the weekend, when a picture of a wounded Palestinian tied to

the hood of one of your military vehicles was driven out of the Jenin area and the Palestinians accused your forces of using them as a human shield.

The Israeli military then shortly thereafter said those forces violated orders and standard operating procedures. They'll be investigated.


Not many people have faith in the investigation because it's very rarely those investigations happen. But what's happening? I mean, are you saying

that this war without any political end is also causing this kind of stuff, including the selfies of your forces inside Gaza, taking pictures with the

rubble, with this, with that? I mean it's just not very nice at all.

AYALON: No, it's horrible.

AMANPOUR: Do you feel they're losing their morality, their humanity?

AYALON: Not they, we are losing. We are losing our identity as people, as Jews, and as human beings.

AMANPOUR: Did you ever think you would say that? You're the former head of Shin Bet.


AMANPOUR: Did you ever think you'd get to a point?

AYALON: Yes, I said it many times. And I said it in the Shin Bet when we tried to think of our code of ethics. I said, we -- when we go to war,

people do not think when you send us to war, you do not send us to negotiate, you send us to kill.

Now, we are born with the idea of you shall not kill. And now, you tell me, OK, you go to war, kill all the enemies. Now, the idea that I have the

right to kill. Now, with the time, it becomes a nature. We do not ask why. The only questions that we ask when we go to war is how to kill, whether we

should use a knife or a gun or a missile.

But it's become a second nature. And this is a danger in every war. And we saw it, you know, during all the history, what Americans did in Iraq and

Afghanistan, what we did in the past. Unless we understand that every war must end, this is what we should see. We should lose our identity as a

democratic human beings and we shall create a reality of never-ending war.

AMANPOUR: So, given that there might be something big breaking out against Lebanon, I mean, look, this is, what, one of the most respected military

analysts in Israel, Amos Harel of Haaretz says. Nasrallah, who is obviously the head of Hezbollah, apparently suspects that Israel is headed for a

general war and is preparing his organization for that possibility. Do you think that's right?

AYALON: Yes. It's the only rational decision.

AMANPOUR: And then what happens?

AYALON: We shall have war.

AMANPOUR: And then?

AYALON: We shall have war.

AMANPOUR: And after that?

AYALON: And we shall have more war. And we shall stop, and later we shall have more war. We have to understand, you know, there are two blind spots

for us Israelis, until today, by the way. What should we learn after the 7th of October? Which was probably the most horrible moment in our history.

We should learn, first of all, that we shall not have security as long as we shall not end occupation. This is what Hamas told us. And we shall not

have democracy as long as we shall not end the occupation. Now, we refuse to see it. We see it today, if I read the polls, more than we saw it.

And this is an opportunity. Our government do not see. Yoav Gallant do not -- probably understand it, but he doesn't have the courage to say it

because his base, he has to be elected. So, the political power today is not in the hands of the political leaders. The political power is somewhere

in the street and we, people in the street, we do not understand it.

And we understand it more and more, and this is why the demonstrations are very, very important. But this is why the International Community has a

role, because the International Community has to understand, yes, we have to save ourselves from ourselves, but it is not a conflict between Israel

and Palestinians anymore in a regional conflict that will create a huge impact on the International Community.

AMANPOUR: Do you think President Biden and the administration and Israel's friends are saving the Israeli political leaders from themselves or not?

AYALON: I think that they're trying to do their best the way I understand the American leaders and president, he has to be elected. And he's blamed

from both sides. So, I'm not here to give him any -- I think that he's the only leader who really believe that we can create a different and a better

reality and he's doing all what he can in order to help us to save ourselves.


AMANPOUR: Can I ask you something? Because I was struck by what you said, this is what Hamas told us. You know, you said the business about the --

ending the occupation, et cetera. I recently spoke with, I'm sure somebody, you know very well the doctor, Yuval Bitton, who saved Yahya Sinwar's life

in hospital, then became an intelligence officer in the prison service.

He claimed that Israel, all of you or all, Mossad, Shin Bet, IDF, government, just didn't listen when people like him, who were talking to

Hamas every single day, were saying, this is what they think, this is what they say, this is -- he said, Hamas learned a lot about Israel, but not

vice versa. I'm just going to play what he told me on this regard.



DR. YUVAL BITTON, FORMER HEAD OF INTELLIGENCE, ISRAELI PRISON SERVICE (through translator): Unfortunately, the Israeli leadership did not study

Hamas. And a lot of people among us, even in the intelligence service, did not know and learn Hamas well enough. All we needed to do was listen to

them. Our attitude towards Hamas was arrogant. We dismissed Hamas. And Hamas said everything it intended to do, but we didn't want to listen.


AMANPOUR: Do you agree with that?

AYALON: Yes, of course. I don't agree to the fact that all of us, because all the leaders, all the directors of the Shin Bet said it again and again,

you know, I met Ronen during two years before.

AMANPOUR: Who's Ronen?

AYALON: Ronen is the director of the Israeli Shin Bet today.


AYALON: During the last two, three years. And I told him, look, I understand that, you know, politicians and political leaders, you know,

they are telling you exactly the policies that you should follow, but you have to tell them again and again and again, every day, every meeting that

this policy will lead us to a wave of violence. And he told me, Ami, this is exactly what I'm telling him. But prime minister did not listen. Why? I

know why. Because he preferred his political survival, survival on the future of Israel. That's it.

AMANPOUR: You have said survival requires a political solution and a two- state solution. That, as you said, Hamas will only be defeated by a war -- in this war of ideas, which is offering the Palestinians hope.

Now, we've heard leaked tapes and things like that. Netanyahu's most nationalistic Orthodox coalition members, people like Smotrich, Ben-Gvir,

et cetera. They -- you know, Smotrich, there's a leaked record, he speaks about preventing the occupied West Bank from becoming part of an

independent Palestinian State, you know, and he's getting a lot of power and putting more settlers on and empowering the settlers.

Is that going to work at the -- you know, are they going to have the final say?

AYALON: Probably. If we shall not have the power and the courage to change our policy, they will succeed. Now, Israel, we did not have state for 2000

years. We were born -- we, all my generation, we were born to a reality in which a state is something obvious. It is not. Unless we fight against

everybody who do not believe in Israel as a Jewish democracy, we shall Israel as a Jewish democracy.

And unless we shall understand --

AMANPOUR: You're talking about fighting internal Israeli --

AYALON: Of course. Of course.

AMANPOUR: -- opponents of a Jewish --

AYALON: Unless we shall understand, again and again, I'm saying it, that if we shall not end the occupation, we shall not have security. And if we

shall not end this occupation, we shall not have democracy. We shall not have democracy and we shall not have security. And this is the end of the

Zionist dream. Because the Zionist dream is a State of Israel -- of -- for Israel with a specific identity, a Jewish democracy.

Our parents did not come from Arab States in Europe in order to create a totalitarian regime, and nobody will accept it. Now, Palestinians are

demanding freedom and they will fight for the end of occupation. And unless we shall understand that this piece of land is ours, but it is not only

ours. We have only two options, to divide it and to keep our identity or not to divide it. And to lose our identity and to lose our security as


AMANPOUR: So, does this worry you then? Because this is Netanyahu, again, in this conversation about moving from the first, second and now the third

stage in Gaza. The third step will be the creation of a new security regime in the Gaza Strip. The removal of Israel's responsibility for day-to-day

life there and the creation of a new security reality for the citizens of Israel. What do you think that means? Do you think that means carving out a

whole piece of -- OK.


AYALON: This is what it means. For Netanyahu, he's lying to us, because Netanyahu is not stupid. He's the brightest person that I met. But this is

toxic leadership. He is telling us something that he knows that will not work. He knows the Palestinians. He knows that they will go on fighting. He

knows that they will not accept any Israeli leadership that does not give them their national liberty, end of occupation. He knows it. But he's

trying to sell us something that probably. But most Israelis, again, he do not represent the 75 percent of his people

AMANPOUR: Finally, if a war happens between -- a full-scale between Israel and Hezbollah, there are those who are very concerned, like the United

States sources apparently, that the Iron Dome, your anti-missile shield could be overwhelmed in the opening strikes. Do you worry about that?

AYALON: Yes, of course. There is no ultimate solution. And the capabilities of Nasrallah and Hezbollah is totally different from what we faced in the

past. As long as we are fighting in Gaza, he will have the legitimacy to go on fighting. But the moment that we shall achieve the end of war or

ceasefire, he do not have the right to go on fighting, because we do not understand, you know, Palestinians are suffering. Thousands of them. You

know --

AMANPOUR: Millions.

AYALON: -- millions, probably led from their homes and the whole south of Lebanon is destroyed. So, yes, they will not do anything against him as

long -- but he represents the Shia community and they are dying. He represents the Lebanese national aspirations, and they know that he will

bring them deaths and humiliation.

So, we have to see it connected. And this is why it is so important. It is not only important to bring back our hostages. That this is the moral

victory that we are -- that we want to achieve immediately. It is important to understand that unless we shall end this war in Gaza, we shall not

create a better reality in the North.

AMANPOUR: Ami Ayalon, thank you very much.

AYALON: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Now, a backlash including criticism like that has caused Israel's prime minister to since respond to this in his -- from his interview last

night, and saying that he remains committed to the peace plan endorsed by President Biden.

But in Rafah, the U.N. food agency is describing the situation as apocalyptic. While across Gaza, more than 37,000 people have been killed

according to the health authorities there. And I've been speaking to Arwa Damon, who is in Gaza, previously a senior international correspondent for

CNN. She now helps the charity she founded, INARA, to provide care to children in war zones like that. Here's our conversation.


AMANPOUR: You know, last time we talked, I think it was a month or more ago. I asked you about the children, the people, what you were saying, and

you said people's eyes in Gaza are dead. What is the situation now compared to what you saw then?

ARWA DAMON, FOUNDER AND CEO, INARA: You know, it's hard to describe it because it is exponentially, significantly worse. Because now, on top of

everything that Gazans have been going through, on top of, you know, the death and the destruction, the displacement, you also have humanitarian aid

that is not coming in insufficient quantities and becoming increasingly difficult to distribute even within Gaza itself.

And what you have is this sort of ominous, dark undertone of activity that is taking place, that a lot of people who you talk to will highlight, and

that is looting and criminal activity. So, aid organizations are having to run a gauntlet once they're able to actually get their trucks through and

their items to be distributed, picked up of criminal activity and looters.

Add to all of that, people themselves are highlighting and growing increasingly fearful of sort of the disintegration of the moral fabric of

society. And so, now, you have men who are staying behind in their homes, even if it's just rubble, trying to guard whatever is left of them, because

this is exactly what happens when rule of law is eradicated. And then on top of all of that, you have the compounded trauma and the triggers that

are still happening on a daily basis, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, you paint a very vivid picture. And I want to ask you now about some personal experience as well. You've just been visiting a

hospital there. On social media, you wrote, "There is nothing that resembles what you probably imagine when you imagine a hospital."

So, just tell me about it, which one, and what's the situation there?

DAMON: I was at Al-Aqsa in Deir al-Balah, but mind you, it's exactly the same it has pretty much been exactly the same in just about every single

semi-functioning hospital here. You don't have clean corridors. You don't have rooms where patients are. The hospital corridors are basically either

a waiting room for the sick and injured, or they have families that have basically taken up shelter in them. Flies are everywhere. Sanitation,

hygiene, the kind that you would need inside a hospital to prevent infection is near impossible. And this is putting even more lives at risk.

While I was there, I met a little girl who was five years old. She had severe abdominal injuries. Her aunt was with her and her aunt was basically

describing how this little girl's guts had just spilled out of her due to shrapnel from an explosion. She was found lying in the street. Her little

brother is with her who is severely burnt. And the reason why it's their aunt who's with them and trying to provide them with love and comfort and

not their mother is because both of their parents are dead, Christiane, but they don't know this yet.

I met another little boy there who -- whose urethra was basically severed from his bladder also due to shrapnel. Now, this is actually an even more

critical case because he is at very high risk for infection. And his father was telling me that they tried at the hospital to do two surgeries, but

they were unable to fix this. It's beyond the capacity. And this is a child who needs a very urgent medical evacuation.

And children used to get medically evacuated. Everyone used to get medically evacuated out through Rafah, which obviously has not been

happening for nearly two months now.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it really is just beggars belief to hear children or anybody in that kind of distress and there be pretty much nothing that can

be done about it. So, I just wondered because a little glimmer of light was reported by the by "The Jerusalem Post" that potentially Israeli

authorities are in coordination with Egypt thinking about opening the Kerem Shalom humanitarian corridor to evacuate severely wounded to Egypt. Do you

hear anything about that?

DAMON: Yes, we did hear about that a few days ago here on the ground. And frankly, you know, everyone really has their fingers crossed and hopes that

not only will this happen, but that it will open up in a sustainable way because you have well over 10,000 people who are awaiting medical

evacuation. And, you know, lives are being lost because, you know, people are not getting medically evacuated and they're not able to get the medical

treatment that they need.

And, you know, Christiane, when you talk about sort of the -- even the smallest thing that needs to happen inside Gaza, I mean, it's an

impossibility, and you don't really appreciate just how impossible and hard it is to get anything done until you're here.

Look. we were at one of the shelters that INARA works with a few days ago, a mother came up, she needed insulin for her little girl. Insulin is

incredibly hard to find and they end up using, you know, alternative off brand. So, we went around, and it took us days to go pharmacy to pharmacy

trying to track down the probably insulin that this girl needed. By the time we were able to find it and deliver it to her, she had actually, the

day before, been hospitalized for a couple of hours.

And then, on top of that, it's not enough to just deliver the insulin to the family because it needs to stay refrigerated. Obviously, when you're in

a tent, you don't have access to electricity. You don't have access to refrigeration. We went around the other day to deliver sanitary pads with a

partner organization, GEM (ph).

And there -- because whatever comes in, we're literally sending out right away. And there are people are asking for hygiene products. They're asking

for food baskets. They're wondering if we're going to do, you know, fresh fruits and vegetables or clothing or children's shoes. And I can't even

describe to you what it's like to have to say, sorry, this is all we have because everything else is on trucks and has been stuck and waiting to get



AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, it is just so, so dire and having such a human real- time impact. And of course, when you see the lines and lines of trucks, it's very, very frustrating and that's an understatement.

You know, you're helping the children. That's what your INARA is focused on in conflict zones around the world. Now, Save the Children has just said

today that up to 21,000 Palestinian children are missing in Gaza because of this war. At least 17,000 believed to be unaccompanied and separately --

and separated. And approximately 4,000 children likely missing under the rubble.

Now, we at CNN have not been able to independently confirm that. The Israeli military disputes the source of those figures. Tell us a bit more,

whatever you might know.

DAMON: Well, look. you know, the other day we were walking around near sort of the beachfront where all the tents are and there were, you know,

different kids that, you know, come up and they've got sort of like bits and pieces, you know, to sell. Looks like it's beans or it's like a tin can

that they've poked holes into that can be used to put wood into to create a fire. And you ask them, you know, where are you from? They're from so and

so. Where are your parents? I don't know.

And you hear in talking to people that there are countless children who when you ask them where their parents are or where their family is, they

say, I don't know or I'm not sure. And then when you drive around, especially, for example, you know, take an area like Khan Younis that I was

just in a few hours ago, the buildings are flat. I mean, you're talking a six-story building that is just pancaked one on top of the other and there

isn't the heavy machinery here to dig through this rubble or even begin to move it.

And so, it's not a stretch of the imagination to think that, you know, thousands of people, children and adults, their bodies have yet to be

recovered, especially when you go into these areas that, you know, were subjected to extraordinarily unimaginable heavy bombardment and very

intense fighting.

AMANPOUR: Oh, when you were a CNN journalist, you you've been to places which have been heavily devastated by war, including buildings collapsed

and, you know, death, destruction, children. Have you seen anything that compares to this? And more to the point, what do you think's going to

happen when the bulldozers come in, when this this war may or may not end and an attempt to, I don't know, reconstruct for people to try to find also

their loved ones who may be still missing for the last eight months under the rubble?

DAMON: You know, no, I actually haven't seen anything like this, because most of the time, and you know this well, when you go into an area that has

been as destroyed as, you know, the vast majority of Gaza has been, the civilian population actually has a safe space to flee to that may not be

perfect, but generally speaking, they then have access to shelter, food, water, medicine, and basically what it is that us humanitarian

organizations are meant to be providing.

You do not find yourself in a situation where you're spending three hours to go a road that would normally take 20 minutes to deliver two tents to a

family that has been forced to flee multiple times and are now living next to a pile of rubble that they warned the children not to get close to

because of the potential for unexploded ordnance.

And they moved in this specific area because their extended family is living in a building nearby. And by a building nearby, I mean just the sort

of skeleton of the building. And you look into the building and you see, just within the sort of what's left of the concrete, someone there settling


People here are craving, they're desperate, they dream about a ceasefire. They dream about the day when rubble will start to be cleared. But here's

another thing to also take into consideration, Christiane, that a man I was talking to the other day said. He said, the second war is going to start

when the bombs stop. And this is a pretty sort of morbid thing to say, because he was actually talking about the war within.

And he further explained it, to say, to a certain degree, in a weird twisted kind of way, what's happening right now is distracting us from the

pain that we've had to bury. But the minute this distraction ends, that pain is going to come up and it's going to kill us again.

AMANPOUR: You mean the post traumatic pain?

DAMON: Exactly. This pain, because when you talk to people here, there's this weird sort of dark sense of humor, there's a certain stoicism. People

don't want to be called resilient. There is a real sort of negativity that is felt here whenever people are called resilient. Because as one woman

said, we're not resilient. We're not superheroes. We're tired. We have been forced into this.


But there is a certain stoicism, because people have to keep going. You have to keep breathing. You have to keep waiting in line for water,

scrapping around for food, figuring out how you're going to get your kid medicine or diapers or whatever it is. And that need to just stay alive has

forced to a certain degree, all of this compounded pain down, but it's going to come up and people are afraid of it coming up and of having to

actually, truly confront everything.

Because right now, even though we're nine months in, it's still a shock. When I drive around, I'm obviously driving around with the Gazans. This is

their city. These are their people. And they're still shocked by the level of what it is that they're seeing.

AMANPOUR: Arwa, thank you so much as ever.

DAMON: Thank you for having me.


AMANPOUR: And of course, as well as Arwa's stories, we've heard so much recently now about how there's a lack of anesthetics, how there's so many

amputees in Gaza, how sometimes they have to be amputated there and then in order just to save their lives. And then of course there's the other

issues, so many Gazans want to stay in Gaza, but even though now they can't get out, they're really considering, they say, what happens to them in the

future, whether there'll be a future in Gaza, which goes back to our conversation with Ami Ayalon, that the only future, he says, and most say

is a two states solution where both Palestinians and Israelis live in freedom and security side by side.

We turn now to women in the workplace and what our next guest calls the myth of making it. In her latest book, the former Teen Vogue executive

editor, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, recounts her personal journey climbing the corporate career ladder. And she joins Michel Martin to discuss how the

girl boss culture can be in fact toxic, exploitative, and even sexist.


MICHEL MARTIN, NPR, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Samhita Mukhopadhyay, thank you so much for talking with us.

MUKHOPADHYAY: I'm so excited to be here.

MARTIN: People who follow the mags will know your name. You were the editor of Teen Vogue. I mean, especially when kind of Teen Vogue broke onto the

scene as having a bigger place in the culture. You had it all. I mean, you had the big shiny office. You had front row seats at the shows. I mean,

these are some -- the fashion shows I mean. These are the kinds of things some people dream about.

So, when did you start to say to yourself, this is not necessarily what I want, or at least to question it?

MUKHOPADHYAY: Absolutely. I -- you know, before the pandemic, I think there was this narrative that if you have a perfect job, you just work as hard as

possible and everything you're sacrificing is worth it because that's the price of success. And while I was sitting front row, I knew I was living a

dream. I was living somebody's dream life. I just realized it wasn't necessarily mine.

And I was struggling with a lot of things, you know, behind the Instagram picture where I was -- you know, I was depressed. I was unhappy. I wasn't

taking care of myself. I was dealing with a lot of family issues that I had to kind of -- some caretaking issues. And I started to realize in that

moment that there was a discrepancy between what I thought it meant to make it and what it actually would mean to make it for myself. But I didn't

really have what I call, you know, the subtitle of the book, a reckoning around it until the pandemic hit.

And I couldn't go into the office. And the glitz and glamour of front row seats and, you know, dinners on the town and events at night and, you know,

designers sending you clothes, once that faded and it was just me and a Zoom screen and a disgruntled staff, I realized that the job wasn't

necessarily making me happy.

And I wasn't alone, right? Millions of women started to ask the same question about why are we working so hard? Why are we "being pushed" to be

so ambitious when ultimately, we're tired and we're burned out and we're not actually seeing the financial or really, you know, material success

that we should be seeing compared to how much we're working.

MARTIN: Did that realization come all at once? Like, was it like a eureka moment or was it sort of a more gradual thing? Like, it's just -- I'm just

curious, like, what the building blocks of it were.

MUKHOPADHYAY: There were multiple moments leading up to that moment. And I think a lot of women were feeling, you know, from -- what I trace in the

book, from the, you know, 2014, where there was this buzz and you had the kind of year of the girl boss and the year of the woman, and everybody was,

you know, saying like anything is possible if you work hard, just lean in, right. Just girl boss through it, you know, get the right planner, be

organized and you will get everything you want. We had Uber, we had Amazon, we had Zappos, we had everything. We were unstoppable, right.


And so, you know, I think that, for me, personally, what had happened was I lost a job in 2017, and I was quite traumatized by that experience because

I'd worked really hard to get that job. I didn't really see the writing on the wall. Looking back, I probably should have. And it was an unceremonious

layoff and I took it really personally and I had a really hard time recovering from it, because I took it as a referendum on all of the hard

work that I had done and all of the sacrifices that I had made in my career.

Rather than take a break and reflect on it, I dove headfirst into the Teen Vogue job. And I describe it in the book as a rebound relationship where

I'm like, one place didn't want me in a much sexier place. And so, I was so excited about that, not realizing that entire time that I kind of carried

that trauma, that workplace trauma and that, you know, deep disappointment with me. And then that started to, you know, really corrode while I was in

the job and in this really high-pressure job.

MARTIN: What do you think was driving you to begin with? What's the root of this deep stem that you're talking about here?

MUKHOPADHYAY: Part of it, I believe, is generational. I was raised in a time where, you know, the ethos was work hard, play hard, right? If you

work really hard, then you will get that payday and then you can play really hard.

I also am the child of immigrants. And there was this idea that, you know, I'm lucky to be here and I should take advantage of every opportunity

that's put my way. And the only difference between me and a man who gets the same opportunity is the hustle that I put into it and how hard I work.

And so, I fundamentally believed -- and at the core of it, and something I really uncovered while writing the book is I did fundamentally believe that

I didn't deserve the opportunities that were coming my way. And so, I was completely comfortable sacrificing -- self-sacrificing to keep those


And I think one of the things I really learned in reporting out the book is how many women and how many women of color felt the same way, that rather

than an organization be lucky to have them for their tenacity and hard work and focus and diverse perspective they might be bringing, they should feel


And there are many infrastructures within the workplace that keep you feeling that way, right, to have you feel isolated in your own ambition,

convincing women that there's no hurdle that's structural that a little hustle can't overcome, that the right day planner or the right exercise

class or the right, you know, Tupperware set or whatever it might be, it could not help you organize your life and overcome any hurdle when, as we

know, many of them are structural, right? The pay gap is a structural problem.

Lack of effective family leave is a structural problem. Yet, as women, we often internalize that we need to overcome those hurdles just by working

hard. And so, that was really, I think, the root of how I started to believe that that's why I had to sacrifice so much to be successful in my


MARTIN: Where do you think it came from to begin with? I mean, conservatives have been saying this for some time, that it's really -- this

is feminism's fault, that they sold women a bill of goods, and that they should kind of re-orient toward the home.

MUKHOPADHYAY: That was something I was really fascinated with in the book. Because I think we talk a lot about what's happened in the last 10 years,

but we don't talk as much about what happened in the '60s and '70s and even the early '80s, both from a policy perspective, but also in terms of where

the feminist movement was and what was actually pushed to women as the narrative of the workplace.

So, you had, you know, the Betty Friedans of the world that were saying, women who went to college, they ended up becoming housewives and they're

miserable, and we need to support them to go out into the workforce. That was for affluent white women, because we all know for those women to go

into the workforce, women of color had to take care of their children, right? Who many of them were already working and would love the opportunity

to stay home and be with their families, but didn't have the ability to because they were out working.

Later on, I was very fascinated by the writer Helen Gurley Brown, who was the long-time editor of "Cosmopolitan" magazine, and she had written a book

in the '60s called "Sex and the Single Girl," which had made her quite famous.

But the book she wrote in the early '80s was called "Having It All." And that book really was about how women can have it all. She was talking about

how to still be, you know, an attractive woman while also being successful in her career. She actually didn't have children, and she wasn't talking

about having children.

MARTIN: There is one thing that she's sort of known for, which is sort of celebrating a woman as a sexual being, as you point out in your book. My

read of it now was sexual in men's terms, like being attractive to men. Why was she so fascinating to you?

MUKHOPADHYAY: To me, that was an example of taking the values of feminism, but trying to push them on a broader audience. And as such, she reached a

broader audience, right? Helen Gurley Brown was really talking to pink collar workers, right? Secretaries in the city, administrative assistants,

you know, women that were working as teacher's assistants, you know, women that hadn't really been spoken to you by the broader movement.

And it worked, right? People were very compelled by the messaging and it's still a phrase that we use today. Even if it -- even if the origin of it is

complicated, the way that we talk about it still frames how we talk about women and the workplace. And so, I guess to your point about what is the

root of how we talk about this, when we transitioned from feminism as a collective movement, workers' rights as a collective movement, to this

individualistic idea that when you work hard enough, you can get ahead.


Women start to become more competitive with each other. There was this idea that if I work hard, I can get that seat at the table. And I think that, in

many ways, is the root of it. Whereas, you know, a feminism of the workplace, which could really be about our collective organizing turned

into an individual pursuit, where, you know, the wink of an eye and, you know, the wearing the right suit and taking the right meetings would help

you get ahead at work.

And the advice is not fully wrongheaded, right? Like, we all know that there are certain strategies we can use in a traditional workplace that

will get us ahead. But what does that do for women as a whole?

MARTIN: I'm just thinking about the fact that individualism has always been a part of this culture. So, I guess I'm wondering, like, why is anybody

surprised that a certain cohort of women like that story for themselves, right?

MUKHOPADHYAY: I do think that for some women, it is the only narrative, right? There isn't the opportunity to connect with other women around their

experiences. You don't -- not every workplace can be unionized. Especially when I worked at Teen Vogue, you know, young women of color, they really

bought into the ethos of hustle culture and kind of girl bossing. Because for them, that was a concrete way for them to get out of the lived

experience that they were having and to change their material conditions.

My argument is a little bit broader than that, right? I think we know that the individualism is the spirit of the American dream, right? What we're

seeing now is people are becoming very critical of that because they're looking at older generations, especially younger people. And they're like,

well, you did everything you were supposed to do. You leaned in, you girl bossed, you try to have it all, and you still don't own a house, you still

have student debt, and I'm not going to sign up for that same social contract. That is not what I'm going to sign up for.

And so, I think we are at this moment of a reckoning where we're looking around and saying, why are we working like this if it's not going to pay

off and actually give us the happiness and the support and the stability that we deserve and that we need to live successful and functional lives?

MARTIN: Are men having such a great time?

MUKHOPADHYAY: I don't think men are having a particularly great time. Part of my interest in women is both -- it's part memoir. So, it's also my own

experience as a woman navigating, you know, corporate workplaces. But also, women are still paid less on the dollar. Women still do the majority of

care work. You know, mothers are still responsible for the majority of care work.

And are you -- really to me, mothers are where, you know, the cracks are really starting to show between our ability to take care of our families

and have healthy families and our ability to be working and be ambitious in the workplace.

MARTIN: You talked with a number of diversity and inclusion experts for this book. That's a term that I think a lot of people will have heard,

especially if they do work in one of these big, sort of, corporations, or - - and obviously, there's been a political backlash against these concepts.

But what do you think those conversations add to what you're talking about here? What did you learn from them?

MUKHOPADHYAY: You know, interestingly, there is new research that a lot of the DNI programs from that time have been effective, but some of them have

been abandoned. And we're seeing that, right? We're seeing the loan laid off DEI officer who is -- was the first to get cut in the newest round of

budget cuts, right? And what, you know, has historically been understood as the business case for diversity, what we're actually learning is that it's

a lot deeper than that, it's a lot more complex than that.

And not only do -- is there a business case for diversity, but diverse environments make for better workplaces. They make for more creativity.

They make for an opportunity for a variety of people to feel included. But there's also a cultural value for diversity. And we know that, you know,

there's a changing face of the American population. We want to integrate and empower all of these different types of leaders, because when we do, we

see that our teams work better together. They're more comfortable with each other, they're better people. You know, these are all values that are

starting to become a lot more important in companies.

And so, I was just very fascinated by the amount of money that has gone into the industry yet, how, at the end of the day, so many women and people

of color still make less money. And so, what is the gap there? Why are we saying we're invested in this? And then ultimately, we're not actually

seeing the material success of that.

And so, that's why I talked to so many experts, because I was really fascinated by how, you know, employees and really companies were taking on

these initiatives, but why in so many instances they weren't ultimately effective.

MARTIN: There's a quote from the book that I wanted to run by you that struck a lot of us who read it. You said, "Making it is a myth to me, not

because I didn't make it. I did make it, and I'm still making it. I'm still on the hamster wheel. I still work too much. I still have such a hard time

doing all the things that need to get done, let alone being able to think about the bigger picture. I have long been in a prison of my own ambition,

stuck without a narrative for moving forward. And the change I seek, the change we seek, is not going to be accomplished with flowery day planners

and how-to guides. It's going to come from deep personal and collective transformations."

There's a lot there. But just say more about that.


MUKHOPADHYAY: The quote around being in a prison of my own ambition is something that's come up quite a bit. And, you know, really, what I mean to

say there is my ambitions outweighed what were the resources, tools, and structures around me to support those ambitions.

So, while I may have been very ambitious and I wanted to, you know, write books, write articles, have this great job, I was limited by the fact that

I didn't have, you know, any type of real support to help me with that, both at work, with my family, and, you know, just literally how many hours

are in a day. And I think that's something that a lot of people are struggling with, where they are ambitious, they want to do as much as they

can possibly do, but there's limitations to our time, to our material resources, to our ability, to our flexibility in the workplace, our ability

to do any of the things that we really want to do.

And that is where the reflection in this book really started, where I realized that I had internalized this idea that if I worked hard enough, I

would make it. And I did, in a lot of ways, right? I made it. And -- but I also was not happy in doing that and I did not see the kind of success that

I thought I would.

And for me, there was two pieces to that that I realized. The first was redefining how we see success and redefining what it actually means to make

it. But the second was recognizing that I alone was not going to be able to overcome every hurdle and every experience or discrimination that I

experienced in the workplace, that it was going to take me reaching out, building community, you know, whether that be some type of worker

organizing or whatever that may be to actually change material conditions for employees.

MARTIN: And you're also still a boss. I'm wondering if this whole kind of emotional, mental, spiritual journey that you've been on has changed the

way you boss.

MUKHOPADHYAY: Absolutely, it has. One of the things that I've really learned through management is the different ways that you can be a manager

that is mindful of this moment and all of the different ways that people are interacting with work and how to actually have them feel included and

feel OK about whatever they're grappling with in their life, that they don't have to sacrifice everything for their job.

And I do that through a series of ways. I mean, I'm really hands-on in terms of feedback. I am really structured in terms of, you know, what I

have around expectations, what people are expected to do on the job and also to create an environment where people feel comfortable giving me

feedback as much as I'm comfortable giving them feedback.

And so, it's a -- you know, it's a relationship, not a one sided, you know, dictatorship. And, you know -- and so, that is one of the ways that I've

tried to account for this moment. But I've also accepted that I alone can't fix this moment. I can't fix that how many people are miserable at work

right now. I can't fix then kind of money I have access to, the types of raises that I can give. And so, those are the places that I do step back.

And I'm quite transparent about it. I'd say here's what's possible. Here's what I can do. If you want to do this job, here's what's the reality of the

job. Here's how I can make it better for you, but these are the decisions you need to make. And the more frank I am and the more honest I am, I

noticed the more engaged and, frankly, committed many of my employees tend to be because they also see themselves, they see that I'm being honest

about my experience. And so, they feel comfortable being honest about their experience.

MARTIN: Before I let you go, think back to that young woman who you thought was kind of sold a bill of goods and kind of needed to get knocked around a

bit before you realized that it was a bill of goods and you had to kind of figure it out. Can you kind of think back to that person and think what

would you tell her if you could talk to that person? What would you -- to that Samhita, what would you say?

MUKHOPADHYAY: At the time, I told myself to fake it until I made it. And what I would say now is don't feel that you're lucky to be there, they're

lucky to have you as much as you're lucky to be there. And that there's always an opportunity to make an impact and be invested in your work, but

be honest with yourself about what your limitations are and what you're able to actually do with the resources that you have. And don't be so hard

on yourself when you're not meeting what you feel success looks like. To really calibrate what success is possible in an environment where you don't

have a lot of control over many of the things that are happening around you.

And I think that's the advice I would probably give. And the advice that I really hope people feel from this book, because, as I say, it's not an

advice book, but what I do hope people get out of it is that they feel a little less alone.

I think one of the things that has really happened with workplace feminism or what academics have called this kind of neoliberal feminism is the

belief that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and with hard work, you can overcome any obstacle you face. And that has left many of us

alienated and feeling alone and feeling like failures, both in our families and in our careers. And the reality is, we alone can't actually change many

of the structures that we're facing. It's going to require collective, whether that's organizing, talking, conversations, work wives, whatever

that may be, we need collective community to overcome many of the things that we're experiencing in the workplace.

MARTIN: Samhita Mukhopadhyay, thank you so much for talking with us.



AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, collective community from the workplace to the ballot box. Two years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe

v. Wade, the federal right to an abortion, and it's a key issue in the November presidential elections and perhaps also in France, where thousands

of women have been demonstrating against the far-right ahead of their snap elections next week, fearing for their reproductive rights and the

President Macron's move to enshrine them in the constitution could be undermined.


Meanwhile, in Brazil, women were also on the march demanding the end of a bill that would equate abortion after 22 weeks with homicide.

As Hillary Clinton famously once said, human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights.

That is it for now. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.