Christiane Amanpour Wants to Know, What Does Israel Fear From Palestine?

At 2PM on October 7, as Hamas’s barbaric attack on Israel was still ongoing, Christiane Amanpour gave her CNN platform to Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority Ambassador to the UK, to blame that day’s attack on Israel and to compare it to Israel’s self-defense with almost no pushback from the anchor. Nine months later, with 120 Israelis and tourists still being held captive by Hamas, Amanpour continues to promote guests who distort reality.

On June 25, Christiane Amanpour interviewed Palestinian propagandist and founder of Al-Haq, Raja Shehadeh. Throughout the interview, both Amanpour and Shehadeh engaged in a tactic of reversing victim and offender, and often their descriptions of events bore little resemblance to reality. While acknowledging that the October 7 attacks occurred, and that Hamas’s killing of civilians was unjustified, both acted totally oblivious to the cause-and-effect relationship that attack had on subsequent events.

Among other topics, Amanpour and Shehadeh discussed Shehadeh’s new book titled, “What Does Israel Fear From Palestine?” In the wake of October 7, the title beggars belief. In 2005, Israel evacuated every single civilian and soldier from Gaza, leaving behind a greenhouse business that was gifted to the people of Gaza and a beautiful Mediterranean coastline for tourism. At that time there was no occupation and no blockade, and the people of Gaza, functionally, had independence. In a 2006 election, their first opportunity for self-determination, they elected Hamas. Hamas then started wars with Israel in 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2021, culminating in 2023 in the vicious attack in which 1200 Israeli men, women, and children were burned to death, raped, tortured and killed, with another 240 total initially taken hostage to Gaza.

What does Israel fear from Palestine, indeed.

But Amanpour’s first question to Shehadeh about the book was, “given that Israel essentially has the balance of power, why do you think Israel fears Palestine? Do you think it does?” Shehadeh replied, “I think they fear the very existence of Palestine, because if Palestine exists, then the Israeli myth, foundation myth would have to be amended, because the foundation myth of Israel was that they came to a land that was empty, that didn’t have any Palestinians or anybody, and they established Israel from year zero, and so to recognize Palestine would require reconfiguration of the Israeli myth, and that’s the main fear, I think.”

This is false, of course. Early Zionists were well-aware that Arabs were living in the Ottoman- and then British-controlled region of Palestine, and, as Efraim Karsh has explained, “took for granted the full equality of the Arab minority in the prospective Jewish state.” The population of the region prior to waves of Zionist immigration was sparse, and the Arabs who lived there did not call themselves “Palestinians.” But no one thought that there were no people living there at the time. The relevant point is that there was no sovereign state there.

Amanpour then said to Shehadeh, “you come from a family that has been involved in the attempt to broker peace for decades, since ‘48 frankly, your father, when you were a teenager in 1967, submitted a peace proposal to the Israeli government on behalf of the Palestinians and of course all these decades later there is no peace. So Israel always blames the Palestinians for not grabbing a chance when it’s there, or walking away from all the best opportunities it’s given backed by the United States et cetera. Palestinians always blame Israel for, quote unquote, not being serious, for continuing to build settlements while talking the peace talk. What, given that, what is your actual hope for this dynamic to be broken? Do you think it ever will be?”

Amanpour’s question itself is remarkable, not least of all because Aziz Shehadeh doesn’t appear to have ever had any authority to act on behalf of anyone other than himself, or possibly, 50 other “prominent” individuals. He certainly was not acting “on behalf of the Palestinians.” According to his obituary, he was “condemned by the Palestine Liberation Organization as ‘a traitor’ for proposing a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel,” and the New York Times reported that the Fatah Revolutionary Council claimed to have stabbed Aziz Shehadeh to death for advocating “capitulation, humiliating coexistence and liquidation of the Palestine cause.” Yet, Amanpour speaks as if the elder Shehadeh’s proposal was in some way official. More to the point, though, after Arabs started two wars and lost territory in both, the proposal was for a return to a status quo ante that had never existed or been implemented, because it was rejected by the Arab side – the 1947 Partition Plan. It also demanded that the Jews share sovereignty over their newly liberated holiest city, after being denied any access at all to their holy sites within that city for nineteen years. In other words, it was a pipe dream, not a plan.

Predictably, Amanpour’s guest responded by blaming the lack of peace on the settlements. But he never explained, nor did Amanpour ask him, why the settlements can’t become part of a future Palestinian state – or if they can, how they preclude the establishment of one.  

“What did you learn from your father, again you were a teenager when that took place, and you went on to be a lawyer, you founded Al-Haq, the human rights group, you’re an activist. What did you learn from everything you saw as you were growing up, and has that been changed irrevocably, irrevocably since October 7, or not?” Amanpour then asked. 

While Amanpour calls Al-Haq a “human rights group,” NGO Monitor has documented the group’s extensive ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terror organization known for hijacking airplanes. These ties include, “according to multiple Arabic-language media sources, Al-Haq General Director Shawan Jabarin represented the PFLP at a December 2011 meeting of … a reconciliatory body between Hamas, Fatah, PIJ, the PFLP, and other Palestinian factions.” Moreover, “Jabarin was convicted in 1985 for recruiting and arranging training for members for the PFLP.”

After paying lip-service to the idea that, “we have to find a way to live together,” Shehadeh replies, “but since October 7th [it] has become much more difficult because they dehumanize the Palestinians to such an extent, that it’s difficult now to imagine how we can make peace with them.” Later in the interview, he repeats the claim that it is Israelis who have dehumanized the Palestinians of Gaza with their response to October 7, and not the attack itself that dehumanized – and terrorized – Israelis. This is a manipulative reversal of victim and offender. While October 7 is mentioned, the significance of the actual events of that day, and the effects of that attack on the prospects for peace, seem impossibly lost on both interviewer and guest.  

Shehadeh goes on to claim that it the wake of the Oslo Accords, it was the Palestinian side that accepted coexistence and was “ready to live with the Israelis and to make peace based on justice and splitting the land between the two people.” But as both former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his former American ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk have made clear, it was Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat who rejected the terms of Oslo. Amanpour should have corrected her guest here, but she did not. 

Amanpour does press Shehadeh about Hamas: “more and more, Palestinians in Gaza are daring to speak out against Hamas, and they’re basically saying these guys are useless at governance, they’ve rained – they’ve contributed to raining this hell on us. And we hear more and more about Sinwar himself and other Hamas leaders who essentially believe, and they’ve told journalists … the more blood, the more spotlight on our situation. And we spoke to a doctor who saved Sinwar’s life in an Israeli prison, and he said Sinwar told him … a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand Palestinian deaths would be worth, like other liberation movements, he said Algeria, Vietnam and et cetera, would be worth it if we got our rights. What do you think of that?”

Shehadeh replies, “Well, I think this is too harsh, but I think at the same time that Israel could not have continued to oppress the Palestinians and put them in an open-air prison and expect them to be calm and silent and not resist. And Hamas resisted, and they had the right to resist, because the blockade was an act of war on the part of Israel which continued for 16 years. And an act of war can be resisted under international law. And they resisted by breaking the barrier. So, they had the right to do that. What they didn’t have the right was to kill the Israelis – 1,000 Israelis along the – and that was, I think, a crime, of course.”

Here, Amanpour fails to call out her guest’s inconsistency. Although he attempts to make his case under international law, he fails to note that the 2011 Palmer Report found that blockade of Gaza was legal under international law. Amanpour, too, fails to note this, and allowed her guest to make the false claim that it was the blockade that was illegal and the October 7 attack that was legal. Although he takes pains to distinguish the attacks on civilians from the breaking of the barrier between Israel and Gaza and the invasion, he still justifies that invasion based on a false claim about international law. Again, it’s a reversal of victim and offender.

Amanpour moves on to the “universities [that] have been destroyed … cultural centers have been destroyed,” but is oblivious to the contradiction between the beautiful Gaza that was destroyed and Shehadeh’s description of it as an “open-air prison.” She asks, “do you see an intent in terms of wiping out Palestinian culture or do you see it as part of the general destruction of Gaza in this pursuit of Hamas?” Shehadeh of course takes this hook, “I think there’s an intent to destroy Gaza and culture in Gaza. And I think that the denial by the Israelis about, just as there was denial about ‘48, there’s a denial about the destruction of culture in Gaza and the people of Gaza entirely.” The fact that Hamas used homes, mosques, and schools not only to store but even to manufacture weapons, is irrelevant to both Amanpour and Shehadeh.

This is not journalism. This was nearly thirteen minutes of anti-Israel propaganda under the imprimatur of CNN.

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