Tuesday’s Amanpour & Co. on PBS featured Diana Buttu, blandly described as "a Palestinian lawyer who advised the negotiating team,” but whose actual views were extremely hostile to Israel and radically pro-Palestinian -- and in sync with those of host Christiane Amanpour.
Amanpour matched her guest by bringing her own long-standing hostility to Israel and concurrent embrace of the Palestinian cause. The segment reached far beyond concern over the ideology of Israel’s new “right-wing” political coalition under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into name-calling and support for extremism.
Amanpour: ….U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in the Middle East as the cycle of violence escalates and Israel's extreme far-right government gets up and running….
Buttu responded to an Amanpour question on Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussing Palestinians' “shrinking horizons for hope.”
Buttu: ….The United States has been fueling the Israeli government. Instead of boycotting this extremist fascist government, they've embraced it. And it's only a matter of time before we see things get even worse than they already are and they're already bad as it is.
Amanpour defended the Biden Administration from the left-wing attack to assure Buttu the Biden administration didn’t like the new Netanyahu coalition leading Israel either:
Amanpour: So, look, I know you say they've embraced it, but clearly the message and the words coming from the State Department and from the Biden administration has not exactly been embracing. They have publicly said that they are concerned, certainly about the most extreme members of this new government, and their threat to democracy….
Buttu’s relentless, extreme views became apparent, without any challenge from Amanpour. Buttu bragged about using international pressure and boycotts to delegitimize Israel:
….We have tried to go to the International Criminal Court, and the U.S. is attempting to block it. We're trying to use the International Court of Justice, and the U.S. is attempting to block it. We've pushed for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, and the United States has blocked it.
Amanpour didn’t challenge her guest’s support for the radical, some say anti-Semitic, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which puts pressure on Israel’s right to exist.
Amanpour couldn’t even criticize the specter of future Palestinian terrorism, and certainly didn’t call it terrorism, a word she used later to describe members of the new Israel coalition.
Amanpour: ….I mean, obviously there have been suicide bombings in the past as well. But the use of guns, even by very, very young Palestinians, is another step forward, another frontier. So, what do you think is going to be the reaction going forward?
Amanpour then asked Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross, who appeared separately: “Is there any chance, in hell, that the United States is going to do what it did, for instance, you know, with South Africa? Like, the whole, you know, stopping the military and financial support?” (The offensive comparison was first raised by Buttu.)
Ross soundly rebutted the analogy to apartheid South Africa, but Amanpour kept up the criticism of Israel’s dangerous new government, the host calling it the most “hardline religious government in Israel's history, with members in very, very important ministries who are either settler activists, or have been convicted of, you know, racial incitement, even belonging to a terrorist group." This is probably a reference to cabinet minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the Otzma Yehudit [Jewish power] party.
This biased PBS segment was funded in part by Mutual of America Financial Group, and viewers like you.
A transcript is below, click “Expand” to read. CNN's transcript described Buttu as a "political analyst and human rights lawyer."
AMANPOUR: U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in the Middle East as the cycle of violence escalates and Israel's extreme far-right government gets up and running….
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. America's top diplomat is leaving the Middle East after spending two days in the region as violence between Israelis and Palestinians flares up once again. Antony Blinken urged calm on both sides. It's a familiar line from a U.S. Secretary of State. But this is the first major test of Benjamin Netanyahu's latest and very hardline government which took power last month. It is widely considered the most far-right religious Israeli coalition in the state's history.
After meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday, Blinken went to the occupied West Bank to meet with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, becoming the latest American Secretary of State to try navigating a way out of this cycle of despair, while also clinging to the hope and the vision of a two-state solution. Diana Buttu is a Palestinian lawyer who advised the negotiating team, and she is joining me now from Ramallah.
Welcome back to the program, Diana. Can I start by asking you what you made of the statement by Antony Blinken, sitting, I believe, there with President Mahmoud Abbas, talking about Palestinians shrinking horizons for hope. I've actually never heard that before in public. What did you make of that?
DIANA BUTTU, "POLITICAL ANALYST AND HUMAN RIGHT LAWYER": This is the first time that he was actually honest about what it is that Palestinians are experiencing. We've already been seeing, over the past two decades, during this so-called peace process that things have actually gotten worse for Palestinians. We've seen more and more settlements expand, we've seen more Palestinian homes be demolished by Israel, more Palestinians killed. And the idea of a two-state solution is now laughable.
So, this is the first dose of honesty that we've heard from a secretary of state. The question is, what is he going to do to stop it and to pretend that somehow the U.S. is either an honest broker or that it doesn't play a role in this is also laughable. The United States has been fueling the Israeli government. Instead of boycotting this extremist fascist government, they've embraced it. And it's only a matter of time before we see things get even worse than they already are and they're already bad as it is.
AMANPOUR: So, look, I know you say they've embraced it, but clearly the message and the words coming from the State Department and from the Biden administration has not exactly been embracing. They have publicly said that they are concerned, certainly about the most extreme members of this new government, and their threat to democracy, and their threat to the, you know, the two-state solution. I know you, yourself, and you said it to us many times, do not believe there's any more hope for the two-state solution. The Americans clearly believe there is. But how about this survey? I don't know whether, you know, what you took form this, but Horwitz (ph), the new survey says that, yes, support for two-state solution is sinking very, very rapidly. But Palestinians prefer a two-state solution over a Palestinian dominated state, 33 to 30 percent. What do you make about that?
BUTTU: Look, Palestinians just want to be free. And they just -- we just want Israel's boot off of our neck, and that's it. And so, Palestinians are -- have been pushing for this. Have been pushing for this for decades. And the problem is is that there is a way to get out of this. All it requires us for the U.S. to say, stop to Israel's settlement construction. All that it requires is for them to say stop, reverse the occupation, end it, end it now. But instead, they come with words of concern, they express statements, but they do nothing at the end of the day, except continue to fund this government and fund this occupation.
This is not just a U.N. -- U.S. administration that is sitting by idly. This is a U.S. administration that continues along the same path that Trump has taken, and continues to give Israel more and more money. That sends the message to Israelis that what they're doing is right. That they can continue to build and expand settlements, they can continue to demolish Palestinian homes, they can continue in the year 2023 to deny Palestinians their freedom and get away with it, and be embraced. These statements of concern just simply handling and we've been down this path many, many, many times before. The only action that will work is to hold Israel to account, and the United States is unwilling to do that.
AMANPOUR: Well, we are actually going to talk to Dennis Ross right after you, as you know very well, the lead peace negotiator under many U.S. administrations. But I want to ask you, Secretary Blinken did speak very loudly about wanting to see both sides share in prosperity and peace. He talked about integrating Israel with the wider region, you know well, the Abraham Accords, and things like that. But he also said this about the Palestinians and their visions.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: These efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians. But as we advance Israel's integration, we can do so in ways that improve the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. And that's crucial to moving toward our enduring goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice, and dignity. President Biden remains fully committed to that goal. We continue to believe that the best way to achieve it is through preserving and then realizing the vision of two-states.
AMANPOUR: So, he also then went off -- and actually, differently from any other secretary of state went to meet with civil society leaders inside Israel, which some of -- sort of, red as a, you know, as a not-so-subtle statement about where the administration lies. What could the U.S. do to bring hope that we just spoke about is shrinking? What could it do to do that, you know, for the Palestinians?
BUTTU: And funding to Israel. And the endless diplomatic support that they've given Israel. Look, we've tried in all ways to secure our freedom. We have tried to go to the International Criminal Court, and the U.S. is attempting to block it. We're trying to use the International Court of Justice, and the U.S. is attempting to block it. We've pushed for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, and the United States has blocked it.
At every single junction, this isn't just a question of them funding the occupation, but giving endless political support. And once again, if they do believe in a two-state solution, it is easy to implement, it just requires Israel to reverse its settlement enterprise. But instead of reversing it, we have seen that the settlement enterprise has deepened. Just with this new government, the first announcement that they made was that they were going to build and expand even more settlements. And yet, there isn't a peep, nobody is pushing Israel and stopping Israel, and saying to Israel, enough. If they believe in the two-state solution, they need to back the two-state solution. But they don't believe in it which is why they don't back it.
AMANPOUR: So, Diana, you know that the United States is never going to do what you just said in terms of -- I think you said stop supporting Israel, that is not going to happen. So, what is going to happen on -- in the occupied territories? I think I remember you saying to me awhile back when we talked about it, I think it was another one of these flares of violence. I think it was you who said -- and was very concerned that the, you know, as President Mahmoud Abbas said today, Palestinians are not going to wait for their freedom forever. What are you hearing on the ground? What is the mood of people who, frankly, you know, the west doesn't hear a huge amount about the story these days.
BUTTU: Yes, you're absolutely right. And I think I should make clear that, you know, the United States also continued to back an apartheid South Africa. And it was only when the rest of the world had pushed for the boycott, the divestment, the sanctions movement in South Africa that the United States ended up being a follower, not a leader. And I do believe that the same is going to happen here, I agree with you. The United States is not going to end its military support, or financial support, or diplomatic support of Israel.
But I do think the rest of the world is, and the United States, once again, is going to be a follower and not a leader. But more importantly than that, as Mahmoud Abbas said, and I'm not somebody who always agrees with him, we are in a place where people are moving ahead and saying that maybe this should be a completely different struggle. Maybe our struggle should exactly model that of South Africa where it is a one state model.
And you are hearing these different voices. No matter what it is that people may disagree on the outcome, one thing is common and shared which is we don't want to live under Israel's boot any longer. We're tired of living under military occupation. And it's time for us to be free. And the fact that we have to continually be making these claims, just shows, just how far behind the United States is. We should be talking about how Palestinians live in freedom and are enjoying their freedom, not about 55 years of military occupation.
AMANPOUR: Diana, I also asked you about what you -- what the mood -- I mean, it's, you know, what people, young Palestinians are thinking mostly because what we've been seeing is young Palestinians resorting to the use of guns. And that's a little bit of a change from before when it was, you know, knives, it was stones. I mean, obviously there have been suicide bombings in the past as well. But the use of guns, even by very, very young Palestinians, is another step forward, another frontier. So, what do you think is going to be the reaction going forward?
BUTTU: You know, Christiane, there hasn't been people around the world who sat by idly to the denial of freedom. It didn't happen in the United States. It doesn't -- it's not happening anywhere around the world, and it's not going to happen with Palestinians. And this is sadly the inevitable outcome of 55 years of denial of freedom. 75 years of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. This is why we have been saying and pushing for things like the Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions Movement. We've been pushing for Israel to be held to account. But instead of the U.S. embracing these moves, they also block them. This is where the fear is, is that people aren't going to sit by. They are going to continue to resist. They have the right to resist. And it's going to be a resistance that will take a number of different shapes and forms.
AMANPOUR: OK. Diana Buttu, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. And we're going to turn now for more on this to Dennis Ross, as I mentioned, a long-time peace negotiator under Republican and Democratic administrations in the United States. That includes serving as a special Middle East coordinator for President Clinton and a Specialist Assistant for President Obama. He's now counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
AMANPOUR: So, I am sure that a lot of what Diana Buttu says, you are going to rebut and you don't agree with, particularly the United States, I – you know, in terms of the U.S. position on this. Is there any chance, in hell, that the United States is going to do what it did, for instance, you know, with South Africa? Like, the whole, you know, stopping the military and financial support?
DENNIS ROSS: The answer is, no. And also, Israel is not South Africa. South Africa was governed by an ideology that was having a small minority subjugate a very large majority that denied them education, denied them access to locations where they could live, denied them to, kind of, professions. It was completely different from what you see with regard to Israel. Israel has faced threats. And Israel is obviously a partner for us in terms of threats that we face as well.
So, it's not the same situation in any way, shape, or form, number one. And number two, you know, yes, the current situation is bad. There is no way of describing it. I would say, Christiane, I've known you a long time, you have known how long I've worked on this issue. I think this is -- maybe the lowest ebb between Israelis and Palestinians that I've seen. And it's worse than the second Intifada. The second Intifada which took place after Camp David and the Clinton families (ph) in which effectively killed the peace camp in Israel. It's worse than that. Because there's almost no contact between Israelis and Palestinians. And there is a complete loss of hope on both sides. Unless you can begin to restore a sense of possibility, it is very hard to get back to actual peacemaking. The first thing to do is stop the deterioration.
AMANPOUR: So, I don't know whether that's going to happen, but, you know, you must be concerned, certainly the U.S. administration is concerned, by the fact that this is the most, you know, hardline religious government in Israel's history with members in very, very important ministries who are either settler activists, or have been convicted of, you know, racial incitement, even belonging to a terrorist group. You know, did you ever imagine that you would see this as you're trying to try to figure out, you know, a peace proposal? Is it even possible at the moment?
ROSS: I'm not sure it's possible at the moment. But I think, again, we have -- we have an unprecedented Israeli government, you're quite right about that….