BBC Interview with Norman Finkelstein on Gaza

BBC Persian did an interview with Norman Finkelstein (an American author) about the current conflict in Gaza, and despite their promise to publish the interview on the English language website, they have refused to do so, citing technical problems. Originally they claimed they didn’t have the audio. Then when Finkelstein suggested subtitles they said they didn’t have anyone to translate back to English. So I translated it to English and added in the subtitles. I still doubt whether they will publish it
after all.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they chose not to air the interview at all, but to publish it in Iran, and in Persian, and not in English, makes it into a sort of propaganda to make BBC look better in the eyes of Iranians (more critical of Israel) while having their regular coverage at home (less critical). (kind of like a VOA style thing)

In any case the video is available here (if you are interested):

The full transcript is available in the comments.

But here it is anyways:
Here’s the updated English transcript:
0:00-3:10

Q: Norman Finkelstein, professor of political science and author of the book Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, from New York.

What’s the reality of the current conflict? What is Israel’s goal in this high casualty war?

Norm:
The attack against Hamas started because Hamas joined the Palestinian Unity government.

Hamas had accepted the conditions stipulated by the US and EU.

Hamas accepted these conditions and agreed to form a National Unity government.

Prime Minister Netanyahu exploited the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers as a pretext – – it’s a pretext because no one knows who was behind the abduction and killing – – to attack Hamas and break up the Unity government, so as to give Israel a new excuse not to pursue peace negotiations.

At first Israel said it couldn’t negotiate with the Palestinian Authority because the PA didn’t represent all of the Palestinian people.

But if the Unity government went ahead, then this excuse would have been removed.
An Israeli political scientist once termed this sort of panicky Israeli reaction, the fear of a Palestinian “peace offensive,” because it eliminates Israel’s excuse for not negotiating a settlement.

That was phase one, we are now entering phase two.

The Israeli government knows that if it launches a ground invasion, it will face a big dilemma, because Israeli troops will suffer a large number of casualties.

During the 2008-9 Israeli massacre in Gaza, it destroyed everything in sight in order to avoid combatant deaths.

But if Israel once again tries to destroy everything in sight, the international community won’t allow it…[interrupted by question]

3:10-5:10:
Q: [interrupted by question]
Mr Finkelstein you are pointing out that Israelis don’t want peace when in fact it is these Israelis who see themselves as being targets of Hamas rockets which people, which country in the world doesn’t want peace and doesn’t want to live in peace and quiet?

Norm: Israel wants peace. Every country wants peace.

Every aggressor in history wanted peace.

The question is what kind of peace? Peace under what conditions?

Israel says it has a right to defend itself.

The British government and the BBC support this right of self-defense in the face of Hamas’s primitive rocket attacks.

But Israel is not demanding the right of self-defense.

Israel is demanding the right to maintain the occupation, and the right to kill Palestinians who resist the occupation.

The first right is, the right to continue the occupation, and the second right is to kill Palestinians who resist the occupation.

On the other side, Palestinians are given two rights, the right to die slowly under the blockade of Gaza, the merciless, cynical, heartless blockade of Gaza, or the right to die quickly under Israel’s murderous assault

[interrupted by question, translator stops]

5:10-7:18:
Q: Mr. Finkelstein before this interview we had an interview with a Hamas spokesperson the Hamas spokesperson said “we don’t recognize Israel.”

Many Israelis and Israeli officials say how can we live beside a group that is armed, and has a territory under its control and doesn’t recognize our right to live.

Norm: I think you’re having a problem listening to me, but I think my English is pretty clear. We can surely both agree that a Unity government was formed.

Hamas agreed to the conditions of this Unity government, conditions that were stipulated by the US and EU.

So what’s the problem with negotiating with them?

The problem is Israel doesn’t want to negotiate.

This is why Israel went on a rampage in the West Bank after the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers.

They arrested 750 Palestinians, killed 11 civilians, including 4 children, wrecked people’s homes.

All this was to evoke a reaction from Hamas, so that Israel could avoid negotiations.
Now I ask you, If the Unity government was formed, and the US and EU agreed to negotiate with the Unity government, what prevented a settlement? You say it was Hamas. But that just makes you an apologist for Israel, because the US and EU agreed to negotiate with the Unity government. Why are you being an apologist for Israel? [interrupted by question]

7:18-end
Q: Mr Finkelstein I brought up the Israeli point of view, we are not in a position to take sides, to support or denounce either side, we’re an impartial source. You have written books about the conflict between Israel and Palestine and have worked and researched in this field. This current situation what effect could it have on Israel? Please answer briefly, thank you.

Norm: If Israel launches a ground invasion, it has to destroy everything in sight, because Israeli society won’t tolerate combatant casualties.

Israelis like high-tech massacres, they don’t want an actual war and to see their own casualties.

But Israel can’t destroy everything in sight, because after the 2008-9 massacre — when 1400 Palestinians were killed, up to 1200 of whom were civilians, while on the Israeli side 13 were killed, and only 3 were civilians– the international community will not tolerate such a bloodbath on the part of Israel. Israel can’t stop the Hamas rocket attacks without an invasion, but it can’t invade without causing massive death and destruction, which the international community won’t allow.

Here I want to echo what Amnesty International said. First, there should be a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel and Palestine.

Second, there should be an international investigation of the war crimes committed on both sides.

And third–this is my suggestion, not Amnesty’s, and it’s the most important–the international community should impose sanctions on Israel until and unless Israel agrees to end this conflict, once and for all, under the terms of international law.

This demand is simple, clear, and unassailable. Israel must end the conflict under the terms of international law.

Israel does not have the right to go into Gaza every few years and – – to use their hideous expression – -“mow the lawn.”

The days of Israel mowing the lawn must end. And Israel should be subjected to sanctions until and unless it ends the conflict on the basis of international law.

Q: Norman Finkelstein American political scientist and author of the book Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, I thank you for your presence on
this show.

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