“We Will Never Leave”: Human Rights Lawyer Raji Sourani in Gaza City Refuses to Be “Good Victim”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The death toll from Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has topped 2,800 after Israeli airstrikes killed at least 71 people in the southern Gaza Strip. The attacks came just days after Israel ordered residents of the northern Gaza Strip to head south. Gaza’s civil defense force estimates at least 1,000 Palestinians remain trapped under rubble from recent Israeli strikes.

ABID SAQIR: [translated] The number of martyrs who are under rubble is 1,000, according to the figures of the Ministry of Interior. Work is underway to extract them, though we don’t have heavy machinery to do so. We are exerting individual efforts by civil defense personnel with some excavators. From Gaza Valley until the governate of Rafah, there are only two excavators working. And in each operation an excavator gets damaged, we postpone taking out martyrs until we fix it.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier today, the Gaza Ministry of Health announced Gaza’s only oncology hospital, the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, will be forced to close within 48 hours due to a lack of fuel. On Monday, UNRWA, the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency, warned that Israel’s siege is having a devastating impact on civilians.

JULIETTE TOUMA: No supplies have come into Gaza since the 7th of October. Nothing. No fuel, no food, no water, no other types of assistance. No supplies have gotten into Gaza since the 7th of October. That, I can confirm. Not for UNRWA and not for other U.N. agencies. … There continues to be no water for the vast majority of the population in Gaza. We’re talking about 2 million people in the Gaza Strip who do not have water. And water is running out. And water is life. And life is running out of Gaza.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced President Biden will visit Israel Wednesday to show support for Israel following last week’s surprise attack by Hamas that killed over 1,400 people in Israel. During the attacks, Hamas and other militant groups seized as many as 250 hostages, most of whom are civilians. On Monday, Blinken said a deal is being developed to resume the delivery of some aid to Gaza.

SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: To that end, today, and at our request, the United States and Israel have agreed to develop a plan that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza — and them alone — including the possibility of creating areas to help keep civilians out of harm’s way. It is critical that aid begin flowing into Gaza as soon as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden is also expected to travel to Amman to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah, the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Biden has so far refused to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. And on Monday, the U.S. voted against a ceasefire resolution proposed by Russia at the U.N. Security Council. On Monday, more than 50 protesters were arrested at the White House in demonstrations calling for a ceasefire. The protest was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow.

The head of U.S. Central Command, Army General Michael Kurilla, flew into Israel today as the United States continues to rush ammunition, air defenses and other weaponry to Israel ahead of a possible Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.

We go now to Gaza City, where we’re joined by Raji Sourani. He’s the award-winning human rights lawyer and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza. He’s also the 2013 Right Livelihood Award laureate. He’s on the executive board of the International Federation for Human Rights. He received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1991, also twice named an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. And years ago, when he was denied entry into the United States, it was former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, among others, who advocated on his behalf to secure a visa.

On Monday, he shared this message with his friends, quote:

“Good morning from Gaza
The most wonderful city l loved and wish to end my life on its soil
Terrible and unbelievable the criminality
We did not sleep from the bombing
Freedom and dignity so costly and we are ready to pay our lives for it
No right to give up
I am so proud of my people, unbelievable courage and strength
Keep the strategic optimism
Love and hugs to you all my friends.”

Raji Sourani, you’re in Gaza City. We spoke to you a week ago. You have remained in Gaza City, which is in the north of Gaza. You have not moved south. Can you talk about what’s happening in your city and why you’ve chosen to remain there?


You know, I mean, Gaza, 85% of its population are refugees, and they suffered the Nakba in 1948. And there is the cultures and subcultures of Palestinians having always the Nakba in their minds and hearts. And what Prime Minister Netanyahu asked people of Gaza, day one, he asked Gazans to leave. His minister of defense, he said, “No electricity, no water, no fuel and no food.” And from the first minute for their reaction, they began to bomb everywhere and made sure no safe haven in Gaza. Much more than that, they were targeting civilians and civilian targets.

And later on, they asked people in the north of Gaza to move to the south, as if the south is the safe haven. But when people even, hundreds of thousands of them, moved to the south, the Israelis bombarded them. More than 170 were killed en route to the south. In the last two days, the south has had the hell of bombing and the concentration of bombing of the Israeli F-35, and the smart bombs of GBU-31/32/37, the most smart American bombs, are targeting everywhere. So, they left nothing. Nothing.

Why should we be good victims for criminals who do war crimes at the daylight in front of the whole world, and the world is watching? I cannot be, you know, good victim for the Israeli criminal occupation in this sixth war, launched against us after a blockade of 16 years and after occupation of 55 years. After 75 years, we have no right as the Palestinians to do another Nakba. We will resist that, because we knew the disaster which came to the Palestinian people 75 years ago. Israeli criminals, their criminality, it’s not a secret. It’s there in the real time, and the whole world is watching. And those who are backing it, politically, militarily, are complicit and part of the crime committed against Palestinian people.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Raji Sourani, how are the people, you and others, surviving without water, without electricity, without fuel?

RAJI SOURANI: I’m proud of my people, because with all the might of Israel, the strongest army in the Middle East, towards Gaza, the 365 square kilometers, and after a blockade of 16 years in the most dense populated area on Earth, which is lack of everything, they are still strong, still surviving. They didn’t give up. They have no right to give up. And they are managing. We have death everywhere, in the streets and the sky — and the deaths coming from the sky, from the sea, from the artillery. Everywhere, I mean, there is death and destruction. With that, I mean, people having super fantastic social solidarity. And they are trying to resist this aggression once and again. We have no right to give up. I’m very proud that I’m Gazan. I’m very proud I’m Palestinian. I’m very proud that we are not good victims for the criminals.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you hear the report now that President Biden, in the midst of this colossal war crime that is being committed, is going to travel to Israel?

RAJI SOURANI: I don’t know why he and Mr. Blinken insisting on bringing humanitarian aid, as if we are animal farm and all what people need, food. I’m telling you 1,200 children have been killed in Gaza. Nine hundred fifty women have been killed in Gaza. More than that, we have 7,000 injured people, who are, hundreds of them, in very critical conditions. We are having 1,200 under the rubble. People cannot uncover them because we have no means to uncover them in Gaza. And the civil defense was bombarded, and seven of them have been killed. More, I mean, even hospitals were asked to evacuate. To evacuate to where? Like, you are imposing death penalty, imposing death penalty on injured people who are treated in the hospitals, and trying to — Gaza, I mean, doctors, nurses have the courage to say, “No, we are not going to evacuate. Bomb us. Bomb us.”

And they are, you know, doing all these horrendous acts. Is this the most moral army on Earth who bombs schools of UNRWA youth shelters with thousands of people? Is this the most moral army who cuts water, electricity, food supplies on civilians? Is this the mighty Israel?

International law, international humanitarian law and the human rights, it’s there to protect civilians at the time of war. That’s why Geneva Conventions are there. That’s why Rome Statute are there. That’s why ICC is there. I mean, civilians need protection. They need to have a safe haven, but not only food. We have a prolonged occupation. Nobody is talking about occupation. We have crimes on our skins, on our ideas. The deaths of people in obscenity way, I mean, Israel dealing with it.

And then, I mean, this is Blinken and Biden bringing some food and medicine to the animal farm? We want dignity. We want freedom. We want the end of the occupation. That’s what we want. They have to stop these atrocities. And that is there is something called a free world, civilized world should call for. Why U.S. supported Ukraine? Because Russia invaded and occupied Ukraine. They give them political support. They give them financial support. They give them military support. And they ask Americans, and with them Europeans, to go and try for the freedom of Ukraine, to end the occupation of Russia. We are occupied 55 years, the Nakba since 75 years. We want to have an end for this occupation. We are not the criminals. No just or fair occupation on Earth. All international human rights organizations — name it — Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, EuroMed Human Rights Network, FIDH, even Israeli leading human rights organization B’Tselem and others — they said we have to hold Israel accountable for the crimes they are committing and doing, even before this war. With this war, I believe Mr. Biden, what he should say is, “Stop this aggression promptly, immediately. Stop attacking civilians. End the occupation. Give the Palestinians dignity, freedom and their independence.” That’s what we want from the free world. We don’t want one more bag of flour. No, we want end of the occupation. We want dignity, and we want freedom.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re sticking with you, Raji. It’s a little hard to understand as you speak on the phone, but rarely do media organizations have people on the phone from Gaza. It becomes increasingly difficult to hear what is happening on the ground there. So we appreciate and will — at democracynow.org, the transcript of this conversation will be available. I wanted to ask you about the State Department memo that was revealed, warning diplomats not to use the word “de-escalate,” and an Israeli military strategist saying, “Our goal isn’t turning Gaza City into a parking lot. Our goal is to turn Gaza into a Hamas-less region.” Can you respond to that, Raji?

RAJI SOURANI: Hamas, Fatah, PFLP, Jihad Islamic combatants, they are part of a resistance. Israel has a problem with them. We have no problem–there is rules of engagement between militaries, we have no problem with that. The real, real serious problem, it’s not that Israel is engaging with these. They are revenging from the civilians in Gaza. What hospitals, the schools, houses, towers had to do with Israel, with the attack which had happened? What 1,100 children have been killed has to do with the attack? The women have been killed, those who under rubbles and under destruction and unable to be recovered. Why patients cannot — I mean, receive all this? Why our fate and destiny to stay under occupation?

Everybody should think about the root causes of this. There is an occupation by Israel. This occupation committed many, many crimes. It’s the most well-documented conflict in history. And there is an open investigation at the ICC. And the prosecutor, Mr. K.K., Karim Khan, didn’t move one millimeter, while with Putin, in one year, he gave warrant to be arrested, and lies of sanctions — layers of sanctions have been imposed on Russia in unprecedented way. Now with Israel, everything is OK? Our blood is obscene?

They have the right to kill and destroy us, not to destroy what’s happening, even destroy our tomorrow. It’s shame on the West to support such criminal country who do these war crimes. We cannot be like old Rome. In old Rome, there was rule of law for masters, not for slaves. Palestinians are not the slaves of the 21st century. We will not accept that. We will die with dignity and with pride, but we are not going to be killed according to the Israeli army orders and instructions.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Raji, we have heard now for a week that the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza will be opened, but it continues to be closed. What are you hearing about why it has taken so long to allow at least the most injured and those who are most vulnerable to leave Gaza?

RAJI SOURANI: Egypt knew the real intentions of Netanyahu. They knew that the real ultimate goal of this, to push all Gazans, the 2.4 million people, toward Sinai and Egypt. And they cannot be complicit, part of this crime. And they closed the border from their side, because they don’t want Gazans to live there. The Israeli-orchestrated bombing, the level of bombing, the architect of bombing, pushing people toward the south, toward Egypt. And that’s why Egypt, I mean, closed that. Israel wants the border to be open to make Gazans leave. Most of the Gazans won’t leave. And Egypt understood this is the Israeli plan. That’s why they blocked it. And they said, “If you want to open the crossing, I will only do that if you allow the humanitarian aid coming to Gaza.”


RAJI SOURANI: Israel doesn’t want the humanitarian aid to come to Gaza. And they bombed and — Rafah crossing twice. Sorry, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, it was just bombed again, the area leading to Rafah, today. We just have 30 seconds, but just to understand: Are you going to leave Gaza? Are you going to leave your home? The last time we talked to you, your house was shaking. They had bombed the Islamic University nearby. What are your plans now?

RAJI SOURANI: On my body, I have no plan. I am here like an olive tree. We will never leave our homeland. I’m eight generations — I’m eight centuries, my family, I mean, living in this part of the world. I’m not going to reward Netanyahu by leaving because he threatened of that. They can bomb us. They can kill us. But they cannot take the love and the justice from our hearts and minds. We are defending just, fair, right cause. We know dignity and the freedom so costly. We will fight for that.

AMY GOODMAN: Raji Sourani, I want to thank you for being with us, award-winning human rights lawyer, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, recipient of the Right Livelihood Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, speaking to us from his home in Gaza City. Please be safe, Raji.

Next up, we go to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to speak with Sari Bashi of Human Rights Watch. Back in 30 seconds.


AMY GOODMAN: “We Are Palestinians” by the Palestinian singer Dalal Abu Amneh, who has been arrested by Israeli forces in the West Bank after she shared a social media post in support of charities working in Gaza.

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