The death toll in the Gaza Strip continues to rise in the fourth day of Israel’s aerial offensive. Medical officials in Gaza estimate that at least 22 people were killed Thursday, bringing the number of Palestinian fatalities to 101, about half of them reportedly women and children. No deaths have been reported on the Israeli side. The Israeli military says it has dropped hundreds of tonnes of bombs on 1,000 targets throughout Gaza, more than during its eight-day assault in late 2012. The intensification of Israeli airstrikes has been met with a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. We host a debate between Palestinian human rights attorney Noura Erakat and Joshua Hantman, senior adviser to Israel’s ambassador to the United States. "Israel is currently under attack," Hantman says. "Since 2005, over 8,000 rockets, missiles and mortars have been indiscriminately fired at our civilians." But Erakat says Israel’s bombardment of Gaza "amounts to a massacre." "Israel has precise weaponry and is targeting homes," she says. "This is a disproportionate attack, by what we consider the only democracy in the Middle East, by the U.S.’s most unique ally, to whom we provide $3.1 billion a year."
As thousands of migrants continue to arrive in the United States seeking escape from violence in Central America, this week the Texas town of League City passed a resolution banning undocumented children from entering its municipality. The move echoes sentiments that flared up just before July 4 in Murrieta, California, when police blocked three buses of migrants from reaching a federal immigration facility there. The buses carrying dozens of children flown in from an overcrowded detention center in Texas were then surrounded by demonstrators who chanted anti-immigrant slogans. "A society is judged on how we treat our children, and what we witnessed that day was the worst of the American spirit," says Enrique Morones, director of the group Border Angels. This comes as reports show Honduran children are increasingly being targeted by gang violence and Border Patrol statistics indicate a strong correlation between Central American cities with high homicide rates and waves of children who come to the United States. “What we need to do is give them, as we would refugees anywhere else in the world, access to territory and access to procedures in order to establish their status and care for them as people who need international protection," says Shelly Pitterman, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Office in Washington, D.C. He represents the office to the United States and Caribbean governments.
President Obama has called for close to $3.7 billion to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the United States-Mexico border where more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been detained since October. Part of the money will be used to speed up deportations as Republicans say they will only support the plan if it puts more emphasis on immediate repatriation. They want to change a 2008 immigration law — which originally passed with bipartisan support — that would let the United States deport children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as fast as it does those from Mexico. "I think it is shameful that in the Congress of the U.S. we see members of Congress engendering and creating fear of children," says Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois, who supports Obama’s emergency supplemental bill. "We should be protecting children, not creating fear of them."
A new report by The Intercept has identified five prominent Muslim Americans who were spied on by the National Security Agency. It cites an NSA spreadsheet leaked by Edward Snowden that shows nearly 7,500 email addresses monitored between 2002 and 2008, including addresses that appear to belong to foreigners the government suspects of ties to al-Qaeda, along with Americans accused of terrorist activity. But it also lists the email addresses of a former Republican operative and one-time political candidate, a professor at Rutgers University, and the head of the largest Muslim civil rights group in the country. We speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story for The Intercept based on documents leaked by Snowden. "The only thing they really had in common is that they are all politically active American Muslims," Greenwald says. "And that seems to be enough in the intelligence community to render these people suspicious." We are also joined by two people Greenwald names in the article: Asim Ghafoor, a prominent civil rights attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases; and Faisal Gill, an attorney and former senior policy director with the Department of Homeland Security. When asked what needs to be done in response to the revelations, Gill argues Congress should step in and exercise its authority over how the FISA courts approve surveillance. "In our cases, I don’t think there is probable cause ... so the entire system needs to be examined," Gill says. "What happens is you paint somebody with a broad brush, and they’re tainted for life. … Nobody wants a lawyer that the government suspects of being involved in these type of activities."
An initial count in Indonesia’s hotly contested presidential election shows Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo has a several-point lead over former army general Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo has refused to concede defeat, and official results won’t be known until after July 20. The American journalist Allan Nairn recently reported Indonesian forces tied to Prabowo have waged a campaign to rig the election in his favor, including "ballot tampering, street violence and threats" against rivals. Prabowo, who received military training by the United States, has been accused of mass killings when he headed the Indonesian special forces in the 1990s. Nairn’s reporting on Prabowo became a major issue in the campaign, and Prabowo has filed criminal charges against him for inciting hatred against the Indonesian military. Joining us from Indonesia, Nairn argues that despite supporters that include "killer generals," Widodo will be more responsive to calls to reform the country’s corrupt political system if popular movements pressure him to do so. "It is very unlikely [Widodo] would respond by opening fire as the Indonesian army has in the past, and as Prabowo undoubtedly would," Nairn says. "He would probably respond by sitting down with people and saying, ’Let’s work something out.’"
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits down with Democracy Now! inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has been living in political asylum for over two years. Assange explains his critique of First Look Media and The Intercept for agreeing not to name a country targeted by bulk National Security Agency spying, following U.S. government concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence. Assange and WikiLeaks went on to reveal the targeted country, Afghanistan, which along with the Bahamas had all of its cellphone calls recorded. "That is as great an assault to sovereignty as you can imagine, other than completely militarily occupying a country, to record the intimate phone calls of every single Afghan citizen," Assange says. "My perspective is, [this is] up to the Afghan people." Assange also gives an overview of the close to eight million documents WikiLeaks has released since 2007 about nearly every country in the world; details how WikiLeaks helped Edward Snowden evade U.S. arrest and find political asylum in Russia; and addresses his prospects for ever being able to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy without fear of arrest.
Click here to watch part one of this interview.
In part two of our exclusive interview, Amy Goodman goes inside Ecuador’s Embassy in London to speak with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Assange has been living in the embassy for more than two years under political asylum. He faces investigations in both Sweden and the United States, where a secret grand jury is investigating WikiLeaks for its role in publishing a trove of leaked documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as State Department cables. Assange responds to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent comments that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden should return home to face trial. "It’s the advice of all our lawyers that he should not return to the United States. He’d be extremely foolish to do so," Assange says. "It’s not possible to have a fair trial, because the U.S. government has a precedent of applying state secret privilege to prevent the defense from using material that is classified in their favor."
Click here to watch part one of this interview.
The Progressive magazine and Center for Media and Democracy have released new documents that show billionaire oil industrialist Charles Koch was an active member of the controversial right-wing John Birch Society during its campaigns against the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Charles Koch was following in the footsteps of his father, Fred Koch, a leader of the John Birch Society from its founding. We speak with The Progressive’s Lisa Graves about her new article, "The Koch Cartel: Their Reach, Their Reactionary Agenda, and Their Record." Graves details how the reactionary ideas absorbed during Charles Koch’s youth continue to animate many of his actions decades later. Charles and his brother, David Koch, have used their wealth to push a similar agenda into the mainstream through the tea party and "dark money" political coalitions that allow donors to shield their identity while funding attack ads against Democrats.
Over the weekend, video emerged of the beating of Tariq Abu Khdeir, the 15-year-old Palestinian-American cousin of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Footage shows him being severely beaten by Israeli officers after being detained during protests over his cousin’s murder. Tariq says he was watching demonstrations in East Jerusalem when he was seized. The video shows him lying on the ground as the officers repeatedly beat him with batons. Tariq has been placed under house arrest pending an investigation into potential charges of assaulting a police officer. He lives in Tampa, Florida, but is in East Jerusalem for the summer visiting his family. He was with his cousin Mohammed just moments before he was kidnapped and murdered last week. In a statement, the State Department said it was "profoundly troubled" by the assault, calling for a "speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for the apparent excessive use of force." We are joined from Tampa by Tariq’s aunt, Suhad Abukhdeir. "This is absolutely unjustifiable," she says of Tariq’s beating. "You have three uniformed men, in full combat gear, against a 15-year-old."
The threat of an Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip comes amidst heavy unrest in the West Bank and in Arab towns inside Israel following the killings of a Palestinian teenager and three teenage Israelis. The Israeli teens were abducted while hitchhiking near the West Bank settlement where they lived. Their bodies were found last week, after more than two weeks of Israeli raids throughout the West Bank that saw more than 200 Palestinians arrested and more than a dozen killed. In an apparent act of revenge right after the Israeli teens’ bodies were found, a Palestinian teenager named Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted near his home in East Jerusalem. His dead body was found shortly after, showing signs he was burned live. On Monday, Israel said it had arrested six suspects and that three have already confessed. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli leaders have condemned the killing, Khdeir’s death followed calls for vengeance from Israeli political leaders as well as in marches and on social media. We are joined by two guests: Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of the new book, "The Battle for Justice in Palestine," and Miko Peled, a peace activist and author of "The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine." The book’s title refers to a unique family history: Miko’s father, "Matti" Peled, served as a general in the 1967 war and later became a peace activist, calling for Israel to withdraw from the territory he helped to capture.
Violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories is escalating as Israel bombs the Gaza Strip and threatens a new full-scale assault. On Monday, the Israeli military announced "Operation Protective Edge," which it says aims to stop Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel. At least nine Palestinians were wounded in Israeli strikes on more than 50 targets in Gaza overnight. Six Hamas members were killed in Israeli strikes on Sunday, the deadliest by Israel since an eight-day assault in late 2012. Palestinian militants have fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel since the weekend, causing no casualties. To prepare for a potential attack, Israel has called up more than 1,500 troops to fortify a contingent already massed along the Gaza border. Hamas says the latest bombings "exceed all red lines" and has vowed to respond with broader rocket fire. If Israel invades Gaza, it would be the third major assault on the coastal territory in six years. The first invasion in 2008 left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians. We go to Gaza to speak with Mohammed Omer, an award-winning Palestinian journalist who has been covering the Israeli offensive.
In a Democracy Now! special, we go inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London to interview Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. He has been holed up there for more than two years, having received political asylum. He faces investigations in both Sweden and the United States. In the U.S., a secret grand jury is investigating WikiLeaks for its role in publishing a trove of leaked documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as classified State Department cables. In Sweden, Assange is wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct, though no charges have been filed. Late last week, there was the first break in the latter case in two years, when a Swedish court announced it would hold a hearing on July 16 about a request by his lawyers for prosecutors to hand over new evidence and withdraw the arrest warrant. In the first of a two-part interview, Assange discusses his new legal bid in Sweden, the ongoing grand jury probe in the United States, and WikiLeaks’ efforts to assist National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In this Fourth of July holiday special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he gave one of his most famous speeches, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." He was addressing the Rochester Ladies Antislavery Society. This is actor James Earl Jones reading the speech during a performance of historian Howard Zinn’s acclaimed book, "Voices of a People’s History of the United States." He was introduced by Zinn.
Earlier this year, the legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger died at the age of 94. For nearly seven decades, Seeger was a musical and political icon who helped create the modern American folk music movement. In the 1940s, he performed in The Almanac Singers with Woody Guthrie, and then formed The Weavers. In the 1950s, he opposed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s political witch hunt and was almost jailed for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Seeger became a prominent civil rights activist and helped popularize the anthem, "We Shall Overcome." He was also a vocal critic of the Vietnam War and inspired a generation of protest singers. Later in his life, Seeger was at the center of the environmental and anti-nuclear movements. In 2009, Seeger and Bruce Springsteen performed Woody Guthrie’s "This Land is Your Land" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama, when he first became president. We re-air highlights from our 2013 and 2004 interviews with Seeger.
Former U.S. congressmember and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich speaks to Democracy Now! while in Sweden to observe the political festival Almedalen Week, which brings together people from all points on the political spectrum. Kucinich says the United States needs a similarly inclusive political process. "You come here and you see so many different political persuasions represented, and our politics back at home are monochromatic," Kucinich says. "We need to awaken those sentiments in America and one way to do it is proportional representation." On the crisis in Iraq, Kucinich says: "If we learned anything from our experience, it should be that interventionism is not the wave of the future." Kucinich served in the in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2013, and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012.
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