Israeli soldier pushes war crimes on CNN

The Israeli soldier Betzalel Taljah has advocated violence against Palestinian civilians on CNN. (Via Facebook)

Israeli soldier Betzalel Taljah in an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Abby Phillip made a clear call for war crimes against Palestinian civilians with no pushback from Phillip or the network in the days since.

“My understanding is that you are actively leading a number of soldiers in your community. Tell us how you and your fellow soldiers are preparing for what your country is heading into right now which could very well be a prolonged war with Hamas.”

Taljah responded that “the war is not just with Hamas, the war [is] with all the civilians.”

Taljah claims his fury is directed at those civilians “that cannot see us as human beings, they want to kill us.”

Targeting civilians in Gaza is a war crime.

Hundreds of Palestinian children have already been killed by Israeli airstrikes even as Israeli spokespeople are not vigorously pressed on claims that they take great care and that deaths are the fault of Hamas.

My emails to Phillip received no response. CNN’s transcript link has been broken for several days.

Two days later, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer also interviewed Betzalel Taljah. Blitzer focused on how Taljah’s mother had been killed in the Hamas-led Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

Without referring to Taljah’s earlier call for war against Palestinian civilians, Blitzer asked: “I know you say, Betzalel, that you want to fight in Gaza, in your mother’s name, in your mother’s memory. Do you expect you actually will be deployed there?”

This is an abdication of journalistic responsibility not to question a soldier on his announced commitment to carry out war crimes. This is contributing to the push for war and even war crimes.

His mother’s death is no excuse for promoting war crimes to inflamed audiences against a dispossessed and besieged people facing an apartheid Israeli government.

Horrible dilemma?

Taljah lives on his own private ranch built in the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank.

That sheep ranch was founded by his late father, a South African who converted to Judaism. The land is owned by Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills.

Betzalel’s father is on record saying, “I still think that apartheid is the best thing in the world.” Racism was passed from father to son Betzalel with his views on Palestinian civilians being deemed a legitimate target in the current war.

Taljah’s Facebook page supports Limor Son Har-Melech, an anti-Palestinian racist in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and lauds her former spokesperson Elisha Yered. He calls Har-Melech a “hero” never threatening to leave the “land of Israel” by which he is including the occupied West Bank.

Much like Taljah, Har-Melech has this week tweeted that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

She further called for the maximum strangulation of Gaza’s infrastructure – a war crime – including electricity, water, fuel, food and the internet. “Gaza,” she tweeted, “needs to be flattened.”

Yered has repeatedly pushed to “wipe out” the Palestinian town of Huwwara in the West Bank.

I have contacted CNN about the genocidal tweet from Har-Melech and eliminationist tweets from Member of Knesset Tally Gotliv but there has been no interest in reporting this in the rush to a ground war.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer did not respond to my request for comment following an exchange he had with Robert Baer, a former CIA operative, on Saturday afternoon.

Baer told him, “I hear the far right in Israel talk about this and it’s almost as if you have to drive the Palestinians into Egypt because there is no alternative leadership. Fatah is not going to come back to Gaza and rule the Palestinian Authority, it’s just not going to happen. So it’s a horrible dilemma for Netanyahu.”

Blitzer then asked what Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, should do.

Baer responded, “You know you probably have to drive them into Egypt. I’m not supporting that. I’m just saying from a strategy point of view, I don’t see that Israel has another choice.”

Blitzer thanked him for his time. This is ethnic cleansing, especially as it’s citing the Israeli right.

CNN’s television news in the United States has a lot to answer for already with the profound structural geographic bias in its coverage and the repeated failure of its anchors to note that Israel and Egypt are not allowing its journalists into Gaza. The network also failed to move fast enough to get its international journalists in despite surely knowing from past experience that Gaza would be closed off.

Perhaps there would be too much horror to report, especially as CNN promotes a soldier calling for war crimes.

Update 16 October

Since publication of this article, the recent CNN and MSNBC guest Betzalel Taljah – a supporter of murder suspect Elisha Yered – has promoted genocide on his Facebook page.

He wrote: “Why do we supply water to the Gaza Strip?”

Then, he added, “Why does Gaza still exist?”

That’s genocide talk.

Michael F. Brown is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada.

Additional reporting and translation by David Sheen.