Watch the full episode here:
[Note: Pt 2 of 2, Due to technical difficulties this interview was released later than usual, thank you for your understanding.]
The Interview: Jacob Siegel
Jacob Siegel is our guest for this evening. He is a senior editor with Tablet Magazine, which is an online outlet focused on Jewish news and culture. He's also the host of the podcast “Manifesto.” As I said, he was on our show in March when he wrote A Guide to Understanding the Hoax of the Century, which I described at the time as the definitive accounting of the emergence of this fraudulent disinformation industry in the way it's now weaponized to control the flow of information online.
I think it's fair to call him a supporter of Israel, both in general and in terms of the military actions they've been undertaking in Gaza. We are very happy to have him back on System Update to discuss this war, the censorship and cancellation issues that have emerged around it, and the role that the U.S. and the Biden administration are playing.
Glenn Greenwald: Jacob, good evening. Thanks so much for coming back on the show and taking the time to talk to us. We're glad to have you.
Jacob Siegel: Glenn, thank you. I'm glad to be back.
Glenn Greenwald: So, let's start with just kind of a general question. On October 7, like most people, I was watching these videos, many of which were produced by Hamas and obviously designed to terrorize people, to show the kind of cruelty and sadism that they had targeted at Israeli civilians. I have to say, you know, almost every single person in my life is Jewish, many of whom have been apolitical or critical of Israel or just sort of uninterested in the Israel question, they were not just traumatized, but radicalized and remained so to this very day. I've never heard most of these people who are friends of mine or relatives be so pro-Israel, so supportive of Israel, in my life, as they've been since October 7. At the same time, you have a month from now worth of the Israeli response, this relentless bombing campaign in Gaza that has killed thousands and thousands of people. The White House today said it's probably more than the official count of 10,000. It's going to be much higher as the Israelis continue to bomb and now do this ground invasion. What is your overall view of this war, the war being what happened on October 7 and another month of bombardment and invasion that has followed?
Jacob Siegel: Well, the start on October 7, the war began with a massacre and the response of the Jewish people, I think is understandable, given that the massacre was broadcast to the world with the intent of terrorizing not only the Israeli population but, Jews in general. The war subsequently that followed from that massacre has less to do, frankly, with Hamas and Israel and more a larger kind of strategic architecture in the Middle East that was put in place by the U.S. Israel is the main combatant in this war. But the war was really set in very significant, determinative ways by U.S. policy in the region. And we're seeing, a cascading effect taking place now and we're seeing the U.S. trying to get back in control in the one situation, which is a kind of full-on operation in Gaza. The U.S. doesn’t have the degree of micromanagement that it's accustomed to. But the fundamentals here really were put in place by U.S. policy.
Glenn Greenwald: The official count of the number of people who died on October 7 in Israel is something like 1,400. There has been a publication, a list recently published by the Israeli government of the names of all the people who died on that day, many of whom appear to be people who were in the Israeli military or the police. They have ranks before their name. Do you know what the breakdown is of the number of people who were in the military or the police who died on October seven versus the number of civilians who were killed?
Jacob Siegel: I've seen roughly is two-thirds were civilians. This is a country where everybody serves in the military. I'm not sure that having a rank before their name indicates that they were serving in an active military capacity at the time, obviously attendees at the music festival in the South, some of whom may well have been either reservists or even potentially active duty military members on leave. They were not serving in that capacity at the time. They were civilians at the music festival, the people who were slaughtered in their homes in the kibbutz were civilians. But roughly what I've seen is two-thirds.
Glenn Greenwald: Yeah, there's no question lots of civilians were killed and many of them killed deliberately, even with the knowledge that they were civilians. I just haven't seen any kind of breakdown of that division to the extent that there were members of the active military who were killed on that day. And I don't just mean people who happened to be in the military and were on that day at a music festival or their homes or who were, say, at the grocery store or in their cars or whatever. But I mean, people who actually engaged on military bases or who were part of the response to this attack. Do you regard Israeli soldiers, either ones who are deployed in the West Bank as an occupying force or ones who are part of the military occupying the West Bank and blockading Gaza as legitimate targets for Palestinians when they decide to resort to violence against Israel?
Jacob Siegel: Yeah, of course, that’s what warfare is. To be clear, in the initial attacks in the south, the breach of the border and the attacks at the observation posts, the attacks on security positions around the border fence bases on the southern border, clearly, there were many IDF soldiers who were killed in the fighting in the south, and there were additional Israeli soldiers who were killed when they came and reinforced or responded to the initial breach of the border. There’s no question that there were Israeli soldiers, Israeli military installations that were deliberately targeted, that there was fighting that occurred at military installations, and that, you know, some of the people killed on October 7 on the Israeli side. And not simply, you know, in the military, but were serving in that capacity at that time. The specific proportions I don't know about the – I'm giving you the rough estimate that I've seen in the Israeli press. To the question of [whether] are they legitimate targets. They're legitimate targets in warfare. So, you know, I see sometimes generic euphemistic references to resist. But what resistance refers to is warfare when it's used in this way. So, yes, they are legitimate targets in war, but then you can't toggle back and forth between warfare, which has its own specific set of rules, which are extremely difficult to control and police in matters of political and civil resistance. So, they’re legitimate targets, but then you've entered into the arena of warfare and you can't then try to hop back over the line, back to civil political resistance.
Glenn Greenwald: Well, what about, though, about the fact that the Israeli military, according to how the world sees the situation in this area, is an occupying force in the West Bank? The international law regards Israeli settlements that the Israeli military protects as illegal. They regard the West Bank as not belonging to Israel, that Israel is a foreign occupying power there. And then you have the situation in Gaza where Israel no longer physically occupies Gaza, they haven't since 2005, but continue to control the border and the airspace and the sea lanes. They control kind of all the area right around Gaza, what gets into Gaza, and what gets out of Gaza is controlled by the Israelis. Do the Palestinians have a general right, in your view, to target Israeli soldiers that are occupying the West Bank or that are in some way helping to sustain that blockade?
Jacob Siegel: First of all, I'm not sure what you just said is accurate. So, in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has security control over much of the West Bank and Gaza. There are two borders. There's a northern border and a southern border. You know, Israel and Egypt control the southern border, which is also militarized. The sort of larger, I think, context here that needs to be understood is that control is not simply unilateral Israeli force, but the Israeli relationship to both the West Bank, to Gaza in the south and indeed to Lebanon in the north, also occurs within a larger strategic framework that is very much conditioned by U.S. policies, very much being in Washington, D.C. And that's not to say that the Israelis have no influence, that they don't have any sovereignty, but the idea that all of this is just being done in a sort of unilateral way by Israelis who are bulldozing all risks and considerations is not accurate. You can look at in one example, the northern border, the relationship between Israel and Lebanon, but effectively Hezbollah, to the north in Lebanon, now includes a series of arrangements, including a maritime agreement that was supposed to integrate Israel with Lebanon, really meaning integrate it to Israel. In the words of U.S. officials like Sullivan and Blinken, into depressurization in the region, according to a strategic logic and a set of interests that were determined in Washington, D.C. So that's the first part. The second part is: are soldiers legitimate targets? They're legitimate targets in warfare. I don't think that – I mean, it's a sort of legalistic question.
Glenn Greenwald: Or a moral one, I mean. Do people have the right legally, morally, whatever, to fight back against an occupation where their lives are being governed essentially by a foreign military?
Jacob Siegel: Well, there's not in Gaza, there was a […]
Glenn Greenwald: I know there's the West Bank, there's the occupation of the West Bank. But then there's also the blockade of Gaza, which I understand Egypt also plays a role in that one part of the border. But there is also a big Israeli influence in terms of life in Gaza. So, what I'm essentially asking is a moral, legal right of whatever you want to call it – is there a generalized right on the part of Palestinians to use violence against either soldiers in the West Bank that are occupying the West Bank or the part of the military that is responsible for that blockade of Gaza?
Jacob Siegel: I suppose it's their right, but where it ends up is with warfare. So, you can exercise a right to engage in warfare, and then the response will be warfare.
Glenn Greenwald: Right. I guess what we have now. So, I want to ask you about this article that you wrote calling for this end to U.S. aid to Israel because it's a much more subtle and nuanced argument than that headline that I just read suggested. I want to delve into that in a second. But before I do, I just want to ask you about something that you just said, which is this idea that much of what's happening in the region is a byproduct of the U.S. policy going back to the 1980s, under the Reagan administration and then the Bush administration and every administration since. The position of the American government has been one of the key impediments to peace in the region. Also, one of the problems for American national security is the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, which every time they expand, makes it less and less likely or less and less possible for there to be a peace agreement that results in a contiguous Palestinian state. That has been the American view under every president. I'm not sure it was the view under President Trump that might have been unclear. But every other president since Reagan, if not before, told the Israelis, “We wish you would stop expanding the settlements in the West Bank.” And yet, these settlements have continued to expand to the point where the government, the current government, now basically has a view that the West Bank doesn't really belong to the Palestinians, but belongs to Israel, certainly the parts where those settlements have been constructed. So, in what regard is that part of the problem, the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, a byproduct of American policy rather than Israeli action?
Jacob Siegel: So, the settlements have expanded over the time period that you're talking about but within that time, there have been expansion freezes. There have been various land for peace frameworks, the Oslo Accords, Camp David, etc. The idea that the settlement itself is the single largest obstacle to peace I don't think is accurate and you can look at the way in which the settlement project has or hasn’t corresponded to other developments or for that matter, Palestinian political initiatives. And I think what you would see is that there's not a one-to-one correlation here. The settlement project which you what you're describing here. Right. The Israeli building on the other side of the Green Line occurred after Israel's victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. The legality of that is not made out to be even by administrations in Washington, that are pursuing their own interests and may well see the expansion of settlements as an obstacle to U.S. interests in the region– and U.S. interests in the region can sometimes gesture towards or even meaningfully include some kind of peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. But that doesn't mean that they're actually illegal in a meaningful sense. Moreover, the U.S. attempt to oversee this process and the U.S. attempt to drive towards some kind of negotiated land for peace two-state solution has been an utter failure. It's been a failure over subsequent administrations. It's been a failure under both Republicans and Democrats… and that simply can't be part of the expansion of Israeli settlements when there has been a whole series of proposals made for those settlements to end...and, the vast majority of those settlements and resettling of people in Israel proper as part of their various deals, not a single deal, but various deals that were offered during a different peace proposal as it is. And they've all failed. There's no Israeli culpability in any of this. They obviously take a kind of maximalist approach to this and have pretty clearly abandoned the land for peace framework, not without any justification, which is not to say that I support the policies of the current Netanyahu government in regard to what they're doing here, but in the general sense inside Israeli society, that Oslo is a failure, that the framework is a failure is not something that's not only on the right that people feel this. There's a pretty broad consensus around that.
Glenn Greenwald: So, on that question, for a long time, the world kind of told itself how we're going to get to peace here is through this magical two-state solution, and especially over the last decade, let's call it. I think there's been an increasing awareness in the region that that two-state solution is further away than ever, in part because of these settlements, in part because of the change in political ideology in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank. People in the region seem to believe now that that is not a viable solution. Do you agree it's not a viable solution? And if it's not, what is the solution in terms of how Israel and Palestinians can live side by side in peace?
Jacob Siegel: Yeah, well, you mentioned the international community believing in it and now it doesn't anymore. But, you know, there was also the Palestinian leadership, the Fatah leadership and Palestinian Authority leadership that seemed to not believe in it enough to really make a deal and turned down not one offer, but several offers. The history of this is now being relitigated in the context of the war that's now taking place. But I think it's pretty clear to honest brokers who look at the offers that were made and you can challenge whether enough was being offered, but certainly Taba, for instance, there was this is subsequent U.S. and Israeli administrations offers made from Barak and then from Olmert. There was a willingness to include those offers from the lead side, not simply an unwillingness to accept these firms, I should add, an unwillingness to continue in the negotiations. I used to believe in a two-state solution. I lost hope because I think that there doesn't seem a great desire for this to be solved. More fundamentally believe in sort of top-down technocratic solutions to this problem delivered from Brussels. There has to be a political settlement that honors the political aspirations of the past and honors Israelis' political aspirations and needs. You know, there has to be some kind of political settlement. What needs to happen is some kind of arrangement that actually comes from the parties involved here.
Glenn Greenwald: So, the article that you wrote in May is “End U.S. Aid to Israel - America's manipulation of the Jewish state is endangering Israel and American Jews.” Can you just summarize I know you've in part explained why you think a lot of these problems come from American policy, but specifically concerning the $4 billion a year that was negotiated between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, in 2016, that the Israeli government very much wanted and sort of negotiated for that aid package, along with the kind of extras that Israel ends up getting, including when they end up in wars. Why do you advocate an end to that aid?
Jacob Siegel: Because it's been extraordinarily damaging to Israel and Israeli sovereignty as the first war has shown. And to be clear, anybody who reads that article will see that I'm explicitly critical of the Netanyahu administration and that article and not only, nobody forced Netanyahu to accept the package, as I state clearly in the article. The problem here is the framework of aid. Let me actually, Glenn, let me step back and describe how we got to this point. You know, I think sometimes there's a sense among people who are sort of general or casual observers of the conflict that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is a kind of eternal verity, that it's existed maybe since before the creation of Israel but, certainly, since 1948 when Israel was.
Glenn Greenwald: Yeah. And let me just interject. That's why I didn't want to summarize your article, as I said, it's a very complex and nuanced article. I encourage people to read it. There is a long history there. You absolutely criticize the Israelis for seeking and wanting this aid. So that's why I basically wanted you to explain your perspective about why you think this aid is harmful to the Israelis and why it should end.
Jacob Siegel: Yeah, of course. And I appreciate the opportunity to do that. Just before we get to the, very quickly, there's a period before which is from the birth of the Israeli state in 1948, 1967, with Israel's victory in the Six-Day War, where the U.S. extends diplomatic recognition to Israel. So does the USSR. Then proceeds to at times actually have a policy of a kind of soft arms embargo blocking other states from sending weapons to Israel in large part because this is all playing out in the larger geopolitical context of the Cold War. The U.S. is trying to court the Arab states and doesn't want to alienate them by seeming to support Israel, which it sees as the weaker party and likely to lose. So, there's a long period, decades where there is no U.S.-Israeli military relationship to speak of. It's only after the Six-Day War and starts with weapons sales. The modern aid relationship really dates to America's sort of political involvement in the Middle East, starting with the Egypt-Israeli peace. And out of that comes both the Israel model, an aid to Israel and modern aid to Egypt, which has long been the second biggest recipient of aid. And then if you fast forward a bit from that understanding, the aid starts as an industry using political arms to a gift to Israel because there's some religious or deep political affinity between the U.S. and Israel. There are religious and political affinities between the U.S. and Israel. And there's obviously a long history among the American founders of Christian Zionism but of seeing the United States as a kind of, you know, a new Israel in a way. So, all of that exists, but it doesn't create the modern U.S.-Israeli relationship. It's there is a sort of substrate of the modern U.S. relationship as the aid relationship starts as a way of, you know, as a political instrument. And it can produce some good things. I would argue that the Israeli-Egyptian peace accords were good and they've been lasting. And so, it's not that it achieved anything value over time. It became an instrument of the primary policy of U.S. interest, which had moved into a kind of imperial clientelism. I think it would describe it. You know, the other there are administrations that have pursued that more directly, like the Obama and Biden administrations. And then there's the Trump administration, which took a step back from that kind of clientelism and returned to a pursuit of core U.S. interests under the management of client states framework of foreign policy, which is one that we're under right now, where the U.S. tries to control all of its different clients in the Middle East through financial incentives and, you know, various sort of incentives that it offers. And those clients include Iran, you know, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Egypt, still, Palestine, and Israel. They're all functioning as clients of the real superpower in the region, which is the United States, under that aid evolved into an instrument, especially under the Obama administration, to buy the acquiescence of the Israelis to greater political control in these tea and very significantly to purchase from the Israelis a sort of client position. And that corporation. You know, there are billions of dollars going to Israel. Yes. $4 billion going to Israel. Yes. But let's understand what that money actually, it represents money that has to be credited for one thing. It's not cash. So, it's credit that has to be spent on U.S. weapons. So, it's a subsidy to the U.S. weapons defense program.
Glenn Greenwald: Well, not all of it, right? I'm saying all of it. All $4 billion has to go back? Right.
Jacob Siegel: 75% right now. Excuse me, 74%. There's. 26%, something called the AP, the Offshore Patrol, which allowed it to continue spending on its industry that will sunset by another other to 2028. But that OSP clause, the offshore accounts will sunset in and just enough to be made from U.S. weapons factories. So that's the actual underlying structure. That structure also includes significant U.S. controls over Israeli arms and technology exports, which are very valuable in both financial and strategic terms. So, the idea that this is a blank check being written into which it's untrue, is applying a framework that is decades out of date. At this point, it's not how it works anymore. And on the Israeli side, they ought to have understood that. They ought to have understood that for an advanced state like Israel to be receiving this much money from the U.S., that money was going to – even if that money is, in effect, getting sent back in Washington, D.C., it's a very grand gesture. The purpose of that grand gesture is to buy the compliance absence of the Israeli political clamp […] and to also create an impression in the U.S. of a strong [...] on which Israel is dependent. And, you know, I think that that's worked to some extent. But what it misses is that Israel is one client on the list. One of the things people seem to not understand about the current war, the U.S. is funding all sides of this war. The U.S. is not only funding Israel through the aid agreement, the U.S. is effectively funding Iran. The U.S. is funding Hamas.
Glenn Greenwald: Well, let me ask you about that idea that the U.S. is funding Iran. Are you talking about the $6 billion that the U.S. originally seized in Iranian oil proceeds and now is releasing, or are you talking about cash that's going from the U.S. government to Iran? That's Iranian money. They sold their oil. The money came in, the U.S. seized it. If the U.S. lets it go, which they haven't yet, they were going to, and now they have it. In what way is that the U.S. funding Iran?
Jacob Siegel: But I think if you're making billions of dollars more to Iran that would otherwise have been available, which then goes, by the way, direct – some of that money goes directly to the government, which goes to the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, up to attack U.S. installations.
Glenn Greenwald: But it's Iran's money, right? It's Iran's money.
Jacob Siegel: Well, if you want to talk about international law and the sanctions regime and we want to apply the standards of the Internet, if it's wired through those that would have otherwise been sanctioned, you know. And so to talk about that is Iran's money as if it wasn't acquired with the acquisition of the American government. Look, speaking at speaking. I say it's Iran's money. I mean, that's practically speaking, Money available to Iran had not previously been available to Iran. The U.S. policy, which is actually like that's the important thing here. That's what matters. What's having an impact? Can we measure those impacts? Well, the Trump administration when that money was cut off. What did we see in the Middle East? What were the effects of policies in the Middle East generally? A much higher degree of peace and stability. People associate that kind of statement with partisan support for Trump. But I'm not saying this as a partisan Trump supporter. I'm saying this as a dispassionate observer of how different policies produce different outcomes. The effect of the Trump policy, was effectively not providing this kind of money to Iran. And by the way, under the Obama administration, there were also cash payments being delivered to Iran. I mean, they talked about this openly and came up with convoluted explanations for why they were forced to these cash payments. Nevertheless, they were cash payments to Iran that emboldened Iran in the region and allowed it to fund various proxy and militia groups like Hezbollah, like Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, a cell al-Haq that went on to attack Americans in the region. Of course, Iraqis in the region as well went to funding attacks on Israel.
Glenn Greenwald: Can I just interject here just because I mean, I just want to I want to make sure we get to the war and I understand the argument about the American framework. So, given that argument and, again, I do want to encourage people to go read this article because it is thought-provoking and I think it looks – it's obviously not a left-wing argument that we should end aid to Israel because Israel's immoral it's a much more subtle geopolitical argument. But given that framework that you just laid out, the argument is that Israel kind of is constrained by this aid, that it becomes a client state, that it means that the Americans can kind of dictate the things in the region. Right now, the Israelis are asking for and the Biden administration wants to provide at least $14 billion to the Israelis to help them fund this new war that they're engaged in. Would you be opposed to that $14 billion being authorized to be sent to Israel?
Jacob Siegel: On the U.S. side. I mean, they certainly wouldn't have asked for it, not through – I don't think that's through the same aid. And we've exactly the same look in general. But if Israel needs to acquire American weapons systems, if it needs to ask for American aid or I should say American credit, it should do so on the basis of core interests that reflect, you know, the current interests of the government. What I'm objecting to is the larger framework actually being delivered to it. It doesn't need that in order to […] of dependency.
Glenn Greenwald: So I get that. But I'm asking you specifically about the current request.
Jacob Siegel: I'm not sure what you're… You're asking me about it from the U.S. side of the world.
Glenn Greenwald: I mean, we're American citizens. I'm saying, like, from an American perspective – or from an Israeli perspective, given that your argument is this relationship harms Israel – is it in Israel's interests? Is it in the American interest?
Jacob Siegel: My argument is that the relationship harms both parties because I don't think it's in America's interests to be managing client states abroad in an overextended imperial framework. But. Right. Yeah. No, I think that if Israel has the correct role for the U.S. to play in foreign policy, again, coming back to the kind of Trump framework is to support its allies. Israel is a key ally of the United States. If war has hurt funding requests that it needs to get built-in war, I have no problem with that. The U.S. should funding requests for Israel, you know, within the framework of congressional scrutiny. I'm not suggesting […] write a blank check to Israel, but the general policy of, you know, support allies in a time of war, key allies when they're fighting a war on their own border is a good policy. You know, the Israeli request into that policy. My objection and I'll – just give me a second to let me just clarify it, because I'm not sure – clearly the modern aid arrangement is not about support being in our eyes. We can pursue its own interests which align with American interests and therefore support the larger American goal of strengthening allies in the region. The modern aid arrangement is a continued, you know, it's a kind of year-to-year guarantee on the political relationship between Israel and the U.S., one that fosters a kind of protectorate status for Israel […] about time tying the U.S. down and what I'm saying is, I think, a bad fall to effectively, you know, in the long term unworkable policy of clientelism. So that's what I'm objecting to, not supporting Israel through, you know, arms sales or other kinds of payments. But a really it should be is clearly one intended to foster that kind of dependency in Washington with political control.
Glenn Greenwald: About the current war that the Israelis are now fighting in Gaza, the argument is that – when you referred to it earlier – look, if the Palestinians want to use violence to attack Israel, whether military target or, in this case as well, civilian targets, as they did on October 7, it means we're going to be in war. And when we're at war, it means Israel is going to respond as a country at war, as it's now doing by bombing Gaza, by invading Gaza. Concerning the Israeli war aims, whatever they are, and I want to get to that, but the ostensible war aim is we're there to destroy Hamas. Are there any limits at all, moral or legal, that you think are cognizable or valid in terms of how many Palestinians Israel can kill through its bombs, through its invasion to achieve this goal? Or is the sky the limit?
Jacob Siegel: I find that to be the wrong question to ask. It's sort of like a kind of accountant's to war. It's just not how war works. Of course, there are moral limits [to it]. Of course, there are and should be legal limits. And it's pretty clear when Israel opens humanitarian corridors and when Israel goes to very significant lengths to try and evacuate that area, is that this is not indiscriminate carpet bombing. I mean, we've seen examples of immediate carpet bombing in the very recesses in Syria, for instance, and they didn't involve extensive effort by states to actually, you know, deliberate efforts to prevent the evacuation of civilians. But what's going on? The idea that the proper framework to look at this is a sort of, you know, human life being held, saying where we look at the number of casualties on both sides I'm sorry is a kind of technocratic fallacy applied to an arena. It simply doesn't work which it actually doesn't accord with the war. That's what the law of proportionality does not refer to, if you should one of us, this is how many of you we can do, what proportionality actually means. It really refers to, you know, it combines ethical considerations about civilian casualties with … consider it operational considerations. What is the value of the target? What is the strategic operation and operational value of the target? And so that makes more sense to look at it that way rather than to just look at it as a body count on this side and a body count on that side, which is why it's so important to not allow it to get to this point, to not set the conditions. What […] U.S. policy in the Middle East has been doing for years now.
Look, it's not an accident that shortly after the Biden administration took over in Washington, the first little mini, you know, or a recurrence of fighting between Israel and Hamas took place. It's not an accident that the restart of the grand project of U.S. rapprochement with Iran, which is what's really underwriting the current war, it's not some accident that once the Biden administration decided it was going to abandon the successful Trump approach, which had maintained peace and stability in the region and turned to the failed Obama approach of trying to elevate Iran's status as a total counterweight and diminish the arrests of Israel and Saudi Arabia in the region and bring everybody into a concert of powers, including bringing, integrating, which is the word used by Blinken recently integrating the Israelis and the Hezbollah controlled Lebanese armed forces to the north. It's not an accident that once that framework was restarted, there have been a series of wars and an escalating instability leading to catastrophe and tragedy in the region that was actually fairly predictable. Some people that I was one of the people who was predicting that, which is why I wrote a column part in the end of this kind of ugly relation. Essentially, I could see where things were leading. And now that we're at this point, now that all the meaningful conditions have been put in place that led us to this point, now you've opened up an abyss.
That's what urban warfare is. Urban warfare is hellish. Urban warfare was hell in Mosul when the bombing campaign, which included both aerial bombing and, you know, significant artillery and indirect fire that leveled the city of Mosul, backed up by Iraqi forces, was sent into Mosul to depose the Islamic State and liberate Mosul from the Islamic State. That was hell. That was absolute hell. And what's going on in Gaza now is also hell. And the thing that it's incumbent on responsible political actors is to prevent that hell from opening up. Once that hell does open up. It's not to say that there are no ethical or legal constraints that can be applied, but I think the framework of looking only at body counts and thinking that's the correct moral or operational framework was wrong when it was applied in Vietnam. It was wrong when it was applied in Afghanistan in the other direction. You know, in other words, just holding up body count and saying, we've killed this many people. Therefore, our military campaign is successful and is a kind of corrupt and bankrupt enterprise. But conversely, just holding a body count and saying, ‘This is a war crime’ is also a corrupt enterprise and doesn't reflect the reality of war. And there's one more thing to add to that. You know, Hamas sponsored stability to the Palestinian people, as the Hamas leader keeps saying in public over and over again. Right. There was a piece in The New York Times yesterday where your leader of Hamas said, we have no responsibility for water, electricity. You know, our responsibility is perpetual warfare against Israel until we erase the state. This is what a senior Hamas in The New York Times now, the sort of defenders of Hamas, broadband, like to translate its own maximalist disregard for Palestinian citizens and belligerence towards Israel. They translate that into a rationalist technocratic framework. And, you know, Robert Malley, the former top-level negotiator with both the Obama and Biden administrations, who mysteriously was relieved from his post only a few months before this war started, apparently related to what was subsequently uncovered as a very high-level Iranian influence operation at the highest levels of the United States government. Robert Malley famously referred to Hamas as a rational actor, a kind of social movement in the Middle East. And there are people at this very moment who are making the same arguments about Hamas being, you know, essentially just a kind of misunderstood conflict resolution group.
Glenn Greenwald: So, just to be clear, I'm not making that argument. But I do want to just…
Jacob Siegel: But there is an important thing to understand here, which is that because Hamas is not accountable to Palestinians, as Hamas leaders say publicly and the Israeli government is accountable to Israeli citizens, Israel has an obligation to pursue victory in warfare. And, you know, this is something I've thought a lot about as an American combat veteran, as an American who participated in a draft pick, Futile Wars, where American leaders refused to pursue, American leaders stranded Jews, including myself, in pointless wars in Afghanistan for two decades, and not only didn't achieve victory, but explicitly scoffed at their victory, which is something that, you know, both the Bush administration and the Obama administration said they treated victory like an outlook. But the reason why this is so important is – victory is how you secure peace. And this has been true for thousands of years and it's true now. And can you sometimes avoid war and secure peace through political negotiations? Yes, you can. And every conceivable way should be taken to prevent war. But once you're in war the obligation is to win and secure peace.
Glenn Greenwald: I want to zero in on that. I don't think it's a technocratic question to say how many Palestinians can end up dead at the end of this war. For someone to look at this war and say this was a just war, I actually think it's the opposite. I think it's an incredibly technocratic response to say, well, look, there are these doctrines of proportionality and how you secure victory. We're talking about how many human lives, many innocent human lives, children and babies are going to end up dead. And what I'm asking you is not as a technocratic question, not according to international law, whatever kind of concepts one can invoke when arguing at The Hague. But as a human being, as somebody who can look at this as a moral actor, is there any number of dead Palestinians that we can reach? 100,000, 500,000, a million, half the population of Gaza? How many Palestinians ended up losing their lives in this war, in which you declare it unjust? Or as I said at the start, is it just we don't care about that number? That's not a relevant number.
Jacob Siegel: No, the evidence shows that the Israelis do care about the number and the Americans obviously care about that number also. Yeah, there is a – I wouldn't say there's a number only, you know, I'm not prepared to put a number on this because I think that the important question is, is there deliberate targeting of civilians? Is there an effort to avoid civilian casualties? Who ultimately is placing the civilian on fire? All of these things are important. Are there moral trespasses that Israel could commit? Yes, there are unjustifiable moral trespasses that Israel could potentially commit. You know, I have not seen that so far. I've not seen evidence that the Israeli approach to warfare is the singularly brutal approach that is sometimes described by Israel. You know, the kind of approach that we saw in Syria, for instance. I haven't seen that. That's not to suggest that there are no restraints on how Israel can act. There are absolute restraints and there are restraints coming both from inside Israel and obviously from watching as well. I'm not going to, you know, try and pass the numbers with you. I don't know which numbers to trust. Even from critics of Israel. I see discrepancies in the numbers. And I know from past wars between Israel and Hamas that the deliberate policy of Hamas, you know, there's one argument that's made about the inflation of overall casualties, but there's another very clear policy. Hamas has to identify everyone killed a as a civilian. I mean, this is written Hamas policy. You can look up the instructions they had for or talk about how casualty should be related to the Internet, national media. And it makes clear everybody should be identified as a civilian. Gaza is a – it's an urban environment. Of course, there are some being killed that is absolutely horrific. And that horror is to some extent inescapable in all or that's the reality of what war is. The point then is to try the war in a way that restores peace without, you know, inflicting brutality for the sake of brutality, which is obviously wrong.
Glenn Greenwald: Just on the question, though, of the moral guidelines that Israel is using with these humanitarian corridors that you mentioned, in the second week of the war, the Israeli defense minister said we're going to blockade Gaza and not allow food, water, medication or fuel to enter Gaza at all. There was just an American nurse, I don't know if you saw the interview who came back – she worked with Doctors Without Borders – and said the reason she was forced to leave Gaza, aside from the fact that her safety could have been endangered, is because there's a food supply that even if you use the minimal amount of sustenance that the human body needs just to survive, which is 700 calories per day, there was only enough food and all of that area to last for two days. The U.N. says the amount of water and food that are being permitted to enter is about 1/10 of what is necessary just for pure subsistence. There have been reports of doctors amputating limbs that get infected because of dirty drinking water, which then have to be performed without anesthesia. So, there are a lot of reports that there's nowhere near enough, even just the basic water and food for the civilian population being permitted in after the Israeli defense minister said we're going to blockade exactly that from entering into Gaza. Do you think all of that comports with whatever constraints, legal or moral, that you think apply to the conflict?
Jacob Siegel: Well, I know there have been statements from a number of Israeli officials that were stupid and blustering. And it doesn't mean that that's been policy in humanitarian airdrops. You know, I think Jordan was doing humanitarian acts with cooperation with Israel. There have been other supplies coming in through the Rafah border. So, it's not that no supplies at all have come in. There is now an agreement that's been reached that has to do these humanitarian issues. And so, I should point out that what was a two and a half week, we saw I'm sure your audience saw this as well. All of the reports that the hospitals in Gaza were 24 hours away from running out of fuel. Somehow, two and a half weeks later, it seems they still haven't run out of fuel. So, it seems that there are subplots in that everyone in every place is getting the adequate level of supplies that they need. So, the effort to move people to the south and now to have these regular routine tactical pauses, as the Israelis are calling them humanitarian pauses. The U.S. is calling them, which may facilitate more. Look, if you or somebody else has an operational concept for how Israel can destroy Hamas infrastructure, which includes, hundreds of miles of underground structures, it's half-built beneath a densely populated urban area, tunnel networks built largely with international aid money, including U.S. money tunnel networks that were built over the course of a decade under the supervision of the international community. Actually, a real concept for a way to do that that spares civilian life and destroys that infrastructure and delivers a meaningful measure of peace to the Israelis. That's something I would certainly consider for right now. It looks to me like we're seeing a fairly standard by modern, modern standards that is urban warfare approach. There have been devastating risks. But, you know, less artillery looks like than was used in U.S. wars accompanied by a ground war is placing our Israeli soldiers at great risk as they fight in close quarters with Hamas fighters. I don't know how you can go beyond what's been done at this point in terms of bringing supplies in and evacuating people to the South, while also maintaining the need for actual operational victory, which is the only thing that can justify going to war in the first place. In other words, Israel should not go to war in Gaza if it's not taking fully committed to securing that victory, that will bring a measure of peace to its own citizens. You don't go to war to provide humanitarian assistance. I mean that there's no obligation to civilians once the war has started. But that obligation comes under the overall mission of the war, which is that kind of operational victory.
Glenn Greenwald: Right, you can't win wars by starving a population or having them die of lack of water. And I understand the argument that there's a humanitarian […]
Jacob Siegel: No, you can’t win wars that way. And I wouldn't argue that Israel should, nor is that what's going on. Look, there are laws of siege warfare that are spelled out. People who are interested in the laws of siege warfare can look them up. It tends to be the sort of conventional approach. Now, my strategic sense of what Israel should have done is not actually what they're doing right now. I would not have necessarily launched this kind of operation in Gaza. But if we're going to talk about what's actually happening there, context of international law and specifically the laws on siege warfare, then there are relevant and applicable statutes here.
Glenn Greenwald: All right, so on this question of the attempt to try to destroy Hamas, the U.S. – when it went to Afghanistan – had a proclaimed goal of trying to destroy the Taliban. You know better than anyone because you were actually there, 20 years after the U.S. left, and the Taliban marched right back into power as though nothing had really happened. I'm wondering what does that mean “to destroy Hamas?” Does it mean to kill every person who is in some way associated with Hamas, or does it mean to kill or neutralize every person who in some way has a desire to bring violence to Israel? And then if it is the latter, if it's that kind of broader goal, don't you think on some level that having huge numbers of Muslims and Arabs watch what is being done in Gaza – and the perception that they have of it, whether accurate or not, that it's just incredibly cruel war, that enormous amounts of bombs are being dropped by airplanes on a population of 2.2 million people, half of whom are children. The images were seen, of babies and the like. Isn't that on some level – even if there's no such thing anymore called Hamas – they're going to have an increase in the number of people, both Palestinians and in the region, who want to do violence to Israel, bring violence to Israel more than ever before. So, what is the goal of destroying Hamas? What does that really mean?
Jacob Siegel: I'm glad you asked that question so that the relevant here in my article terms is between defeat and destroy. I was trying to look up the, you know, the precise verbiage. I couldn't get it in time. But basically what this distinction comes down to refers to depriving the enemy of the will to fight. So, defeat would mean not simply the destruction of it. You know, it wouldn't mean, for instance, only killing all of Hamas leadership, because if there remains a will to reconstitute Hamas, that wouldn't be defeat-destroy. On the other hand, refers to physically destroying infrastructure. Senior Hamas leadership, you know, the tunnel network, obviously. And I think that that's the irrelevant and the meaningful distinction here. I don't think it makes sense or is wise strategically to try and defeat Hamas. I don't think a long war to defeat Hamas is a good thing. I don't think it would be successful necessarily, and I don't think it's in the interests of Israel or the interests of some kind of rebuilding process for the Palestinians in Gaza. So, I don't think that that makes sense. And, you know, the Israelis have sort of signaled both ways on this. But it appears now that that's not their intention. The latest talk from Netanyahu and senior Israeli leadership is that they're looking more towards destruction. And what this means is you kill senior Hamas leadership and you destroy the tunnels in particular. But also, you know, as these are going through in Gaza City and discovering rocket cartridges and discovering, you know, drone factories go to the neighborhoods in northern Gaza are honeycombed with a military infrastructure both above ground and beneath ground. I think destroying that infrastructure which exists not only for the sole purpose of conducting warfare but also for the sole purpose of kind of holding the civilian population hostage. That has to build within that honeycombed military infrastructure. I think that makes more sense. That's not at all like the U.S. approach in Afghanistan, which was a war very far away from American borders in which we pursued simultaneous counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda, you know, nation-building missions that ran the gamut from women's education and sort of women's business empowerment to poppy eradication programs, all of which were abject failures. And then finally, to a more. Sort of conventional warfare to defeat the Taliban in the U.S. was never really committed to any one of those goals, to the exclusion of all other goals. Critically, because the U.S. wasn't interested in achieving victory and ending that war. The reason why it's important to achieve operational victory is not to satisfy, you know, a patriotic fervor among Israelis or revenge or like that. The reason why it's so important is because victory is what ends wars in a way that restores peace. Stayed in Afghanistan was to keep the war going in a continual sort of reinvention, expansion, contracting, where it operated effectively, as you know, at various times, is a massive boon to the domestic defense industry, a money laundering operation for the U.S. ruling class. You know, a gift to a certain ally. And so, there was no intention of really meaningfully concluding it until Trump came up with a plan to try and get the U.S. out of Afghanistan, which is exactly the point when the fake story about Russian bounties was planned.
And so, you know, I see people in America calling for more U.S. intervention, more U.S. stewardship over what Israel is doing. The problem with that is that the people who are determining U.S. policy now are the same ones who led us into the quagmire defeat in Afghanistan that restored the Taliban to power. It's very much a continuation of the U.S. framework in the Middle East that led to this war and is very much a continuation of the approach in Afghanistan. And there's absolutely no indication that these people who are, you know, essentially it's like taking the Anthony Fauci COVID approach and applying it to foreign policy and expecting it to work this time. It hasn't ever worked in the past, and it's not going to work now.
Glenn Greenwald: I guess what I'm asking in terms of this goal, though, and just to be blunt about it, is, you know, I said earlier that because of October 7, the people in my life who are Jewish kind of got radicalized. And then there's the other side of it as well, which are the people I know who are critics of Israel who are kind of not particularly focused on that issue. It's kind of been off the table on the back burner for a long time in American politics. But I also see a lot of young people who seem to be paying attention to this for the first time, kind of have a rage toward Israel, hatred of Israel because of what they're seeing do in Gaza. I can only imagine, I have to believe that at least is true, if not much more true in that part of the world, in the part of the world that is Muslim, that is Arab, that looks at this in a way that Jewish people identified with the Jewish victims on October 7, who are identifying much more viscerally with the victims in Gaza for what's now a month and certainly to be a lot longer. If you end up with this kind of operational victory where you destroy Hamas and whatever that means how does Israel ever live in peace after having just taken all this action that has escalated and intensified the hatred for Israel, the desire to harm Israel, unless – and this is what Naftali Bennett says – we're going to destroy so much, we're going to engage in such a display of raw power, we're going to show them we're going to destroy an entire area and kill a huge number of people – that we're going to put our enemies in fear. So even though they hate us, they'll basically behave terrorized into submission and not be willing to attack us no matter how much they want to. Isn't that, at the end of the day, the only real way that Israel can end up being more secure at the end of all of this?
Jacob Siegel: Well, Bennett isn’t setting policy right now. There's been a lot of bombastic statements from Israeli leaders that, you know, I think range from ill-advised to despicable.
Glenn Greenwald: But what he said makes sense to me, I guess, is what I'm saying. That seems to me to be the only solution to the question I pose, which is you're going to leave people hating Israel more than he does.
Jacob Siegel: It doesn’t make sense to me. Look, we could go through the history of wars that were fought, brutal wars that were fought between belligerents, that led to peace in their aftermath and nations that have gone to war against each other quite brutally were able to achieve a measure of peace. I mean, the United States is a war where, you know, brother fought brother in the Civil War and an unbelievably brutal warfare. And yet the nation-state together, you know, the union, the nation not only stayed together but there was a reconciliation that occurred between north and south. There's a very that's only the example nearest to home. There's a very long list of such cases now. I have been explicit, I hope, in this conversation, I can't keep track of everything I've said, but also in writing and in pieces that I've written that I don't think that brutality is a worthy or acceptable goal in warfare, and it's not acceptable. You know, I make the case explicitly in strategic terms, which is, you know, I think the first principle of ethical warfare is the sound statesmanship and strategy. And it's not it's not sound according to that logic, which is, you know, the one that I'm principally interested in in this context. So, I don't think that's what's going on. And I don't think that that would be a worthy goal. However, if it was going on, that being said, the images going out are clearly radicalizing people. But you cannot fight a war with the TikTok audience in mind. You can't fight a war with the international press in mind, and you especially can't fight a war with sort of, you know, ideological maniacs on U.S. college campuses who were protesting trans genocides three months ago…
Glenn Greenwald: Right. The people in the region, I mean, people in the Arab world, like the people in that region [...]
Jacob Siegel: Sure. But the people in the people in the region are going to be interested in who wins this war. I mean, that's not an insignificant part of this. If we're talking about this, you know, the way you're framing this is like it's – if we take those terms, if we frame it in those terms, – what should Israel do in order to win over the people in the region, what is to win over people in the region, is to destroy Hamas in a way that is definitive but not wantonly, which would make the most strategic sense. The countries in the region look, like part of the reason why the southern border of Gaza is as restrictive as it is, part of the reason why the Egyptian government doesn't want to take any refugees. And, you know, you can make the argument that they don't want to see Israel displace more Palestinians, but the Egyptian government reviled Hamas. They hate us. They're obviously no fans of the Muslim Brotherhood in general. Hamas is a Muslim Brotherhood. Originally it got even sort of further radicalized by getting folded into Iran in a permanent revolution so that the government is not a fan of Hamas. Jordan, for that matter, is not a fan of Hamas. You know, two countries that Israel shares borders.
Glenn Greenwald: With, I believe, and these are dictatorial states like the government of Egypt, as you call it, was a government that came in with the military coup after Egypt had a democratic election and elected someone associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. So, the government of Egypt is just […]
Jacob Siegel: Like how Hamas was.
Glenn Greenwald: Well, they were elected. But the government of Egypt doesn't represent the views of the Egyptian people. When they had a chance, they elected Mohamed Morsi and the day he was overthrown, and this is a government that gets a lot of money from the U.S., I mean. What I mean to say is these are not representative of the sentiments of the people over whom they rule. These are dictatorships that are there to keep the people in line and keep their sentiments from finding expression.
Jacob Siegel: Yeah, but in non-democratic societies, what the dictatorial regime thinks matters. I mean, look, there's a separate conversation to be had about what's the ideal form of government for Egypt. But you were asking a question specifically about what should Israel do if it wants to achieve peace one day with its neighbors and in achieving peace with its neighbors, very much including, you know, the citizens of the countries on its borders. It also has to understand and calculus and understand the interests of the leaders of those countries. And, you know, Israel being a democracy, the Israeli government has to be far more accountable to its population. I mean, that's clear. However, if you're talking, which I think was the original question you're asking me about, you know, what should Israel do? Keeping in mind how the images coming out of the war sort of play in the region and potentially radicalize people in the region? You know, it is a question that can't be answered simply by thinking about what image is broadcast over news outlets with propagandistic intentions funded by a hostile foreign government from Al-Jazeera, for instance, or what images can we present or not present for broadcast to the Arabs? Can't be the consideration for Israel if the is how to achieve peace. I have to go back to the Trump framework. It's really important about this. People have to look at this objectively and with clear marks. You know, it leaves aside the partisanship for a second if you're interested in peace, if you desc war, that the costs of war are horrific and unacceptable and you want to restore peace, you have to look at what worked, what fully achieved that and what actually achieved. That was the strategic framework and the U.S. leadership framework put in place by the Trump administration. And that framework included, you know, the Abraham Accords for leading toward the Arab excuse me, an Israeli Saudi agreed would have been the logical next step of that, not the Biden brokered one, which was actually a step back from the Abraham Accords, but [ a real folding ] Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords would have been the logical next step. And then the Saudis, I think, would have taken more of a leadership role in negotiating a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, which, by the way, is still what I hope happens. I think the Saudis are far better situated to lead that sort of peace settlement at this point than the ten is, in part because nobody trusts Washington anymore, because the, you know, the sort of U.S. strategic partnership with Iran has made the U.S. an untrustworthy partner to its other clients. This is one of the problems with clientelism, is the more clients you acquire, the more difficult it is to sort of keep them all happy or balance all the equities in the sort of Obama language. So, it is obviously not helpful towards, you know, improving Israel's image in the minds of Egyptian citizens to have any kind of war, much less a brutal war, which is let's be clear, this is a brutal, brutal war. Horrific things are happening. And yes, that will inflame people. But I think that most of the people who are inflamed by that are not necessarily, you know, predisposed towards looking at the situation objectively or trying to analyze the sort of acceptable, acceptable degree of military assaults that Israel might conceivably carry out that would satisfy their moral requirements. I don't think it makes sense for Israel. Therefore, if its interest is in achieving peace, which I think is what we're all talking about, I don't think it makes sense for Israel to look at it in those terms either if the interest is in achieving peace. We have a very recent precedent showing us, you know, a general framework of how we might get to something like that, and we ought to return to that.
Glenn Greenwald: Yeah. I mean, just to add to that, I mean, we point out a lot of times that Trump was the first American president in decades not to involve the U.S. in a new war. That is just a fact. And you also have Vivek Ramaswamy, who kind of echoed your view that the Israelis would be better served by getting to a point where they're no longer reliant on American aid either. Actually, at the very beginning of Trump's candidacy, back in 2015, he made a statement that was one of the things that turned neocons against him and made them distrust him, where he actually said the reason we've been ineffective in being able to forge a peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis is that we're seen as being too pro-Israeli and not evenhanded enough and the Palestinians rightly don't trust us because they perceive that we look at Israel as a client state. Just putting that out there. And then eventually [Bolkovac] and Trump kind of got pressured into walking that back. But that was Trump's instinct, that we've lost the ability to be an effective negotiator in that region.
You've been very generous with your time. Before I let you go, I just want to ask you one question about the ramifications of all of this in the United States. We've covered a lot of the kind of spate of censorship and cancellations that have come from the American political class, from a lot of conservatives. I don't need to really ask you what your view on that is, because I already know that you're going to tell me that. You are someone who believes in free speech and doesn't want to see censorship, certainly in the name of the war in Israel. But what I am interested in is this sort of victimhood narrative that a lot of people have been pushing – really a lot of non-Jews as well – that kind of disturbs me. This idea that very similar to the way right after George Floyd, there were a lot of white progressives that started to kind of fetishize Black people and insist that they had to be protected, that they were unsafe in the United States. They were about a minute away, all of them were from getting murdered. They couldn't go out on the street without fearing because America is just such a fundamentally racist country and kind of tried to disseminate this paranoia and victimhood complex in the minds of Black people that they needed the protection of kind of white people to stay safe, which they weren't. We're seeing a very similar narrative when it comes to Jewish students on campus being in danger. There was that social media campaign telling people that “we're about a day away from a new Holocaust and we need to ask our Christian neighbors whether or not they would hide us the way that Anne Frank's protectors hid her.” What do you think of this kind of narrative that's trying to suggest that Jews are a uniquely vulnerable or endangered minority group in the United States and need all of these protections like censorship and administration speech codes to protect them the way they've tried to protect other minority groups with similar narratives and measures.
Jacob Siegel: Yeah. I think that, you know, the sort of victimhood narrative that you're describing is enfeebled and corrupting, corrupt at its core and only empowering the administrations that are normalizing anti-Semitism, which actually is happening. Right. And so, this is not difficult to understand and you can look at it in terms of hate crimes. And there's definitely some funny math going on with some of the hate crime calculations. But one thing that's very clear in all of the calculations is, you know, Jews have been disproportionate victims of hate crimes in the United States for over a decade. And that's, you know, even if you adjust for taking out simply hate speech. And that's also not even getting into whether the, you know, the category of hate crime makes sense as a race. But the normalization of anti-Semitism in America running through a framework of a, you know, sort of you can you could call it woke, but it's only another the more generalized racialist bureaucracy that explicitly sorts people into a racial caste system that is openly prejudicial against disfavored identity groups, white men, whether it's men, whether it's Asians because they're Asian or Asians because they're white adjacent, you know, whatever kind of terminology gets attached to it. The system of therapeutic racial caste bureaucracy that dominates on college campuses and also now increasingly, unfortunately, in municipal governments and school boards in Los Angeles, etc., that very much dedicated to demonizing certain disfavored groups, Jews among them. And in some ways, at the top of the list, that system is itself evil, corrupt, connected to the sort of administrative protections through bureaucracies that are supposed to protect victims, not to appeal to that system to protect Jews. The answer is to wholesale dismantle that system, to stop sorting Americans according to identity categories, racial, gender, or otherwise, and then doling out, you know, preferential treatment or a sort of a system of moral hierarchy that has done nothing good for anybody. It didn't do anything good for Black Americans in the wake of the death of George Floyd. It's not going to do anything good for Jewish Americans.
Now, I would point out, though, with the analogy that, you know, one thing that doesn't hold up upwardly, the sort of victimhood analogy is that you know, the comparable situation for Black Americans after the death of George Floyd would have been to say, you're victims everywhere. There's a system of totalizing white supremacy that afflicts you and holds you back and victimizes you in every single segment of American life. And at the same time, you are brutal occupiers or, you know, complicit in genocide, which is sort of the double game that's going on now, where on the one hand you have a push among maybe certain segments of the sort of liberal progressive elite to have Jews appeal to the protections of the therapeutic administrative bureaucracies and then, at the same time, you have the therapeutic administrative bureaucracies themselves in the form of the AI offices and the academics and activists who provide the ideological content at bureaucracy, you know, some of them openly – I shouldn't say some of them a significant number of them – openly exulting in the October 7 massacre, celebrating Hamas's resistance. And it's on a more wholesale level, you know, inculcating and promoting this racial caste system that is absolutely destructive to all Americans. And [there] is a piece that my colleague at Tablet, David Samuels wrote where he makes the […] Which is absolutely the correct point. The Jewish Americans who are concerned about their status need to worry about saving America. They need to, you know, don't worry about asking the authorities to protect you. If you need protection, you should find ways to meaningfully protect yourself and worry about restoring the America that does not sort its citizens according to a hierarchy of oppressor and oppressed. You need to dismantle that system wholesale.
Glenn Greenwald: I said that was my last question. So, I'll just consider this a follow up and I promise this will be my last one. But I do think there's a tendency for people to take more seriously threats to the groups to which they belong than they do groups to which they don't belong. We just saw Congress do something it very rarely does, which is censure a politician, a member of Congress, for a view that they expressed. It wasn't a Jewish member of Congress who was defending Israel. She was the only Palestinian member of Congress who was criticizing Israel and defending Palestinians based on the view that she endorsed a chant that was genocidal toward Israel. Every time there's a vote in Congress that involves Israel, it passes with a bigger margin than almost any other issue commands 411 to 8. During these conversations, I've been having with Jewish friends of mine about October 7, ones who weren't political ones who have become more politicized as a result of it, every one of them has said to me, you know, I've been living in the United States for 40, 50 years now, and I've never once in my life been menaced or had an anti-Semitic incident. I think American Jews feel extremely safe in the United States, at least they did until this past month, when they've been beginning to be told that, “Oh, anti-Semitism is being normalized, that they're actually endangered.” I look at the United States, my own experience, the experience of my family and my friends and what I see on the political level, I see the country of Israel as being treated in ways that are much better than a lot of other countries. And I have a hard time concluding that anti-Semitism is somehow the most approved of bigotry. It seems to me that over the last month, the people who have lost their jobs have been people who have engaged in pro-Palestinian speech. Nobody has lost their jobs for saying things about Palestinians, even though members of Congress have said things like there's no such thing as an innocent Palestinian. People have called for Palestine to be turned in or Gaza to be turned into a parking lot, for it to be obliterated. No one's lost their job over that. All the job loss and cancellation and censorship has come from people who have been insufficiently supportive of Israel. So, when you look at America and you want to say you think anti-Semitism is the kind of pinnacle or the most approved of bigotry, are there things in your experience – in your life, that you have experienced – that lead you to believe that to be true?
Jacob Siegel: I don't think I said that it's the pinnacle or most approved of bigotry. I said that the disproportionate number of hate crimes are directed at Jews, which is just what the statistics reflect in the larger system of American bigotry, as it were. Anti-Semitism slots in, as you know, in an essential piece, but one piece among many in a system of discrimination, racialism and oppression of hierarchy that's corrupt from the top to bottom. I don't think that, you know, I think that, frankly, there's been a lot more of that kind of institutional bureaucratic discrimination overtly directed against other groups, Asians in particular, though that bureaucratic discrimination has been covertly directed against Jews as well, who've been sort of getting pushed to elite institutions which have rejected meritocracy and this kind of, you know, Soviet system of apportionment. But, you know, I would note in America, I think that the people who are viewing the events of the last month as dispositive and like this, this reveals what America is. They're looking at this through the wrong lens, you know, the sort of eruptions of pro-Hamas sentiment that have happened, particularly in elite institutions in America over the past month, are simply extensions of the sort of ruling class ideology that has been taking hold out in the open for the last decade.
Now, Congress is the one institution where – it is an institution that's sort of more responsive to popular sentiments. So, I think the pro-Israel sentiment in Congress needs to be disaggregated from the pro-Israel expressions of pro-Israel sentiment coming from the White House because I don't think they're the same thing. Some of the pro-Israel sentiment in Congress is obviously just especially like the sort of over-the-top stuff, is obviously about domestic politics and electioneering and all of that, but it's not the same as well.
Glenn Greenwald: But by which you mean that there's a political benefit to showing that you support Israel, but there's no political benefit to showing that you oppose Israel except maybe in a few districts, which is what accounts for the 411 to 7 votes.
Jacob Siegel: No, there is a tremendous political benefit to showing that you oppose Israel in elite institutions which overwhelmingly form the indoctrination apparatus and the sort of finishing schools of academia, which it…
Glenn Greenwald: Even in academia.
Jacob Siegel: Certainly, academia is a large part of it. And I think that we've seen over the last decade that arguments about, hey, it's just college kids are wildly mistaken. But no, not only academia. I think you know, you're talking about a DIY bureaucracy that is not simply in academia. It's an extension of a federal policy set by the federal government. That's what the bureaucracy effectively is now. And it's in the corporate sector. It's in, you know, municipal governments. It's in all sorts of bureaucratic and administrative offices. And I think that the polling shows that most Americans are, you know, overwhelmingly still supportive of Israel. But young Americans, the people who are most taken with these new ideological dogmas, are the ones who are turning against Israel. That's no surprise. It's you know, this makes perfect sense in the sort of oppressor-oppressed scheme, you know, favored disfavored identity groups scheme of this, this new ideal matrix, as it were. But. But yeah, I think that, you know, is obviously there's more pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel sentiment than there once was. It's still very far from being the majority. Very.
Jacob Siegel: Yeah. But I'm not doing that at all. But I don't look good. What I would say is if you take a step back from this. It's been very, very clear over the last five years that the American ruling class exists precisely to stifle drive the majority position of most Americans on any number of absolutely critical issues. Did most Americans support this sort of maximalist fervor from the two or three vaccinations? Did most Americans support a campaign of subterfuge and a soft coup against the president of the United States, Donald Trump, carried out by the actual American David? Of course.
Glenn Greenwald: Are you saying the ruling class is suppressing the widespread antisemitism by continuing, on the congressional level, to be overwhelmingly pro-Israel or by having billionaires compile a list of people who can't be hired? That isn't a list of people who are too pro-Israel but have criticized Israel. I mean, it seems like the ruling class is pretty…
Jacob Siegel: No, that's not what I'm saying.
Glenn Greenwald: Opposed to antisemitism to me. So, I don't… What breach are you talking about between the ruling class and what the majority of people going…?
Jacob Siegel: Back and forth between domestic anti-Semitism stuff and policy towards Israel. So, when you brought up Talib, that's what I was responding to. So, what I would say is that if you look at the structural position of the U.S. ruling class, right, the idea that its foreign policy is dominated by neocons and an IPAC has not been true for, you know, as it was never true in some sense. But it's certainly, you know, it's a mental model that sort of dates to like 2002, maybe or 2000. The actual structural position of the U.S. ruling class, which began with President Obama, who inaugurated this new era of foreign policy for the United States in which the U.S. and in what was at the time was a, I think, understandable sort of backlash against the disaster, this Bush-era neoconservative approach to the war on terror. The policy put in place by the Obama administration was in order to get us out of these Middle East wars, what we're going to do is we're going to elevate the status of Iran and we're going to bring down the status of Israel and Saudi Arabia, and we're going to bring them into this concert, a pattern which will have equalized them, integrated them into this new concept of how they can exercise sort of countervailing interest against one another. That was the explicit aim of the foreign policy. And, you know, it produced any number of disasters that you could say equal the disasters of the war on terror, though not for Americans that way. And that is the policy of the Biden administration as well. And that policy, which sort of presented itself from the outside as we're going to pull us out of the Middle East, we can focus on the domestic agenda by creating these new powers has actually had the effect of emboldening Iran, putting tons of money in Iran's pocket to fund groups that attack both Israel and Americans in the Middle East, not to mention destabilize the region in countless other ways while helping to sort of set the conditions for the Arab-Israeli reproach, which was carried out under Donald Trump, which created, you know, those four years of the Trump administration, created this sort of oasis of relative peace and stability inside is otherwise, if you look at the bookends of the Obama now Biden administration, just endless convulsions or volatility, you know, Trump didn't get us into any new wars. That's right. Including, you know, proxy wars like the U.S. involvement in Ukraine, which Biden did. But, you know, Trump also actually restored a measure of stability and peace to the Middle East through his approach. Now, when I lay all that out, what I'm saying is that the part of the U.S. government on the national security side, which includes people like Jim and Anthony Blinken, Brett McGurk, and […], these sort of Obama people, which concluded, until quite recently. Rob Malley, you know, a sort of somebody who is raised on anti-Zionist ideology since he was in diapers and who went on to, you know, after making the – now sort of infamous – statement about Hamas being a rap national social movement went on to lead to negotiations with Iran. […] Iran policy on both under Obama and the Biden administration to play again because it seems to be getting totally ignored in the U.S. press, but it seems sort of relevant that the guy leading that policy was relieved under very mysterious circumstances just a few months ago and then subsequently right before the latest war broke out, there was this revelation of, you know, an actual Iranian influence operation, members of which are now serving in very high-level security clearances in the national security establishment. So, one, the sort of claim that it's only neocon warmongers who are sort of trumpeting the threat about Iran totally ignores the fact that the highest levels of the U.S. national security establishment at this point include people who are part of the explicitly, you know, sort of what you might call pro Iran reproach moment wing of the Democratic Party, which is the top levels of the Democratic Party leadership at this point. And those people have a very least an important relationship to Israel and the outsized gestures of support that they give to Israel, sort of including, you know, the building U.S. trade, which comes with many strings attached. And, you know, I can't think of another war in recent memory where the U.S. was sort of micromanaging allies' war plans in this way. It's basically unprecedented. But maybe it does make sense in the context of this aid arrangement. But at the same time, you know, these people are also critical of Israeli policy, either interfering in Israel's domestic politics or pushing for the removal of Benjamin Netanyahu. You can think whatever you want of Benjamin Netanyahu personally. You know, I think that he should be out of government and I think that he bears primary responsibility for what happened on October 7th and has yet to fully own up to that. But whatever you think about him, Israel is supposed to be in serious sovereign state. The U.S. probably should not be interfering in its domestic politics in that way. But of course, that's how the U.S. carries out. This carries out this sort of clientelism foreign policy in countries across the world. It's not just Israel. But my point is that the highest level is the sort of ruling class position that is reflected in the White House and the national security establishment, is much more in concert with some of the campus sentiments. I don't mean overt anti-Semitism, but I do mean, let's say, a sort of, you know, hostility to Israel that can either get coded as anti-colonialism in the academic context or can get coded in the sort of national security context, as, you know, constraining Israeli belligerence or something like that, that those two segments of the U.S. ruling class of the ruling party's elite are much closer together than they are to the members of Congress at this point, which still has, you know, sort of more reflects the sentiments of the general population.
Glenn Greenwald: Which is pro-Israel. All right. Well, listen, I've really enjoyed this conversation. As I said, one of the things I like about doing a show like this is we don't have the kind of time constraints where we're forced to speak in seven-minute spurts between commercials. We can delve very deeply into doctrine and insight, which whatever else I have to say about the things that you think, you definitely develop with a lot of thought. I've listened to a lot of what you've had to say. I do think it's difficult to depict the United States as a country where American Jews face antisemitism in a significant way. I think American Jews are very safe. I also think it's hard to say the Democratic Party isn't very solidly pro-Israel, maybe not in the same way they once were. But I listened to all of your arguments. I would love to have you back on. We can delve into this further, especially as this war progresses. I'm sure there'll be a lot more to talk about. We can kind of compare where the war went to, and what we spent tonight exploring, and I always think you're very worth reading. Very worth listening to. There are times I don't agree. I'm sure that's true of you as of the things I believe as well. But I'm happy to have you on the show. And it's always great to talk to you. So, thanks for coming on.
Jacob Siegel: Glenn. I always appreciate hearing what you have to say as well. And it is always a pleasure to come on and talk to you. And I appreciate the opportunity.
Glenn Greenwald: Absolutely. Have a great evening, Jacob. Thanks so much.
So that concludes our show for this evening.