Podcast / On The Nose
On the Nose is our biweekly podcast. The editorial staff discusses the politics, culture, and questions that animate today’s Jewish left.
Unsettled After October 7th
0:00 / 51:52
October 19, 2023

On Saturday, October 7th, Hamas launched a surprise attack across the Gaza border, killing more than 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, and taking at least 150 Israeli hostages, most of whom are still captive in the Gaza Strip. Israel responded to the attack by declaring war and cutting off food, water, and electricity to Gaza. On Friday, October 13th, Israel ordered 1.1 million people in the northern part of Gaza to evacuate as it prepares for a ground invasion, and Israeli air strikes have already killed nearly 4,000 people in the area.

In this episode, we are featuring two interviews conducted by the producers of Unsettled, a podcast that brings listeners intimate, thoroughly reported stories on Israel/Palestine, deepening the conversation by spotlighting voices on the ground, as well as those outside the region working to shape its future. First, Unsettled producer Max Freedman speaks with Tareq Baconi, author of Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance, about the October 7th attack, asking: Why this and why now? In the second conversation, Unsettled producer Ilana Levinson speaks to Isam Hamad, an organizer of 2018’s Great March of Return in Gaza and manager of a Gaza City medical equipment company.

Unsettled is produced by Emily Bell, Max Freedman, and Ilana Levinson, with support from Asaf Calderon. Music in this episode from Blue Dot Sessions.

Thanks to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”

Podcasts Mentioned and Further Reading:

Unsettled Podcast

Tareq Baconi: Hamas Explained,” Unsettled

‘We Are Always Met With Violence’: Gaza’s March of Return at One Year,” Jehad Abusalim interviewed by Naomi Dann, Jewish Currents


Arielle Angel: Hello, this is Arielle Angel, editor in chief of Jewish Currents and this is On the Nose, the Jewish Currents podcast. We are all still reeling from the October 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel and the ongoing Israeli siege on Gaza. In the coming days, we’ll be publishing up-to-the-minute dispatches from the ground, as well as reporting on the intense political repression taking hold within Israel/Palestine, as well as in the US and Europe. We’ll also be using this podcast to surface questions and debates coming up on the Israeli left, the Jewish left and the American left more broadly. As our publisher Daniel May wrote this morning in the Jewish Currents newsletter, the questions that have been raised in this moment will be with us for a long time. It’s going to take time to sort through them, to have the political conversations we need to have in order to move forward together. I hope you’ll stay with us as we do so.

Today, however, we wanted to highlight the work of Unsettled, a podcast that I’ve long listened to to help me make sense of events on the ground. Unsettled brings listeners intimate, thoroughly-reported stories on Israel/Palestine, deepening the conversation by spotlighting voices on the ground and those outside the region working to shape its future, from activists to analysts and historians. They’ve published more than 80 episodes since 2017, and you should definitely check out their archive. Today, we’re bringing you the first two episodes released since October 7. Check out Unsettled wherever you get your podcasts for more, and hang in there.

Tareq Baconi: The past few days has been a game changer. I really think it’s completely ruptured the reality that we thought we were operating in.

Max Freedman: In the early morning of Saturday, October 7, Hamas launched a surprise attack across the Gaza border, killing more than 1,300 Israelis, mostly civilians, and taking at least 150 Israeli hostages. Since then, Israel has intensified the blockade of Gaza that has been ongoing since 2007, cutting off access to electricity, water, food, internet, and supplies. The Israeli Air Force says they dropped 6,000 bombs on the Gaza strip between October 7 and October 12, killing more than 1,500 Palestinians, destroying entire neighborhoods and leaving more than 300,000 people homeless. Friday morning, October 13, Israel told 1.1 million people who live in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to evacuate to the south. But the south has been experiencing heavy bombardment as well.

Over the next few days, Unsettled is going to bring you the voices of many different people who are affected by this violence, as well as expert analysis and context. We’re going to start by talking about the event that began this current escalation: Hamas’s shock attack on October 7. To do that I reached back out to Tareq Baconi. You may remember Tareq from a previous episode of this podcast. We first spoke about five years ago, soon after the publication of his book, Hamas Contained: the Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance, the history of the movement on its own terms,

TB: Saying that Hamas is a terrorist organization doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility of understanding what is happening on the ground today. I think that Hamas has become a very effective fig leaf that allows Israel to legitimate policies that are morally corrupt.

MF: We first published that interview in early 2019 and again in May 2021. And it is the most downloaded episode of Unsettled. Each time there’s an outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas, it seems like there’s a lot of people who just want more information about this group—not to excuse their actions, but to try to understand and contextualize them. If you haven’t heard that episode yet, I encourage you to go back to our archive and listen to it now.

So of course, I wanted to follow up with Tareq this week and get his analysis of Hamas’s recent moves. But Tareq is not just an expert and a scholar. He’s a Palestinian with a personal stake in what happens on the ground. So I wanted to know how he was holding up.

TB: It’s frightening. I think we’ve never been in this moment before. I will be the first to admit that I’m overwhelmed and, in many ways, confused and trying to both provide some rational analysis but also make space for how emotional this is on many levels. And I think right now, everyone’s priority is safety and de-escalation, and It feels like there are no adults in the room.

MF: Were you surprised to find out what had happened?

TB: Yes. Yes, I was surprised by what happened. I was also surprised by how Hamas was able to pull off what it did. You have to understand for Palestinians, there’s a myth of Israeli invincibility; which obviously, we all wanted to hold onto the truth, which is that it is not invincible, and that apartheid will collapse. But there is that myth, and it’s a very powerful myth. And Hamas shattered that. I don’t think there’s any way of going back to any belief that Israel is able to protect the lives of its citizens while it maintains an apartheid regime. So I think I was stunned by that.

MF: Now, one of the central arguments of your book, I mean, it’s in the in the title is that Hamas, at least in 2018, when the book was published, had been contained and pacified. Would you say that’s still true?

TB: The argument in the book was that it was contained and pacified, but that it was temporarily so. Because the distinction that I drew in the book was that, unlike the PLO, Hamas didn’t make any ideological concessions. So it never gave up on its right to resist. And I think part of the reason why I was surprised is because even though I always suspected that its containment was temporary, and that the situation in the Gaza Strip was unsustainable for all the reasons that we know, the speed with which it overturned that and showed that actually, it had been very actively building up a military infrastructure that would allow it to carry out this offensive, that it was very strategic and very actively pursuing that goal. That’s what I found surprising. So not necessarily that it’s no longer contained, but that that transition happened the way it did.

MF: Why do you think that the attack took the form that it did? And really, I think my first question when I found out what was going on, was: Why now? I think when we talked about Hamas five years ago, one of the things that I took away from our conversation was the importance of thinking about Hamas as a rational actor and thinking about its moves as strategic. And I know, in some ways, the political arm of the organization was trying to gain legitimacy on the international stage. Why now? Why this kind of attack? Why now?

TB: Well, I think, why now actually shows that it is very rational. And it is very strategic. Because if we’re looking at this from the old paradigm, in which Hamas is contained, and it’s negotiating through this violent equilibrium with Israel, one of the factors that would have prompted it to, let’s say, start a rocket fire exchange with Israel would include things like settler attacks against people in the West Bank, the Jenin invasion a few months ago, efforts to disrupt the status quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, and in Gaza specifically, increasing the restrictions on entry of goods and people—all of these things have happened in the past few months. So in the old paradigm, there was already sufficient motivation for Hamas to “poke,” for the lack of a better word. But under the new paradigm—which is a paradigm in which Israelis have awakened to the reality that they can’t maintain their apartheid while enjoying security—under the new paradigm, there is a fundamental shift that’s been happening within Israel for the past few months around what the nature of that state is. On the one hand, increasingly fascist—brazenly so—pursuing that project, and the democracy protests, they believe there can be democracy in apartheid, which is fanciful, but also has paralyzed the institutions and the army. That paralysis combined with more brazen attacks against Palestinians, coinciding with rhetoric on the international stage of normalization agreements with Saudi Arabia, US visa waiver programs. It’s as if the impunity that Israel was able to enjoy was expanding despite the increasing brutality of its regime, and I think Hamas rightly identified a weak spot, a moment of crisis within Israel that made it unable to respond to this kind of offensive.

MF: What do you think the goal of this kind of offensive is for them?

TB: I think, primarily—there’s no way of knowing for sure, and I should say that I haven’t spoken to anyone in the leadership for a long time now. Since my research. But my guess, sort of familiarizing myself with the movement’s thinking in the past, is that the goal was to stun the Israeli public and the global public, to really, very firmly and conclusively, put away this idea that the management of the Palestinians could continue to work indefinitely. And I think it has done that. Now, the outcomes of that might not be the outcomes that Hamas had intended. And they’re quite frightening outcomes. Or it might be exactly the kind that Hamas intended—I don’t know. But I think its goal was really to overturn the paradigm. And if you hear Mohammed Deif’s statements, that’s exactly what he says: that Hamas is operating now to end the delusion that Israel can continue to act with impunity. While it maintains—and this I was shocked, because I haven’t heard that language before from Hamas—while it maintains the last standing apartheid regime, globally. So I think it’s been obviously as a strategic and rational actor, it’s been following that conversation very closely.

MF: What was the language that you hadn’t heard before? The language of apartheid?

TB: Yeah. That this is the last standing apartheid regime. Obviously, it’s always talked about Israel as a settler colonial state, a colonizing force, but to talk about it as apartheid, a system of ethnic domination in Arabic as [speaks in Arabic]. So that language is I believe, new to Hamas’s leadership.

MF: What does the adoption of that language signify to you?

TB: That it’s not only talking to Palestinians, that it’s talking to the global stage, where now it’s consensus among the international and Israeli human rights organizations that Israel is an apartheid regime.

MF: Isn’t it almost certain that those kinds of organizations will be appalled by the form of Hamas’s resistance and assistance? I mean, if they’re trying to reach out and speak the language of Israeli and international human rights organizations, this is not the way to make friends with them?

TB: Absolutely. I mean, I think the atrocities that Hamas’s fighters committed in Israel are rightly condemned and will be condemned by human rights organizations—how Hamas will talk about what happened, and whether or not it will justify what happened, is still to be seen. And it’s unclear to me whether the directives were for those atrocities to happen, or whether that was just fighters taking matters into their own hands. It’s unclear to me. But either way, I think this puts Hamas in a very difficult position, strategically and morally.

MF: Do you think it’s possible that there are leaders of Hamas who are looking at what happened and going: Oh, this was not the intent?

TB: Yes. There is an argument to say that Hamas wanted to rupture the reality that Palestinians were finding themselves in through Israeli colonial violence and to force a reckoning with the political reality of Palestinians. I would find it very hard to believe that Hamas—and if this is where we’re headed—that Hamas would have wanted Gaza to be ethnically cleansed into Egypt. So I do think that there is a lot of thinking that is happening within Hamas now about where they’ve landed themselves and where they’ve landed the Palestinian people more broadly.

MF: I mean, to me, given who’s in power in Israel right now, it’s sadly somewhat predictable that this is what would happen,

TB: In some ways, yes. In other ways, no. Just in the sense of, if they were able to capture prisoners of war, captives back to Gaza, there is a world in which we imagine that Hamas broke into Israeli territory—and obviously, there’s no way of managing the violence that would come out once that had happened—but where the majority of its captives were soldiers or adult men and that there wasn’t an atrocity. That could have been a strategy. So if that was indeed their goal, there is a world where we think that they might have achieved some kind of strategic balance with Israelis, even with this government, where just having captives could really change the way that they negotiate around Gaza and, more broadly, Palestine.

MF: So this—I mean, this is speculative—but I think what you’re saying is that it is possible that the scenario that you’re describing, in which the plan was to break through the barrier, in some ways to prove that they could, and capture a lot of people—soldiers, adult men—and bring them back, then that would have played out a certain way that wouldn’t necessarily have led to the overwhelming bombing and, probably, a ground invasion of Gaza that we’re gonna see. But that—again, speculating—it’s possible that the level of civilian casualties we saw in Israel was not part of the plan.

TB: Absolutely, I definitely think it’s possible that this may not have been the plan. That doesn’t mean that it’s not then responsible for what happens and it’s not responsible for the atrocities that took place. But I do think that there is a world in which that wasn’t the plan. I mean, I don’t know if they knew that there was a rave happening outside of Gaza on the day of the offensive. It’s very possible that this got out of hand very quickly, and I think that’s what’s frightening about decolonization generally, which is that the violence is uncontrollable. And it’s violence. That is the system that holds these ethnic groups in this way. Once that system erupts, because there’s been so much dehumanization over the years, the violence that is unleashed is uncontrollable. So regardless of whether or not Hamas was intending for this to happen, I think there is a delusion when one thinks that that kind of violence can be controlled. And so, I think that there always needs to be a reckoning with the fact that once we exist in an apartheid reality that’s being challenged, violence is, unfortunately and tragically, going to impact civilians.

MF: What do you see happening now? And where do you think it’s going? We’re talking on Wednesday, October 11, at about 4:30pm in New York.

TB: I mean, I think that’s an impossible question to answer. I’ve never seen the situation like this. It’s in total flux. I have to say that for me, Biden’s speech yesterday was chilling. That kind of language that he used was one that was pouring fuel on fire.

Joe Biden: The brutality of Hamas, bloodthirstiness, brings to mind the worst rampages of ISIS. Hamas offers nothing but terror and bloodshed with no regard to who pays the price.

TB: Completely not mentioning the context of apartheid and the reality in which Hamas did what it did.

JB: We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, respond to this attack. There’s no justification for terrorism. There’s no excuse.

TB: And I think, unfortunately, that’s carte blanche for Israel. And one of the issues here is that it’s not like Israel just now, if it does carry an operation of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, it’s not as if it just thought of these plans now. The Israeli politicians have been talking about this for months, if not years. And so, this kind of rhetoric coming from the US and European states that are giving Israel carte blanche are basically saying: We endorse the plans that you have to finish what you didn’t finish in 1948. If that happens, I don’t really know where that lands, the Palestinians, I think it would be decades to really reconstitute, if at all. And the question for me is also one of a regional question. If this becomes bigger than Palestine and draws in Iran, I think it becomes far bigger than what we’re thinking now. And it’s really hard to figure out where we are going. The one thing I would say is that I do think it’s irreversible. This rupture in the thinking that has dominated Israeli and global policymakers, that Palestine is going to go away. Apart from decimating the movement through genocide and ethnic cleansing, I think now there’s no going back to this idea that Israeli Jews can have a good life while Palestinians have a boot on their neck. I don’t think we’re we can go back to that.

MF: Okay. I think those are the questions that I had. Anything I didn’t ask you that I should have?

TB: I keep iterating this, but I think it’s really important to note that while Hamas is a nationalist Palestinian movement, and it is part of the Palestinian liberation movement, it doesn’t speak on behalf of the movement, and it doesn’t represent all the movement. And I think it’s been really important for me and others to also really understand that, that while Hamas has in some ways over the past few years been the only military force that’s capable of defending Palestinians against Israeli aggression in some form, that also doesn’t make it the umbrella of the movement. And that we, in our thinking about what an anti-apartheid struggle looks like, have to understand that this is the context we’re working in. So Hamas is a part of this liberation struggle, but we are also able to build an anti-apartheid movement that is rooted in an ideology and in values that is not what we saw the past few days. And I think it’s really important for us to really grapple with that and with what ethics that movement is grounded in.

* * *

Ilana Levinson: In late 2018, I spoke to Isam Hamad, one of the organizers of the Great March of Return. The great march was a mass demonstration that brought thousands of Palestinians living in Gaza out to the fence that separates them from the cities and towns from which their ancestors were exiled. Isam helped write the principles that guided the Great March. Here’s what he said back then:

Isam Hamad: We will not shoot a bullet. We will not throw a stone. We will not fight with anybody. We will only walk with bare feet towards our land. This is it. This is it: peacefully, absolutely peacefully.

IL: But the march didn’t stay as peaceful as Isam had hoped. Unarmed protesters who came close to the fence were gunned down by Israeli snipers. Hamas and Israel both claimed that a portion of those killed at the fence were Hamas militants. But among the dead were kids as young as eleven, medics, and journalists. I remember how desperate Isam was watching that happen, begging for the protesters’ lives to be spared.

IH: Don’t shoot at them. The worst is that they will sit-in in one of the cities beside the fence for one day, for two days. And even if they stay, let them feel that they have done something. Don’t kill them.

IL: Five years later, we saw a different kind of event at the border fence than the one Isam had imagined. This one wasn’t planned by peace activists. It was by Hamas militants, and Israeli snipers weren’t waiting for them on the other side. On Saturday, October 7, Hamas launched a surprise attack across the Gaza border, killing more than 1,300 Israelis, mostly civilians, and taking at least 150 Israeli hostages, most of whom are still captive in the Gaza Strip. Israel responded to the attack by declaring war and cutting off food, water, and electricity to the Gaza Strip. Israeli airstrikes have already killed over 2,600 people in Gaza as of October 15. Israel ordered 1.1 million people in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to evacuate in 24 hours as it prepares for a ground invasion. The UN Secretary General called that order impossible. In the coming days, Unsettled is going to bring you the voices of many different people who are affected by the violence as well as expert analysis and context. Today, we hear from Isam Hamad. He manages a medical equipment company in Gaza City. The Gaza Strip is 25 miles long and seven miles wide. It’s one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Last week, on October 10, I followed up with Isam about what life’s like in the besieged Gaza Strip.

IH: I am in southern Gaza City. I was today in the center of Gaza, and I’ve seen towers wiped out, houses, shops, blocks sent to ground. Just a few meters back, there was an F16 rocket attack—not last night, the night before—made a big hole, and they closed the street from the debris. What is—this is a rocket, from the window I can see it. I can see from here, but I don’t know if I can show you. Oh there it is. That’s how we are living all the time: in terror. It just happened that the bombing’s in another area. I can hear it, but you can’t hear it. It’s in a far area. But last night, for example, it was in the area. Where, I don’t know, but it was in the area. So when you look at 2:00 in the morning, when you have this F16 bombshell, just shakes the whole house, shakes the whole house, and everybody from the building start screaming, 2:00 in the morning, and 3:00 in the morning, and 3:30, and 4:00—all the time. What sort of life is this? How can I plan for the next—this morning, when I was visiting the middle of Gaza, why are we building shops when we should have tents? Every two years, Israel comes and devastates everything. For what? The owner of this shop, the owner of this building, what have they done? You have a problem with somebody, don’t fix your accounts with the civilians who are living. So many people have been killed over the last three days, while they don’t know why they were killed. They don’t know why they were. Just all of a sudden, the whole house, all the people in the house have been blown up, and everybody’s dead—why? You don’t know. Just children, old people, somebody like me—normal. What did it? Why did they die? You don’t know. You don’t know why they die. This is the situation.

IL: How are you feeling?

IH: Tough. It’s not the first time, Ilana. We know it. I went today also to my office, my workplace. Devastation everywhere. Even the building where our company is, it’s devastated. I feel some magic has to rise and stop this killing altogether. Something has to happen. It cannot just continue every year or every second year. This devastation, and killing the hope, and sending the people to ground and losing lives. I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know why. Why this is happening? Palestinians are human beings exactly as Americans, as everybody on the face of the Earth. What do they want? When you put people in the prison, and then these prisoners see a hole that they can escape from, will they escape or not? This is what happened yesterday. You have locked 2.2 million people in this very enlarged prison called Gaza Strip. And then you are enforcing every rule to oppress them and subject them to pressure. Then when they have their minds and they start making their plans, they will, simple as that, explode in your face. So don’t blame others. Don’t blame others. You have put them in the pressure cooker, and the pressure cooker will only explode in your face while you are putting the fire under it. This is a rule of physics.

IL: I hear you saying that. What should Israel have expected from putting Palestinian people in the pressure cooker that is the Gaza Strip? What do you think of what Hamas fighters did? In terms of the goal of having land back, the goal of—

IH: Look, Ilana. For you, and for everybody who is going to see and hear me talking. Before you answer this or explain it, you have to understand: What is Hamas? What is Hamas? Is it a military? Or is it youth, people from the Palestinian families here who have been put in the pressure cooker? Let me remind you, have you heard about the boats, the boats sinking in Greece for the immigrants going from Gaza, the youth emigrating from Gaza, because of the loss of hope and going to Greece in order to emigrate to Europe?

IL: A quick note here. What Isam is talking about is a rising number of migrants attempting to flee the Gaza Strip by sea. According to the UN, more than 2,700 Palestinians arrived in Greece by sea in 2022. But hundreds have died along the way.

IH: Look, those people who emigrated, some of them have reached Europe, some of them have been left to the fish in order to eat them in the middle of the ocean. Some of them are thinking in another way: If we do not have the money and the livelihood to emigrate outside, let’s go and embrace the fighting in order to return our country to being able to live. If you understand the minds of Hamas, then you understand what’s happening. If the livelihood of the Gazans here was prosperous, you wouldn’t see this. You wouldn’t see this at all. You wouldn’t see militants. There is no need for militants. Those people are looking for hope. They are wishing to live. They want to live, and you are, Netanyahu, you are unfortunately preventing them from this. Look now: After what happened two days ago, he stopped electricity. Now there is no electricity. He doesn’t mind if electricity powers hospitals, or powers clinics, or powers disabled people. He stopped water. He wants to create every suffering. Okay. People of Gaza are two types: 2.2 million people, let’s say 200,000 involved with Hamas: Okay. Now you are punishing 2 million extra. Tell me how many from these 2 million extra will emigrate from being a normal person to the other 200,000 in order to avenge what you are doing with them. While they are innocent, they have not done anything. And then after a couple of years, he will say: Look, Hamas has grown. You are creating the situation for Hamas and other armies or jihad to enlarge and attack you. It is simple, Mr. Netanyahu and all the Israelis. It is simple. Let the Palestinian state be created on the 1967, a sovereign state, sovereign, free, let them have their freedom. And then let the refugees go back to their land. And then it’s the end. You can live in peace, and we live in peace, and everybody lives in peace, and it’s a win-win situation for everybody, even the Americans, who are spending their money for nothing, throwing their money on the Israeli war, throwing—why is this? Why do these people have to throw their money to create peace, not to create war?

IL: Isam, part of why I make this show is because it’s very hard for Jewish people to understand the perspective of Palestinian people. Most of us just have never lived in the shoes of a Palestinian person. And I know in this moment, Jewish people are asking themselves: Okay, you wanted to escape the Gaza Strip, but why slaughter Jewish people? Do you have a way to help Jewish people understand that?

IH: Look, do you know what is revenge? Revenge is when you kill somebody, then his relative comes and kills somebody from you. This is revenge. This is nature. We cannot change it. Okay? Now, yesterday, they have bombed so many houses. Now the death toll in Gaza is about 750—the last I’ve seen is about 750. Okay. Do they have relatives? I promise you, their relatives will go the next day and then start, and then in two, three years, you will have an army of people who want revenge, and you cannot control everyone. Somebody who has lost a relative, all his thoughts is how to avenge.

And we have seen that before our eyes two days ago: 16 or 17 years of oppression, and closures, and siege—what is the result? They have taken 2008 and they said okay; 2012, said okay; 2014 and they said okay; 2021 and they said, okay. 2022, what we have seen two days ago. Is that good? Is Netanyahu happy now? This is the result of what he was doing all these years. Why he did not just catch the chance to make peace? Who created this? It’s not me. You can ask: Who has ruined Gaza in 2008 and besieged Gaza? You can ask: Who ruined Gaza in 2012, 2014, 2021 and 2023. You can ask them! Look, when we are talking about rights, we are talking about human beings. And in the 21st century, there are no citizens class one and citizens class two. This is racism, not equality. So if the Jewish people want to understand what they have seen two days ago—and I tell you something, killing is something horrible. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. But you can ask the Israeli people and the Jewish people in Israel: Have you tried to pressure your country, your government, to make our land prosperous, to give the Palestinians their rights? You have, the Israelis, the Jewish—you have to ask yourselves: Why are you playing for the last 30 years? Why don’t you make peace? The government is a representative of the whole of the nation. So if the nation wants to create peace with the Palestinians and live side-by-side in peace, then the government will come to impose the thoughts of the people. So if the government comes and imposes something else, then we will see opposition. But if we do not see opposition, then the people are accepting what the government is doing. Speak, whenever it is possible. Let everybody hear you say: Let’s live in peace, a Palestinian sovereign state, and the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem, and the Israelis and their land, and let’s allow the refugees to go back to their land, and end the whole story all together. I do not write history or write the future. The people who attacked and went to the settlements did not ask me, and they will not ask me. I’m a peaceful peace activist. They have not asked me, and they will not ask you either. They will go and do what their thoughts, what their geography, what their needs, have created in their mind, what they are going to do.

IL: So you started talking about the siege. And I want to ask you: Israel already limited the energy supply and the food supply to Gaza, correct? What does it mean that Israel has now imposed a full siege on Gaza? What are the restrictions that have increased on Gaza?

IH: It means that all crossing points are closed. No food to enter, no goods, nobody to get out of Gaza. Full closure altogether, that’s the siege. Part of the water supply comes from Israel. 120 megawatts come from Israel. Gaza requires 600 megawatts in order to have 24 hours of electricity in the homes. We have a power state—

IL: So at this point, I lost Isam on Zoom. It turned out that actually, in this moment, it was a power outage. I wanted to explain this because as you can imagine, connecting with people in Gaza right now (and always) can be really hard. Luckily, though, we were able to reconnect.

IH: Ilana, you hear me?

IL: Yes, thanks.

IH: Sorry. I’m sorry. I had the power fail. I’m using a wireless system in order to stay on the net. So when these airplanes that fly over Gaza, when they send their radiation in our area, they stop the WiFi system, then I lost the internet. Now it’s back.

IL: Got it. Well, we were talking about the power. So,

IH: Yes, unfortunately, we were talking about the power and it was lost. So, Gaza has a shortage of more than let’s say 120 plus 60, 180 from 600, that means one-third of the need is available. So, what we have now is eight hours electricity and eight hours no electricity. And of course, for example, I have from 6:00 in the morning to 2:00 in the afternoon electricity on; from 2:00 to 10:00 in the evening, electricity off; from 10 to six o’clock in the morning electricity on; then tomorrow is the opposite accordingly. Because tomorrow it will start 6:00 off. So, this is the case. Gaza people have been living like this since 2006. Why? Why? It’s a simple question. So, if we want Gaza people at least to live okay, then we will allow the investment for the businessmen to expand the electricity generation company. But you do not want to give them even the gas to run a power station. So, you want the people to stay in that situation.

The other thing, also, is Gaza does not have drinkable water. All the water has to come from desalination companies, so the people of Gaza pay for the water, exactly like when you are buying bottled water. The situation in Gaza, 69% of the workforce are unemployed, so you are generating an army of unemployed people that you are expecting, they are not able to open houses, to get married, to live normal, to get a job. They are not able to live. So you are demolishing hope in front of their career. Yes. So what are you going to expect out of that? I work, by the way—my job is a manager, regional manager of a medical equipment company that is based in the West Bank. When we import for example, let’s say a catheterization system, that is something worth about seven, $800,000 for the hospital, the last time we had it in the seaport for more than six months. That’s the siege that is there. No economy is unable to import everything. You are not able to export your goods. In order to live prosperous, you have to generate money. If you are not allowed to export your goods, you are not able to enlarge your industry. So you cannot produce at that time, you don’t have money, so you will have donations. You want people to live like this.

IL: Are you seeing the impact of the increased restrictions on Gaza? What does that look like on the ground right now?

IH: Honestly, I don’t think what has happened on Saturday will end easily, and I think it will result in one of two things. Either the people that control everything will sit down and see: Look, it cannot continue like this with what has happened. They have lost more than 1,000 lives in a couple of days, and this is impossible for them. So would they either sit down at a table and start—not throwing rockets on people—start thinking, start calling everybody who has the vision. Look at what we have to do. We have tried everything over the last 75 years. It doesn’t work. I think we have to try another way. So if this happens, then you will see things change for the better. If the other path is followed—which means more devastation or repeating the past—we will see repeating the past. More killing, more instability, and the whole world is going to a bad economic situation. Everything has become expensive, and then also, nations will not be willing to spend as before on this war in this area. I think we will see a repeated picture. But at this time, I promise you, it will not be in the favor of the Israelis. It will not.

IL: What do you hope happens as a result of this moment?

IH: The first choice: The Israeli people understand that allowing the military people to rule Israel all the time is not the best choice. You must sit down on a round table between the wise people from the Israelis and the Palestinians and call them. Stay in the place one month, two months. And put in your mind: Look, we want to make these borders, from the north to the south, a peaceful place for everybody. And let’s put a roadmap for how these people are going to overcome the griefs that have happened over the 75 years, and let’s create a new future for everybody. There is no value for life if it is going to end like this. There is no value, no need to live, if you are going to be killed that way or be killed the way we have it now in Gaza, there is no value for life. No value. Let’s end it. When life is not easy, let’s end it. It’s very simple. Look: Let’s read the past in order to anticipate what’s going to happen. If this is what has happened already, what is going to happen? Just lose lives over another 30 years to end with what we have been talking about for 30 years. Look, let’s end it. It’s very simple. A Palestinian sovereign state on the land of 1967, and all refugees to go back to their land. As simple as that, then everybody can live in peace. Everybody can live in peace and prosperity. They have just rocketed Ashkelon with hundreds of missiles. Why? It’s devastating for this party, and this party, it’s devastating this party. For what? For what? For the land.

Ilana, let me tell you something: people abroad (because I lived with them), they think that the Palestinians hate everybody. They think so. They think we hate the Jews for example. This is absolutely not true. Not true at all. We do not object to people of the Jewish religion or Jewish faith, not at all. It is in our Quran. To you, you have your own religion. To us, we have our own religion. Let’s live in peace. I hope next time, Ilana, we talk together, some wise people start thinking that life will never continue like this. If it continues like this, that means we have something wrong in our minds. We honestly have something wrong in our minds. I was very pleased talking to you, Ilana. This is also a proof that I am open to people, to dialogue, to good thinking. I am open to it, and I welcome all positive dialogue that can lead us to live in peace and prosperity for everybody. To everyone, to everybody.

IL: Isam, you don’t have to prove that to anyone.

IH: Thank you very much. All the best. Bye bye. Bye bye.

IL: After Israel sent evacuation orders to people living in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, I asked Isam if he was okay. He responded saying quote, “Actually, we are no longer safe. The Israeli army asked us to evacuate our homes towards the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and we cannot do so. I have a 24-year-old disabled son, and a 93-year-old father who can only step on a walker, a diabetic wife, and we have no place to go.”

MF: That was Ilana’s conversation with Isam Hamad from Tuesday, October 10. She followed up with Isam again this week on Thursday, October 19. This is what he said: “I can survive another week if I do not lose electricity. Some of the solar panels went out of service because of air missile debris. My father is fine. The wife and kids and grandkids are trying to stay calm. Last night, there was bombing all around us. Every missile, we think it is targeting us.” But they are not planning to evacuate. In a Facebook post, Isam explained why: “We find it is impossible to evacuate to a place with no shelter, no food, no electricity, and no water. We had to decide to stay here at home rather than not being able to eat well or drink or take showers or wash our clothes. If, after all, Israel decides to bomb us, then we leave life with full dignity.” Unsettled is produced by Emily Bell, Ilana Levinson and me, Max Friedman, with support from Asaf Calderón. Music in this episode from Blue Dot Sessions. For more from Unsettled, follow us on Instagram at @unsettled_pod, and make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode.

May 16 2024
On Zionism and Anti-Zionism (50:58)
As protest encampments have forced a reckoning with the meaning of Zionism, Jewish Currents staffers discuss the different ways they describe their opposition to Jewish statehood and supremacy.
May 2 2024
Controversy at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (33:40)
Two anti-Zionist artists discuss their divergent decisions to stay or pull out of a group show at San Francisco’s Jewish art museum.
Apr 26 2024
Chevruta: Understanding Aaron Bushnell’s Sacrifice (38:51)
Rabbi Lexie Botzum leads Jewish Currents editor-in-chief Arielle Angel in a chevruta exploring how much we must sacrifice for justice.
Apr 25 2024
Jewish Organizing at Columbia’s Encampment (41:58)
Jewish Currents speaks with three student organizers at Columbia about their experience at the Gaza Solidarity Encampment.
Apr 11 2024
Unpacking the Campus Antisemitism Narrative (42:55)
Jewish Currents staff discuss recent campus antisemitism reporting and consider its consequences.
Mar 28 2024
Campus Politics Takes the Stage in "The Ally" (38:06)
Arielle Angel, Alisa Solomon, and Fargo Nissim Tbakhi discuss The Ally, a new play about campus politics and liberal Jewish discomfort with the left.
Mar 14 2024
Language, the Media, and Palestine (34:46)
Arielle Angel talks to Ali Gharib, Dalia Hatuqa, and Jazmine Hughes about the language the media uses to discuss Israel/Palestine, and what it says about the state of journalism today.
Feb 22 2024
Hindu Nationalism’s New Temple (33:03)
Aparna Gopalan talks to Siddhartha Deb, Angana Chatterji, and Safa Ahmed about what India’s Ram Mandir means for the country’s minorities.
Feb 8 2024
Israel’s Emerging Religious Left (30:58)
Maya Rosen speaks with Mikhael Manekin, Nechumi Yaffe, and Dvir Warshavsky about the movement of observant Jews offering a left-wing alternative to Religious Zionism.
Feb 1 2024
Charging Israel with Genocide (38:59)
Mari Cohen speaks with Noura Erakat, Darryl Li, and Tony Karon about the International Court of Justice’s order that Israel must prevent genocidal acts.
Jan 3 2024
Labor’s Palestine Paradox (39:44)
Jeff Schuhrke, Zaina Alsous, and Alex Press in conversation with Aparna Gopalan about US unions’ response to the war on Gaza.
Dec 28 2023
Bonus Episode: Mailbag (42:35)
Arielle Angel, Nora Caplan-Bricker, Nathan Goldman, and Mari Cohen answer reader questions.
Dec 21 2023
Hamas: Past, Present, and Future (33:50)
Peter Beinart speaks to two political analysts from Gaza, Khalil Sayegh and Muhammad Shehada, about Hamas’s reign.
Dec 8 2023
Talking to Our Families (50:05)
Jewish Currents and Unsettled discuss callers' messages about how they are talking to loved ones who are supportive of Israel’s war on Gaza.
Nov 16 2023
Naomi Klein on Israel’s “Doppelganger Politics” (52:09)
Arielle Angel talks to Klein about her new book, Doppelganger, and how the concept of “doubling” can elucidate the present violence in Israel/Palestine.
Nov 9 2023
Cori Bush’s Ceasefire Plea (25:46)
Senior reporter Alex Kane interviews Rep. Bush about her call for an end to Israel’s bombing campaign and the political consequences of anti-war dissent.
Oct 31 2023
A Surge in American Jewish Left Organizing (41:34)
Mari Cohen speaks with Elena Stein, Eva Borgwardt, and Emmaia Gelman about how Jewish left groups are bringing thousands of protestors into the streets.
Oct 26 2023
The Loneliness of the Israeli Left (37:16)
Arielle Angel speaks with Michael Sfard, Sally Abed, and Yair Wallach about the Israeli left’s experience of October 7th and its aftermath.
Oct 19 2023
Unsettled After October 7th (this page)
The Unsettled podcast speaks with scholar Tareq Baconi and Gazan activist Isam Hamad.
Sep 28 2023
Elon Musk, the Jews, and the ADL, with Know Your Enemy (01:05:14)
Alex Kane, Mari Cohen, and Peter Beinart discuss the contradictions of the Anti-Defamation League with Know Your Enemy’s Sam Adler Bell.
Sep 14 2023
Trans Halakha (44:24)
Nathan Goldman talks to three members of SVARA’s Teshuva-Writing Collective—Laynie Soloman, Alyx Bernstein, and Rabbi Xava de Cordova—about reimagining halakha for trans life.
Aug 31 2023
Nosegate (28:36)
Arielle Angel talks to Rebecca Pierce, Jody Rosen, and Alisa Solomon about Bradley Cooper’s turn as Leonard Bernstein—wearing a prosthetic nose.
Aug 17 2023
The Jewishness of Oppenheimer (47:05)
In an episode presented in partnership with The Nation’s podcast The Time of Monsters, Mari Cohen, Jeet Heer, David Klion, and Raphael Magarik discuss Christopher Nolan’s new biopic about the infamous physicist.
Aug 3 2023
Camp Kinderland at 100 (57:18)
Judee Rosenbaum and Mitchell Silver talk to Arielle Angel about the storied summer camp, founded by Jewish unionists in 1923.