In a heated discussion broadcast by MSNBC's News Live on Thursday, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch traded verbal barbs over Israel's storming of a humanitarian aid flotilla from Turkey; an act of aggression in international waters that resulted in the killing of nine peace activists and the detention of hundreds of civilians.
The conversation was atypical of most televised coverage on the Israel-Palestine conflict, in that Scahill was able to present a glimpse into the reality faced by many Palestinians trapped within Israel's military blockade. At one point, Scahill even noted that out of the 1.5 million people in Gaza, "65 percent of that population are under the age of 18."
Offering a response, Scahill's directness appeared to fluster Koch, who, the reporter later claimed, called his disputant a "terrorist supporter" during the commercial break.
"I said, 'Say it on the air,'" the Nation contributor later tweeted.
Koch did not, although he did object allowing various herbs and cattle into Palestine: a caveat even the host seemed to remark on, telling the audience upon returning from a break they had been talking about "the flow of donkeys into Gaza."
Leading into said break, Koch had scoffed in retort to Scahill, "Don't give me kids ... It's simple."
"What these people were trying to do was break an illegal strangulation of these people and, contrary to what you say about them having ties to terrorist groups, I know people who were part of that flotilla, including ambassador Ann Wright, who helped to reopen the U.S. embassy in Kabul after 9/11," Scahill continued. "This was not a ship full of terrorists. There were well respected international diplomats trying to confront a strangulation policy."
"I don't want to argue with you," Koch began.
"You can't argue with that," Scahill answered.
He later concluded: "The fact is that only Israel, in the world, can board a ship and kill civilians, including shooting an American citizen four times in the head, Mayor Koch, and not have the U.S. come out and strongly condemn it. The United States is backing Israel with all of its rogue activities around the world. They have violated, minimum, 66 U.N. resolutions, Israel has, and they do it because they're backed by the U.S."
On TheNation.com, Scahill elaborated further ...
Israel and its apologists like Mayor Koch attempt to portray the humanitarian Flotilla as terrorist-affiliated, a "hate boat" in the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, "capable of smuggling large amounts of weapons" that "was trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza, not bring humanitarian aid." But Koch and the Israeli spokespeople conveniently leave out the fact that there were no weapons being smuggled [...]
On the show today, I read from a list of the items Israel has banned from entering Gaza. Among these are such dangerous spices as sage, cardamom, cumin, coriander, as well as children's toys, fruit preserves, ginger, fishing rods, chocolate, fresh meat and well-known terrorist sympathizers such as horses, donkeys, goats, cattle and chicks. See a list of the banned and permitted items for yourself here [PDF].
As Dov Weisglass, an adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister, said earlier this year. 'The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet."
When I asked Koch how a goat or a horse or a children’s toy could be used as rocket to hit Israel, Koch responded by saying only, “that’s nonsense.”
The U.S. has yet to officially criticize Israel's actions, with President Obama calling the events "tragic" and claiming he needed more information before making a conclusion.
This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast June 3, 2010.