Why Israel/Palestine Matters (with Phyllis Bennis)

In this episode, Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis joins us once again, this time to discuss why the situation in Israel/Palestine matters. We ask, “How does militarism in Israel/Palestine impact the rest of the Middle East and the rest of the world?” For American listeners we ask, “Does violence and injustice in Israel/Palestine provoke violence and injustice here in America (and vis versa)?” Finally, “What kind of positive impact can someone have on this situation, even from far away?”

Welcome back to Talking Human Rights and to our second episode featuring Phyllis Bennis. Phyllis Bennis is an expert on the Middle East, on U.S. foreign policy, and on militarism. She is the author and editor of eleven books, including five primers on the Middle East.  Phyllis Bennis is also a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies where she directs the New Internationalism Project, focusing on a range of issues involving the Middle East and United Nations.

We invited Phyllis Bennis here today to address some questions arising from our recent four-episode series centering on Palestinian activist Issa Amro, and set in the occupied West Bank. In out last episode, we discussed the basics of the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and sought to answer “Why do you call what is happening in this part of the world an occupation?”

In this episode, we want to take a step back and ask the question of “Why spend time learning about this region at all?”  Why does it matter, and how does it connect with the rest of the world, and with the United States? How does violence and injustice there impact violence and injustice here (and vis versa)?



If you would like to dig deeper on the issues we discussed in this episode, and hear more from our guest Phyllis Bennis, we suggest the following resources:

For a discussion of the connections between racism and oppression in the United States, and in the occupied Palestinian territories, see Phyllis Bennis’ and Khury Petersen-Smith’s Why Palestinians are Mourning George Floyd (NY Daily News, 7/2020).

For a broader discussion of the impacts of U.S. militarism on the environment, see Phyllis Bennis’ article A Green New Deal Needs to Fight U.S. Militarism (Jacobin, 5/19).


For basics on Israel/Palestine, no matter your level of expertise, check out Phyllis Bennis’ Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, now in its seventh edition.


In this Episode...

Heather Roberson Gaston

Talking Human Rights host and creator Heather Roberson Gaston is a writer, adviser, and educator in the field of human rights. She holds an undergraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of California at Berkeley; a Master’s in Human Rights from Columbia University; and a Certificate in the Advanced Study of Central and Eastern Europe from the Harriman Institute, also at Columbia University.

Heather co-authored Macedonia: What Does it Take to Stop a War? a graphic novel based on an early solo research trip to the Balkans as an undergraduate. She is now working on a narrative work exploring the many lives and deaths of the Israeli-Palestinian peace movement, for which she spent the better part of a year living and working in Israel and the West Bank.

Phyllis Bennis

Phyllis Bennis is an expert on the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy, and militarism. She has written and edited eleven books, including five primers on the Middle East. (Her Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer is now in its seventh edition.)

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies where she leads the New Internationalism Project, focusing on issues involving the Middle East and United Nations.  She is also a fellow of the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute. She sits on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace and works with numerous anti-war and Palestinian rights organizations. She frequently appears on U.S. and international media outlets such as al Jazeera, BBC, NPR, and more.

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