CNN’s Whitfield Welcomes Anti-Israel Guest to Slam Hostage Rescue as a ‘Massacre’

News & Politics

In the aftermath of the Israeli Defense Forces using force to rescue four Israeli hostages held in Gaza by the terrorist group Hamas, CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield had on an anti-Israel Middle East analyst who complained about Palestinian civilians being killed in the raid. Omar Baddar — former director of the Arab American Institute — went on to preposterously complain that the U.S. treats Israeli lives as being of more value than those of Palestinians even though it was Palestinians who started the war.

After reading a quote from Kamala Harris, Whitfield asked for his reaction to the raid. Baddar immediately griped:

After complaining about Palestinians being arrested by Israel, the anti-Israel analyst blamed Israel for the war as he complained that the U.S. would be critical of Hamas if the terrorist group’s members attacked Israel to free some of its prisoners:

About a month earlier, Whitfield spoke with the same analyst and gave him a sympathetic forum to cheer on anti-Israel protesters on college campuses pressuring the schools to boycott Israel. He accused Israel of committing “atrocities” with no pushback from the CNN anchor.

CNN Newsroom

June 9, 2024

3:11 p.m. Eastern

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: All right, let’s talk more now about all this. Here with us now is Palestinian American Middle East analyst Omar Baddar. So good to see you, Omar. I would love your reaction, you know, about what has transpired a lot in the last 24 hours from four Israeli hostages rescued. The Palestinian health ministry as well as the hospitals say more than 270 civilians were killed. The IDF is disputing that, saying the number is more in the 100 range. And then we just heard the national security advisor there with his point of view, saying “innocent people were tragically killed in this operation. The exact number we don’t know, but innocent people were killed, and that is heartbreaking.”

The Vice President, Kamala Harris, saying in Detroit: “Thankfully, four of those hostages were reunited with their families tonight.” She said this last night. “But we mourn all the innocent lives that have been lost in Gaza, including those tragically killed.” What is your reaction to all that’s transpired?

OMAR BADDAR, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: Look, there’s no question whatever. I know there’s some dispute about the specific numbers, but what unfolded yesterday was unquestionably a massacre. We have seen the images of the bodies of children littering the streets. We’ve seen the horrific scenes of the hospitals of weeping parents and bloody children. And to look at an incident of that scale and to see that many casualties and to celebrate this as any kind of success is effectively to say that the lives of Israelis are more valuable than the lives of Palestinians. That is the only way that anyone can celebrate this is a success.

Now, it’s unsurprising that that’s the view of the Israeli government. They’ve made it absolutely clear that they don’t value Palestinian lives at all — not just throughout this campaign of assault on Gaza these last several months, but Israeli policy towards Palestinians for much longer. What has been disappointing is the way our government also has reduced the massacre to a footnote to focus primarily on the retrieval of hostages. And, Fredricka, all you have to do is just imagine the reverse scenario. Right now, as we speak, there are thousands of Palestinians who have been kidnapped out of Gaza, placed in Israeli detention without any charge of trial.

There is an article in The New York Times outlining the absolute, horrific abuse they are undergoing on a daily basis. And if Hamas today were to carry out an incursion into Gaza, kill a couple of hundred Israelis, and then retrieve four Palestinians, would anyone in our discourse be celebrating this as some kind of victory? Would anyone even know the names of any of the four Palestinians who have been rescued from Israeli detention? Just — we know the answer to that, and that’s because we currently have a moment in which it’s incredibly upsetting the fact that we don’t see Palestinian lives as equal or as deserving of the same kind of concern, and we carry on just accepting this mantra of Palestinians as collateral damage and a necessity in continuing to treat the Israeli government as some kind of protagonist in this story even though they are ultimately responsible for the situation which we find ourselves in.

WHITFIELD: So when you hear the national security advisor (Jake) Sullivan saying the preference is a ceasefire from this point forward, do you believe it’s possible? And/or do you believe that the release or rescue of more hostages can come without the cost of civilian lives?

BADDAR: Yeah, Fredricka, it’s even more than just civilian lives — the Israeli insistence on pursuing the release of hostages through purely military means has, in fact, killed far more Israeli hostages than they have rescued. And that’s — I’m talking about Israeli bullets and Israel bombs cost the lives of their own hostages. There’s no question that a ceasefire and an agreement to exchange hostages is the only path forward in which you can guarantee the safety both of Israelis and Palestinians out of all this. We’ve seen the biggest number of hostages being released the last time there was a temporary ceasefire in which we agreed for an exchange of hostage and prisoners between the two sides, and that is obviously the path forward.

There is currently a deal on the table that basically says an exchange for the end of this war on Gaza that has just utterly devastated Gaza — killed nearly 40,000 people. In exchange for an end to that war, Israel can get all of its hostages back without another person being killed from this point moving forward. There is simply no reason to accept that except it seems the Israeli government’s goal of destroying Gaza seems to rank much higher than the lives of their own hostages, which is why we’re stuck in this grotesque scenario. And it’s why Netanyahu seems to be beholden to the fanatical wing of his own government who are insisting that the ultimate goal has to be either the ethnic cleansing of Gaza or the permanent reoccupation of Gaza, and we’re stuck in this situation where there is no real plan for what happens after this war. And, in the meantime, people are going to continue to get killed. It’s a very, very tragic and unfortunate situation.

(…)

The only way President Biden can actually change Netanyahu’s behavior is by credibly threatening to withhold U.S. military funding for Israel if Netanyahu does not change course. That, unfortunately, does not seem to be on the table, but I think (Benny) Gantz is banking on that pressure ramping up moving forward and is trying to express a more clear and decisive disagreement with Netanyahu, hoping that when there is more mounting American and domestic Israeli pressure on Netanyahu that he might potentially be there to essentially reap the benefits of that discontent and take charge.

But, ultimately, really, we’re stuck in a situation in which you need a ceasefire. That ceasefire can only be brought about through American meaningful pressure, and that has to mean that America cannot continue just providing unconditional military funding, knowing how these weapons are being used — knowing that every major human rights organization in the world is describing Israeli bombings in Gaza as “indiscriminate,” as costing too many civilian lives. That is not something that the United States should be complicit in. It’s really way belatedly about time to say that we have to put them into that kind of support in order to obtain that meaningful change regardless of what Israeli prime minister happens to be in charge when that change comes about.

WHITFIELD: Omar Baddar, appreciate you being with us. Appreciate your point of view. Thank you so much. 

(…)

CNN Newsroom

May 4, 2024

12:29 p.m. Eastern

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: So how will you be measuring the gains or the losses that have come from the variation of protests across college and university campuses in the U.S.?

OMAR BADDAR, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: Look, I think there have already been significant gains. I mean, those protesters are the conscience of America at a time when American weapons are being used to kill literally tens of thousands of children. It’s just an unconscionable situation, and the fact that, even in the face of official demonization from the rhetoric that we have seen not just from people like Tom Cotton and others, but many other people across the entire political spectrum. You also see significant police violence, you also see counterprotesters, you know, attacking them. And yet the resilience of this protest movement and the fact that it’s spreading rather than shrinking is a sign of — that this is really a wakeup call for Washington — that business as usual cannot continue while American weapons are being used for these kind of atrocities that Israel is actually currently committing in Gaza. And this is, you know, there is not going to be a way in which young people are just going to let this one go.

The comfort that President Biden has coming into this upcoming election is also shaken by the fact that a significant portion of his own constituency is demanding a change in American policy not just as a matter of passive American opinion, but they’re actually willing to really stand up and take significant risks in order to make their voices heard on this issue. So I think it has been incredibly successful so far, and I hope that there is a better response that we come to understand that you can’t beat this protest movement down — that the more you try to repress it, you only actually have the counter effect, and it’s time to start listening to the legitimate demands of these protesters.

WHITFIELD: So I hear you when you — you like the intensity, you know, of the protests and the voices of the many young people and what they’re exerting, but we’ve even heard Biden this week who was asked, “Will this effect policy — will it change policy?” He said no. So what, you know, isn’t that what you want? You want this to provoke some sort of policy change or even perhaps changes among university and colleges in terms of how they are being asked to divest?

(BADDAR)

The Washington Post is reporting today that many students don’t know how much or if at all certain universities or colleges have holdings to actually divest. And if that’s the case, then how will these demonstrators know whether their demonstrations — whether the encampments are at all influencing the very campuses where those encampments have been in terms of divesting? If they don’t know whether the campus has any holdings at all, do you worry that the goal — I guess there are too many variations of goals and what these demonstrations are really about?

BADDAR: Yeah, look, I mean, what we need primarily is transparency. That’s part of how you negotiate with students. You can look at the case of Brown University as a prime example of how you actually should do these things where the administration saw that a progressive, conscientious movement is actually demanding change and refusing to basically disband these protests. And the way that they have responded is by saying, “Okay, fine, let’s sit down and negotiate.” I’m talking about voting on a resolution in the future about divesting from companies that do — that are effectively complicit in Israeli atrocities against Palestinians.

We need more of that transparency and beyond that even if institutions are not immediately transparent about what investments they do and don’t have, I think the voice of this movement goes beyond just the immediate impact on the institutions and is effectively showing that there is a generational divide in this country that is very, very real — that, even though in the case of Brown University, you have billionaires withholding their money and expressing disapproval about the fact — about the way that we’re granting the wishes of these demonstrators by agreeing to enter into these negotiations. Young people are standing their ground, and this is not going to be an issue that is going to go away. That, I think, should be clear to everyone that the status quo is no longer acceptable — that we need a fundamental change in American policy where we can no longer allow Israel to continue behaving however it wants with blanket U.S. support diplomatically and militarily without ever questioning how that support is actually being used and how it’s impacting real people.

There is a generation that is conscientious that sees Palestinians as equal human beings and sees the loss of Palestinian life as being no less meaningful than the loss of Israeli lives. And that is something that we have not seen in Washington, and it’s a matter of time before that is reflected because that generational change is very, very real.

WHITFIELD: All right, Omar Baddar, glad you could be with us today. Thank you so much.

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