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"Will You Urge Israel to Not Starve and Slaughter People?" -- State Department Ignores Series of my Questions

The State Department gets tough questions from Max Blumenthal and Said Arikat on Israeli war crimes. I ask questions throughout but am never called on.

[I’ve produced three news releases on Israel for my day job the last two days which might be of interest: an overview and on charges of war crimes and genocide and roots and overview of current destruction of Gaza by Israel.]

Many thanks to

for producing the above excellent video, which contains most (but not all) of my attempts to ask questions at the State Department briefing today.

The first 15 minutes of the State Department briefing today were completely surreal propaganda. One would have no idea that Israel had ever hurt a fly.

So, at that point, I stopped simply raising my hand hoping that spokesperson Matt Miller would call on me, which he probably wouldn’t.

I started finally just chiming in with questions.

They would include:

When Matt Miller was unwilling to criticize Israel, I asked: “Does Israel have a right to kill civilians, Matt?”

When Miller said: “Hamas that favors that path of death and destruction,” I chimed in: “But Israel is raining down death and destruction, Matt.”

When Miller talked about how good “normalization” was between Israel and Arab states (dictatorships all), I said: “You’re normalizing war crimes here, Matt.”

Just as I started chiming in, Miller finally called on Said Arikat, which is where the above video begins. This was odd because Said usually gets called on earlier when Palestine is front and center. Said asked strong questions, raising issues of war crimes by Israel with the even worse siege it is imposing. Miller would absurdly [act as if] Israel respects international law.

Most questions by other reporters were from a more militaristic perspective, before and after I chimed in — especially asking about alleged Iranian involvement in the Hamas attacks. Matthew Lee — who at times asks great questions about Israel and other subjects — asked a bunch of questions about Iranian funds being released, which is a questioning I’d think the administration is delighted to have. It was actually at that point that I started speaking up.

Miller at times calls on reporters around me, possibly as a way of taunting me. It just so happened today that Max Blumenthal of the Grayzone was at the briefing and he sat next to me. So when Miller called on Max, he was in for something of a surprise with Max’s excellent questioning.

I continued to chime in with the news conference ending with a smiling Matt Miller walking away, not answering my final question:

"Will You Urge Israel to Not Starve and Slaughter People?"

I just received notice there will not be a State Department briefing Wednesday.


[in response to Matt Lee’s questions]

MATT MILLER: Iran has funded terrorism before these accounts were established, during the Trump administration. They have funded terrorism after these accounts were established in the Trump administration. They will no doubt continue to fund terrorism in the future, which is why we have sought to hold them accountable. With respect to this money, it cannot be used for anything but humanitarian purposes. We have strict oversight; we have strict visibility. And if we see it being used for anything else, we can shut it down immediately.

HUSSEINI: We’re 15 minutes into this and it’s like Israel isn’t bombing Gaza or something.

MILLER: Go – Said, go –

QUESTION: (Inaudible) —

MILLER: Okay – you know what, I’m going to move around. Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Although – although the —

HUSSEINI: Let’s get real – let’s get real here folks.

SAID ARIKAT: Although the President did not call for restraint, for the Israelis to exercise restraint in the upcoming or the speculated-to-be-upcoming ground invasion… [video begins]

SAID ARIKAT: The President did mention that Israel ought to abide by international law. Does that, in your view, mean that Israel must end its cutoff of water, electricity, food, and medicine to the people in Gaza?

MILLER: I will say that, as the President made clear, Israel has suffered from a brutal terrorist attack.

Israel has the right to defend itself. It has the right to take action against the terrorists who launched this brutal attack and killed Israeli civilians and killed American civilians, killed mothers and children and babies, and kidnapped children. And so they are —

(0:36) SAM HUSSEINI: Well what’s Israel doing now?

MILLER: And so they are going to – they are going to take action to respond to this terrorist attack and take action to secure their country, and we support them. As the President made clear, we always encourage all of our allies and partners to act in strict accordance with international law. That is what democracies do. And I would just point out that of course is not what Hamas did – let me just —

ARIKAT: (Off-mike.)

MILLER: Said, let me just finish – that is not —

ARIKAT: So they —

MILLER: Said, let – that is not what Hamas did in coming into Israel and kidnapping and murdering innocent civilians.

ARIKAT: Okay. I understand. I mean, Hamas – you have Hamas listed as a terrorist organization. They don’t get $4 billion a year from you. They don’t have military aid and support and so on. So that is established. You’re saying that Israel is a democracy, it’s a country that abides by international law. I am asking you: the cutoff of water, electricity, food, and medicine is considered a war crime. Do you call on Israel to cease its – its effort now in cutting so medicine, water, humanitarian aid —

MILLER: So let me start by saying that we are in the early days of Israel’s response. Israel has a right to conduct an aggressive response to respond to the terrorism that’s been committed against its citizens. We expect them to follow international law, we believe that they will, and we will remain in close contact with them about it.

ARIKAT: You believe they should not intentionally target civilians. That’s one. Second, do you have any idea on the number of Palestinians killed by Israel in the last four days?

MILLER: I have seen public reports.

ARIKAT: What are these reports?

MILLER: I am not going to speak to the —

ARIKAT: Are they in the hundreds, in the thousands?

MILLER: So I – Said, I’m going to speak to what the U.S. Government can verify, which I’ve done with the number of U.S. citizens. I will let Israel speak to the number of Israeli citizens they have killed as well as the number of Palestinians they have killed.

QUESTION: Do you know if the 14 that the President spoke about are Palestinian Americans?

MILLER: I don’t – I don’t have any degree whether they are Palestinian Americans, whether they are dual citizens. It ultimately doesn’t matter to us. American citizens are American citizens.

ARIKAT: And my – and my last question to you, Matt, I mean, the President has said that Hamas is motivated – and I’m paraphrasing – motivated solely by the quest to kill Jews. Do you believe that is to be the case? Is it the assessment of this government that Hamas sole motivation is to go out and kill Jews? There’s no context; there’s no siege that has gone on for 16 years.


ARIKAT: There is no raid after raid by the Israelis?

MILLER: Said, I am just going to say that is a bit of a surprising question after what we saw a Hamas carry out this weekend, when we saw Hamas go in and deliberately target Israeli citizens —

ARIKAT: No. I’m just saying —

MILLER: — and not just soldiers in the IDF but women, children, kidnapped them. We all saw the images that — across our television screens —

ARIKAT: That’s true. And you state that —

MILLER: — of Hamas behaving in the most inhumane way possible. So I won’t speak to their motivations, and I think they’re pretty clear.

ARIKAT: No, no, I am saying – I am saying to you —

MILLER: Let me – let me move on. Go ahead.

ARIKAT: Is there another context? Is there another context?

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Matt. I have a question about the U.S. role, potential U.S. role…


MILLER: Well, we clearly would be concerned about any country that is providing support to Hamas, whether it be financial, whether it be military, and would look to counter that action. And we do it first and foremost by making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against the recent terrorist attacks.

(3:36)HUSSEINI: Does Israel have a right to kill civilians?

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

HUSSEINI: Does Israel have a right to kill civilians, Matt?

MILLER: No, I’m going to call on – the way we do it in this briefing room – and you and I have had this —

HUSSEINI: Is that you pick whoever you want to pick whenever you want to pick them. 

MILLER: You and I have conversation before – is I call on people and they ask questions and I move around.

HUSSEINI: And I’m a potted plant. 

MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary Blinken deleted a tweet…


MILLER: We have made very clear that we do not have any grievance with the Palestinian people. As I have said from this podium a number of times, we have taken – we support steps that improve the livelihoods, improve the dignity of the Palestinian people, and we – and we supply —

(4:07)HUSSEINI: They’re being bombed and you’re totally silent, and you’re giving Israel a green light.

MILLER: — excuse me – and we supply —

HUSSEINI: This is absurd, Matt.  Matt, this is completely absurd.

MILLER: Excuse me. And we supply humanitarian aid that goes directly to the Palestinian people to benefit them. And I think the point that we would make – this is something the Secretary got into over the weekend – there are two paths forward for the region. There is a path of stability [not] conflict and normalization of relations with Israel, and then there is a path of death and destruction. And it is Hamas that favors that path of death and destruction.

We do not have any quarrel with the Palestinian people, which is why we think it’s important to continue to provide humanitarian aid that directly benefits them, not the terrorists who are trying – the terrorists who ultimately are going to be responsible for the loss of many Palestinian lives.

HUSSEINI: But Israel is raining down death and destruction and you’re completely silent, Matt.

MILLER: You know what? I’m going to ask that we —

HUSSEINI: It’s redic – it’s beyond parody what you’re doing.

MILLER: This is not a – this is – this room is not a debating session. It’s questions and answers.

HUSSEINI: What you’re doing is beyond parody, Matt. How can you live with yourself?

MILLER: Go ahead.


MILLER: Israel has every right to respond forcefully to these attacks. It is what any country would do if they saw children being dragged away as hostages, if they saw children being slaughtered, if they saw people that were at a music festival being gunned down en masse. Any country would respond forcefully. We support Israel’s right to do it. We think it’s appropriate to do it. They have to be able to defend and secure their country.

(5:30)HUSSEINI: Any country would lay a siege?

MILLER: Go ahead.


MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah. In March, you condemned Israel’s finance mister, Bezalel Smotrich, for calling for wiping the Palestinian village of Huwara off the map. This week we’ve heard the defense minister of Israel, Yoav Gallant, declare that he’s fighting human animals in Gaza, as Israel cuts off the gas, the water, and the electricity. We’ve heard Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, declare that all hiding places will be turned to rubble in a besieged coastal enclave where there are 1 million children. We’ve heard Ariel Kallner, who is a member of Knesset from the ruling Likud party call for a Nakba 2.0, which is essentially a call for genocide and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as 850 are dead in Gaza. So what do you think of that rhetoric, in light of your previous condemnation?

MILLER: So let me say a few things about that. Number one, we expect, as we said, that Israel will conduct its operations in accordance with international law. Number two, there are going to be a number of statements made over the course of this conflict, and when we have disagreements with them, we will make those known privately. Number three, though, some of —

BLUMENTHALL: But you made them public before.

MILLER: Let me just – let me just speak to this. Number three, some of the questions I’m getting today do seem to ignore the fact that Israel just had hundreds of its citizens killed, people who were taken hostage, and pretend that Israel shouldn’t be able to conduct any kind of —

BLUMENTHALL: OK, but if you can’t condemn genocidal rhetoric, can you con—

MILLER: Let me just say – because shouldn’t – just shouldn’t —

BLUMENTHAL: Do you have – do you acknowledge that 80 Palestinian children have been killed?

MILLER: Let me just – just let me – let me —

BLUMENTHAL: Do you acknowledge that? Will you even acknowledge that?

MILLER: Let me finish.

BLUMENTHAL: Eighty Palestinian children killed this week?

MILLER: You know what? Again, let me —

BLUMENTHAL: Babies – do you acknowledge that?

MILLER: You asked a question. I will answer the question.

BLUMENTHAL: Okay. Well, that’s my question.

MILLER: Though I’m going to start by answering the previous question that was interrupted. I will say some of the questions seem to pretend that Israel should not be able to conduct operations to defend itself and hold accountable the terrorists who killed civilians. That is not Israel’s policy. That is not our policy. It is something that we would vehemently disagree with. Israel has the right to secure its country, the way any country does. It has the right to defend itself against terrorism; it has the right to hold terrorists accountable.

And I will say, ultimately, the Hamas terrorists who launched these operations – there is no one who has more disregard for Palestinian civilian life than those terrorists. Because those terrorists —

BLUMENTHAL: No one?  Not the people who killed -

MILLER: Let me finish. Those terrorists launched this activity —

BLUMENTHAL: 850 Palestinians, mostly civilians, bombing residential towers, bombing offices.

MILLER: Those terrorists – again, we have a lot of new – we seem to have a lot of new people. Those terrorists launched this activity knowing that there would be retaliation, knowing that Israel would have to defend itself, as any country did, knowing that it would lead to the unfortunate loss of civilian lives by their – by Palestinians, and they did anyway.

BLUMENTHAL: They’re not seeking the release of Palestinian captives in Israel prisons?

MILLER: Let me go – go ahead.

BLUMENTHAL: That’s amazing.

QUESTION: Yes. Is there a latest U.S. assessment —

(8:20)HUSSEINI: So baby killing is okay here?

BLUMENTHAL: Why can’t you acknowledge —

HUSSEINI: Baby killing is okay here.


BLUMENTHAL: — the Palestinian children? You can’t even acknowledge it.

MILLER: We always – we always mourn the loss of civilian life. It is an unfortunate circumstance every time it happens. And as I just said, the Hamas terrorists who launched this terrorist attack, knowing that it would produce the loss of not just direct Israeli lives, who they took in their incursions across the border, but also the loss of Palestinian civilian life – they ultimately bear the responsibility for those acts.

HUSSEINI: It took 36 minutes to do that.  Will you call on Israel to not kill civilians?


MILLER: Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: — staying in the region.

MILLER: I’m going to ask – I’m going to —

HUSSEINI: Will you call on Israel to not kill civilians?

MILLER: I just – I just did do that.

HUSSEINI: It’s a simple question.

MILLER: I’m going to ask – I’m going to —

HUSSEINI: Will you call on Israel to not kill civilians?

MR MILLER: I would ask you not to talk over your colleague. Go ahead.

HUSSEINI: It’s a simple – I can’t make it simpler than that, Matt. Do you call on Israel to not kill civilians?

QUESTION: Matt, thank you. Is there a latest U.S. assessment on Saudi’s position —

MILLER: I just did. And I’m going to – go ahead.

HUSSEINI: Could you say it like you say it in a complete sentence please?

QUESTION: — involving the potential normalization deal with Israel and the —

MILLER: Let me – there was a little talking over you. Why don’t you go ahead and go again, if you don’t mind.

QUESTION: Is there a latest U.S. assessment


MILLER: So we do believe that normalization of relations not just between Israel and Saudi Arabia but between Israel and other countries in the region would help bring stability, would help bring peace, would help bring prosperity to the region. So it is a path that we will continue to pursue. The other path, as I said a minute ago, is the one outlined by Hamas, which is death and destruction. It is one of the goals of launching these terrorist attacks. And so we will not be deterred in continuing to pursue further normalization, which, as I said, we believe brings stability to the region.

(10:00)HUSSEINI: You’re normalizing war crimes here, Matt. You’re normalizing war crimes.

MILLER: Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt.

HUSSEINI: You’re saying it’s okay —

MILLER: Again —

HUSSEINI: You’re saying it’s okay if they –

QUESTION: Excuse me.

MILLER: I would ask you to stop putting words in my mouth. Go ahead.

QUESTION:  - strike down residential towers.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I was just – one quick question is that…


MILLER: We continue to support the current ceasefire lines and call for a de-escalation of violence. It is crucial for all sides to maintain and respect ceasefire zones and to de-escalate violent activity to enhance stability in Syria and work toward a political solution to the conflict.

(10:28)HUSSEINI: Will you urge Israel to not starve and slaughter people? 

MILLER: And with that, we’ll wrap. And with that, we’ll wrap for the day. Thanks, everyone.

HUSSEINI: Will you urge Israel to not starve and slaughter people, please?

(The briefing was concluded at 3:52 p.m.)

Many thanks to Kathy Nims for doing a very difficult transcription job.

Full video and transcript according to the State Department.

Sam Husseini