On Wednesday’s broadcast of “CNN Tonight,” Breitbart Editor at Large Ben Shapiro took on CNN regular Peter Beinart on the issue of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
In their debate, Beinart accused Shapiro of being “the true ideological partner of Hamas.”
Shapiro reacted to Beinart’s accusation, labeling him to be the one with which Hamas identifies.
“To call me equivalent with people who are murdering Jews is insanity, it’s beyond insulting,” he said. “And if there’s anybody who’s emboldening Hamas to kill more children, it is you because it’s your policies which have emboldened Hamas. They know that people like you are going to get on American television and talk about how the Palestinians are meek victims and every time they fire rockets it can be justified by Israeli policy. Hamas celebrates every moment you’re on television.”
Transcript as follows:
TAPPER: Joining me now, Peter Beinart, CNN political commentator and a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of TruthRevolt.org. Gentlemen, good to see both of you. Thanks for being here. Peter, let me start with you. We’re talking about the issue of civilians and civilian deaths in Gaza. Let’s listen again to what President Obama said about that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: No sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The president also reiterated the right of Israel to defend itself against rocket attacks. What did you make of his comments today?
PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He is exactly right. Israel does have the right to defend itself. It also needs some better guarantees against Hamas rockets.
I was in Israel with my 6-year-old daughter during the first week of the war. We were in and out of shelters. It’s very frightening. But ordinary Palestinians also need some relief from a blockade that has destroyed the Gazan economy and actually helped Hamas.
The blockade has destroyed the independent business class in Gaza by making exports virtually impossible. It’s made it very difficult for Gazan fishermen to go a few miles out beyond the coast. Beyond that being a humanitarian disaster, it actually strengthens Hamas by creating — strengthening the climate of despair and hatred on which Hamas feeds.
CAMEROTA: You know, it’s impossible to know the real numbers. We just put up a graphic that shows all the disparities in terms of how many civilians have been killed. The two top numbers there are groups in Gaza. They say that 82 to 84 percent of the casualties have been civilians. The United Nations says 72 percent are civilians. Israel says only about 50 percent. So whose number should we trust?
BEINART: I don’t think we know the exact number. Israel —
CAMEROTA: Hold on, because Ben — this is for Ben. Can you hear me, Ben?
BEINART: Oh, sorry. Please, go ahead, Ben.
BEN SHAPIRO, TRUTHREVOLT.ORG: Yes, I can now. Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: As far as whose numbers we should trust, I can tell you whose numbers we shouldn’t trust, the same people who said that 5,000 people had been killed in Jenin, which was false, or the same people who said that two-thirds of the people killed in Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 were civilians, which turned out to be false, or the same people who have put out on Hamas TV that civilians should stick around in all of the buildings surrounding terrorist entities. Those people are probably not the folks that we want to trust.
CAMEROTA: But are you talking about Hamas putting out the numbers or these human rights groups in Gaza?
SHAPIRO: I’m talking about human rights groups in Gaza which are working with Hamas and Palestinian Authority sources in order to find those numbers. How do they get those numbers in the first place? You heard the fellow from the U.N. say just a little while ago that they are working with both Palestinian and Israeli sources. The Palestinian sources they are working with on the ground in the Gaza Strip are in large part Hamas, Palestinian Authority or Islamic Jihad sources, who have a great interest in ensuring that the American people and that the rest of the world believe that a huge number of civilians have been killed, which — it’s the same reason why they’re putting civilians in front of rockets on a regular basis.
TAPPER: Peter, if I could jump in, I just wanted to ask — I’m interested in your thoughts on this debate about who is responsible for the deaths of these innocent Palestinians. Obviously, Israel carrying out the military campaign, some individuals, some critics saying it’s disproportionate, not as accurate as it should be. And then you do have evidence that Hamas, or at least militants in Gaza, are firing from population centers, firing from adjacent hospitals. Do you think that it’s fair to blame Hamas for the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza?
BEINART: I don’t doubt at all that Hamas is pursuing a strategy that is likely to increase civilian casualties by operating from urban areas. I think Israel is bombing an area which is very, very densely populated with some weapons that are not all precision weapons. And so it’s inevitable that a lot of innocent civilians are going to die. And regardless of the number, the Talmud says that whoever destroys a single human life, it’s as if he destroyed an entire world.
So, I’m not so interested in the specific numbers. What interests me is, was there a political strategy that could have been pursued against Hamas that would have made — so this war would not have been possible? What I find most tragic is that when you have peaceful, nonviolent resisters in the West Bank, they are repeatedly imprisoned by Israel.
And so Palestinians get the message that in fact nonviolence doesn’t work. The real way to weaken Hamas is to show that people who accept Israel’s right to exist and pursue their grievances nonviolently, as people in villages like Balin and Nabi Salih have been doing for a decade now, that they get results. And, tragically, this Israeli government has not done that.
CAMEROTA: Ben, do you want to take a crack at that?
SHAPIRO: Sure. The nonsensical idea that Hamas is firing rockets because somehow they’re mad about imprisonments in the West Bank or that they would stop firing rockets if Israel were to release the prisoners that it holds is nonsensical and idiotic.
In fact, Israel has just done multiple prisoner releases with regard to terrorists vis-a-vis Israeli soldiers, and that has not seemed to quell anything with regard to Hamas. When Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, that launched the election of Hamas and then further violence.
The idea that if Israel makes more and more concessions, that will somehow not embolden Hamas, as opposed to creating a movement against Hamas, that has not been proved by history in any way, shape or form. Peter always finds a way to ensure that Israeli policy is somehow responsible for rockets falling on Israeli cities, when it’s really Hamas doing the firing.
BEINART: No. I’m actually talking about Palestinians who protest nonviolently in conjunction with Israelis. The irony to me is that actually Ben and Hamas have an enormous amount in common. Hamas doesn’t believe that Jews should be allowed to live in the state of Israel. Ben has said that Palestinians don’t have the right to live in Israel, West Bank or Gaza, because he’s called for physically expelling all of them. So, in fact, the true moral and ideological partners, Ben, are you and Hamas.
CAMEROTA: Ben, go ahead.
SHAPIRO: That is absolute nonsense, Peter.
BEINART: You didn’t write that column in –
SHAPIRO: My position on Israel was made clear in a 2013 column –
SHAPIRO: And to call me equivalent with people who are murdering Jews is insanity. It’s beyond insulting. And if there is anybody who is emboldening Hamas to kill more children, it is you, because it’s you’re policies which have emboldened Hamas. They know that people like you are going to get on American television and talk about how the Palestinians are meek victims and whenever they fire rockets, it can be justified by Israeli policy. Hamas celebrates every moment you’re on television, Peter.
CAMEROTA: All right, gentlemen, that’s it. It’s impossible to have this conversation obviously without some level of inflammatory rhetoric. But we thank both of you for your perspective on this, Ben Shapiro, Peter Beinart.
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