Israeli President Isaac Herzog fired back at a CNN reporter during a press conference on Thursday morning after the reporter insinuated that Israel was committing “war crimes.”
After Herzog explained that Israel had been abiding by international law after it was attacked by Hamas terrorists, CNN reporter Becky Anderson suggested that Israel was instituting “collective punishment” and committing a “war crime.”
“So now we’re starting with the rhetoric about war crimes. Really? Truly? Truly? I just said that Israel abides by international law. Operates by international law. Every operation is secured and covered and reviewed legally,” Herzog responded.
Herzog had began the press conference by praising the Jewish people for coming together in their moment of crisis.
“I see a huge amount of volunteering, huge amount of mobilization to the army, and a huge amount doing good to each other by helping each other in so many consequences in so many spheres of life. I encourage my people, I bless the people of Israel. We shall definitely overcome. We shall definitely be victorious. We’ve always done so. It will take time but we shall overcome and we shall be victorious,” he said.
“I met the families of the hijacked and kidnapped citizens of Israel. It was extremely tragic and extremely painful,” he continued. “So many people live in a reality of a nightmare, not knowing their whereabouts and real facts of their loved ones. Each and every one of you can imagine that – you’ve met families. Israel will do whatever it can to bring them back home as soon as possible, safely. But this requires an immediate call to the international community, not to sit idly by and do whatever it takes to bring them back immediately.”
“As president of the State of Israel, I ask you all to tell the stories of the victims,” he stated. “I ask you all to remember them because there is a shortsightedness in the cycle of media and news but the pain will remain forever. Thank you very much.”
Herzog was then asked by an ITV reporter how concerned he was that international support for Israel would wane as the Israeli attack on Gaza continued.
“This is exactly the moment of truth. Nations must stand up to the truth. … We have to understand [that Hamas] has built a machine of evil right at our doorstep. It is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true, this rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up. They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat, murdering their family members,” he said. “There’s a short memory in the world.”
“Israel evacuated Gaza unilaterally in order to show that it’s willing to make peace,” he recalled. “I was a member of that cabinet. We said to our nation, ‘This will be Hong Kong of the Middle East.’ Well, reality has turned into tragedy. Therefore I must say, this situation impacts the entire vision of people as to the ability to adhere to the same old rhetoric. We are working, operating militarily according to rules of international law, period. Unequivocally. But we are at war. We are at war. We are defending our homes. We are protecting our homes. That’s the truth. And when a nation protects its home, it fights. And we will fight until we break their backbone.”
Then Anderson accused, “The collective punishment of a civilian population amounts to a war crime under international law. The U.S. has warned Israel to uphold laws at war.”
“But I just answered,” Herzog responded. “Becky, you haven’t heard probably, the reply to ITV. And I’m quite disappointed that that’s what you’re asking instantaneously. Haven’t you seen? You’ve seen. You’ve all seen. You were all there. You’ve seen. So now we’re starting with the rhetoric about war crimes. Really? Truly? Truly? I just said that Israel abides by international law. Operates by international law. Every operation is secured and covered and reviewed legally. With all due respect, I truly believe it comes totally out of context.”
When a journalist from Channel 4 in the U.K. accused Herzog of holding “the people of Gaza responsible” for not removing Hamas, making them legitimate targets, Herzog fired back, “I did not say that … with all due respect, if you have a missile in your goddamned kitchen, and you want to shoot it at me, am I allowed to defend myself? Yes!”
“Humanity has to decide: Are we accommodating terror or are we fighting terror? We are fighting terror. And we saw the worst atrocity possible by a whole campaign of a movement which has major support with our neighbors — many people believe in it. I agree: there are many, many, innocent Palestinians who don’t agree with this, but unfortunately, in their homes, there are missiles shooting at us, at my children, at the entire nation of Israel. Ewe have to defend ourselves; we have the full right to do so. And it’s about time the world understands it. This is the tragedy of terror, and there is no mercy to terror.”