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Crisis in the Middle East: CNN Live Studio Audience Reacts to Suicide Bombing

Aired April 12, 2002 - 15:47   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting live from Jerusalem, where there was another suicide bombing earlier today in the central marketplace, an open-air marketplace, just before the Jewish Sabbath, where people were going to make some last-minute purchases.

We have some very graphic, very disturbing videotape we want to show you. We want those of you who may not want to see it perhaps look away. But here's a little bit of the scene of that action earlier today.

Six Israelis dead; the suicide bomber, a woman, also dead; some 70 others injured -- the latest suicide bombing, what the White House is now calling a homicide bombing here in Jerusalem.

At the same time, in Saudi Arabia, there was a telethon earlier this week to raise money for what they call the relatives of the martyrs, those killed during operations against Israel, those killed by the Israelis.

Here's a look at what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We can take part in jihad by donating money or self-sacrifice. Even if financially, you can only contribute a little, God will multiply your contribution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I just opened this envelope, and inside there was this little ring from a widowed mother with children. She said that's all I could offer my Palestinian brother to help. I am saying to you now my Arab brothers, if this doesn't move you to act, then I don't know what would. Our hearts can't bear seeing our brothers living the Israeli siege. How could we eat, sleep, and enjoy life when our brothers are suffering? This little ring will be this sister's proof on judgment day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We said at the beginning of this telethon that all contributions will reach the families of every martyrs, every injured, and everyone who's house was destroyed to fix every damaged road, hospital, and school. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And in their innocent way of thinking, some of our children made this slingshots for their Palestinian brothers, expecting that it will reach them, if God is willing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): One of our sisters lost consciousness when she watched the massacres our brother in Palestine had endured. She's now in the emergency room. Yet she is contributing to this blessed cause. "I'm donating all I own today to my brothers in Palestine. And if I have to donate parts of my body, I will. I'm doing this fully aware of my actions. "

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We received a fax from the Nahada (ph) Sports Club. And they are contributing one day's salary for all employees. And the woman who called to donate a piece of land of 420 square meters, the sister is saying that's all I own and please accept my donation. Also, we received the cars of donation from one generous brother. The office of mecca will stay open this evening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The spokesperson for Prince Saud in Turkey, Ibin Saud (ph) His Excellency, the prince has a farm that is about one million square meters. The prince is donating this farm that will be sold on the world market. 50 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Palestinian cause.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Princess Nora bin Saud al Saud donated her private car, a Rolls-Royce and an ox.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Let's close this telethon with a general prayer to curse the Israelis, the oppressors and Zionism. And we pray for the Muslims, the Palestinians and the Mujahedeen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Bill Hemmer is joining me now. He has been covering this story now for the past several days.

A couple weeks you've been here, right?

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: A couple weeks, that's right.

BLITZER: You spoke earlier with Adel al-Jubeir. He's the foreign policy adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah in Saudi Arabia.

What did he say about this telethon that raised some $55 million dollars for Palestinians on the West Bank?

HEMMER: Specifically, I asked him if the money is going toward martyrs, martyrs in Palestine -- martyrs in the West Bank and Gaza, excuse me.

And what he was saying and suggesting is that there are a number of Palestinians who need help, be it education wise, be it through hospital help, be it through food or medicine. And not necessarily, he said, was this money going to support martyrs, essentially...

BLITZER: Suicide bombers.

HEMMER: Suicide bombers.

BLITZER: Which he condemned.

HEMMER: That he did.

And he hit me up with the thought that, how do you imply or make the connection between the two? And, simply, the evidence on the ground, Wolf, is that, when you go into Gaza, there are posters and there are signs essentially that show martyrs, as they are called, suicide bombers, who have essentially gone into Israel and blown themselves up, as we saw today.

BLITZER: You weren't far away from that Mahane Yehuda market today when that latest incident occurred.

HEMMER: Yes. I was in a cab, actually, on my way to the bureau, which is only three blocks on the other side of it.

BLITZER: The CNN bureau.

HEMMER: Yes, the CNN bureau.

I'll tell you, Wolf, the thing about it is that people talk about random terror in this country. And that is just so evident and so clear after seeing something like that. I literally went by that same place, with the marketplace off to the left, as we went away in a western direction, away from the Old City of Jerusalem. And it wasn't just five minutes later when the explosion went off.

All of our colleagues back at the bureau immediately ran to the window. And, right after that, about a dozen of us headed down the staircase and down in the garage, hopping in our cars and heading over. What struck me as we came upon the scene is how many police had already arrived there, literally redirecting us at the moment to head down other street, to keep people away.

And then the injured came. And, boy, they came, literally by the dozen. And I think they are images that, if you see the first time for yourself, they are searing. And they are images you will never forget, to see chunks of human flesh on people as they walked away. It is something that will not leave my mind any time soon.

BLITZER: We heard from Jason Bellini earlier today. I'm sure it won't leave his mind either.

Bill, stand by. I want to go back Atlanta, Arthel Neville standing by with our TALKBACK LIVE audience.

A lot more reaction, I take it, Arthel, over there.

ARTHEL NEVILLE, HOST, TALKBACK LIVE: Absolutely, a lot to say about that Saudi telethon, beginning with Lorna. LORNA: I think the Palestinians are really a day late and a dollar short in doing this telethon. The Israelis have been getting money from Jewish people from all over the world for many years. And they just haven't gotten into the picture to try to get money for their cause. And this is obviously something that they have learned from their enemy. But it's certainly a long time coming for them.

NEVILLE: Thank you very much, Lorna.

And I'm going to come back here to Dana. Stand up for me.

DANA: I think that they are fighting because they hold this dear to their heart and they want to do anything they can to raise money and to help. So, anything that you hold dear to your heart, you are going to do all you can to help. So, this is what they are doing.

NEVILLE: Thank you very much. Again, lots of comments here.

Go ahead and stand up for me, C. (ph), and speak your mind.

C.: Yes.

I feel as though they are fighting for the same reason why we are fighting them. We were attacked. And we felt bad when it happened to us.

NEVILLE: How do you feel about the telethon?

C.: I feel as though, in their eyes, they need the money. You know, who am I to condemn another man for his beliefs? My thing is, if I do the right thing and they do the right thing, hopefully, we'll all meet in the right place.

NEVILLE: Thank you very much for that comment.

And I want to go ahead and call up an e-mail. We have got a lot of e-mails coming in. I would like to go ahead and share that with our audience.

OK, it says: "As a Palestinian American, the suicide bombers do not speak for the entire Palestinian people in the Palestinian areas or abroad." And that is from Amjad in Chicago.

Stand up, sir. And, David, you had some thoughts on the telethon.

DAVID: Well, I believe, with the Israelis tearing down Palestine and entering and tearing down the infrastructure that they have worked so hard to build up, that the Palestinians are going to need the money from other places, because they have nothing left.

The Israelis are controlling Palestine, not letting people work, not letting people go into Israel to do their jobs. So, the people are starving. And so, I mean, they need the money, Palestine does. We give Israel billions of dollars every year in aid. And it's now time that the Palestinians get some good aid and some good help. NEVILLE: Thank you, sir.

And behind me here, you had a comment. Stand up for me, Andre.

ANDRE: I would just like to add that the actions of the Palestinians, they are basically fighting for their beliefs. And if you get between them and their beliefs, you have to believe they are going to fight. And the Israelis, of course, they are being supported by U.S. The U.S. support is all one-sided, as far as I have seen. So, of course, the Palestinians are on their own with this one.

NEVILLE: Thank you, sir.

And, remember, we have Wolf Blitzer standing by, as well as Bill Hemmer. So, if you have any questions for them, please go ahead and speak your mind.

Go ahead, Ann.

ANN: I don't have a question for them, but my concern is, we have two groups of people that have a religious belief that's different than ours. Even though we have separation of church and state, we believe in Christianity. They do not believe in turning the other cheek. So we have a problem in helping to resolve this conflict.

NEVILLE: Thank you very much.

Penny from Ohio, stand up.

PENNY: I just had a response to the young lady over there who I think you said that we need to go over there and do something before it comes over here. And I think September 11 already shows that it has hit home. But what I don't understand is how we are so quick to go to other countries to fight for them when we can barely fight the war that's going on in our own.

(APPLAUSE).

NEVILLE: Thank you very much.

And I want to go ahead. And, Eduardo, you are live on the air. Go ahead, Eduardo. What do you have to say?

CALLER: Hello, Arthel. I hope I can get an extra minute or two, because there is so much that needs to be said.

One thing is that it's hypocritical and humiliating to put conditions on Palestinians to meet with Colin Powell. Ariel Sharon and his defense forces in the last couple of weeks have fired on and killed journalists, ambulance drivers, two Palestinian doctors. They have fired rockets into highly populated civilian refugee camps. They have cut off electricity and water to vast areas of the civilian population. And they have refused the request to pull out by President Bush. And yet Sharon doesn't have to do anything to renounce violence in any way in order to meet with Secretary Powell. So, to make Arafat do anything, after the Palestinian communities have been demolished is humiliating and is basically making him jump through a hoop that Sharon doesn't.

NEVILLE: Sir, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us here on TALKBACK LIVE.

And, Wayne, I'm going to give you the last word on this.

WAYNE: OK, I have a question for Wolf.

We knew in Afghanistan, the reason we were successful is because a large percentage of the Afghans did not support the Taliban. My question is, what percentage of the Palestinians support the bombing and the violent acts against the Israelis? Is it the majority of them do, or a percentage of them do?

NEVILLE: Wolf, did you hear that question?

OK, we are having.

BLITZER: The question is...

NEVILLE: Go ahead, sir. Restate your question.

BLITZER: What's the question? What percentage of the Palestinians support these suicide bombings?

WAYNE: Yes. Is it the majority of the population support their war against Israel, or is it a small percentage that is waging this war?

BLITZER: I haven't seen any accurate so-called scientific polls among Palestinians the past couple weeks, when we have seen these escalation of suicide bombings, although I think it's fair to say most Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza and elsewhere understand why these things are going on, even if they personally oppose the suicide terrorist attacks.

They say the root cause is the Israeli occupation. But that opens up a whole other can of worms.

Arthel, thanks for your audience participation. Thanks for your insight from our viewers, from our audience on the TALKBACK LIVE set in Atlanta.

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