Return to Transcripts main page
Israel Election: Benjamin Netanyahu Struggles To Hold On To Power as Benny Gantz Claims Victory; "Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil"; Protesting Climate Change. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 19, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:16] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
They call him King Bibi, but two days after another election, Netanyahu still doesn't have a crown. Amid rising tensions with Iran, I'm joined by
veteran Likud politician Dan Meridor and the investigative journalist Ronen Bergman.
Then, the moral philosopher, Susan Neiman, on what America can learn from Germany in facing its original sin, slavery. And --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
XIUHTEZCATL MARTINEZ, HIP-HOP ARTIST: It's not like we're pretending that we know everything because we are telling politicians to listen to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Teenage climate activism has shaken the world. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez tells our Hari Sreenivasan what lead him to help organize
tomorrow's global climate strike.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
The longest serving leader in Israel's history, Benjamin Netanyahu, is staring into the abyss. Dubbed Israel's Groundhog Day, voters went to the
polls again this week for the second time in five months. And again, neither Bibi nor his main rival, Benny Gantz, has an outright majority.
Indeed, Gantz, the former military chief and his centrist Blue and White Party are ahead by just one seat in the Knesset. And today, President
Reuven Rivlin won a possible third election, urging Netanyahu and Gantz to work on forming a government "as quickly as possible." But for the time
being, both men say they should lead the charge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER (through translation): That's why I'm calling on you, Benny, let's meet today at any time to move this
process forward, which is more relevant than other. We have no right to go to a third election. I'm against it. The agenda, a broad unity government
BENNY GANTZ, LEADER OF ISRAEL'S BLUE AND WHITE PARTY (through translation): Therefore, Blue and White, headed by me, won the election. Blue and White
is the largest party. According to the data of the central elections committee, up until this time, we have 33 seats and Netanyahu could not and
did not succeed in getting a blocking political alliance that he aspired to and for which he dragged all of us to elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So how is this going to shake out? Dan Meridor is a former deputy prime minister and long-time member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, but
he voted Blue and White in this election, and he is joining me now from Tel Aviv. And Ronen Bergman is an investigative journalist who focuses on Iran
and other security issues that have been central to this campaign, and he's joining me here in New York. Gentlemen, both, welcome.
If I might start with you, Dan, Meridor, there in Tel Aviv, right in the center of where all this counting and guessing is going on, what happens
next? Does, in fact, Bibi manage to cobble together a coalition or, in fact, does Benny Gantz, do they go in together? What is next, do you
DAN MERIDOR, FORMER ISRAEL DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Good evening, Christiane. I believe there are two stories here. One, you speak of how
you form a government. None of these guys have majority yet. They will struggle to have it. But the real story, the other story, which is the
most important story for Bibi, is his attempt to stop the criminal investigation against him by using parliamentary immunity. He needed the
majority in parliament to give him immunity so that the charges against him, which are quite heavy, of bribe, of corruption, will not be pursued.
So this to me was totally illegitimate, and in fact, these elections left him with less support. So, what I think is happening is not the issue of
national immunity, we all want it, most people want it. The question whether a man that may go to criminal trial in a few weeks or so can be
part of that agreement, or he should say I am defending myself in a court of law and I will not stop this process because I'm not above the law.
This is the issue, which people don't speak of, but this is I think what the motivating force behind Netanyahu's actions.
AMANPOUR: Well, Dan Meridor, you have been a justice minister. You know very well what all this is about. And as you rightly said, prime minister
faces potential indictment on a variety of corruption charges. So, what are you saying? I mean, is he looking into the political abyss? Do you
think that that's what it's going to come to?
[13:05:00] MERIDOR: Well, I can't tell that. I'm not a prophet. We had two elections, one after the other, but it never happened in our history.
To have a third one really is totally unacceptable.
And I think that it is up to Netanyahu to decide, I lost this, I cannot continue, let me try to have a plea bargain or something and go home, or it
is for the rest of the Likud members in the Knesset who we see that they may lose everything if they don't go for a national unity government that
the state can have, maybe even rotation with the Blue and White.
But Netanyahu, as long as there is a criminal charge, if there is one, there still is a hearing and the attorney general may be convinced, but if
not. There will be a criminal charge of bribe and other corruption charges, and this is a situation that Bibi needs not to be in.
I hope we'll have it on his own, if not, the Likud members, and we'll have to make a choice, a choice of moral choice. Do we defend the prime
minister whatever the thing is even against the criminal justice system? And is it good for Israel to drag us to another chaotic situation? And is
it good for the Likud that maybe a part of the coalition and will left out because of this? This is a major issue. We'll have to see how things play
out in the coming weeks.
AMANPOUR: Let me turn to Ronen Bergman with me here in the studio. You know, I wasn't actually expecting Dan Meridor to bring that up first as the
main issue with this stalemate that's going on right now. You're an investigative correspondent and you've done a lot of this kind of work.
Do you think that that's -- do you agree with Meridor's analysis, that that is the one thing Netanyahu's trying to stave off, rather than his national
security credentials and all of the things he normally talks about?
RONEN BERGMAN, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Well, Netanyahu for most of his career had one goal, which was to stay the prime minister. And
now he has two goals, to stay the prime minister in order to evade prosecution. And we have seen everything that he has done in the last two
or three years, again -- and calling for another election just a few months ago.
This was all in order to have the immunity, change the law of immunity or have the parliament immunity in order to make sure that he is not going to
face the charges. We are going to have the hearings now just next week and/or in two weeks time, and this -- the expected result of the attorney
general will decide to prosecute him on at least three main charges of corruption, bribe, and other charges.
So, Netanyahu from his point of view, this was the result of the last election, which are a defeat for him. There is no one main victor, but he
lost. He wanted to enlarge his majority, the coalition, the right-wing coalition, in one or two mandate, and he lost five. He was not -- and he
is not able to form a government. He is dependent now on Benny Gantz, his main rival, to form a coalition.
He is calling, as you showed the -- your audience, he is calling for unity, but what he's trying to do is put the blame on Benny Gantz for not allowing
him to be his partner, for boycotting him, and calling for a third election. From his point of view, the result are just a mistake and he
will go for more and more and more elections until what he believes the Israeli voter will come to the right decision.
AMANPOUR: Well, obviously, we have to say that the prime minister firmly denies any of these accusations.
BERGMAN: Of course.
AMANPOUR: However --
BERGMAN: And says it's like a sort of prosecution, a left-wing conspiracy.
AMANPOUR: But to your point, and to Dan Meridor --
MERIDOR: And could --
AMANPOUR: Go ahead, Dan.
MERIDOR: OK. And let me say, the man is innocent until proven guilty, no doubt. But then you can't say this in one minute, and the other minute not
allow the process to continue and not to allow the Israeli part to know (ph), but (INAUDIBLE) to bribe or not, it can't be left in the open. It
needs to be decided.
AMANPOUR: Dan --
MERIDOR: And this is the major issue.
AMANPOUR: Dan, let me ask you something. You are a Likudnik. You have been in that party for, you know, your career. And yet you withheld your
vote this time from Bibi Netanyahu and you voted for the Blue and White centrist party of Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Is this the main reason why?
MERIDOR: This is one reason, and there is more than this. You know, the Likud historically is a party by its name. It's called a National Liberal
Movement. This balance of the Jewish National Coalition, which is very important (INAUDIBLE), rebuilding our country is very important in my life
and in our life. But to be only national, nationalistic, without the human side, the democratic side, liberal side is very dangerous.
The Likud used to be the party that defended the Supreme Court, defended human rights, democracy. And I'm proud to say that I was the ministry of
justice that said -- initiated the legislation of human rights basic laws, what they called Constitutional Revolution. It's in the spirit of Menachem
Begin, the great defender of Likud. Likud changed. It's not any more national liberal party, it's nationalistic. I can't live with that.
[13:10:05] The Jewish national cloth is my cloth all my life, but democracy, human approach to others, equality is to me very important.
This changed, so I could not support Likud.
On top of it, I'm trying to evade the criminal process. There's a constant attack on the -- in by the prime minister and his people on the police, on
the state attorney or the attorney general and on the court system for being leftist, for being half traitors. This is very dangerous. And I
could not support the Likud. It stopped being what it used to be, but became sort of right-wing in the bad sense of the word.
MERIDOR: And not to balance as it used to be.
AMANPOUR: Just to --
BERGMAN: That is absolutely right, but these paths are not disconnected. The Likud is going right, extreme right, because Netanyahu is signing yet
not a written contract with the extreme ultra right for some sort of rebuttal deal. He will annex the occupied territories. He will take an
extreme right-wing position and policy. And in return, they will vote for his immunity. This is what he is trying to do. This is why the Likud is
taking such extreme line in the last few years.
AMANPOUR: You know, it's really interesting what, Dan Meridor, you've just been saying, because it sounds very, very much like what many in the
Conservative Party, the Tory party in Britain have said that Boris Johnson and the levers are taking it to a very extreme position against
It's like what many in the Republican Party here say that under President Trump the Republican Party is going to a much more extreme wing, let's say,
against all of the sort of institutions that we've grown to understand and know are, you know, conservative positions.
But let me just put this, because I just want to get this from Yair Lapid, who is the coalition partner in the Blue and White Party. And this is what
he said. Again, like you, he said that Netanyahu refuses to accept the results of this election, trying to drag the country back into another
election, which you've just said. Just listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YAIR LAPID, ISRAELI BLUE AND WHITE PARTY CO-LEADER (through translation): One person that preventing the formation of a liberal unity government, one
person. When faced with the choice between what's important for the country and what's important for one person, the country comes first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's what he's saying. He's sort of backing up what you all are saying. But listen, I just want to get to this, because Dan
and Ronen, we are in not just any old moment. This is a moment where the whole idea of another war in the Middle East, in that region, the whole
idea of Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Israel, all of this is at stake. And I wonder whether you, Ronen, have done so much work on
uncovering so much of this trajectory. What you feel is at stake right now on that issue?
BERGMAN: So in 2012, as Mark Maselli (ph) and myself wrote in "The New York Times" magazine last week, he was very -- Netanyahu, Benjamin felt he
was very close to all the strike on Iran. And in an interview he gave us, he said, I was just about to do that, but I didn't have the majority in the
government, because he needed the government approval to go to war.
Then he changed the law, and so only the cabinet need to give him approval to go for an all-out war or call for any kind of military offensive that
can evolve into war. That is the law that was changed in 2013.
Last week, apparently, as we now learn, just before the elections, he was about to go to an all-out offensive against Hamas at the Gaza Strip,
something that can evolve into war, according to his decision only and the attorney general stopped him.
What we learned from that is that his continuous policy not to risk himself for going for offensive against Hamas in Gaza, because it's bad for
elections, it's bad against his base, it's not good for his popularity, maybe changed.
And I think now maybe Netanyahu believes that in order to be reelect, he needs a war, which puts us in a very risky position right now. He might,
you know, use any kind of friction in the border to call for some military offensive. And I think the military should be very, very cautious in what
is happening in the coming few weeks.
AMANPOUR: And let me put it to both of you, Dan Meridor and Ronen Bergman, because as I said, this is not being spoken about in the abstract. The
United States is trying to figure out, should it do anything in response to what they believe was the Iranian missile and drone attack on Saudi oil
facilities last week? This is what President Trump has said latest on this issue of retaliation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will see what happens. I mean, you may have some very strong hit. We're the strongest military in
the world by far. A lot of things could happen. If we could have a peaceful solution, that's good. It's possible that that won't happen, but
there's never been a stronger country militarily, not even close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:15:00] AMANPOUR: Dan Meridor in Tel Aviv, what do you make of that? What do you think sitting there is going to transpire in terms of any kind
of military reaction to what happened in Saudi Arabia?
MERIDOR: Well, I'm not in a position to give advice to President Trump, and he doesn't listen not only to me on advises, and America will or will
not go to war as the President decides, not me.
But I think that the Iran issue is of great importance, because Iran is destabilizing the whole region, trying to be nuclear, and they use the
proxies, and you know that, against most Arab countries and Israel, of course, and uses this illegitimacy of Israel. Israel should not exist
repeatedly. So, of course, they are a sworn enemy.
But what do you do with that? On one hand, we need to be very tough with Iran, but on the other hand, from a position of strength, you need to find
a solution. Iran is a strong country, 4,000 years civilization. Could there, can there be a way out by talking is a good question.
President Trump showed his decision by running out or walking out on the agreement. I agree the agreement wasn't that good, but it wasn't that bad.
What is the alternative is not clear to me. I see that Trump wants to meet Rouhani. I'm not seeing the Iranians allowing it so far. So, I'm not
clear about the President's ideas of what he does with Iran.
But the Middle East is, with many countries, and mainly Arab countries, will look at the United States and ask themselves, will America stand
against Iran if Iran attacks us or not? Good question. I don't want to answer it.
But going back for a minute to Netanyahu, Ronen said rightly, Netanyahu-- he quoted Netanyahu saying I had no majority for striking Iran. Maybe one
of those people in that small group in the cabinet who were involved, this was me, who was, of course, against this.
And I hope that even now, nobody will think of going to war for election. I think this is far fetch. I don't think Netanyahu will do that. I very
much hope this is not the case. On the Iranian issue, it's a long-term issue, and they have a position of strength, we need to reach in the end an
agreement by which Iran will really stop its race for nuclear capability.
We were in agreement, it was changed in a way or walked away from that Iran stops destabilizing the region. Can there be an agreement? I would -- if
I were to advise the President alongside being tough and maybe using force, we'll needs to go for some sort of negotiations. It will not end in a
AMANPOUR: OK. Negotiation, Ronen, seems further away than ever. The President has said, I want to meet with the president of Iran, no
conditions, but then this all started and the Iranians have said --
BERGMAN: Saudi Arabia.
AMANPOUR: -- no, we're not going to meet. They want sanctions lifted.
BERGMAN: Playing hard to get.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And seeming to be in a position to play hard to get, do you agree or are they playing with fire?
BERGMAN: It seems that the U.S. President is very, I would say unkeen to strike. He, as far as I understand, he wants to be reelect as Prime
Minister Netanyahu and he believes, maybe unlike Prime Minister Netanyahu, that war is bad for elections. And the situation makes this project on
what is happening in Israel.
In 2012, there was an American president, Barack Obama, who pressured Benjamin Netanyahu hard not to strike. Nowadays, it seems that President
Trump might endorse, at least quietly, an Israeli strike over Iran.
AMANPOUR: As part of your reporting, I thought it was fascinating, was that you said part of the motivation for the Obama administration to get
this nuclear deal was to prevent, was to preempt any notion that Israel would strike Iran.
BERGMAN: Yes. In a way, Benjamin Netanyahu reached exactly the opposite of what he was trying to do. He pressured -- he said, I'm going to strike
Iran, if you, President Obama, will not do that. And instead, President Obama started the negotiation for the JCPOA, reaching the deal that Prime
Minister Netanyahu objects so much.
But nowadays, there's a very different president at the Oval Office. And if Prime Minister Netanyahu finds the right decision or finds the right
reason to strike Iran, I'm not sure that he's there to stop it.
AMANPOUR: In a word, and I think I know what Dan Meridor thinks because he just said it, but in a word, do you believe pulling out of the JCPOA, the
Iran nuclear deal, has made America's position less clear, more dangerous?
BERGMAN: I don't understand what is the American position. On one hand, you have the 12 points of Secretary of State Pompeo, which has basically
like the end of the Iranian revolution. And on the other, you have President Trump, who's extremely keen to have a meeting with Rouhani and
have a deal. So, I don't understand where America is going. And I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has in that as a leverage to act that this is a
very, very dangerous place.
AMANPOUR: Can I switch gears back to the king-making politics in Israel, Dan Meridor?
[13:20:04] So much has been talked about, obviously, Avigdor Lieberman and his seats and where he might place them. He has broken with Benjamin
Netanyahu, who was once his sort of mentor. What do you think is going to happen? Because Avigdor Lieberman is no sort of bleeding heart liberal,
and yet, he is secular, and many of his positions appeal to the liberals, although in the past, his positions very anti-Palestinian, very hard line,
have been very divisive. Where do you see Avigdor Lieberman coming down now?
MERIDOR: Well, to tell you the truth, I never could guess what -- do what he has done and I can't tell what he will do in the future. It was quite a
surprise, I have to say, but it was a successful surprise for him. He grew in numbers in the Knesset. He seems to be clear about not allowing
Netanyahu to return to power, so it looks. But we'll see when the days pass. I don't think he will go back to his friend, Netanyahu alliance.
The question is what-- is it that he wants on the Palestinian issue, on the Iranian issue, on the peace with the Arabs and the Israeli Arabs is a good
question. He was very adamant in using very harsh language against even Israeli-Arab citizens, which I hated, and I said it publicly. And he was
very skeptical about peace attempts.
He might have changed there, too. Maybe with age, some wisdom got into him. I can't tell you. He's now a major player. But in the end, there's
only one person called Netanyahu who will have to make a choice quite soon, because the clock is ticking on the criminal thing.
Will you step down with some way, respectable way or not? And it's not seem it's the Likud members, not the Lieberman people, will have to decide
whether they go under him all the way to more election one, or two, or three, or do they tell him, thank you, you've served us well, but now it's
over. This is the main question to me now.
AMANPOUR: Ronen, I'll switch to you. But of course, you know, Netanyahu came out as the voting was going on, begging people to vote. I served you
well, now please come out and put me back into power.
BERGMAN: Right. And when you see the actual results, you see that his voters came to vote. They followed his advice. And yet, Arabs came --
more Arabs came to vote and it changed the balance and other things happened. I think that his party is not going to fire him. They are not
going to rebel against him.
And I don't think that Benjamin Netanyahu would follow Dan's advice and, you know, sign some sort of a deal with the attorney general saying I'm
going to step down off the stage of politics in return for full, you know, immunity from prosecution.
The only thing that could happen are two of -- two scenarios. One is that Lieberman decide that he will go for a coalition with the Arab parties.
This will make sure that Netanyahu cannot form a coalition. Benny Gantz is the prime minister, but this needs to have a new Lieberman.
AMANPOUR: And by the way, that's a big deal because the Arab parties have up until now not been significant players.
BERGMAN: Never been a part of the coalition.
AMANPOUR: Ever, no.
BERGMAN: Maybe, and I hope that they will do, or we are going for a third election, which is a disaster for Israel.
AMANPOUR: There is so much more to talk about, including Netanyahu's, you know, having threatened to annex parts of the west bank. We'll see what
BERGMAN: The thing for his base in order to get the same immunity that we have discussed.
AMANPOUR: Right, yes. We will keep an eye on this and hopefully have you back. Ronen Bergman here in New York with me, Dan Meridor in Tel Aviv,
thank you so much for joining me this evening.
BERGMAN: Thank you, Christiane.
MERIDOR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, so much of Israel's identity is, of course, tied to the holocaust, perpetuated by Nazi Germany. And even as the far right there
once again rears its head, as does anti-Semitism, it is remarkable to take stock of how far Germany has come in atoning for its sins. It's a lesson
that my next guest says could and should be learned right here in America.
This year marks four centuries since 1619, when the first Africans came as slaves to these shores. And despite a Civil War, this country has never
had a serious truth and reconciliation effort.
Susan Neiman is a moral philosopher and author of "Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil." And she's joining me now from
Susan Neiman, welcome to the program. And, you know, it's really interesting to have you on the program today, particularly in view of the
conversation we've just had about the stakes in Israel. You actually spent a long time --
SUSAN NEIMAN, AUTHOR, "LEARNING FROM THE GERMANS": Indeed.
AMANPOUR: -- in Tel Aviv. Just before we go to the heart of your book, tell me what sort of connection, what connective tissue is there in terms
of your thesis on reparations and restitution and what's happening in Israel right now?
[13:25:01] NEIMAN: Oh, Lord. That's such a large question. I mean, a very short version would be that I think Israeli politics would be much
better if the holocaust weren't used in the center of so many political arguments. On the other hand, I do use the Israeli case when I talk about
the paying of reparations for the holocaust as a model for what other countries ought to do.
AMANPOUR: So, let's talk about that model, because you detail it extraordinarily in your new book. What is it that you think the United
States specifically, not in big picture, but in small, step-by-step picture that leads to a conclusion, can learn from Germany in the post-Nazi age?
I mean, I guess the world thinks that Germany after the defeat suddenly became reconciled and suddenly, you know, outlawed all of this, you know,
awful, awful politics that led to Nazism.
NEIMAN: That's exactly right. And I think the three basic things we can learn from the Germans. And the first one, and perhaps the most important,
is how very hard it is to confront your nation's crimes. There will always be pushback. There will always be people who come up with arguments like -
- well, other people were just as bad, let's look to the future and not dig up these old bones.
And as you rightly said, the Nazi period has come to serve for much of the rest of the world as such a symbol of absolute evil. I mean, it's kind of
a black hole, because we tend to look at the Nazi period from the very end. We don't look at the beginning.
You know, there were 6.5 years in which the Nazis were in power before they even started a war, much less started with genocide. But because it serves
us now and we only focus on this end point, we tend to assume, well, the minute the war was over, they got on their knees and, you know, begged
pardon and tried to atone. And the really shocking thing is that they didn't.
When I first came to Berlin in 1982, I had friends who would tell me with a great deal of shame that their parents were Nazis. They wouldn't say, my
parents were Nazis and they thought they were the world's worst victims. But that is very much what the view was in West Germany. East Germany was
somewhat different. And I think there is a little bit of hope in there for those people.
And you're absolutely right, the way the 400th anniversary of slavery is being commemorated in the states is very much an example of a fairly broad
sweep of Americans trying to come to terms with slavery and the neo-slavery that followed it, not simply as an unfortunate little blip on our history,
but quite a central part of it. And of course, there's been gigantic pushback.
Newt Gingrich criticized "The New York Times" for their 1619 Project and plenty of less prominent people find it appalling. I think once we realize
that even the Nazis -- or the former Nazis, found it appalling that other Germans would attempt to face the guilt, attempt to atone for it, pay
reparations. I think once we realize there's going to be that pushback, we're much better able to deal with it.
AMANPOUR: Susan, let's just dig down --
NEIMAN: I could go on and talk about the other two things.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, let's in a second, but I just want to break it up with a few questions. And that, you know, you have said-- or I think you
either recall what your friends in Germany said. I mean, basically, there are no -- to the question, where are the monuments to Nazism? There are no
monuments to Nazism. There was no such thing. Whatever was there was razed to the ground, and in fact, there are monuments to the victims, which
we see in many, many places in Germany.
And you have pointed out the contrast to the United States that there are still these monuments and memorials, for instance, to the confederacy.
Give us -- talk us through that point.
NEIMAN: Absolutely. And let me just clarify when I say there are no -- it's correct to say there are no monuments to the Nazis. Some Nazi sites
have been turned into what the Germans called Denkmal, which is not quite monument. I mean, it can be translated as monument, but it's a place where
people need to think.
So there are such exhibits at some of the Nazi sites, but with one very strange exception, which I only found out about quite late last year, and
it's very abstract. It's just -- it's in a quite distant place. It's very abstract. It's just to the war dead.
It would be inconceivable to, you know, the plantations that we have with women in hoop skirts, I try to imagine somehow there being something
comparable with women in dirndls and long pigtails, and it really is unimaginable. Even our far right party, which is unfortunate, wouldn't
What we have instead is a variety of monuments from concentration camps with museums that have been very carefully and thoughtfully prepared, to
various kinds of statues remembering the victims, remembering the few resistance heroes that there were.
And a particularly interesting monument, which is all over Germany, it's called the "stumbling stones," and they're these little brass plaques about
four inches square, which an artist, Gunter Demnig, has placed in front of houses in which Jews lived and from which they were deported and murdered.
And each stone has the name of a single person and the date of their deportation and death, if it's known.
Bryan Stevenson, the creator of the wonderful lynching memorial in Montgomery, told me that he was deeply influenced by those stumbling stones
in particular and the way in which they changed the iconography of, well, of the city, and indeed, of the country, and he hopes that his lynching
memorial will not just stay in Montgomery but that different counties where people were murdered will come and take pieces of the memorial.
So that instead of a south that is simply full of, you know, every two miles you see another plaque to some confederate battle or another, that we
will also, side by side, remember what else happened. I should just say to interject this for a second, I spent half a year when I was researching
this book in Mississippi in the deep south. This is not to say that I believe American racism is confined to the deep south. By any means
It's simply that because the south is conscious of its history, if often in a very false way, it serves as a magnifying glass by which you can look at
American history more closely.
AMANPOUR: Susan, I want to play this sound bite from an interview I did with the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu. And he was talking after he
NEIMAN: Oh, yes.
AMANPOUR: Yes, he had taken down four Confederate statues in that particular era at that time. We can talk about it, but let's just play
this sound bite and what he -- the reasons he did this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH LANDRIEU, FORMER NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African-American
mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter why Robert E. Lee sat atop of our city. Can you do it? Can you do it?
Can you look into the eyes of this young girl and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think that she feels inspired and
hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see her future with limitless potential?
Have you ever thought -- have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours, and my potential might have limited potential as well?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, I did interview him about it, but that clearly was from a press conference. He was talking about that in a broader arena.
But look, you have kind of a personal connection to the struggles in the south. You were raised, I believe, or you lived for a long time in
Atlanta. Your mother was campaigning for the desegregation of public schools.
Tell me, just reflect on what Landrieu did in New Orleans, what's happening or not happening, and what should precisely America learn from the
reparations and the outlawing of hate crimes and the like in Germany? What should happen to, you know, the African-Americans, the descendants of
slaves who came here now 400 years ago?
NEIMAN: So, let me say a word about the clip with Mayor Landrieu. I admired the speech that he made when the statues were removed, and I even
quoted it in my book. The argument that he was just quoted using is I think an important argument, but by no means the strongest one.
People often say we need to take down Confederate statues because they cause pain to African-Americans, and that's certainly true, but I think
even more important is the things that we choose to memorialize in stone or brass reflect our values. We don't simply memorialize every single piece
of our history, you know.
We choose particular men and women who represent ideals that we would like as a nation to have and that we would like our children to have. So, in
that sense, I think it's not only important for an African-American girl to not have to walk by a statue of Robert E. Lee. I think it's just as
important for a white American boy not to think that's a paradigm.
So, to your next question, yes, I was born in Atlanta, Georgia shortly after the supreme court decided Brown VS Board of Ed. My parents were from
Chicago and we were Jewish, which really did kind of make us outsiders,
You know, it certainly was a different kind of childhood than I would have had in New York. But I'm not sorry about it. Although at the time, I
certainly felt like an outsider.
And I suppose the thing that I'm most grateful for is that I did grow up in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. My mother took a stand, which the
rabbi of the reformed synagogue also took, but unfortunately, not very many people in the Jewish community, or other white people took, which was to
openly campaign and work for peaceful desegregation of the schools for which we occasionally got threats from the Ku Klux Klan.
But again, I grew up thinking at quite a young age, we're on the right side of history. And moreover, it's unfortunately become a somewhat old-
fashioned view in the Jewish community but it is what I was brought up with.
Because Jews were a minority community who were often oppressed, we ought to show solidarity with other oppressed communities. And you know, if we
read from the Haggadah every year that we were slaves in the land of Egypt, then we ought to be on the side of people who were slaves in the land of
Georgia, and that's just simply how I grew up.
AMANPOUR: Susan, finally, and we just have a short time left, but I just want to ask you, because you know, despite what Germany has achieved, there
is a resurgence of the far right, the alternative for Deutschland has made big gains in parliament there, anti-Semitism is on the rise. Even in the
United States, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We've talked about racism that continues, you know.
Is there a moment now that you see where there's a real concern about how this is going to play out in the future, that lessons haven't been learned,
or is there also a silver lining in that there are so many people responding and reacting to this resurgence of these hate-filled ideologies?
NEIMAN: Thank you for bringing that up, because so many people don't pay attention to that part of the story. I had a friend from Los Angeles write
to me frantically, I don't know, a couple of months ago, the story about an Israeli wearing a Kippah in Berlin, being attacked by an Arab. It got a
lot of press.
And he wrote to me, "Are you and the children all right?" And I had to say, you know, I'm sorry, in what country were Jews murdered this past
year? Unfortunately, it was the United States of America.
That is, there is a rise in anti-Semitism all over the world. I think it's a concern. There's a rise in racism all over the world.
But in Germany, what gets far less international play is how quick the reaction is. I mean, the funny thing is, not only did 3,000 Berliners
immediately demonstrate, the not terribly left-leaning -- it's more center- rightish -- newspaper had a huge headline, "Berlin wears a Kippah," and they had a little Kippah that you could cut out of the newspaper and wear
We do worry about the rise of our right-wing party, but I think that the process Germany has gone through in the last 35 to 40 years has made us
less vulnerable and more aware of the dangers of that kind of radical right position.
AMANPOUR: And that --
NEIMAN: Unfortunately than any of our neighbors in Europe and --
AMANPOUR: That is the good news. I wish we -- I'm sorry, I wish we had so much longer because this is really important, but thank you so much for
this insight. And it is important to actually focus on what you just said, that there is a resistance to this kind of hate.
Susan Neiman, thank you very much indeed.
And we turn now to the global climate crisis. Friday is shaping up to be the biggest day of protests ever, inspired by the Swedish schoolgirl Greta
Thunberg, millions of people across the world plan to come out on strike from school.
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is one of the young organizers of Friday's strike and he is joining Thunberg and other youth activists in Washington, D.C., for
the demonstrations. He's been protesting since he was 6-years-old. And coming from indigenous Mexican dissent, Xiuhtezcatl believes protecting the
earth is his spiritual duty.
Our Hari Sreenivasan asked him why people are finally getting up and taking action.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CONTRIBUTOR: Xiuhtezcatl, tell me first, what is the climate strike? When are these strikes happening? What's planned?
XIUHTEZCATL MARTINEZ, YOUTH DIRECTOR, EARTH GUARDIANS: So September 20th is going to be a culmination where we're going to see millions of young
people in the streets organizing from hundreds, if not thousands of cities around the globe. I think this represents a moment in history where the
climate crisis is more present than it has ever been, both in many political spheres and in the global conversation.
The consciousness of the people, and I think the younger generation, is very reflective of this dire sense of urgency. And the climate strikes,
you know, were sparked by this brilliant young girl named Greta Thunberg from Sweden. She's been striking outside of parliament in Sweden for, you
know, almost a year now, I believe.
So she had it done and kind of started that initiative on her own out in the cold in Sweden and now has mobilized the momentum for millions of young
people worldwide to join her in these efforts. I believe March 15th was the first global climate strike that happened where there was 1.6 million
people that walked out of school into the streets to demand bolder climate action, to demand politicians to play their part to keep fossil fuels in
the ground, to meaningfully implement just transitions away from fossil fuels to averse the climate crisis.
So now, every single day this issue is getting more and more important, more and more urgent. We have less and less time. And so I think this
momentum that we're seeing, especially now that New York public schools has excused absences on that day for students, we're going to see a massive
groundswell unlike we've ever seen before of youth mobilizing, industries using our voices to really show the world that this is the most important
issue of our time.
SREENIVASAN: How are you going to make the grown-ups take you seriously? I understand the visuals, the action itself, all of these young people out
on the streets. How do you translate that into action by the people who hold the levers of power who haven't done enough for decades?
MARTINEZ: Definitely. I think public pressure is an absolutely critical piece of pushing the political envelope. Worldwide, you see an increase in
governments and politicians really understanding that this is one of the most -- a defining issue, truly.
My generation represents, you know, the younger generation from 18 to 30, we represent the largest voting bloc in the United States, you know. So,
we have pressure that we can put on politicians where we're not going to vote anybody that doesn't have a solid climate platform.
I think worldwide as well, with these strikes, they're symbolic of this greater shift that our culture needs to be making towards holding
politicians accountable and holding elected officials accountable. For us, it's not like we're pretending like we know everything, because we are
telling politicians to listen to the scientists, to listen to the scientists that have been telling us for decades that this is something
that we need to be paying attention to immediately and acting upon immediately.
And I've been doing this since I was 6-years-old, so I've been in the game for like 12 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTINEZ: I came to talk to you today about how sacred the earth is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTINEZ: And so, for us to be stepping into not only the streets but also taking action in our courts, suing the federal government in the United
States, addressing the United Nations, taking this into schools, building independent action in communities worldwide. Like, this strike, again,
this is one, I think a landmark event that symbolizes the global momentum of young people's will to overcome the stagnant energy that political power
has failed to create the change we know is possible.
The difference between this climate strike is we are calling on the adults worldwide to strike with us. The energy and the call and the ask is for
adults to stand up with their youth, to walk out of their jocks, to walk out of their work and to join us in the streets to put that pressure on
government. And then we've got to follow that up with the actions in our communities, with the way that we're voting and so on.
SREENIVASAN: So, is there kind of a voter registration drive component to this, as you head into 2020, if you want to back candidates that prioritize
MARTINEZ: Yes, as far as voting goes, that's definitely on the agenda of myself and the organization I represent, Earth Guardians. I know a variety
of various different groups within the climate space are also going to be putting their attention and energy into that.
That's not so much a specific ask. Because it's such a global movement, these strikes are such a global movement, so it's not just U.S.-centric,
since, honestly, the largest turnout we're seeing anyways is out in Europe. But I think this is a New York kind of flagship event because Greta
Thunberg has come out to the states because there's going to be so much momentum and energy and performing of artists, people pulling up.
It's going to be I think having much more serious implications than just asking people to vote. It's going to be kind of, I think, a global moment
where the space across the planet, people are unifying in this concerted call.
SREENIVASAN: Is there a specific list of sort of demands that you'd like to see resolved in having these actions?
MARTINEZ: For us, it's like, the first step is putting this pressure on politicians, is putting this pressure on people that are going to be making
the decisions on our behalf and really showing out on the streets and making this cry, like, we are not going to stand idly by while our future
is kind of determined by people who aren't brave enough to take the steps that are absolutely necessary for us to determine the future.
In a positive light, you know, because things are really terrifying right now, you know. We're seeing projections of everything from $600 trillion
of damages from climate destruction in the next 80 years to a billion people being displaced to, you know, completely changing the global
Like, things are going to shift a lot. Like, it is very foolish to think that the world is going to look like it is in 10 years similar to how it
does today. And it's all up to us.
Like, this is all hanging in the balance. This is all on the actions that we take, the way we live our lives, the policies that we push. And if we
can do it quick enough, because there are people that are already suffering every single day, that are losing their homes in island nations in the
South Pacific, whose homes are burning in the Amazon for fascist governments down there.
We are seeing massive amounts of destruction and pain already. So we look at ourselves as this generation who has a lot of power, right? We have
technology. We have the right to vote.
Many of these young people do and like, what are we going to do about it? These politicians in office, what are you going to do about it, you know?
This is about more than just what your platform is built off or the talking points in your script, but this is about the action that we are demanding
to be demonstrated. Otherwise, it will be too late.
SREENIVASAN: You know, you said, you started this when you were 6. You were fighting fracking at 11. At 14, you're already addressing the U.N.
How did you get into this? How did you maintain this kind of enthusiasm? And why were you so passionate about this at a young age?
MARTINEZ: So, my ancestors, my people, the Mexico people of Mexico Tenochtitlan which is Mexico City today. And for us as indigenous peoples,
to protect our land, our earth, our water, to fight for our future, for our community or our people, that is like inherent within our existence. We
say, like our existence is resistance, you know?
And so, it is second nature to defend what we love, to defend what we care about. It is our responsibility to our ancestors that fought to defend
those same things. There is a responsibility to the next generations.
So, for me, growing up in my culture with these teachings at a very young age, beginning to learn about the climate crisis, it became very apparent
that this is the fight of my lifetime. And just, there's no choice about it. It's not about being an activist. It's about fulfilling our
responsibility as the human generation that is alive on earth today.
SREENIVASAN: And how about your parents, were they involved in this, too?
MARTINEZ: Yes, my mama started Earth Guardians, which is the organization that works with hundreds and thousands of youth worldwide, working with
them to engage in community action on various different levels.
She started that in 1992, way before I was born, and definitely grew up in the movement in the streets. My older siblings were involved. My dad was
traveling, speaking at the United Nations, representing Mexico on environment, spirituality and culture. So, like it's in my blood, for
SREENIVASAN: I ask that partly because one of the critiques has been, look, these children are being manipulated by the adults, they don't
understand these topics, they're being used as puppets in this large game, right? But from what you're talking about, to me, this is something that
you feel passionately about on your own.
MARTINEZ: It's pretty foolish when adults are going to say oh, those kids don't know what they're talking about, they're being manipulated by the
parents. They're not listening. They're not listening to us.
We have personal investment in this. We have stories of how we've already been affected. We have a burning passion within us, the same way that a
kid wants, you know, sees injustice at any level, whether it's, you know, in our community or bullying in our schools. Like, we know that's not
It doesn't take a degree or any amount of years on earth to know what is right and what is wrong. And for us, like, we see that our future's in
danger. We see that our president is in danger. We see that our planet is danger.
And we see this interconnectedness that we have with all life on earth. For much of our generation, like, this is terrifying. This is depressing.
This creates apathy and stress and disconnection, and, like us numbing ourselves from all these different problems. Like, it is not easy to be
alive in the world today and to be a young person in the world today because we carry a lot of that weight, and we're holding that, you know?
And so, for parents to not only -- and adults to not only create, be responsible largely for creating this crisis, but also telling us that our
investment in building solutions that their generation was too afraid to do, it's coming from a place of manipulation from our parents? That's just
like, come on, you know, like, either get on our side or get out of the way.
SREENIVASAN: Has this come with costs? I mean as you become more vocal, as you've grown in this movement, have you made enemies?
MARTINEZ: Yes, I mean I was getting death threats from the fossil fuel industry when I was like 11-years-old, 11, 12-years-old. And my little
brother, who was like 9, 10, getting death threats from the fossil fuel industry, people trying to set up shady meetings.
Lots of things have happened in my life where it's been very apparent that being this vocal and standing out and saying stuff that many people are
afraid to say, many adults are afraid to say, let alone other kids, we are building more power so that we're not alone in this and there's so many
young leaders, but there's definitely been times in my life where I've been afraid because of the target this work has put on my back.
SREENIVASAN: How do you know it was from the fossil fuel industry?
MARTINEZ: I was doing a bunch of work in 2010, 2011 and 2012 specifically around natural gas extraction, resisting that in our community, doing a lot
of education in a lot of conservative communities and schools where there was a lot of parents and people that worked in the industry, and going in
and pretty much teaching them and giving them the truth about this, like, horribly extractive industry that was destroying our community's health,
our air, our water.
And so, around that time, there was all kinds of different things that were coming indirectly from people within the industry, people disguising
themselves as, like, people that worked for my school, trying to meet up with me, and like, outside -- yes, there was all kinds of stuff that
Like, my mom was like, you know, fielding a lot of it, but yes, it was definitely an intense time because we were making a lot of noise in that
space specifically and getting a lot of, like, yes, really shaking things up in Colorado for a while there.
SREENIVASAN: You are a part of the lawsuit against the U.S. government. Tell us about that.
MARTINEZ: Yes. So, myself and 20 other youth filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the federal government, demanding action to directly address the
climate crisis. Our claim was that the federal government has violated our constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property for their failure to
address the climate crisis adequately, for knowing about this crisis for the last 50-plus years, and not only doing nothing, but working directly
with the industries that are perpetuating this crisis.
And so, this case on its way to trial has gone through many obstacles and leaps and bounds, and initially filed against the Obama administration,
passed on out of the Trump administration. We have seen massive, I guess waves in ways people never thought was possible with this case, everything
from, you know, legal and political analysts looking at it thinking that it was doomed.
We're here, you know, four, five almost years later, and we're still going through the court system, and various judges have ruled in our favor and
said that these young people have standing and have the actual constitutional right to a livable climate that sustains human life.
So, different rulings have really been revolutionary in ways that we haven't seen before, and I think young people not just taking to the
streets but really using the justice system, leveraging political power in these spaces is what gives our generation that edge that is different than
different approaches to environmentalism in the past.
And it's a very exciting place that we're in. And now we're kind of a little bit in a waiting period on our way to trial in the Ninth Circuit
court and excited, excited to see where this goes. It has a lot of potential.
What we're demanding is for a comprehensive -- a prescription for a comprehensive climate recovery plan to be implemented across the nation to
reverse the climate crisis and get us back down to a safe level of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. And it's big and it's
revolutionary and it's very sweeping, and that's the kind of work that's going to be needed.
SREENIVASAN: Environmental movements have been fueled by youth for decades. Why do you think this moment is different?
MARTINEZ: I think a lot of these ideologies of where environmentalism lies and how it's defined has actually separated and divided people. It has
been very narrow, I think, in its approach and its tactics and it hasn't really reached a mainstream audience in the way that it needs to, because
the place that the planet is at, there's just never been a greater urgency to act at every level, from politicians to corporations to individuals.
And so, now, I think as the crisis has gotten bigger and bigger, the walls that separate these different movements and this different work begins to
fall away. And we realize it's not just about activists and politicians and people that work in the U.N., but this is about, you know,
entrepreneurs and visionaries and artists, designers, teachers, parents, workers.
Like, we all have a place within this movement. And I think our generation gets that more than other people, and I believe we're the last generation
that's really going to have the opportunity to sway the future in a positive light.
SREENIVASAN: Xiuhtezcati Martinez, good luck to you.
MARTINEZ: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, we must all hope he's right and that this generation has a lasting impact when it comes to climate change.
But that's it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.