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Otherwise Occupied

News & Politics Podcasts

Ami Kaufman is a veteran broadcast and print journalist in Israel. On "Otherwise Occupied" he chats with the fascinating people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, regardless of race, religion, or political views.


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Ami Kaufman is a veteran broadcast and print journalist in Israel. On "Otherwise Occupied" he chats with the fascinating people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, regardless of race, religion, or political views.




MP Heba Yazbak: 'I'm happy the Trump era is over, but I don't have high expectations of Biden'

As the Israeli parliament dissolved this week and we are now headed to our fourth round of elections in two years, I'm happy that my guest today is a professional politician: Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament Heba Yazbak (Joint List). Yazbak belongs to the National Democratic Assembly, known as the “Balad” party, a Palestinian nationalist party that supports the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories Israel occupied in 1967 and opposes Israel’s definition as a Jewish state. It’s members have been targeted by the Jewish right wing and they see constant attempts to block them from running for office. Yazbak herself was almost disqualified for past statements on social media where she was accused of supporting terrorists, but the Supreme Court eventually let her run. We talk about those efforts, about the upcoming elections of course, and the situation that the Joint List is in these days, and a whole lot more. Support the show


Kefah Abukhdeir: 'We don't have to love each other, but we do need to respect each other'

My guest this week is an activist for Palestinian rights from East Jerusalem. Kefah Abukhdeir is a Palestinian-American who co-directs and teaches at EduReach, a local Palestinian educational and learning organization, and I had the honor of speaking with her about her family’s deep roots to the holy city, her American roots, and what she thinks about the end of the Trump era. But what I’m really thankful for in our conversation is, first of all, the glimpse that Kefah gives me about life in East Jerusalem, which I’m not sure is really known to most people who think they have an understanding of this conflict. And I’m also grateful for her willingness to share a bit of her connection to Mohammed Abukhdeir, her 16 year old cousin, who was brutally murdered in 2014 by Jews. It was a murder that horrified this region, and it was part of the chain of events that eventually led to the 2014 Gaza war. Last year, HBO produced in Israel a show called "Our Boys," based on the events of those days. Support the show


Ronit Vered: 'I do believe there is such a thing as Israeli cuisine'

My guest this week is someone I am very excited to talk to, being the foodie that I am. Ronit Vered is a researcher of food culture, she’s a journalist, an author of food and travel books. Since 2007 she’s been writing a weekly column about food in Haaretz. It’s a wonderful column, with photographs from an amazing photographer named Dan Peretz. Together they document people, food, disappearing preparation methods that they encounter every week, as they crisscross the country looking for good stories. She also writes for international culinary magazines and books, she gives lectures and moderates international panels about cuisines and identity, food and politics, the Jewish kitchen, Israeli cuisine, and so much more. She really is one of the best in her field. We talk about food and identity in Israel and Palestine, about what covid-19 is doing to the food business, about hummus, sabich - even schnitzel! It was, if I may say so myself, a delicious chat. Support the show


David Lehrer: 'To live in peace with nature, you must learn to live in peace with your neighbor'

David Lehrer is the Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. As a partner of the Ben Gurion University, the institute brings Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and international students together, promoting the idea that nature knows no political borders is more than a belief. "It is a fact, a curriculum, and a way of life," as their website says. I spoke to David while he was in the institute, in a Kibbutz called Ketura, where he has lived now for many years since immigrating from the States. We talk about the amazing work they do in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan, about how environment work can promote peace, about living through the Trump era as an environmentalist, and his hopes for the future for this region and the world. Support the show


Eman Mohammed: 'In Gaza, the pain lingers long after the bombs stop falling'

There's a first time for everything, right? Well, this is the first episode where I shed a tear during recording. My guest this week is the first female Palestinian photojournalist in Gaza. Eman Mohammed started her career at the young age of 19, not only dodging bombings, but also misogyny from her colleagues and surroundings, who thought a woman was not cut out for the job. But that didn’t stop her. She eventually became one of the most well known photographers in the region, her photos published in all the major media outlets around the world, until THAT day, that one day of bombing in another Gazan war, that hit close to home. Way too close to home. Her daughter was injured. We’ll talk about that horrific day, about her becoming a speaker for TED and a senior TED fellow, about living in America during the Trump era, why she decided to remove her hijab, and so much more. But first - an apology. I screwed up. I messed up the settings in this zoom call, and instead of recording my voice on my fancy microphone, it was recorded by the computer mic - which is pretty bad. A real rookie mistake, I admit it... I was thinking about re-recording, but I thought that since Eman’s voice is still heard very well, and she’s the important one here and I’m just a bit muffled here and there - it wasn’t worth trying to replicate the whole conversation. I promise, though, that you will still enjoy this episode AND that I have learned my lesson the hard way. Support the show


Mira Awad: 'I'm stronger these days, I'm not threatened easily'

What really makes my day is talking to an amazing and inspiring artist. She’s a singer. A musician. A songwriter. She is an actress on stage and on the screen. She is a screenwriter. She’s an activist for women’s rights, for Palestinian rights. She was even in the Eurovision! Today I am so honored to speak with Mira Awad, one of Israel’s most famous artists, famous abroad as well, who has been challenging norms since childhood, norms in Arab society, in Israeli society, constantly giving the middle finger to the patriarchy - as one should. She has courage and bravery like I’ve never seen, never ending talent, and if you ask me - a voice to die for. Honestly, it’s angelic. Obviously I was a bit star struck during this one… So, sit down, keep on jogging, or cooking or whatever you’re doing - and have a listen. Support the show


Barak Ravid: 'Israeli Right will find it hard to label Biden 'anti-Israel''

My guest this week is the busiest reporter in Israel, based on the amount and pace of scoops he publishes. Barak Ravid is probably the most well known diplomatic correspondent in this country. He worked for years in Israel’s leading broadsheet Haaretz, then moved to TV - until he got fired, for reasons we’ll discuss in our chat. He now works in two news organizations, Walla News here in Israel, and one of my favorite websites in the US: Axios.com. Not many people know the Mideast political and diplomatic arena like Barak does, and we get to talk about that, about media in Israel, about Trump’s legacy and Biden’s challenges, the way he works his sources and how he maintains a relationship with them, and he gives me a very honest answer to the podcast question about what should be between the river and the sea. I hope you enjoy it - and if so - share this episode! Support the show


Simcha Rothman: 'Let Palestinians choose to join the Zionist project'

My guest today is Simcha Rothman. Recently named by the Israeli financial daily "The Marker" as one of the 100 most influential people in Israel. I know Simcha from my TV days hosting the Spin Room, a debate show, and Simcha, being the attorney that he is, was a fierce and formidable rival for the folks I put up against him. He is the co-founder and legal counsellor of an NGO called Meshilut, the Movement for Governability and Democracy and he recently wrote a book called “The ruling party of Bagatz – How Israel became a legalocracy”, which is basically a tearing down of what he believes is the Israeli Supreme Court’s over-interventionism. Now, I know I set out at the beginning of this podcast journey to listen to everyone and anyone between the River and the Sea, but I have to admit, this one was a challenge. Simcha is a settler, he doesn’t even live in a settlement, he lives in an outpost! He’s hardcore, Jewish right wing. Otherwise Occupied is not supposed to be a debate podcast, but I think at times this episode came close to that... I’ll let you be the judge. Tell me what you think. Here’s me and Simcha. Support the show


Makbula Nassar: 'I learned how to deal with tear gas as a child'

Today I am talking to Makbula Nassar. While I’ve never met Makbula, she does writes for Local Call, the sister site of the website I co-founded, +972 Magazine, and I have always wanted to get to know her better. Makbula is one of the most dominant voices in Palestinian society today. She started out as a social worker, but veered towards photography and journalism, hosting one of the most popular talk shows on Arab radio, leading feminist causes in Israel and in Arab society in particular, and so much more. I really like how this one turned out, because we talked about so much: how it was to grown up in Arabeh; her project of photographing abandoned Palestinian towns and homes; about one state; about the holocaust... We even talked about the media storm swirling around one of the most famous Palestinians in the world these days, the video blogger Nuseir Yassin, better known as Nas Daily, It’s a great one, folks. Support the show


Noam Shuster-Eliassi: 'The world has forgotten the Palestinian people'

My guest today is a comedian who is very quickly making a name for herself in Israel and abroad. Noam Shuster Eliassi has an amazing life story, and she’s only in her early 30’s! She grew up in a very unique place, Neve Shalom, a small village of Israeli Jews and Palestinians, an experiment of sorts. In the podcast, I ask her if she thinks the experiment was a success... She's worked in Rwanda, she’s worked for the UN and other NGO’s, but then - she dropped all that and started telling jokes. She began to use comedy as a tool to make bridges, to forge alliances, to give hope. But it’s the past year that really rocked Noam’s world - beginning a fellowship in Harvard, that was midway put on hold because of no other than Covid-19. She decided to go back home to Israel - and... guess what happened just a few days after she landed…. You’ll just have to listen to find out… Support the show


Tamer Nafar: 'Israelis need to recognize our pain from 1948'

I’m pretty excited about this week’s guest on the show - Tamer Nafar! Widely regarded as the first rapper in Arabic - Tamer is famous for so many things in Israel, where do I even start? He's the lead singer of one of the most popular hip hop bands in the region and the world, DAM, he’s also got an amazing solo career going on, and to top it off - he's an actor and screenwriter, most notably starring in the award winning film Junction 48. He says whatever is on his mind, knowing it will piss off a lot of people, and he’s never scared of the backlash he knows he’s going to get. He’s critical of Israel and its policies towards Palestinians, of course, but also has critique for Arab society and specifically - the male gender. A lot of Israelis who aren’t hip hop fans also know him well because his name pops up in the news every once in a while - probably the most famous story happened a few years ago at the Israeli version of the Oscars, the Ophir prize, when Culture Minister Miri Regev walked out of the room because Tamer read a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. That of course made a lot of noise. So, this episode is going to be different - because Tamer had the great idea to base the discussion on his music - so, we’ll be hearing some of the songs, too - quite the feat for a technophobe like me! We talk about how he got into hip hop, starting first in English and Hebrew before moving to Arabic; growing up alongside the violence in Lyd, his dream for what this region should look like, singing about politics and social issues, his acting career, and a whole lot more. I really hope you enjoy this one. Support the show


Zehava Galon: Netanyahu cares only about his own survival and avoiding prison

My guest today is Zehava Galon. I’m pretty sure a lot of my listeners know who Galon is - she has been one of the most well known politicians in Israel for decades now, a symbol of the Israeli Left. The list of causes Galon has fought for would take me forever to read through, she is a champion of progressive values, fighting for gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and of course, Palestinian rights, and much much more. A couple of years ago she left parliament and her position as leader of the left wing party Meretz to form a new think tank, called Zulat, we’ll talk about that, about her vision for the future of this region, some pretty scathing critique she has for Bibi Netanyahu and his coalition partner Benny Gantz, we’ll even talk about her amazing talents on Twitter. (Photo: Ronen Ackerman) Support the show


Ruthie Blum: "I'm a right wing bohemian - living like a leftist, but with ideas on the right"

Listen now | My guest today on the podcast is Ruthie Blum! Ruthie is originally from New York, and is the daughter of journalists and authors Midge Decter and legendary editor in Chief of Commentary Magazine, Norman Podhoretz. Since she immigrated to Israel in the late 70’s, she’s become a very well known journalist and pundit in her own right, and as you’ll probably hear - despite my attempt to listen to ALL my guests no matter what - I agree with maybe 1 percent of what she says. Get on the email list at amikaufman.substack.comSupport the show


Yaron Ten-Brink: "Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the biggest criminals Israel has ever seen"

As the pandemic rages out of control in Israel, I’m happy that my guest today is someone who shares my frustration. Yaron Ten-Brink, one of Israel’s leading journalists. Yaron became very well known when he began writing a daily TV columns in the most widely circulated newspaper, back then, Yedioth Ahronoth. Since then he’s held very senior editorial positions in print but also had a stint in TV, editing and producing top shows during prime time, and he and I also had the opportunity to work together on the Morning show of i24NEWS a few years ago. He currently edits the Tel Aviv edition of TimeOut magazine, and is a prolific tweeter, mostly on issues concerning the Israeli PM Netanyahu, and I feel like he’s one of those people who really influences the discussion on social media. So, we talked a lot about the media in Israel, how it compares to other places like the States, how Bibi compares to Trump, and lastly - we even talk about cheese! Enjoy! Support the show


Aziz Abu Sarah: "I chose not to hate the soldier who killed my brother"

On today’s episode of Otherwise Occupied I talk to Aziz Abu Sarah, an old friend with an amazing story. And just look at that punim! We talk about his childhood in a West Bank village outside of Jerusalem, how he became radicalized after the tragedy that hit his family, and how he changed direction - turning into one of the most prominent peace activists in this region. I hope he inspires you as much as he has inspired me. Support the show


Nof Atamna: "When chefs take Palestinian food and call it Israeli, it erases our identity"

Hey everybody! The first episode of “Otherwise Occupied” is here, and it’s a blast. I was honored to host Nof Atamna, the first Arab chef to win the Israeli production of Master Chef. We talked about the pandemic, about the racism she’s dealt with, and a whole lot about food - specifically Palestinian cuisine and how important it is to her identity. Support the show


Intro to Otherwise Occupied

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