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Israeli Journalist Amira Hass Sparks Furor at Home for Defending Palestinian Right to Resist

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Amira Hass, the only Jewish-Israeli journalist to have spent almost 20 years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank, recently suffered a torrent of hate mail and calls for her prosecution after she wrote an article defending the right of Palestinians to resist violent occupation. In the article, Hass defended the throwing of stones by Palestinian youth at Israeli soldiers, calling it “the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule.” Hass said Israelis remain in denial about “how much violence is used on a daily basis against Palestinians. They don’t like to be told that someone has the right to resist their violence.” Hass joins us to discuss the reaction to her piece and her response to the latest regional visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Despite vows to revive peace talks and free up the Palestinian economy, Hass says the Obama administration wants to preserve the status quo of occupation. [includes rush transcript]

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StoryOct 21, 2009International Women’s Media Foundation Honors Israeli Journalist Amira Hass with 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Israel, where Secretary of State John Kerry has just concluded his third visit to the region in less than three weeks. His trip was intended to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which have been stalled for more than four years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kerry both claimed progress had been made toward possible peace talks. To that end, Kerry pledged Tuesday to work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to boost economic growth in the occupied West Bank.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We agreed among us—President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu and ourselves—that we are going to engage in new efforts, very specific efforts, to promote economic development and to remove some of the bottlenecks and barriers that exist with respect to commerce in the West Bank.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, while Secretary of State Kerry was visiting Israel, Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian photographer in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet in the Aida refugee camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Mohammad Waleed Al-Azza was shot during clashes that took place between Israeli soldiers invading the camp and local youths who were hurling stones at them.

Another journalist, Israeli journalist Amira Hass, has suffered a torrent of hate mail and calls for her prosecution after she wrote an article defending the rights of Palestinians to resist violent occupation. In the article, Amira Hass defends the throwing of stones by Palestinian youth at Israeli soldiers, calling it, quote, “the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule,” unquote. Amira Hass says Israelis remain in denial about, quote, “how much violence is used on a daily basis against Palestinians. They don’t like to be told that someone has the right to resist their violence,” she wrote.

Well, to talk more about the situation is the journalist herself. Amira Hass joins us now, Haaretz correspondent for the occupied Palestinian territories, the only Jewish-Israeli journalist to have spent almost 20 years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.

It’s great to have you with us here in New York, Amira.

AMIRA HASS: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what this article said. You wrote it for Haaretz?

AMIRA HASS: That’s right. It was published last week. And I think it’s not the first time that I write that Palestinians have the right to resist, like any other group which is suffering the oppression or repression. And I wrote several things. Maybe the main thing was that the Israeli occupation is the source of violence. I mean, this is violence. The Israeli policies are institutionalized violence. Even when there is no physical force used, it is always violent.

And then I was posing the question, how come that Palestinians schools do not teach kids to resist, forms of resistance? And I also wrote—I also said something about the restrictions that there are on forms of resistance, like, I said, of course, a distinction between an armed person and a civilian, or a child and a person with uniform. I made this distinction, but I didn’t think it—I mean, it’s not that we have always to defend and to explain why this resistance has to be so or so or so. The main thing to concentrate on is the violence of the ruler and the domination.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Amira Hass, as you point out, you’ve made the same points in other articles you’ve written.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: But the criticism of this piece, in particular, was quite widespread. And I want to turn to one of the critics of your article. This is Adva Bitton, the mother of three-year-old Adele. Adele, the three-year-old, was critically injured in a stone-throwing incident last month. And the mother wrote in the Hebrew daily Ma’ariv, quote, “I agree with you that everyone deserves their freedom. Arab and Jew alike. I agree with you that we all ought to aspire to liberty, but there isn’t a person on earth who will achieve freedom and liberty by means of an instrument of death. There’s no reason on earth that Adele, my three-year-old daughter, should have to lie in the intensive care unit now, connected to tubes and fighting for her life, and there is no reason, Amira, for you to encourage that.” Can you—


NERMEEN SHAIKH: —respond to this?

AMIRA HASS: No, I don’t want to respond.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened? What happened to her daughter?

AMIRA HASS: She drove—she visited friends or family in one of the settlements in the West Bank, and while they were driving back home, some kids from a village are said to have thrown stones, and one hit—one hit her. She made a turn, and she bumped into a truck, and they were wounded, yes.

I don’t think I have to respond to this. It’s her pain, and I don’t—like, people could come and bring the stories of hundreds of Palestinian children who are killed and wounded by Israeli [inaudible], by Israeli bullets and by Israeli tear gas and, I don’t know, whatever. I’m against asymmetry. And I think that I explain very well in my article the differences and the distinction that one has to take.

But the fact is that Israelis—I mean, that we maintain our hegemony with the use of almost unlimited power—I mean, with unlimited institutional power against the Palestinians. And Palestinians have tried many ways—diplomatic ways and other ways—to resist this Israeli domination, and it has not succeeded. Stone throwing is a sort of a message, and the Israelis don’t listen to it. Twenty-five years ago, with the First Intifada, Israelis did listen to this message. I mean, they did understand that this is a message of—it’s not in order to kill, it’s not in order to hit somebody, but it’s in order to tell: “You are unwelcome visitors in our midst.”

NERMEEN SHAIKH: OK, so what accounts for the change? Why were Israelis more amenable or open to understanding stone throwing 25 years ago—


NERMEEN SHAIKH: —during the First Intifada? What about now?

AMIRA HASS: I think the main—it’s the main, you could say, achievement of the Oslo process, that the benefits of the occupation have been much—have been really entrenched and reached larger segments of the Israeli society.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: By which you mean? Profits in what sense?

AMIRA HASS: Economical profits. You know, it is occupation deluxe: We don’t have—we have the benefits of the occupation; we don’t have the responsibility of taking care of the population. We have delegates who actually put the people under control. I mean, that’s the Palestinian police, Palestinian security agencies. So it is not really—the onus of occupation is not felt as it was felt maybe 25 years ago, when so many Israeli soldiers were amidst Palestinians in the cities and when Israel had to take some kind of care about health and cleaning the streets and water distribution. Now all the responsibility is on the Palestinians and on the PA.

And then, of course, you grew—I mean, you talk about drones. I mean, I think that the Israeli industry of arms has developed very much in the past 25 years. And the form—this form of arms that is very much—that fits into a world of containment, into policies of containment, not the conventional wars, but the wars which are meant to quell social unrest.


AMIRA HASS: And we fit into this—

AMY GOODMAN: Amira, the significance of Secretary of State John Kerry going to Israel, and what you believe the role of the U.S. should be right now?

AMIRA HASS: I think that the role of the U.S. is—I mean, they want to keep the—to maintain the status quo, that the Palestinians keep quiet and keep this fake process of endless negotiation, so the negotiation becomes an end to itself and not a means to reach their independence. So, they again will try to extract from Israel some promises for gestures. And I’ve been—I’ve been hearing this for 20 years. Economical progress, which is really an impossible thing. It’s a—you cannot both maintain Israeli control over 60 percent of the West Bank and continue to divide Gaza from the West Bank and continue to forbid Gazans from exporting their products and have economical progress. I mean, Kerry will soon see that he has failed just as others before. But I don’t think it’s failure, because he wants—I mean, the policy, the U.S. policy, is to maintain—to keep the status quo going. I mean, this kind.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You also suggest an article that the Palestinian Authority is interested in maintaining the status quo.

AMIRA HASS: It is, yeah.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you explain? Why is that?

AMIRA HASS: It has become—maybe it’s not interested, as it has become second nature of the Palestinian Authority. Some—some for personal reasons, because, you know, there is a strata that also benefits from the status quo, and because they don’t see any—any near real—any near real solution, or they don’t—there is not a feeling that we’re near a fair solution. So at least they can maintain the status quo, which benefits stratas—and not only benefits in the bad sense of the word; I mean, I see many people who are tired of fighting. So they want to keep—to have these several years to be able to care for their families, to send their children to better education, to travel in the world or something. So it’s a very normal aspirations for the time being, because there is a sense that politically nothing is—no fair solution is near. And there is also—it became also a second nature of the PA to think only about diplomatic means and not means which involve the general—the people.

AMY GOODMAN: Amira, we just have 20 seconds. But you were awarded here in 2009 by the International Women’s Media Foundation for your courage, for your lifetime achievement. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour introduced you, describing you as “one of the [greatest] truth-seekers of them all.” You have been in the Occupied Territories for 20 years, the only Jewish-Israeli reporter to live there. Do you think the pain will end?

AMIRA HASS: Not in our—not in my lifetime.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.


AMY GOODMAN: You wrote a book about your mother.

AMIRA HASS: Essays, yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Holocaust often used to justify what’s happening to the Palestinians?

AMIRA HASS: Look, our terrible tragedy is that we have two catastrophes, human catastrophes, clashing with each other. And each has its own pains and layers of pain, which do not vanish, even when—the only thing—and this is where I can quote my father, who is a survivor—

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

AMIRA HASS: The difference is, with the Palestinians, it continues and continues and continues.

AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, we’re going to do part two and put it online at democracynow.org.

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International Women’s Media Foundation Honors Israeli Journalist Amira Hass with 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award

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