File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_2001/foucault.0108, message 52


Subject: Power Witness History 
Date: Sun, 26 Aug 2001 00:02:54 +0000


Amira Hass: Life under Israeli occupation - by an Israeli

 >
 > Jewish journalist Amira Hass doesn't merely report on the experiences of
Palestinians on the West Bank - she shares their lives. Robert Fisk meets a
determined and unflinching witness to oppression
 >
 > Robert Fisk
 >
 > 26 August 2001
 >
 > Whenever Amira Hass tries to explain her vocation as a journalist, she 
recalls
a seminal moment in her mother's life. Hannah Hass was being marched from a
cattle train to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen on a summer's day in
1944. "She and the other women had been 10 days in the train from 
Yugoslavia.
They were sick and some were dying. Then my mother saw these German women
looking at the prisoners, just looking. This image became very formative in 
my
upbringing, this despicable 'looking from the side'. It's as if I was there 
and
saw it myself." Amira Hass stares at you through wire-framed glasses as she
speaks, anxious to make sure you have understood the importance of the 
Jewish
Holocaust in her life.
 >
 > In her evocative book Drinking the Sea at Gaza, Hass eloquently explains 
why
she, an Israeli journalist, went to live in Yasser Arafat's tiny, 
garbage-strewn
statelet. "In the end," she wrote, "my desire to live in Gaza stemmed 
neither
from adventurism nor from insanity, but from that dread of being a 
bystander,
from my need to understand, down to the last detail, a world that is, to the
best of my political and historical comprehension, a profoundly Israeli
creation. To me, Gaza embodies the entire saga of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict; it represents the central contradiction of the state of Israel -
democracy for some, dispossession for others; it is our exposed nerve."
 >
 > Now living in the West Bank town of Ramallah - with the Palestinians whom 
many
of her people regard as "terrorists", listening to the Palestinian curses 
heaped
upon "the Jews" for their confiscations and dispossessions and murder squads 
and
settlements - Amira Hass is among the bravest of reporters, her daily column 
in
Ha'aretz ablaze with indignation at the way her own country, Israel, is
mistreating and killing the Palestinians. Only when you meet her, however, 
do
you realise the intensity - the passion - of her work. "There is a 
misconception
that journalists can be objective," she tells me, the same sharp glance to
ensure my comprehension. "Palestinians tell me I'm objective. I think this 
is
important because I'm an Israeli. But being fair and being objective are not 
the
same thing. What journalism is really about - it's to monitor power and the
centres of power."
 >
 > Each day, Amira Hass writes an essay about despair, a chronological 
narrative
she maintains when talking about her own life and about her parents: her 
mother,
a Sarajevo Jew who joined Tito's partisans and was forced to surrender to 
the
Nazis when they threatened to kill every woman in the Montenegrin town of
Cetinje; her father Avraham who spent four years in the Transnistria ghetto,
escaping a plague of typhus only to lose his toes to frostbite.
 >
 > The story of the secular Jews Hannah and Avraham is essential to an
understanding of Amira. "My parents came here to Israel naively. They were
offered a house in Jerusalem. But they refused it. They said: 'We cannot 
take
the house of other refugees.' They meant Palestinians. So you see, it's not 
such
a big deal that I write what I do - it's not a big deal that I live among
Palestinians." Hass became a journalist by default. She had survived on odd 
jobs
- she once worked as a cleaner - and travelled to Holland. "I sensed there 
the
absence of Jewish existence. And this told me many things, especially about 
my
attitude to Israel, how not to be a Zionist. This is my place, Israel, the
language, the people, the culture, the colours..."
 >
 > Hass dropped out of the Hebrew University where she was researching the
history of the Nazis and the attitude of the European left to the Holocaust. 
"I
was stuck. The first intifada broke out and I didn't want to sit in academia
while all this was happening. I used wasta - you know that Arabic word? - to 
get
a copy-editing job on the Ha'aretz news desk in '89." Wasta means "pull" or
"influence". Ha'aretz is a liberal, free-thinking paper, the nearest Israel 
has
to The Independent. When the Romanian revolution broke out, Hass pleaded to 
be
sent to cover the story - she had many contacts from a visit to Bucharest in
1977 - and much to her surprise, Ha'aretz agreed, even though she'd been 
with
the paper only three months.
 >
 > "When I'd gone to Romania before, I felt I had this philosophical
responsibility to taste life under this socialist regime," she says. "It was 
a
thousand times worse than I imagined. There was this terrible pressure - 
life
under Israeli occupation is not as bad as life in Ceausescu's Romania. It 
was
unbelievable suffocation. So I covered the revolution for two weeks and then
went back to the paper. Ha'aretz didn't know if I could write - I knew I 
could.
But I also knew never to look for what all the other journalists are looking
for."
 >
 > In 1990, with her parents' support, she joined a group called Workers'
Hotline, which assisted Palestinians who were cheated by their Israeli
employers. "During the Gulf War, I reached Gaza under curfew - I'd gone to 
give
Palestinians their cheques from Israeli employers. That's when my romance 
with
Gaza started. No Israeli journalist knew or covered Gaza. My editor was very
sympathetic. When in 1993 the 'peace process' broke out" - Hass requests the
inverted commas round the phrase - "Ha'aretz suggested I cover Gaza. One of 
the
editors said: 'We don't want you to live in Gaza.' And I knew at once that I
wanted to live there."
 >
 > From the start, Hass recalls, there was "something very warm about the
Palestinian attitude - there was a lot of humour in these harsh conditions."
When I suggest that this might be something she had recognised in Jews, Hass
immediately agrees. "Of course. I'm an east European Jew and the life of the
shtetl is inbuilt in me. And I guess I found in Gaza a shtetl. I remember
finding refugees from Jabalya camp, sitting on a beach. I asked them what 
they
were doing. And one said he was 'waiting to be 40 years old' - so he'd be 
old
enough to get a permit to work in Israel. This was a very Jewish joke."
 >
 > But Hass found no humour in the Israeli policy of "closure", of besieging
Palestinian towns and throttling their economy and people. "I spotted as 
early
as 1991 that the policy of 'closure' was a very clever step by the Israeli
occupation system, a kind of pre-emptive strike," she says. "The way it
debilitates any kind of Palestinian action and reaction is amazing. 
'Closure'
was also a goal: a demographic separation which means that Jews have the 
right
to move about the space of Mandatory Palestine. The 'closure' policy brought
this to a real perfection."
 >
 > Hass found herself fascinated with the difference between Palestinian 
image
and reality. "Their towns were being portrayed in the Israeli press as a 
'nest
of hornets'. But I really wanted to taste what it means to live under 
occupation
- what it is like to live under curfew, to live in fear of a soldier. I 
wanted
to know what it was like to be an Israeli under Israeli occupation." She has
used that word "taste" again, just as she did about Romania under 
dictatorship.
She says she was still thinking about her mother's trip to Belsen. "It was 
this
idea of not intervening, not changing anything. And luckily, this combined 
in me
with journalism." Hass is possessed of the idea that change can come only
through social movements and their interaction with the press - an odd 
notion
that seems a little illogical.
 >
 > But there is nothing vague about her vocation. "Israel is obviously the 
centre
of power which dictates Palestinian life," she says. "As an Israeli, my task 
as
a journalist is to monitor power. I'm called 'a correspondent on Palestinian
affairs', but it's more true to say that I'm an expert in Israeli 
occupation."
Israeli reaction, she says, is very violent towards her. "I get messages 
saying
I must have been a kapo [a Jewish camp overseer for the Nazis] in my first
incarnation. Then I'll get an e-mail saying: 'Bravo, you have written a 
great
article - Heil Hitler!' Someone told me they hoped I suffered breast cancer.
'Until we expel all Palestinians, there will be no peace,' some of them say. 
I
can't reply to them - there are thousands of these messages."
 >
 > But many Israelis tell Amira Hass to keep writing. "People misled 
themselves
into believing that Oslo was a peace process - so they became very angry 
with
the Palestinians. Part of their anger is directed at me. Israelis do not go 
to
the occupied territories. They do not see with their own eyes. They don't 
see a
Palestinian village with a settler on its land and a village that has no 
water
and needs government permission even to plant a tree, let alone build a new
school. People don't understand how the dispersal of Jewish settlements 
dictates
Israeli control over Palestinian territory."
 >
 > As her mother lay dying this spring, Amira feared that she would be 
trapped by
the Israeli siege of Ramallah - where she now lives - and spent hours 
commuting
the few miles to Jerusalem. Now she is alone. The woman who taught her to
despise those who were "looking from the side" died two months ago.
 >
 > Also from the Middle East section
 >
 > Five die in attack on Israeli outpost
 > Father of Saudi car-bomb victim rejects suspects' TV confessions
 > Palestinians turn militant as their children die
 > Israeli court accuses its soldiers of stoning and humiliating civilians
 > Palestinian activist survives Israeli helicopters strike
 >
 >
 > Return to top
 >
 > Search this site:
 >
 > Have a question? Ask Jeeves!
 >   [IMAGE]
 > Printable Version
 > [Image]
 > [50 Best ... Brighton]
 > [Telme deals - Rome]
 > [Argument - join the debate]
 > [Independent Paper Chase]
 > [Advancement - Student reading]
 >
 >  Legal
 >  Contact us
 >  Using our Content
 >   2001 Independent Digital
 >  (UK) Ltd
 >

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=90702


                           News Business
Digital
People
Sport
UK
World

Citywire
Commentary
Investment Column
Market Reports
News
News Analysis
Outlook
Features
News
Reviews
Obituaries
Profiles
Cricket
Fishing
Football
Golf
Motor Racing
Other
Rugby League
Rugby Union
Sports Active
Sports Politics
Tennis
Education
Environment
Health
Legal
Media
Politics
Science
This Britain
Transport
Ulster
Africa
Americas
Asia China
Australasia
Europe
Middle East
Pacific Rim
Russia
   Money Personal Finance
Property

Insurance
Invest & Save
Loans & Credit
Pensions
Tax
Homes
Mortgages
   Travel Destinations
News and Advice
Themes

Africa
Americas
Australasia and Pacific Rim
Europe
Middle East and Asia
Activity
Culture
Famous Streets
Hotels
Short Breaks
Skiing
   Argument Commentators
Have Your Say
Leading Articles
Podium
Regular Columnists

Alan Watkins
Alexei Sayle
Andreas Whittam Smith
Anne McElvoy
Bruce Anderson
David Aaronovitch
Deborah Orr
DJ Taylor
Donald Macintyre
Fergal Keane
Hamish McRae
Howard Jacobson
Janet Street-Porter
Jo Brand
Joan Smith
John Walsh
Ken Livingstone
Mark Steel
Michael Brown
Miles Kington
Natasha Walter
Philip Hensher
Simon Carr
Steve Richards
Sue Arnold
Terence Blacker
Thomas Sutcliffe
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
   Advancement Career
Higher
Parenting
Schools
Student Money

Business Schools
MBAs
A-Z Colleges
A-Z Degrees
A-Z Universities
Guides
Regions
Which Way?
Primary
Secondary
   Enjoyment Books
Crossword
e-break
Film
Food and Drink
Music
Photography
Theatre

Boyd Tonkin
Interviews
News
Paperbacks
Reviews
Spoken Word
The Literator
Independent Choices
Joke
Features
Film Studies
Interviews
News
Reviews
The Big Picture
Bites
Drink Features
Drinking Out
Eating Out
Food Features
News
Recipes
The Truffler
Wine Club
Features
Interviews
Live Reviews
News
Recorded Reviews
Regular Columns
YR.1 Competition
Dance
Opera
Theatre
26 August 2001 00:45 GMT+1
Home > News  > World  > Middle East

Amira Hass: Life under Israeli occupation - by
an Israeli

Jewish journalist Amira Hass doesn't merely report on the
experiences of Palestinians on the West Bank - she shares their
lives. Robert Fisk meets a determined and unflinching witness
to oppression

Robert Fisk

26 August 2001

Whenever Amira Hass tries to explain her vocation as a journalist, she 
recalls a seminal moment in her
mother's life. Hannah Hass was being marched from a cattle train to the 
concentration camp of
Bergen-Belsen on a summer's day in 1944. "She and the other women had been 
10 days in the train from
Yugoslavia. They were sick and some were dying. Then my mother saw these 
German women looking at
the prisoners, just looking. This image became very formative in my 
upbringing, this despicable 'looking
from the side'. It's as if I was there and saw it myself." Amira Hass stares 
at you through wire-framed
glasses as she speaks, anxious to make sure you have understood the 
importance of the Jewish Holocaust
in her life.

In her evocative book Drinking the Sea at Gaza, Hass eloquently explains why 
she, an Israeli journalist,
went to live in Yasser Arafat's tiny, garbage-strewn statelet. "In the end," 
she wrote, "my desire to live in
Gaza stemmed neither from adventurism nor from insanity, but from that dread 
of being a bystander, from
my need to understand, down to the last detail, a world that is, to the best 
of my political and historical
comprehension, a profoundly Israeli creation. To me, Gaza embodies the 
entire saga of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it represents the central contradiction of the 
state of Israel - democracy for
some, dispossession for others; it is our exposed nerve."

Now living in the West Bank town of Ramallah - with the Palestinians whom 
many of her people regard as
"terrorists", listening to the Palestinian curses heaped upon "the Jews" for 
their confiscations and
dispossessions and murder squads and settlements - Amira Hass is among the 
bravest of reporters, her
daily column in Ha'aretz ablaze with indignation at the way her own country, 
Israel, is mistreating and killing
the Palestinians. Only when you meet her, however, do you realise the 
intensity - the passion - of her
work. "There is a misconception that journalists can be objective," she 
tells me, the same sharp glance to
ensure my comprehension. "Palestinians tell me I'm objective. I think this 
is important because I'm an
Israeli. But being fair and being objective are not the same thing. What 
journalism is really about - it's to
monitor power and the centres of power."

Each day, Amira Hass writes an essay about despair, a chronological 
narrative she maintains when talking
about her own life and about her parents: her mother, a Sarajevo Jew who 
joined Tito's partisans and was
forced to surrender to the Nazis when they threatened to kill every woman in 
the Montenegrin town of
Cetinje; her father Avraham who spent four years in the Transnistria ghetto, 
escaping a plague of typhus
only to lose his toes to frostbite.

The story of the secular Jews Hannah and Avraham is essential to an 
understanding of Amira. "My parents
came here to Israel naively. They were offered a house in Jerusalem. But 
they refused it. They said: 'We
cannot take the house of other refugees.' They meant Palestinians. So you 
see, it's not such a big deal that I
write what I do - it's not a big deal that I live among Palestinians." Hass 
became a journalist by default.
She had survived on odd jobs - she once worked as a cleaner - and travelled 
to Holland. "I sensed there
the absence of Jewish existence. And this told me many things, especially 
about my attitude to Israel, how
not to be a Zionist. This is my place, Israel, the language, the people, the 
culture, the colours..."

Hass dropped out of the Hebrew University where she was researching the 
history of the Nazis and the
attitude of the European left to the Holocaust. "I was stuck. The first 
intifada broke out and I didn't want to
sit in academia while all this was happening. I used wasta - you know that 
Arabic word? - to get a
copy-editing job on the Ha'aretz news desk in '89." Wasta means "pull" or 
"influence". Ha'aretz is a liberal,
free-thinking paper, the nearest Israel has to The Independent. When the 
Romanian revolution broke out,
Hass pleaded to be sent to cover the story - she had many contacts from a 
visit to Bucharest in 1977 -
and much to her surprise, Ha'aretz agreed, even though she'd been with the 
paper only three months.

"When I'd gone to Romania before, I felt I had this philosophical 
responsibility to taste life under this
socialist regime," she says. "It was a thousand times worse than I imagined. 
There was this terrible pressure
- life under Israeli occupation is not as bad as life in Ceausescu's 
Romania. It was unbelievable suffocation.
So I covered the revolution for two weeks and then went back to the paper. 
Ha'aretz didn't know if I
could write - I knew I could. But I also knew never to look for what all the 
other journalists are looking
for."

In 1990, with her parents' support, she joined a group called Workers' 
Hotline, which assisted Palestinians
who were cheated by their Israeli employers. "During the Gulf War, I reached 
Gaza under curfew - I'd
gone to give Palestinians their cheques from Israeli employers. That's when 
my romance with Gaza started.
No Israeli journalist knew or covered Gaza. My editor was very sympathetic. 
When in 1993 the 'peace
process' broke out" - Hass requests the inverted commas round the phrase - 
"Ha'aretz suggested I cover
Gaza. One of the editors said: 'We don't want you to live in Gaza.' And I 
knew at once that I wanted to
live there."

>From the start, Hass recalls, there was "something very warm about the 
Palestinian attitude - there was a
lot of humour in these harsh conditions." When I suggest that this might be 
something she had recognised in
Jews, Hass immediately agrees. "Of course. I'm an east European Jew and the 
life of the shtetl is inbuilt in
me. And I guess I found in Gaza a shtetl. I remember finding refugees from 
Jabalya camp, sitting on a
beach. I asked them what they were doing. And one said he was 'waiting to be 
40 years old' - so he'd be
old enough to get a permit to work in Israel. This was a very Jewish joke."

But Hass found no humour in the Israeli policy of "closure", of besieging 
Palestinian towns and throttling
their economy and people. "I spotted as early as 1991 that the policy of 
'closure' was a very clever step by
the Israeli occupation system, a kind of pre-emptive strike," she says. "The 
way it debilitates any kind of
Palestinian action and reaction is amazing. 'Closure' was also a goal: a 
demographic separation which
means that Jews have the right to move about the space of Mandatory 
Palestine. The 'closure' policy
brought this to a real perfection."

Hass found herself fascinated with the difference between Palestinian image 
and reality. "Their towns were
being portrayed in the Israeli press as a 'nest of hornets'. But I really 
wanted to taste what it means to live
under occupation - what it is like to live under curfew, to live in fear of 
a soldier. I wanted to know what it
was like to be an Israeli under Israeli occupation." She has used that word 
"taste" again, just as she did
about Romania under dictatorship. She says she was still thinking about her 
mother's trip to Belsen. "It was
this idea of not intervening, not changing anything. And luckily, this 
combined in me with journalism." Hass
is possessed of the idea that change can come only through social movements 
and their interaction with the
press - an odd notion that seems a little illogical.

But there is nothing vague about her vocation. "Israel is obviously the 
centre of power which dictates
Palestinian life," she says. "As an Israeli, my task as a journalist is to 
monitor power. I'm called 'a
correspondent on Palestinian affairs', but it's more true to say that I'm an 
expert in Israeli occupation."
Israeli reaction, she says, is very violent towards her. "I get messages 
saying I must have been a kapo [a
Jewish camp overseer for the Nazis] in my first incarnation. Then I'll get 
an e-mail saying: 'Bravo, you have
written a great article - Heil Hitler!' Someone told me they hoped I 
suffered breast cancer. 'Until we expel
all Palestinians, there will be no peace,' some of them say. I can't reply 
to them - there are thousands of
these messages."

But many Israelis tell Amira Hass to keep writing. "People misled themselves 
into believing that Oslo was a
peace process - so they became very angry with the Palestinians. Part of 
their anger is directed at me.
Israelis do not go to the occupied territories. They do not see with their 
own eyes. They don't see a
Palestinian village with a settler on its land and a village that has no 
water and needs government
permission even to plant a tree, let alone build a new school. People don't 
understand how the dispersal of
Jewish settlements dictates Israeli control over Palestinian territory."

As her mother lay dying this spring, Amira feared that she would be trapped 
by the Israeli siege of
Ramallah - where she now lives - and spent hours commuting the few miles to 
Jerusalem. Now she is
alone. The woman who taught her to despise those who were "looking from the 
side" died two months
ago.




_________________________________________________________________
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp


   

Driftline Main Page

 

Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005