The uproar in Israel over Amira Hass’s column arguing that Palestinians have a duty to throw stones against the violent occupier is at last coming to the U.S., thanks to Amy Goodman, who brought the great Israel journalist on Democracy Now! yesterday. (I can’t wait for Hass to be paired up with Ben Ehrenreich and Noura Erakat on MSNBC to discuss this stone-throwing issue further– let’s hope).
The interview went beyond the stonethrowing issue to the matter of Israel’s political suicide, the blindness of Israeli society, and the resonance of the Holocaust.
Here are some key excerpts. Goodman introduced Hass by speaking of the controversy over her piece in Israel, not yet reported by our mainstream press:
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.
Hass was asked to explain her argument, and her terms.
AMIRA HASS: I don’t like the term “nonviolent resistance”…. [T]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?
[T]he 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, 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…
Democracy Now staffer Nermeen Shaikh presses Hass on why she doesn’t like the term “nonviolent” resistance.
AMIRA HASS: I’ll tell you why: because it puts the onus of being nonviolent on the occupied rather than on the occupier. And it has the ring of how we please the West in their demands of how to do.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: How is it that you phrase it? Is it “civil disobedience”?
AMIRA HASS: I phrase it “unarmed.”
NERMEEN SHAIKH: “Unarmed.”
AMIRA HASS: And “popular resistance,” “popular resistance.”
This is a great intervention by Amy Goodman, regarding the poverty of the U.S. discourse on the conflict:
AMIRA HASS: You see those kids going throwing stones, as I say, it’s their right. And then they’re being arrested by the hundreds every month. They should be equipped also with the knowledge how to face an interrogator, what are your rights, what lawyer to call when you are arrested. This should be part of the curriculum. Or, you know, going to the demonstrations against the separation wall shouldn’t be only the task of the villagers who suffered from the separation wall. Why not have one week or one day a month or one day in the week—I don’t know—each school going to work with the farmers who have land beyond the separation wall, insist on going—
AMY GOODMAN: You know, for most people who are listening to this… They have no idea what you mean when you say the separation wall.
AMIRA HASS: Oh. Even 10 years after?
AMY GOODMAN: You live in it—
AMIRA HASS: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: But I would say most people don’t.
Hass moves on to the politics, and Israel’s self-destructive course:
people who say that they care for Israel actually assist Israel and Israelis to nurture what I call their suicidal—suicidal character or instincts, because if people think that we can live in that region—we are a minority in that region—so to live forever, for hundreds of years, as a society which is taken as a foreign outpost and as a messenger of another—of a big power, and only rely on our military superiority, I think this is real shortsightedness. This is what I call the suicidal—this is how I see Israel as suicidal. Palestinians and Arab peoples have shown over the past 20 years their willingness to accept this society in the region, but provided it is not a hostile society.
Goodman asks about the legacy of the Holocaust. What a beautiful answer Hass gives, quoting her father:
AMY GOODMAN: You’re the daughter of a Holocaust survivor….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.
Hass sees herself as a failure, when asked about a 2009 award for lifetime achievement:
AMIRA HASS: Yeah, I said it was lifetime failure.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
AMIRA HASS: Well, writing for 20 years, and you realize that it doesn’t—these words don’t change and not—and the situation is only worse. And if I wanted to appeal to Israelis and to tell them—to be kind of a messenger and give them the facts, you know, not—it’s only lately that I started with op-eds—or not lately, but my main task is to give facts. And then you realize that people do not want to read. And I always say the problem in Israel is not institutionalized censorship. We don’t have censorship, or to a great—maybe some military, but not that serious. We can write whatever we want, and we have—we can exercise this right of information. But the people don’t have the duty to know. And that’s maybe the failure.