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The political geography, of colony and bantustan, is the same on both sides of the Green Line — Amira Hass

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Amira Hass was on Law & Disorder radio this week to comment on the Israeli election. It’s a great, thoughtful interview, listen at the link, in particular her commentary on the “two historiographies of Israel.” Here are some key excerpts.

On predictions of Netanyahu’s defeat:

For me it wasn’t a surprise…. Everybody seemed convinced that…  Zionist Camp would get more seats… I kept saying the right, right wing bloc is very strong it won’t change, maybe something of the configuration within the bloc would change a bit. There wouldn’t be a real shift not even into the center. The Zionist Camp is not leftwing. Netanyahu keeps saying, the left wing, the left wing, and he means the Zionist camp or Labor. Let’s make it clear, it’s at best center-right!

On Labor’s responsibility for the occupation:

It’s the Labor Party which paved the road for where we are today. Not only because the Labor Party are the real experts in the colonial enterprise, and they have been so since the 1930s… The Palestinians gave us and gave Labor a golden opportunity in 1993 when they signed the Oslo Accords…. [Labor] misled so many people, Palestinians included. They did not draft… a deal which says our goal is to reach the two-state solution gradually. They had the gradual without the goal… This was not the invention of Likud, it was the invention of Labor…  All these figures that are embraced as peacemakers– Peres, Rabin, Beilin– arranged a situation that leads nowhere, a status quo in favor of colonialism… The status quo keeps changing in favor of the colonialist Israel. The number of settlers almost doubled since 1992.

This is fascinating. Hass speaks of the promise in Oslo to resolve the difference between the Palestinian history of the conflict and the Israeli one:

[At the time of Oslo, the Palestinians] knew Israelis, they met them either at work or in prison . . . and they accepted the Israeli society. They saw it, they knew it exists. It is there, you cannot make it disappear. So in a way they accepted a more nuanced historiography of the state of Israel… not only as a product of colonialist times, and the colonialist movement… but connected to that part of European history that made it possible.

Without the 12 years of Nazi rule, most of the Jews would not have chosen to move, to emigrate to Palestine. And if Canada, South America had not resisted the emigration of Jews, many Jews would have preferred to emigrate to America not to Palestine. Within the Oslo Accords, from the Palestinian side there was a potential of including these two historiographies which make the state of Israel: the historiography of the colonialist movement…  and on the other hand the historiography of a refuge for people kicked out from the Diaspora against its will, and more or less the only place that they found and felt secure at that time was Palestine, on the backs of the Palestinians. The enormity of this chapter of history should not be overlooked.

Michael Smith analogizes Palestinians to Native Americans. Hass responds:

You cannot compare. Palestinians are not vanishing, Palestinians are not a minority in the region. Indigenous Americans were made a minority very quickly with whites’ immigration. But the Palestinians are not a minority, Palestinians are a majority in the region…

Also, the Israeli policies, we have to be very strict about this, are not genocidal policies. Yes Gaza there was a lot of killing or murder by airplanes in Gaza. But the essence of Israeli oppression and colonialism is not about  elimination of a people, thankfully. It’s almost 70 years since the state of Israel, and the Palestinians as a people, they grow. They were about 2-3 millions, and now they are about 13. So, we’re not talking about genocide, genocidal policies, as the policies of the United States.

On the continuity of the West Bank colonies with earlier periods of Zionist colonization:

The essence of Israeli policies– you can see… an internal Israeli compromise between the DNA urge to expel all Palestinians from the country and the realization that it was impossible. So what does this compromise do? This compromise concentrates Palestinians in bantustans… What Israel did very very artfully and this is again to the credit of the main colonialist philosophy of the Labor Party, it concentrated Palestinians into their areas… You look at the map and you see the Palestinian enclaves. Before Oslo, the map that everybody had in his or her mind – the map of the West Bank was Israeli settlements scattered like spots in the entire West Bank, which was considered Palestinian.

So there were all kinds of Palestinian villages, and Palestinians had the freedom of movement, and Israeli colonies were scattered all around… [Then] the dots of the settlers became the bulk, became the ocean, and the Palestinian villages and towns became the spots, the dots, the enclaves, encircled by Israeli territory. This is the real process of the last 20 years..

When you look at the geography of Palestinians in Israel, it’s the same geography, they are encircled in enclaves. They are deprived of their land. Most of their land has been taken by Jews to settle, even though they are Israeli citizens… They are all packed and cramped in houses without spaces to breathe, without agricultural lands…

The political geography of the Israeli state is very similar on both sides of the Green Line.

On the hope of the Joint List in the last election, of Arab parties:

The good thing that these elections brought us is the Joint List of the Arab parties…. For a group of Israeli activists it was the natural list to vote for… Let’s hope [the Joint List] will be more successful than Matzpen [an anti-Zionist party inside Israel that had its heyday in the 60s and 70s]… I’m a journalist. I’m a leftist first, it’s not a secret.

There was something refreshing about [the Joint List]. The turnout was somewhat disappointing…. but they feel that they can do something to change some of the rules of the game, that they’re not just the passive recipient of their oppression…

I hope this will be a sign also to Palestinians inside the West Bank and Gaza [to overcome] the terrible rift between Hamas and Fatah…

On the rise of Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List:

He… is a novelty. What’s good about him–  maybe he’s not been angered too long. So confronting all that racist, poisonous language, in a very soft way. Very convincing. He doesn’t fall into the trap of shouting or cursing, or whatever.

On the Israeli public’s willing support for the occupation:

Look, in the short run Israelis do profit from the occupation. Because a two state solution– the way we saw it– would have had a dynamics, which slowly, slowly erodes Jewish privileges in the country… You cannot have the pretext of security, you don’t need the army, you cannot explain by security the discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel, and the water of course. Don’t underestimate [the issue of privilege]…. So Israeli Jews vote in general for those who perpetuate the situation of profiteering…

When will they understand that this in the long run might act against us? We have been warning about it for the past 40 years, nearly 50 years. So maybe we are wrong! Their thinking and understanding is as short as their lifespan, and since their lifespan has shown that they profit from the occupation, let’s continue.

I know it’s wrong, but I’m a bit cautious in saying that Israelis don’t understand what’s good for them. They understand what is good for them right now as nationalists with promises from God… So they interpret that this is good for them. We have land deeds from God. Every chapter in the Bible has a land deed for us.

Hass concluded with a question asked by two Palestinians of her in the same week many years ago. First from Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator following a useless session with Israeli negotiators, and then by a farmer attacked by settlers.

Tell me Amira, don’t Israelis think about their grandchildren?



Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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23 Responses

  1. just on March 27, 2015, 11:46 am

    Thanks for this wonderful article about wonderful Amira Hass. Thanks for the link to her impressive, and unfortunately rare, interview.

    I understand what she says about genocide. I also think that it’s not for lack of trying to genocide by the Israelis. There is also the aspect of ethnic cleansing that continues, otherwise there would be no ongoing Nakba. The Israeli “problem” is that the Palestinians are not going to disappear. Neither is Palestine. Their cause is just and right and immutable.

    Without the information and commentary that she (and Gideon Levy) bring to people all over the world, I would have thrown my hands up in despair long ago, and deemed Israel and Israelis as completely and intentionally lost. Their voices give voice to the voiceless, and have for a long time. May they stay safe and strong as we all move forward toward justice for the Palestinians.

    • ziusudra on March 28, 2015, 3:24 am

      Greetings just,
      Very laudable of Ms Amira. Brava!

      ….The Israeli ‘Problem’ is that the Palestinians are not going to disappear….

      Who or what has helped Palestinians since 67? No one, nothing.
      The Conquerors will find a way around 100% BDS.
      The majority of Israelis & Palestinians don’t have a
      ‘Botte de Chambre’ (Poo Pot).
      Palestinians should circumvent the Zio Dhimmi & become proper
      Jewish State Citizens. Outbreed them in a few Generations changing the Demoscopy in their favor in a Democracy being just as deceiful as the Israeli Goverments from 48 have been to them.
      PS Not even the US would allow genocide or mass deportation of the Palestinians.

    • ramzijaber on March 28, 2015, 9:42 am

      +1 just.

      The entire piece is so great.

      I recall growing up that the only party we ever heard off or felt its impact (since as the colonized people we were not directly immersed in internal zionist politics) was the labor party.

      The labor party is the party that connived globally as a zionist movement to steal Palestine by blackmailing western powers and “holocaust-guiltying” them into giving zionists Palestine.

      The labor party is the party that terrorized, forced, and tricked Palestinians into leaving their homes in 1948 and 1967.

      The labor party is the party that refused to allow 1948 and 1967 Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

      The labor party is the party that attacked Egypt in 1956 and Palestine in 1967.

      The labor party is the party that treated and kept Palestinian Israeli citizens of 1948 as second class citizens.

      The labor party is the party that made the strategic decision to build illegal colonies in post-1967 Palestine and very actively expanded these colonies to prevent a 2SS on the ground.

      The labor party is the party that terrorized and imprisoned us on a daily basis since 1967.

      The labor party is the party that built nuclear weapons.

      The labor party is the party that set the entire ME on a path that got us to today.

      The labor party is no angel!

      All zionists are the same, unified in their one goal – take over all of Palestine and cleanse it of Palestinians – but go about it differently.

      I take nutnyahoo and his right wing nuts anytime over the hypocrite labor and so-called left.

  2. ckg on March 27, 2015, 11:53 am

    Speaking of the green line, according to Haaretz today:

    Central Command chief Nitzan Alon signed an order applying Israel’s penal code to Palestinians in the West Bank, hours before he left office earlier this week.

    An aspect that will not apply to the West Bank is the so-called Shai Dromi amendment enacted in 2008, which exempts a person from criminal responsibility for an “act urgently required to ward off someone who breaks into his home, business or farm.”

    Therefore West Bank Palestinians won’t be able to defend themselves from settler attacks. But the interesting thing is

    The Justice Ministry feared that applying the same procedures to the West Bank could be interpreted as an annexation of the territory, but it agreed to the amendment in a bid to achieve legal clarity and to protect defendants’ rights.

    Was the West Bank just annexed?

    • just on March 27, 2015, 12:01 pm

      Perhaps it was.

      Not much that Israel does surprises me anymore.

    • adpucci on March 28, 2015, 11:34 am

      yeah only just. before it was a truly independent state…

  3. just on March 27, 2015, 2:40 pm

    This following article belongs here with Amira Hass, imho:

    “Runners ‘hit the wall’ in Third Palestine Marathon

    Held in the West Bank city, the marathon was won by Gazan runner Nader al-Masri, whose house was destroyed in last summer’s war.

    Some 3,000 Palestinian and international runners turned out for the third Palestine Marathon in the Bethlehem area on Friday.

    The full marathon was won by Nader al-Masri of Gaza, who said he normally trains “between the rubble of destroyed homes.”

    Racers ran two laps of the same route, because organizers said they had been unable to find 42 kilometers of uninterrupted road under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

    There were also 10 kilometer and half-marathon races.

    “I am very, very happy and delighted,” Masri told the Toronto Star after winning the race.

    The marathon was held under the auspices of the Palestine Olympic Committee and the “Right to Movement” collective, which promotes the right to movement of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

    “I think people are tired of hearing about our conflict… but we still need people to understand how we’re suffering. The idea is to use a different way to transmit our message,” said George Zeidan, 25, a marathon organizer from East Jerusalem.

    “People start questioning: Why? What’s this wall? What are these refugee camps? We want to give people awareness — it’s the most important thing in Palestine.”

    Masri, one of four Palestinian athletes to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, was competing in the marathon for the first time. Israeli authorities denied him permits to leave Gaza in 2013 and 2014…

    …Running in Bethlehem sent a powerful message, he said. “We are one people, and one country. There is no difference between Gaza and the West Bank. Palestine is one.”

    “Marathon runners often ‘hit a wall’ under the physical and emotional strain of the 42-kilometer course,” said James W. Rawley, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. “But in the occupied Palestinian territory you literally hit the Wall well before that distance.””

  4. Citizen on March 28, 2015, 6:36 am

    Exodus, starring Paul Newman, is playing on my tv right now. The scene where the Hollywood Arabs and Jews have almost the same sounding word for peace, so let’s sing & dance the well known Jewish song of good will.

  5. msmoore on March 28, 2015, 7:00 am

    “Tell me Amira, don’t Israelis think about their grandchildren? ”

    Does President Obama? Does he wonder what his own children will think?

  6. ramzijaber on March 28, 2015, 9:29 am

    As I always maintained but Amira nailed it so eloquently: ‘The Zionist Camp is not leftwing. It’s at best center-right!'”.

    All the zionists are the same. Only way forward is 1SS (1S1P1V). 2SS is dead.

  7. just on March 28, 2015, 12:24 pm

    This guy is has gone way off the deep end and way, way too far. If this is what he said, he is definitely not fit to lead or advise anyone in “religious affairs”, imho.

    “Arab states should “strike” Gaza like Yemen, says advisor to Mahmoud Abbas

    A senior Palestinian Authority official has called on Arab states to “strike” Gaza, following the example of the Saudi-led bombing raids on Yemen.

    Arab states have a duty to “strike those who have violated legitimacy with an iron fist, regardless of the place, time or circumstances, beginning with Palestine,” said Mahmoud al-Habbash, religious affairs advisor to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.

    “What happened in Gaza was a coup, not a division, and it must be addressed with firmness,” added Al-Habbash, who is also the PA’s chief Islamic justice. “There can be no dialogue with coup-makers; they must be hit with an iron fist.”

    Al-Habbash made his comments, which were reported by the official Palestinian news agency, in a Friday sermon at the mosque in the PA’s Ramallah headquarters.

    Officials of Abbas’ Ramallah-based, Western-supported PA regularly accuse Hamas of carrying out a “coup” when it took over the interior of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

    This is a reversal of the well-documented reality that Hamas was acting against a coup attempt by forces loyal to Abbas, after Hamas won legislative elections the previous year.

    The coup, which was supported at the highest levels of the US government, succeeded in the West Bank, where Abbas consolidated his Israeli-backed control.

    Meanwhile, the democratically elected Hamas-led government was isolated and besieged in Gaza…

    …Perpetuating Gaza’s suffering

    Al-Habbash’s statement “is really frustrating to hear,” Dr. Ramy Abdu, chairperson of the independent group Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights (, told The Electronic Intifada from Gaza City.

    “I believe that al-Habbash is part of a group that tries to perpetuate Gaza’s suffering and which have no problem letting fellow Palestinians suffer for their own benefit,” Abdu added.”

    • bintbiba on March 28, 2015, 12:48 pm

      “Just’ ,

      Treachery, perfidy, I’m running out of vocabulary. !!!!

      When will we be rid of these blackguards……in the name of so called religious fervour , they speak , they preach evil towards their fellow creatures .

      When will we be rid of all this insanity ?!!!

      • just on March 28, 2015, 1:04 pm

        @ bintbiba “When will we be rid of all this insanity ?!!”

        When we put our faith in the good old Golden Rule and not in mortals. When we disavow their power over us. When we put that Golden Rule into action. When we broaden our minds and our relationships to include rather than exclude. I could go on, but you probably know what I mean.

        I fail to see why any “leader” would have to have any official “religious adviser”, anyway.

    • rightcoaster on March 29, 2015, 8:53 pm

      This is a good illustration of the pervasive naivete of Mondoweiss: advocating civil war between Hamastan and Abbastan, just another same-old same-old manifestation of the pervasive problem of most of the Muslim world (Mondomuslimi), to which Mondoweissniks are ideologically oblivious. All that’s lacking is a porous border, or (for Hamastan) a port on the Med as well as tunnels into Egypt. With whom will the Israeli government make peace, and under what security terms that will be honored for more than a week? It’s no good to blame Israel on or for colonialism, since the proprietary kingdoms of Arabia, (trans)Jordan, and Iraq are identical results of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire … but the only one of those carveouts that has succeeded. The combined list actually constitutes a significant voting bloc in a real, functioning parliamentary democratic republic. Might the Shia in Saudia be envious? The women anywhere in Mondomuslimi? The Bahai in Iran?

      • just on March 29, 2015, 10:42 pm


      • RoHa on March 30, 2015, 2:19 am

        “It’s no good to blame Israel on or for colonialism, since the proprietary kingdoms of Arabia, (trans)Jordan, and Iraq are identical results of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire”

        Not so. Palestine was held back from independence while foreigners poured in with the intent of taking over the country from the native people. It is those foreigners who were the colonialists.

  8. just on March 28, 2015, 1:39 pm

    Wonderful opinion piece in LAT, imo.

    “They’re Palestinians, not ‘Israeli Arabs’

    Can you imagine reading an editorial in a respected newspaper today discussing the rights of “Negroes” or “Chinamen”? Probably not. And yet, like other newspapers in this country, The Times continues to use the generic term “Arabs” or “Israeli Arabs” to refer to the Palestinians who live inside Israel, falsely distinguishing them from the Palestinians who live in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 or those who were driven into exile during the destruction of Palestine in 1948. …

    …As these declarations remind us, the Palestinians inside Israel are the remnant of the Palestinian people who survived the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, when the majority of the country’s Muslim and Christian population was driven into exile in what Palestinians call the Nakba. As Adalah puts it most succinctly, their political status “was changed against their will, making them a minority in their homeland.” Adalah adds, “they did not relinquish their national identity.”…

    …..Just as Palestinians existed as a people before the dismemberment of their homeland, they continue to exist as a people afterward. To refer to some Palestinians as Palestinian and others merely as deracinated “Arabs” is to doubt or negate their claim to a national existence as a people both historically and in the present. And in any case, it’s not up to The Times — or anyone else — to determine who counts as Palestinian and who doesn’t.

    In fact, to use the ethnic term “Arab” to describe the Palestinians inside Israel is to strip them of any national identity — not only the national identity that they themselves assert, but quite literally any national identity whatsoever, given that, according to a 2013 ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court, “Israeli” is not a national identity. (For all its loose talk of democracy, Israel considers itself, after all, the state of the Jewish people rather than the state of its actual citizens or of those over whom it rules.) To reduce and describe people merely as an ethnicity shorn of national identity is, even if implicitly, to negate their political identity and to deny their rights, which, especially in this case, has very disturbing implications.

    Moreover, to use different designations for the Palestinians inside Israel and the Palestinians in the occupied territories and in exile is to obscure, if not to deny altogether, the unity and continuity of the Palestinian people. The fact that the Palestinians inside Israel are an integral part of the Palestinian people is absolutely central to the history of this conflict as well as key to its resolution. Times readers will have no way of knowing that, given the newspaper’s use of different designations for different parts of the Palestinian people.

    Finally, and most importantly, Palestinians themselves — those inside Israel and those in the occupied territories and around the world — have asserted their identity as a people. It’s unacceptable to deny or at best ignore these assertions, to look the other way, or pretend not to hear, when a people insists that they are a people and that they have a right to freedom and a will to be free.”

    “Saree Makdisi, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA, is the author of “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.””

    (found via Max B.)

    • ritzl on March 28, 2015, 2:27 pm

      Wow, just! That really is remarkable. Taking precious LAT real estate to elevate Palestinian identity is a sign the debate has changed in the most fundamental way, and for the better.

    • rightcoaster on March 29, 2015, 9:02 pm

      “Palestinian people” is a dangerously stupid concept in the ME. After all, there are Palestinian Arabs who have different faiths — but who would not be able to practice their faiths under ANY Muslim government; the Muslim majority is most unlikely to permit such freedom, vide anywhere outside Israel today. There also were “Palestinians” who were, and are, not Arabs — but under what concept would they be allowed? There is no precedent in Mondomulimi, and the present situation in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Saudia, Libya, and every other Arab-majority state (except Morocco) seems less than encouraging.

      The article decries “Israeli Arabs”, but we do in fact here in the USofA use the equivalent, “African-American”, “Chinese-American”, and every other hyphenation imaginable. It actually shows a concept that is utterly alien to the primitive tribalists of Mondomuslimi, like Makdisi: pluralism. Yet you children of privilege and pluralism sop it up like the pablum it is, uncritically.

      • just on March 29, 2015, 10:39 pm

        “It actually shows a concept that is utterly alien to the primitive tribalists of Mondomuslimi, like Makdisi: pluralism. Yet you children of privilege and pluralism sop it up like the pablum it is, uncritically.”

        What and who are you to go all argumentum ad hominem on anyone? Is your new pathetic ethnic slur self- generated or issued by Hasbara Central?

        You came out of hibernation for this?


      • ziusudra on March 30, 2015, 11:41 am

        Greetings rightcoaster,
        I’m an Italo/Greco lapsed Catholic, loathing Zio Israelis, Evangelical zio hegemonial USers and a 50 yr. ex-Pat in Germany!
        What’s yours?
        PS I like Mondomuslimi. The italic pref & suff. It tickles me.

  9. gracie fr on March 28, 2015, 4:18 pm

    I concur with Amira Hass that there was never going to be a final “Peace Agreement”
    between Israelis and Palestinians and that Oslo was a sham from the beginning. So many “resolution” clauses were purposely open ended with the telltale adjuncts of…”as yet to be determined; in the advent of mutual understanding; in reciprocity to “their good will”; pending further negotiations….etc. And with a thoroughly demonized Yasser Arafat, deemed by Labor Premiere Ehud Barak, wholly responsible for the opportune Second Intifada (….Sharon’s visit, which was coordinated with Palestinian Authority West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub….)
    it was obvious that there would never be a partner for peace on the Palestinian side.

    …..Barak seems to hold out no chance of success for Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, should they somehow resume, so long as Arafat and like-minded leaders are at the helm on the Arab side. He seems to think in terms of generations and hesitantly predicts that only “eighty years” after 1948 will the Palestinians be historically ready for a compromise. By then, most of the generation that experienced the catastrophe of 1948 at first hand will have died; there will be “very few ‘salmons’ around who still want to return to their birthplaces to die.” (Barak speaks of a “salmon syndrome” among the Palestinians—and says that Israel, to a degree, was willing to accommodate it, through the family reunion scheme, allowing elderly refugees to return to be with their families before they die.) He points to the model of the Soviet Union, which collapsed roughly after eighty years, after the generation that had lived through the revolution had died. He seems to be saying that revolutionary movements’ zealotry and dogmatism die down after the passage of three generations and, in the case of the Palestinians, the disappearance of the generation of the nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948 will facilitate compromise.
    I asked, “If this is true, then your peace effort vis-à-vis the Palestinians was historically premature and foredoomed?”
    Barak: “No, as a responsible leader I had to give it a try……….”

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