Gaza Under Attack July 2014

What more horrors are in store for Gaza?

Against the background of the silence – or complicity – of Western political and religious leaders towards Israeli war crimes in Gaza, Stuart Littlewood outlines possible scenarios that could bring about change. More »

Israeli soldiers celebrate Gaza killings

Why do Israelis continue to kill Palestinians?

Alan Hart argues that Zionist brainwashing and the occupation have dehumanized Israeli Jews to the extent that killing Palestinians comes as naturally to them "as pissing when the bladder is full”. More »

Free Gaza and Palestine

Deconstructing the Zionist view of Gaza’s horror

Lawrence Davidson debunks the fantasies and inventions of the Zionist view of the horror in Gaza, as represented by the thoughts of David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Congress. More »

Philip Hammond and Binyamin Netanyahu

Britain dies of shame…

Stuart Littlewood highlights Britain’s continuing shameful policies towards Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people, noting that the new foreign minister, Philip Hammond, is as wedded to Israel as his predecessor, William Hague. More »

Gil Hoffman

BBC lets right-wing Israeli write for its website

Nureddin Sabir says that far from toning down its pro-Israel bias following mass protests, the BBC has allowed a right-wing Israeli journalist to peddle the Israeli view on Gaza. More »

Ben-Gurion airport

Hamas pricks Israel’s soft under-belly

Stuart Littlewood recalls that long before Hamas’s rockets closed Ben-Gurion airport – itself built on stolen land – Israel had destroyed Gaza’s airport, built with international aid and destroyed without a whimper. More »

Israel vs USA

US plays decisive role in Israel’s attack on Gaza

Jonathan Cook argues that Israel’s deception on Gaza aside, of greater concern should be the Obama administration’s decision to back Israel to the hilt and the US media’s silence on the matter. More »

Dead child in Gaza

Slaughter: Israel’s new “self defence”

Stuart Littlewood debunks the weasel-worded excuses dished out by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his newly-appointed foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, in defence of Israel’s blitzkrieg in the Gaza Strip. More »

Competition

Competition corrupts minds and actions

Graham Peebles examines the harmful impact of competition on the individual and society, and argues that for social harmony and justice to prevail, cooperation and sharing must replace competition. More »

Israel Hamas relationship

Israel’s ambiguous relationship with Hamas

Uri Avnery views the absurd propaganda surrounding the current Israeli aggression against Gaza, and examines Israel’s relationship with the Hamas movement, which is more ambiguous than Israelis would have us believe. More »

Daily Archives: April 13, 2013

In defence of Israeli journalist Amira Hass

By Lawrence Davidson

Amira Hass is a reporter for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. She reports on Palestinian affairs in the occupied territories and, over the years, has come to understand the Palestinians’ plight from their own point of view.

Claiming the right of resistance

On 3 April 2013 Hass wrote an op-ed for her newspaper entitled “The inner syntax of Palestinian stone-throwing”, in which she wrote:

It would make sense for Palestinian schools to give classes in resistance: how to build multiple “tower and stockade” villages… how to behave when army troops enter your homes… how to use a video camera to document the violence of the regime’s representatives… how to identify soldiers who have flung you handcuffed to the floor of a jeep, in order to submit a complaint.

Hass has been writing in this fashion since 1991. She and Gideon Levy, another Haaretz reporter, are among the very small number of Israeli journalists who tell the truth about the Israeli occupation. And, as far as I know, they are the only ones who are regularly translated into English.

In this particular op-ed Hass goes on to contextualize the major resistance practice of Palestinian youth’s stone throwing.

Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including eight-year-old children, is an inseparable part – though it is not always spelled out – of the job requirements of the foreign ruler, no less than shooting, torture, land theft, restrictions on movement and the unequal distribution of water sources.

The violence of 19-year-old soldiers, their 45-year-old commanders and the bureaucrats, jurists and lawyers is dictated by reality. Their job is to protect the fruits of violence instilled in foreign occupation – resources, profits, power and privileges.

Finally, Hass asks why such instruction in resistance is absent and answers that it is because the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has decided to “adapt to the existing situation”. This puts the PNA in a position of fearing truly effective resistance as much as the Israeli occupiers do.

Reaction to the claim

Hass’s truth-telling precipitated a flood of protest among Israeli nationalists and expansionists. The hate mail came pouring in to both Hass and her newspaper, and demands that she be prosecuted for “incitement to violence” were made by right wingers and settler groups. One Israeli, the mother of a child seriously injured in a stone-throwing incident, accused Hass of encouraging Palestinians to use deadly violence in their struggle. “There isn’t a person on earth who will achieve freedom and liberty by means of an instrument of death,” she said. Unfortunately, this assertion is historically untrue. It is the opposite that is the case. It’s very rare that any group wins its freedom and liberty except through the use of “instruments of death”. Indeed, armed resistance seeking self-determination against “colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes” is recognized as legitimate under the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. That Israel, not surprisingly, chose not to be a party to the protocol is irrelevant.

Perhaps the most interesting objection to Hass’s position came on 4 April 2013 from Cellu Rozenberg, a historian and “national security specialist”. It too was printed in Haaretz under the title “Amira Hass’ glass house.” In this rebuttal, Rozenberg sometimes misrepresents Hass, as when he asserts that “the claim that stone-throwing is the right of every human being… is futile and invalid, certainly in ethical terms”. What Hass actually said was “throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule”.

But, let us set aside this error and concentrate on a more important assertion. Rozenberg argues:

  • Stone-throwing is a potentially lethal activity and is unacceptable when used against civilians.
  • Rozenberg says that Hass recognizes the legitimacy of this deadly form of resistance in both the occupied territories and inside Israel proper because, she asserts, Palestinians face “institutionalized violence” (albeit in different forms) in both areas. According to Rozenberg, “this is a dangerous crossing of the boundary, because it implies a rejection of the Zionist enterprise”.
  • Rozenberg says Hass’s argument amounts to an assertion that “Zionism and the establishment of the state of Israel are a crime against the Palestinians”. That puts Hass’s position in line with the one taken by Hamas.

In all of these assertions, Rozenberg is twisting Hass’s intent. Rozenberg does not acknowledge that Hass calls on the Palestinians to make a distinction between armed and the unarmed occupiers. Hass indicates in her op-ed that there are limitations and “rules” to be learned when practising resistance “including the failures and narrowness of using weapons”. That certainly puts her in a different place than Hamas. Nonetheless, Rozenberg reveals a seminal question when it comes to the Palestinian struggle: is Israel legitimate or is it “a crime”?

Country versus state ideology

If Israel is a criminal venture, then it has no more right to exist than any other criminal organization. However, it is to be noted that Rozenberg, being a good Zionist, conflates two different things: the country of Israel and the Zionist state philosophy and apparatus that runs that country. Must we see them as the same thing? If it turns out that they can be separated, then can we apply the charge of criminality to one of these and not the other?

Zionists will fiercely insist that the country of Israel was born of the Zionist vision and therefore is inseparable from that ideology. But this is not the way history works. South Africa was born of a European racist vision and for a long time was identified as a manifestation of apartheid. However, that turned out to be an impermanent situation, and since 1994, the country of South Africa has run on a very different model. The country of Russia was founded as the expression of one ideology in the 15th century, transformed into quite a different state in 1917, and then something else again in 1991. If the history of nation-states proves anything at all, it is that state ideologies are much less permanent than the countries they are initially identified with.

So what are we to say about the country of Israel? A good argument can be made that the country, which is now a recognized member of the modern array of nations, has a right to exist. However, at the same time, it can be asserted that its present racist state apparatuses that practice ethnic cleansing and institutionalized discrimination, as well as the Zionist ideology that justifies such practices, are increasingly unacceptable in the modern world and therefore can claim no inherent right to exist.

Conclusion

The vision of the country of Israel with a different form of government, one that functions to support equally the rights of all of its citizens, is a quite sensible one. It is a goal that is being pursued in many ways (for instance, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) and, eventually, has a fair chance of success. And, just so that this writer is clearly understood, this criterion for an acceptable form of government should be a universal one. It makes no difference who the marginalized group is: non-Jews in Israel, Sunnis in Shi’i Iran, Shi’is in Sunni Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, Tamils in Sri Lanka, Muslims in Myanmar, Native Americans in the US, etc (the list is depressingly long). All governments should be pressured to reform in the direction of democratic equalitarianism.

One might dismiss this as naive idealism, but the South African case suggests otherwise. And, one might ask, what are the alternatives for those of an activist frame of mind? Are we to retreat into passive acceptance of the world’s criminality? Are we to bury our heads in the sands of localism and quietude? Are we to join the exploiters and oppressors and reap the material benefits of doing so? There are many choices. Why not follow the example of Amira Hass and choose one that may make the world better?