On 7 October 2011, Amira Hass made her 9th stop of her Canadian tour at the University of Ottawa, organized by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJMPE) and Kairos – Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, and locally sponsored by the University of Ottawa’s Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). If you don’t know her, she is among those Israeli journalists who are sensitive to the Palestinian cause, and writes primarily for Haaretz. Though the main topic she clearly stated at the debut of her talk was “The Militarization of Jews”, her presentation, which was mostly based on personal accounts, tended to drift to and from the main topic. While the choice of topic probably intended to call for an emphasis on commonalities between Palestinians and Jews/ Israelis, I did not feel she succeeded. Here are some of my comments.
- When asked about whether she thinks a two-state or one-state solution for the future of Palestine/ Israel is more appropriate or more likely to unfold, she was critical of the emphasis on such approach to reaching a solution in the first place. While being critical of the approach holds some validity, I found it appalling how she claimed that Palestinians would never accept a one-state solution. Simply put, this is an unfounded claim! As far as I’ve heard, the majority of Palestinians are seeking a solution where they could sustain a very basic standard of living, whether living with or separate from Israelis/ Jews. In fact, much of the literature, documentaries, etc depict precisely that. And I will not make a similarly absurd claim about whether the majority of Israelis want either solution. It was quite irresponsible from a journalist to make such a claim.
- When asked about the recent demonstrations in Tel Aviv and their potential effect on Israeli social justice as well as justice for Palestinians, she did not seem too excited. Her comments gave me no other option than to believe that change in the case of Israel is too complicated to come from within. Of course, we know this is because the case of Israel is different. We also know that the cases of Tunisia and Egypt were “different”, until the revolutions surprised the world and actually yielded some results. I’m no expert on Israeli politics or society, but I don’t assume that it is free from criticism (and maybe more than that) by Israeli citizens. I will not be as naive as Arab (and non-Arab) dictators to believe that change cannot come from within, no matter how strong the larger/ outside factors seem to be.
- Most of the personal accounts that were provided were about Palestinian perspectives and her interpretation of them, positive and negative. If one intends to call for an emphasis on commonalities, it is expected that she also draws attention to Israeli perspectives and her interpretations of them. It is understandable that the very fact that she is an Israeli journalist perhaps sympathizing with the Palestinian cause is in itself a step towards commonalities. However, there was much more that Ms. Hass needed to draw attention to, considering she was addressing a largely non-Palestinian audience.
On a closing note, I personally sympathize with the realities that are faced by many Israelis and Palestinians, more particularly in the context of this talk, the paradoxes that are very clearly faced by some Israelis (who admit it)… as former refugees as well as oppressors.