Assistant News Editor
If the future is to be feared, then Amira Hass wants to tell the world. In fact, she already has.
“Gaza is a big prison, and it has been so for the last 20 years,” began her Oct. 6 lecture to a group of 150 McMaster students and professors. “And it may always be,” she added.
World-renowned and critically acclaimed journalist Amira Hass came to Mac to discuss the contentious issues surrounding the Israeli-Palenstine conflict.
The event, which is a series of lectures sponsored by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, has travelled across Canada. It began in Victoria, British Columbia on Sept. 27 and ended in Montreal, Quebec on Oct. 8.
Beginning as a journalist in the shell-shocked area of Tel Aviv, Israel in 1989, Hass’s career has not been without conflict and controversy. Obstacles such as her gender, ethnicity and nationality – hindrances that would have certainly burdened anyone else – have only enhanced the authority in her message regarding the current state of the Israeli society and the future of Palestinian politics.
As one of the only Jewish-Israeli journalists to live among Palestinians for an extended period of time in Gaza, Hass’s articles have largely taken a critical stand against the Israeli government.
Recently, however, criticism has been sparked regarding the Palestine Fatah party of Yasser Arafat, a Palestine leader and Nobel laureate. With reportage contrary to both Israeli and Palestinian positions, Hass has been threatened, detained and harassed.
Controversy began in 2001, when it was ruled that Hass pay 250,000 shekels for defaming Beit Hadassah, a Jewish settler community, due to Hass’s article that described an eyewitness account of Israeli settlers defiling the body of a Palestinian militant. Contention was only furthered in 2008 when Hass was arrested by Israeli police for being in Gaza without a permit, and for residing in an enemy state. On both accounts, she was released under restriction.
While Hass has received vast criticism and malicious treatment, she has also received numerous awards. Among the many, Hass has been presented with the Gold Dove of Peace Prize awarded by Archivo Disarmo, a Rome-base peace organization, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Woman’s Media Foundation in 2009.
With a tumultuous past informing her lecture, Hass catalogued the future of Israel and Palestine. She highlighted that current policies are “simply not working” in Gaza, attributing it to the finding that “people live in a permanent fear of existence, a very basic fear of existence.”
She added, and restated in an interview with the Palenstine Chronicle that, “Palestinians want to express their rights for self determination in a state. It doesn’t mean that all Palestinians want to live in a state or not with Jews. Jews in Israel have historical reasons to cling to this ‘Jewish state’, but they have to understand that this is becoming more and more contradictory to democracy. The thing is how we work a solution with the reality, to fix the concerns of both peoples in a just way.”
Hass’s lecture comes at a pivotal point in the global community. As Palestine seeks UN recognition, Hass reminds, “it is impossible to reach a one-state solution if we can’t agree on a two-state solution … the two-state solution would not be just, it won’t undo history and the damage done to Palestinians, but if we look at the future, no solution is eternal and permanent. No phase in history is final; they all lead to another phase. The question is what we do now to facilitate and advance ourselves to a better phase.”
Such comments are unique to Hass. Her journalism, although contentious at times, seeks truth rather than political bias, a philosophy she stressed to the audience. She explained that you’re a good journalist “if you write fairly, if you measure all the information you have in order to convey a picture, if you don’t lie, if you check your quotes. But objectivity, there’s nothing like that.”