Amira Hass Describes Economic Activity, Political Despair in Territories

Article excerpt

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace sponsored a Nov. 8 event in Washington, DC entitled "Déjà Vu in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Economic Activity; Political Despair." Ambassador Philip Wilcox, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, introduced award-winning Haaretz journalist Amira Hass, known for being one of the only Jewish Israeli journalists to live full-time in Palestine. Hass' mother, Hanna Levy-Hass, survived the Holocaust in Bergen-Belsen before living out her life in Israel. Now her daughter, author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land under Siege(available from the AET Book Club), is one of Palestine's most important voices: the voice of the people.

"Media is an institution that we rely on to hold politicians accountable and report the truth," Ambassador Wilcox noted. Hass would go on to point out in her discussion that the media have become all too comfortable with the status quo.

Hass opened her remarks by discussing two conferences she had attended recently on Palestine. One approached the conflict with questions about diplomacy and the feasibility of a two-state system. The other, a gathering of business people, viewed the solution to the problem from a business standpoint, encouraging economic investment to boost the country's independence. The focus of Hass' discussion moved quickly from the wars of 1948 and '67, the Oslo accords, the recent U.S. mid-term elections, the Israeli government's involvement in Palestinian daily life, and much more. The volley of information wasn't a distraction, however, but more of a crash course in the turbulent history of the two states.

Regarding the "Right of Return" for displaced Palestinians, Hass noted that people assume there is an unlimited framework of time for people to return to their lands and home. This notion, she argued, ignores the brutality of the present occupation and leaves thousands of refugees still without representation. "Things get worse all the time," she said, adding that just because the news is covering a situation doesn't mean it is being resolved.

Critical of the Oslo accords and disappointed by other proposed solutions since then, Hass chided Americans for believing that Palestine is already an independent state. Yes they have their own government, she said, but that government represents only a fraction of the people. …