Sisterhood Blog

Debating Amira Hass' Lifetime Achievement Award

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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A recent full-page ad in The New York Times announced that Israeli journalist Amira Hass will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation at an October 20 luncheon at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Hass is a reporter and columnist at the influential Israeli newspaper Haaretz who is best known for her coverage of the daily life of Palestinians, and for her sympathetic perspective toward them.

According to the IWMF’s press release:

For almost 20 years Hass has written critically about both Israeli and Palestinian authorities. She has demonstrated her ability to defy boundaries of gender, ethnicity and religion in her pursuit of the truth in her reporting. In covering the Palestinian Occupied Territories, her goal has been to provide her readers with detailed information about Israeli policies and especially that of restrictions of the freedom of movement.”

For many years, she made her home first in Gaza City and then in Ramallah. In 2002 the Los Angeles Times reported that Hass “is the only Israeli Jew known to be living under Palestinian rule and one of a handful of Jewish reporters who still cross enemy lines for the Israeli media.”

The award to the controversial journalist, who still lives in Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority, has sparked criticism in the Jewish blogosphere.

The staunchly right-wing pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) wrote on its blog here that “President Obama isn’t the only one receiving awards based on as-yet-unattained accomplishments.”

The blog continues:

Presumably, her “ability to defy boundaries” includes her two illegal entries into the Gaza Strip this year. Likewise, her “pursuit of the truth” apparently include her understatement concerning the amount of industrial fuel that Israel permits into the Gaza Strip, her misrepresentation of the Gaza Strip’s medical situation, and her false description of certain West Bank roads as “Jewish only.”

Phyllis Chesler, the feminist and anti-Islamist writer, on her blog, describes Hass’ critique of Israel as one which “constitutes a veritable Blood Libel.”

Chesler writes:

Hass describes Israel as an “apartheid” state. Her columns in Ha’aretz, a left-leaning Israeli newspaper, are often stomach-turning.

Chesler goes on to cite a 1996 interview Hass did with The Jerusalem Post:

Apparently, when Hass first moved to Gaza she felt “most comfortable (as a single woman) veiling her face, saying ‘it was not up to me to lead the feminist struggle in Gaza.” The same journalist being feted for standing up to Mighty Israel, could not, did not want to, stand up to the forces of Islamic fundamentalism in Gaza.

Hass’s refusal to go bare-faced, as she does in Israel, possibly endangered all those brave women and men in Gaza who initially resisted the veil and, in addition, wrote or talked about honor killings, forced marriage, child marriage, polygamy, and gay rights, subjects which Hass does not focus upon–and which do not exist in Jewish Israel except, sometimes, among Palestinian Israelis.

Other winners of this year’s IWMF awards are female journalists in Belarus, Cameroon and Iran, three of the most oppressive countries in the world, and most dangerous for journalists. Each has faced threats to their lives and arrest in connection to their work.

An email seeking comment from Hass elicited no response.

Iranian patriot Wed. Oct 14, 2009

The Iranian press is also going to give Ms Hass an award for her bravery and her stand against zionism. Zionism is the major health and human rights issue in the world today, and it is amazing that a Jew will stand up to the zionist onslaught. We hope that she will be able to attend the ceremony in Tehran, where she will be granted audiences with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Imam Ali Khamenei

Michael Levin Fri. Oct 16, 2009

Books by Amira Hass:

Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land under Siege (Owl Books, 2000) ISBN 0-8050-5740-4 (with Rachel Leah Jones) Reporting from Ramallah: An Israeli Journalist in an Occupied Land (Semiotext(e), 2003) ISBN 1-58435-019-9 ___

Press Freedom Hero Award //

Bruno Kreisky Human Rights Award

World Press Freedom Prize DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

Anna Lindh Award /template.asp?contentID=4&sub_contentID=1 ____

Amira Hass articles in Ha'aretz:

David K Fri. Oct 16, 2009

n June 2001, Judge Rachel Shalev-Gartel of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ruled that Hass had vilified the Jewish settler community of Beit Hadassah in Hebron, and ordered her to pay 250,000 shekels (about $60,000) in damages. Hass had reported Palestinian eyewitness accounts of Israeli settlers defiling the body of a Palestinian militant killed by Israeli police; the settlers argued that the event did not take place, and said that Hass reported the story with malicious intent. The presiding judge found in favour of the settlers.

Michael Levin Thu. Oct 22, 2009

Acceptance speech by Amira Hass:

AMIRA HASS: Shalom, marhaba.

Allow me to start with a correction. “Ah, how impolite,” you’d rightly think. But anyway, we Israelis are being forgiven for much worse than impoliteness. What is so generously termed today by the International Women’s Media Foundation as my “lifetime achievement” needs to be corrected, because it is failure. Nothing more than a failure. A lifetime failure. Come to think of it, the “lifetime” part is just as questionable. After all, it is about a third of my life, not more, that I have been engaged in journalism. Also, if the “lifetime” part gives you the impression that I am soon going to retire, then this impression has to be corrected, as well. I’m not planning to end soon what I’m doing.

What am I doing? I’m generally defined as a reporter on Palestinian issues. But, in fact, my reports are about the Israeli society and policies, about domination and intoxications. My sources are not secret documents and leaked-out minutes which were taken out of meetings of people with power and in power; my sources are the open ways by which the subjugated are being dispossessed of their equal rights as human beings.

There is still much more to learn about Israel, to learn about my society and about the Israeli decision makers, who invent restrictions such as: Gazan students are not to study in a Palestinian university in the West Bank, some seventy kilometers away from their home. Another ban: children above the age of eighteen are not to visit their Palestinian parents in Gaza, if the parents are well and healthy. If the parents are dying, Israeli order-abiding officials would have allowed a visit. If the children are younger than eighteen, the visit would have been allowed, as well. But on the other hand, second-degree relatives are not allowed to visit dying or healthy siblings in Gaza. It is an intriguing philosophical question, not only journalistic. Think of it. What, for the Israeli system, is so disturbing about reasonably healthy fathers or mothers? What is so disturbing about a kid choosing and getting a better education? And these are but two in a long, long list of Israeli prohibitions.

Also, when I write about the progressively decimated and fragmented Palestinian territory of the West Bank, it’s not just about people losing their family property and livelihood that I write. It’s not only about the shrinking opportunities of people in disconnected, crowded enclaves. It is in fact a story about the skills of Israeli architects. It is a way to learn about how Israeli on-the-ground planning contradicts official proclamations, a phenomenon which collectivizes the acts of all Israeli governments in the past as in the present.

In short, there is so much to keep me busy for another lifetime, or at least for the rest of my lifetime. But, as I said, the real correction is elsewhere. It’s not about achievement that we should be talking here, but about a failure. It is the failure to make the Israeli and international public use and accept correct terms and words which reflect the reality, not the Orwellian Newspeak that has flourished since 1993 and has been cleverly dictated and disseminated by those with invested interests. The peace process terminology, which took reign, blurs the perception of real processes that are going on: a special Israeli blend of military occupation, colonialism, apartheid, Palestinian limited self-rule in enclaves, and a democracy for Jews.

It is not my role as a journalist to make my fellow Israelis and Jews agree that these processes are immoral and dangerously unwise for all of us. It is my role, though, to exercise the right for freedom of the press in order to supply information and to make people know. But as I’ve painfully discovered over the years, the right to know does not mean a duty to know. Thousands of my articles and zillion of words have evaporated. They could not compete with the official language that has been happily adopted by the mass media and is used in order to dis-portray the reality, official language that encourages people not to know. Indeed, a remarkable failure for a journalist.

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