The political geography, of colony and bantustan, is the same on both sides
of the Green Line – Amira Hass
March 27, 2015
Amira Hass was on Law & Disorder radio this week to comment on the
Israeli election. It’s a great, thoughtful interview, listen at the link, in
particular her commentary on the “two historiographies of Israel.” Here are
some key excerpts.
On predictions of Netanyahu’s defeat:
For me it wasn’t a surprise…. Everybody seemed convinced that…
Zionist Camp would get more seats… I kept saying the right, right wing
bloc is very strong it won’t change, maybe something of the configuration
within the bloc would change a bit. There wouldn’t be a real shift not even
into the center. The Zionist Camp is not leftwing. Netanyahu keeps saying,
the left wing, the left wing, and he means the Zionist camp or Labor. Let’s
make it clear, it’s at best center-right!
On Labor’s responsibility for the occupation:
It’s the Labor Party which paved the road for where we are today. Not only
because the Labor Party are the real experts in the colonial enterprise, and
they have been so since the 1930s… The Palestinians gave us and gave Labor a
golden opportunity in 1993 when they signed the Oslo Accords…. [Labor] misled so many people, Palestinians included. They did not draft… a deal
which says our goal is to reach the two-state solution gradually. They had
the gradual without the goal… This was not the invention of Likud, it was
the invention of Labor… All these figures that are embraced as peacemakers–
Peres, Rabin, Beilin– arranged a situation that leads nowhere, a status quo
in favor of colonialism… The status quo keeps changing in favor of the
colonialist Israel. The number of settlers almost doubled since 1992.
This is fascinating. Hass speaks of the promise in Oslo to resolve the
difference between the Palestinian history of the conflict and the Israeli
[At the time of Oslo, the Palestinians] knew Israelis, they met them either
at work or in prison . . . and they accepted the Israeli society. They saw
it, they knew it exists. It is there, you cannot make it disappear. So in a
way they accepted a more nuanced historiography of the state of Israel… not
only as a product of colonialist times, and the colonialist movement… but
connected to that part of European history that made it possible.
Without the 12 years of Nazi rule, most of the Jews would not have chosen to
move, to emigrate to Palestine. And if Canada, South America had not
resisted the emigration of Jews, many Jews would have preferred to emigrate
to America not to Palestine. Within the Oslo Accords, from the Palestinian
side there was a potential of including these two historiographies which
make the state of Israel: the historiography of the colonialist movement…
and on the other hand the historiography of a refuge for people kicked out
from the Diaspora against its will, and more or less the only place that
they found and felt secure at that time was Palestine, on the backs of the
Palestinians. The enormity of this chapter of history should not be
Michael Smith analogizes Palestinians to Native Americans. Hass responds:
You cannot compare. Palestinians are not vanishing, Palestinians are not a
minority in the region. Indigenous Americans were made a minority very
quickly with whites’ immigration. But the Palestinians are not a minority,
Palestinians are a majority in the region…
Also, the Israeli policies, we have to be very strict about this, are not
genocidal policies. Yes Gaza there was a lot of killing or murder by
airplanes in Gaza. But the essence of Israeli oppression and colonialism is
not about elimination of a people, thankfully. It’s almost 70 years since
the state of Israel, and the Palestinians as a people, they grow. They were
about 2-3 millions, and now they are about 13. So, we’re not talking about
genocide, genocidal policies, as the policies of the United States.
On the continuity of the West Bank colonies with earlier periods of Zionist
The essence of Israeli policies– you can see… an internal Israeli compromise
between the DNA urge to expel all Palestinians from the country and the
realization that it was impossible. So what does this compromise do? This
compromise concentrates Palestinians in bantustans… What Israel did very
very artfully and this is again to the credit of the main colonialist
philosophy of the Labor Party, it concentrated Palestinians into their
areas… You look at the map and you see the Palestinian enclaves. Before
Oslo, the map that everybody had in his or her mind – the map of the West
Bank was Israeli settlements scattered like spots in the entire West Bank,
which was considered Palestinian.
So there were all kinds of Palestinian villages, and Palestinians had the
freedom of movement, and Israeli colonies were scattered all around…
[Then] the dots of the settlers became the bulk, became the ocean, and the
Palestinian villages and towns became the spots, the dots, the enclaves,
encircled by Israeli territory. This is the real process of the last 20
When you look at the geography of Palestinians in Israel, it’s the same
geography, they are encircled in enclaves. They are deprived of their land.
Most of their land has been taken by Jews to settle, even though they are
Israeli citizens… They are all packed and cramped in houses without spaces
to breathe, without agricultural lands…
The political geography of the Israeli state is very similar on both sides
of the Green Line.
On the hope of the Joint List in the last election, of Arab parties:
The good thing that these elections brought us is the Joint List of the Arab
parties…. For a group of Israeli activists it was the natural list to vote
for… Let’s hope [the Joint List] will be more successful than Matzpen [an
anti-Zionist party inside Israel that had its heyday in the 60s and 70s]…
I’m a journalist. I’m a leftist first, it’s not a secret.
There was something refreshing about [the Joint List]. The turnout was
somewhat disappointing…. but they feel that they can do something to change
some of the rules of the game, that they’re not just the passive recipient
of their oppression…
I hope this will be a sign also to Palestinians inside the West Bank and
Gaza [to overcome] the terrible rift between Hamas and Fatah…
On the rise of Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List:
He… is a novelty. What’s good about him– maybe he’s not been angered too
long. So confronting all that racist, poisonous language, in a very soft
way. Very convincing. He doesn’t fall into the trap of shouting or cursing,
On the Israeli public’s willing support for the occupation:
Look, in the short run Israelis do profit from the occupation. Because a two
state solution– the way we saw it– would have had a dynamics, which slowly,
slowly erodes Jewish privileges in the country… You cannot have the pretext
of security, you don’t need the army, you cannot explain by security the
discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel, and the water of course.
Don’t underestimate [the issue of privilege]…. So Israeli Jews vote in
general for those who perpetuate the situation of profiteering…
When will they understand that this in the long run might act against us? We
have been warning about it for the past 40 years, nearly 50 years. So maybe
we are wrong! Their thinking and understanding is as short as their
lifespan, and since their lifespan has shown that they profit from the
occupation, let’s continue.
I know it’s wrong, but I’m a bit cautious in saying that Israelis don’t
understand what’s good for them. They understand what is good for them
right now as nationalists with promises from God… So they interpret that
this is good for them. We have land deeds from God. Every chapter in the
Bible has a land deed for us.
Hass concluded with a question asked by two Palestinians of her in the same
week many years ago. First from Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator
following a useless session with Israeli negotiators, and then by a farmer
attacked by settlers.
Tell me Amira, don’t Israelis think about their grandchildren?
Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
For links in the article go to the source url above.
Amira Hass, a child of Holocaust survivors, was born in Jerusalem in 1956.
She has spent many years living in Palestinian communities of the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank, from which she has fearlessly and sensitively
reported for Haaretz on the Palestinians’ progress from intifada toward
independence. Her great personal courage, unwavering journalistic
professionalism and commitment to defending the public’s right to know
has won her recognition in Israel and beyond. She is the author of
Drinking the Sea at Gaza.