Amira Hass Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Occupation and Terrorism: Conversation with Amira Hass, Columnist, Haaretz; October 24, 2003, by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

Page 6 of 6

Conclusion

What is the role that you as a writer can play in elevating consciousness of these dynamics? And in what way does that, in the long-term, contribute to a change in the situation?

Sometimes I think that I'm only writing for the archives. But in five, ten years, people would say, "Oh, she wrote so-and-so."

Look, I didn't have influence. I've been writing about the discrepancy between the [rhetoric] and the facts on the ground during the Oslo period. I've been writing extensively in my paper, and then my book. People read me. But, somehow, it did not sink in. Most of the people, I would say, did not get the message, because it's not for one writer to change things; you need a movement. You need a social movement, certain activity in the street of people who speak out clearly. And then this interplay between voices in the media and voices outside in the streets, in social activities, can make some sort of a change, or can be heard. When you're one voice ... and I was considered a radical extremist, pessimist ...

Cassandra?

Yeah, Cassandra. Cassandra can be a joy-killer, yeah. I'm always spoiling the party, so I was told. I was told by my editors, sometimes, "Everybody's talking about how Gazans are happy, but you only tell us about the pass system and travel permits and all this."

I was even told by somebody that I don't have perspective because I live in Gaza. So it's a new definition of journalism. So, no, I don't think I made a difference. On the contrary, I'm very frustrated because I voiced so many clear and very logical voices among Palestinians which warned Israelis about the coming explosion if Israel continues this policy of pushing the Palestinians into a surrender arrangement.

One final question. What is your advice to students who are interested in this region and want to prepare for a future that might involve a relationship with that region? But also, advice to people in other communities that have an interest in the region, that have to view events there from afar, and many of whom may not read your writing on a regular basis and are driven in their understanding by what they read in the headlines in the English-speaking press?

One has to read other things than the headlines.

"Read Ha'aretz online."

No, not only ... not only. There are all kinds of messages, e-mail. Not everything is always accurate, but they have to very skeptical about what they read first, and then, always, to meet people within the region and maybe try to see al-Jazeera -- news which is not only from a Western point of view. This is one.

Then to remember, and I think it's true about every place, to be very skeptical about official versions, very skeptical. Power, any power, has to be suspected everywhere, and has to be monitored. This is the main test of journalism. So they have to look for those kinds of writing which monitor power and which describe the situations not from the eyes of the ruler only.

I get the sense that you think and believe, both in word and in deed, that truth emerges from understanding, describing, and being immersed in the reality that you're writing about.

Yes, I believe that what I've been describing is the truth. I don't believe that it makes much change and much influence. It does not preach to the non-converted. It does not reach the non-converted. It reaches the converted. But, still, I believe this is true, what I've been writing.

Amira, on that note, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to come to the Berkeley campus, but also being a guest today on our program. Thank you very much.

And thank you for an interesting talk.

And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History.

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