Reporting from Ramallah: An Israeli Journalist in an Occupied Land – Book Review

Reviewed by Irfan Raja

Rachel Leah Jones collected and translated some 500 articles excluding the daily news reports written by of a prominent Israeli journalist Amira Hass in between (1997-2002) that were published in Israel’s leading liberal newspaper, Ha’aretz.

This time frame is significant as it encompasses two significant events that are “Oslo” (1997-1999) years and “The Second Intifada” (2000-2002).

Part One

“When I lost my land, I lost my way of life” (1997-1999)

Part One carries a foreword, in which Jones provided a prompt introduction of Hass, who as an inhabitant of Ramallah and had collected first-hand observations of the Israeli occupation, from the unique perspective of a resident of the area. This distinctive feature has made Hass’ work unique.

Jones observed that two months prior to the Camp David talks, her work exemplified accuracy and reliable predictions of forthcomings events.

Hass’ articles present a chronological record of the Israeli government’s lack of regard for the “peace process” and its wilful refusal to follow the “Oslo Accord”.

She noted the array of happenings that include Israel’s “confiscation of land”, “the paving of bypass roads” and the “expansion of settlements” at the heart of peace talks.

In many ways, Hass’ accounts of the daily life of ordinary Palestinians resembles the travails of those Jews living in Nazi concentration camps.

Each new report brings to us a visual form of the same old trials and tribulations that were once common aspects of the Nazi treatment of Jews. In this regard, Hass’ reporting of the West Bank and its surrounding villages shows that the Palestinians are modern victims of the victims.

Part Two:

“The peace of the brave, of course!” (2000).

This part contains news reports published between (13 March 2000 – 25 March 2001) and include soundbites of Palestinian academics, poets, political figures’ who are struggling in exile and at home; shooting of children on their way to school; destruction of farmlands, in particular the horrible tale of the obliteration of the “Valley of Dura al-Qara” at the hands of the IDF; The Camp David talks; The Oslo Accords; Palestinian negotiators; and more importantly what ordinary Palestinians want- that is justice and not the “division of Palestinian communities”, through checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall, etc.

Hass’ leading point is that whilst the Israeli government has planted the “seeds of future wars” it must recognize that the Palestinians have learned the art of living in poverty and in patience, and in contrast, Israelis are relying heavily on arms and ammunition that has never won any battle.

Part Three:

“Why would we need a key when we don’t have a house?” (2001).

The third part presents narrative of political developments in relation to the “Oslo Peace Accord” that was predominantly supported by the majority Palestinians with a hope to bring peace and paved the way to form a Palestinian State in accordance with the 1967 borders. Hass disclosed how unarmed innocent civilians including women, children and elderly continued to live at the mercy of an army that is more like a killing machine equipped with smart weapons including modern fighter jets and tanks.
In contrast, Palestinians are armed with “stones and Molotov cocktails.”

Hass encapsulated the past, present and future of the conflict using in-depth analysis, predictions and forecasts resulting from her interviews with academics, campaigners, political workers and ordinary people in refugee camps.

Palestinian professor, Saleh Abdel Jawad, informed Hass that during the “Oslo Peace Process” the Palestinian leadership had betrayed their people when they secretly secured “various commitments to the Israelis” while masking “the agreement’s shortcomings to their own public”.

Part Four

“Mother, Mother, what kind of war is this?” (2002).

In this part Hass provides tales of both Palestinians and the Israelis everyday commuters to occasional visitors who struggle to enter into territories or areas which are sealed and deemed to be out of bounds on the orders of the IDF.

She sketches the IDF adventures and how its actions affect everyday life of both Palestinian’s and Israelis, particularly those frequent travelers that go through IDF security check-posts. The checkpoints has been erected under the “security imperatives” slogan that of course “sounds very convincing”.

Hass provides gripping accounts of Palestinians who are forcefully denied from entering specific areas such as “Area-A” but presents how surprisingly the Israeli government has never stopped hundreds of thousands of its own citizens from risking their lives to tour “exotic”  and “dangerous places” across the world.

In brief, Hass questions those 2,00,000 Israelis who drive on the roads of West Bank and Gaza every day and risk their lives to reach homes. So why does the IDF not prohibit them from doing so?
The logic behind such measures is to spread and reinforce fear of Palestinians among the Israeli’s.

Hass collected figures show that “three million Palestinians live in a regime of closure, curfew, and siege, allegedly to prevent any breach in the settlers’ security”. Palestinians are forced to obey the IDF order as “if they were law of the land”.

This section mostly complies stories of those young Palestinians who have played an active role in the resistance against the occupation and spent years in jail such as Marwan Barghouti.

Additionally, stories of those who were expelled from their homes, those who escaped shootings and shellings, those who witnessed their homes been demolished for no reason, children who were killed, and families members who were imprisoned or missing.

Such accounts are common practices within the IDF controlled areas of Jenin, Nablus, Tul Karm, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, and Hebron, where assassinations, arson and killings are a routine matter be it the ordinary Palestinian or a high profile political figure like Abu Ali Mustafa, General Secretary of PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. So, who is next on the assassination list of IDF only time will tell.

 – Irfan Raja is a British–Pakistani freelance journalist who holds MA in International Journalism from Leeds University and a PhD from the University of Huddersfield. He contributed this book review to www.PalestineChronicle.com

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