Making Hamas Disappear: Amira Hass’s journalistic sleight of hand evokes fictitious Gaza

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, an Anglo-Israeli writer who blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a highly imaginative piece of historical fiction, Amira Hass paints a portrait of a world gone by, Segregating Gazans has made them easier to demonise’, Comment is Free, June 8.

Up until the “Israeli onslaught” of 2008/2009 Gaza and Israel, according to Hass, enjoyed an era of good feeling during which the “global military power” mined hapless Palestinians for cheap labor.

Ms Hass goes on to explain that since the “onslaught” the lack of interaction between Israeli exploiters and Palestinian exploited has transformed the way Gazans are perceived by most Israelis. If ordinary occupiers once perceived the occupied as “…mere functional shadows who disappeared in their dorm shanties… Dispensable ghosts… Savages…An Uncle Tom…” today’s typical Israeli increasingly views Gazans as terrorists.

It’s altogether strange that Ms Hass seems to rue the day when the bonds between Gazans and Israelis were first weakened, when Israel imposed a closure on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in 1991. Assuming that such an odious status quo did exist between Israel and Gaza up until 1991, why would Ms Hass wax nostalgic about it?

To read Ms Hass’s piece without knowing any better is to come away with the distinct impression that the Israeli jackboot had stomped out what was once a quaint Swiss canton. Up until 1991, so goes the narrative, Gaza was a bucolic landscape filled with innocent, uncomplicated natives who were perfectly content to shuffle into Israeli towns in order to work in “every restaurant, clothing factory, garage and construction site…”

This logical inconsistency is but a part of a wider obfuscation of the historical forces at play, both in 1991, when Ms Hass began her “professional romance” with Gaza, and 2008.

It is true that during the first 25 years of Israeli control over the Gaza Strip, Palestinian residents were relatively free to move between Gaza and Israel. What changed? The outburst of terrorism inside of Israel, popularly known as the First Intifada.

For the first time in its history Israel was forced to “…confront significant internal terrorism.” The large demonstrations and civil riots that began in 1987 had by 1989 escalated into stabbings, kidnapping Israeli soldiers and shooting attacks against IDF forces.

This Palestinian terror campaign was predominantly carried out by two new groups that had emerged in the territories: Hamas and the Palestinian Islami Jihad. Both organizations combined radical Islamism with nationalist Palestinian sentiments and opposed any conciliatory process with Israel.

Please note that Ms Hass makes but one weak mention (in her entire essay) of the ruling power in Gaza since 2006: the very same Hamas.

Hamas suicide bomber video, 2006

One of the steps that Israel took to literally stem the flow of blood running in the streets was to change its policy of granting general entry permits to Gaza residents, requiring them to apply for personal entry permits. 

Regarding the 2008/2009 “onslaught”, Israel’s Operation Cast Lead‘ was commenced after the country had endured an “8-year-long barrage of 12,000 rockets and had exhausted all other options… “

Similar to the situation in 1991, Israel was once again reacting to Ms Hass’s amazingly irrelevant Hamas. The goal of this ‘onslaught’ was rather limited:

1. To stop the bombardment of Israeli civilians by destroying Hamas’ mortar and rocket launching apparatus and infrastructure.

2. To reduce the ability of Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza to perpetrate

Next, there’s Ms Hass’s anecdote about Abu Mustafa, a Fatah activist who was allegedly tortured 30 years ago by an Israeli interrogator. This “thin and shy man” tells a heart wrenching tale indeed. Yet, where is the good, old-fashioned journalistic due diligence? Where is Ms Hass’s verification with at least one other source as to the veracity of the good Mr. Mustafa’s allegation? This spine-tingling yarn is disturbingly bereft of the most basic details: the five Ws  (Who? What? When Where? & Why?) that are regarded as basics in information-gathering.

While one must admire Mr. Mustafa’s witty repartee whilst in the throes of agony, things could have been worse for our demure freedom fighter. Had he been captured and tortured not 30 years ago but today and by Hamas, it’s difficult to say whether Abu Mustafa would even be alive. Hamas is not known for the wittiness of their henchmen.

Which brings us back to Ms Hass’s incredibly shrinking Hamas. The list of human rights violations against Hamas rule over Gaza is as lengthy as it is galling: restricting freedom of the press, forcefully suppressing dissent, banning Fatah members from assembling for public prayers, torture, arrests, arbitrary detentions and more.

Ms Hass’s ahistorical rendering of a time that never was nonetheless elucidates. Her op-ed piece displays an utter disregard for historical fact or implication. The reason for this is that Ms Hass’s essay is undergirded by a dogmatic set of beliefs that are fundamentally immune to the unbearable light of veracity or critical scrutiny.

Ms Hass’s conception of Israel’s relationship with Gaza is notably simple and pure. Yet, as Oscar Wilde said: “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

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29 replies »

  1. Haas’ prevarications were especially foul, considering the reality on the ground.
    Regarding the 1991 milestone, everyone forgets, WHY various restrictions and limitation were imposed: the First “Intifada”. Everyone neglects the fact that before the 1990s, there were no roadblocks, naturally no separation barrier, and good commercial cooperation between the Israelis and Pals(Israelis would even shop in Ramallah). All of that came to end, when the Palestinians launched violence on a scale unprecedented.

    • There are nearly 1.7 million human beings living in Gaza, half of the children. Levick’s lack of humanity and of perspective in this piece is chilling.

      • Benyamin you might find it useful if you look to see who the author of the post is before you charge in with your preconceived criticism.

      • Let’s count the number of Israelis victimized by Gaza’s rampant terrorism, children included. you could easily rake up over 1 mil.(Myself included), human beings too, after all.
        The lack of humanity and perspective in your rant is chilling.

        • You strangely forgot to mention that 300 Palestinian children were killed during Israel’s military operation on Gaza in 2009, along with another 400 Palestinian civilians (and also 700 Palestinian combatants; 13 Israelis were killed at the same time, including 3 civilians).

          • Which just shows how willing Hamas and fellow jihadis are to see Palestinian childen sacrificed in their insane war against the Jews.

            And YOU talk about lack of humanity. Shame.

            • The other day I saw a documentary by an Arab Israeli women called “Women of Hamas”. Pretty disturbing – especially the 1st graders being indoctrinated with martyr chants.

            • Most of these 300 Palestinian children were killed in Israeli airstrikes over residential areas.

              • No mention, on your part, of the terrorists firing their projectiles from residential zones; and you’re still plying those lies of 300 dead?
                Do at least TRY to be truthful in your wild assertions.

                • 300 children were killed in Israeli airstrikes. Clearly you’re trying to avoid the truth.

              • Yes Benyamin. Notwithstanding efforts to avoid causing injury to innocent civilians, Israel was unable to avoid killing. Most of the innocents killed was not deliberate yet too many dead I agree. But the cause of it is the point. With a particularly hateful Hamas terrorists organisation indiscriminately firing countless missiles(and either they, or other thugs affiliated to them still continue to do so) at civilians, does this not factor in your thick skull Benyamin what this is all about?

                For Hamas it’s a zero end game. A genocidal solution exactly like the Nazis. That they do not possess the means is only a godsend.

                Now you, Benyamin do not care for reasoned argument. You type up hateful invective, with the sole purpose of tormenting people. You appear to delight in it. To you, any potshot by an Arab at an Israeli is always justified, because you share that mentality. Any pretext to hate Jews will do. In the circumstances I suggest you get some fresh air. Go take a long walk off a short pier. Let us know how you feel afterwards

                • For Hamas it’s a zero end game. A genocidal solution exactly like the Nazis.

                  This is silly. Hamas are nasty bastards, but they do not have a new Holocaust in mind, do they?

                  You are cheapening the Holocaust.

                  • My first response Pretz is to take a look at the Hamas Charter

                    Here’s Article 7

                    Article Seven: The Universality of Hamas
                    By virtue of the distribution of Muslims, who pursue the cause of the Hamas, all over the globe, and strive for its victory, for the reinforcement of its positions and for the encouragement of its Jihad, the Movement is a universal one. It is apt to be that due to the clarity of its thinking, the nobility of its purpose and the loftiness of its objectives. It is in this light that the Movement has to be regarded, evaluated and acknowledged. Whoever denigrates its worth, or avoids supporting it, or is so blind as to dismiss its role, is challenging Fate itself. Whoever closes his eyes from seeing the facts, whether intentionally or not, will wake up to find himself overtaken by events, and will find no excuses to justify his position. Priority is reserved to the early comers. Oppressing those who are closest to you, is more of an agony to the soul than the impact of an Indian sword. “And unto thee have we revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which has come unto thee. For each we have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed, He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which he has given you [He has made you as you are]. So vie with one another in good works. Unto Allah, you will all return. He will then inform you of that wherein you differ.” Hamas is one of the links in the Chain of Jihad in the confrontation with the Zionist invasion. It links up with the setting out of the Martyr Izz a-din al-Qassam and his brothers in the Muslim Brotherhood who fought the Holy War in 1936; it further relates to another link of the Palestinian Jihad and the Jihad and efforts of the Muslim Brothers during the 1948 War, and to the Jihad operations of the Muslim Brothers in 1968 and thereafter. But even if the links have become distant from each other, and even if the obstacles erected by those who revolve in the Zionist orbit, aiming at obstructing the road before the Jihad fighters, have rendered the pursuance of Jihad impossible; nevertheless, the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).

                    Nasty indeed.

                    We also know what happens in surrounding Arab society. It is far from peaceful. There is however a very special place for Jews in this cocktail of religiously endorsed hatred – Hell!

                    That’s how they see it.

                    When Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, many took it to be the ramblings of a lunatic. It is from this perspective that we have to guard ourselves from ever giving these ‘nast bastards’ any chance of realising their terrible objective.

                  • According to Pretz:

                    Hamas Charter + Mein Kampf = Old Testament

                    Mmm. Care to rethink this Pretz?

                    As for Likud and the West Bank, I’ll leave you with this one thought. I was in Israel shortly after Begin came to power. I recall being asked by a keen Likud supporter whether I was for holding onto the West Bank or agreed with Labour, to give it up. My response then, is the same as now: There is really no discussion to have. Until the Arabs are prepared to fully recognise us there is no question, whether one was left, centre or right in the political spectrum, of giving any land away without guaranteed security.

                    I will also leave you with one other thought. Knowing how rich the invective of hatred the Arabs can be in their politics when it comes to Jews , on reflecting on this it can seem so surreal that it is something that I have felt is never likely to materialise in practical form. And so I spoke to a friend who comes from Algeria, who I know. He was raised with all the anti-semitic discourse that we are familiar with. I asked him simply: if given the chance to wipe Israel and its people off the face of this earth, would the Arab hesitate ? His answer was unequivocal. “Given the chance Joshua, absolutely none whatsoever”. That is the reality.

                    • Ever read the Old Testament?

                      I have to inform you that the Old Testament is many thosands of years old, while the Hamas Charter is from the eighties. To make any comparison between the two is laughable.

                      Likud officially claims the West Bank as Israel.

                      Maybe you should point out in the Likud Charter the part where they want to kill all Muslims.

              • June 10, 2012 at 10:59 am
                Most of these 300 Palestinian children were killed in Israeli airstrikes over residential areas.

                The Air Force attack terrorist locations and rocket launching sites.

                Why do you not blame Hamas for siting their rocket launchers amongst children?

                Also, since you are so concerned for Palestinian children, why not take a moment to condemn Hamas for using children as suicide bombers?

          • Hmmm, Interesting… a “military operation” triggered by what? boredom? sport? fanfare?
            You, “strangely forgot to mention” the thousands of rockets, shelling, barraging Israeli territory, the incredible restraint Israel has shown hitherto finally deciding to rescue its citizenry.
            And your figures of 300 Pal. children dead are entirely trumped up; not to mention your wanton downplaying of a decade long torture of men, women, and children(!) under the hails of Gaza’s “best exports”.
            Furthermore, if it’s 1-to-1 parity in casualties you seek, let’s start with the Afghan offensive(2001- to the present), the Iraq war, and going back the whole lot to the bombing of Dresden, to see where such a principle, in modern warfare was applicable(other than your Cro-Magnon mentality which somehow insists that every conflict be a “tit-for-tat”).
            Civilians cannot live under constant mortar fire. It was only a matter of time before Hamas got its comeuppance, and sadly, but predictably under such circumstances, inevitably, some innocent Gazans were harmed as well(even though the ration of non-actors to combatants was 1:3, the most humane in the world); but will YOU hold Hamas accountable for that? Hell no.

      • Levick’s “lack of humanity”? Ah, come off it. I disagree with a lot of what Adam posts, but I do know he is a decent kind of bloke.

  2. “global military power” suggests that Israel has airbases scattered across the Pacific, aircraft carriers off the coasts of all continents and troops on the ground in the Amazon.
    I find it hard to take anyone who says such a thing seriously.

    • Ah Pretzel, but don’t forget …. it’s the Jewish tail that wags the US dog.
      In other words, she’s “barking” mad.

  3. Haas has lost her mind long ago. Like N. FInkelstein, she is the child of Holocaust survivors who thinks such status allows her to spew infantile ahistorical anti-Israel drivel and at the same time, to stay beyond reproach. But this status most certainly does not confer any such imunity. Indeed, the daughter of Holocaust survivors would do well not to identify with the Neo-Nazis of our time– the rabidly anti-Semitic Muslim Arabs (yes, just like every German did not necessarily hate Jews, not every Muslim Arab hates Jews. However, to be sure, there is certainly a pattern). The almost universal Jew hating ideologies of the Muslim Arabs doesn’t bother Haas. The murder of innocent Jews, likewise, doesn’t seem to bother her. Indeed, it is quite certain that she blames the Jews for the very ideologies concocted against them. What’s new? All in all, she is a pathetic and lame human who has long volunteered to provide valuable service to anti-Semites of all stripes. I pity her family. One wonders if blood could well be (indirectly) on her hands– for such is the result of the perpetuating of blood libels. As such, I hope that one day she will wake up to the disgusting nature of her existence and start making up for it– or otherwise that find herself (and soon) with a rusty Arabian dagger in her back. (To be sure, I do not advocate any physical harm, and no Jew should ever physically harm another Jew, even Haas, beyond, perhaps, a good slap in the face. However, I do not pretend to dispense moral/ethical advice to the Muslim Arabs in Haas’ midst).