Amira Hass is a correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, assigned to cover the Palestinian territories Gaza and the West Bank. During the filming of DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE, she was one of two reporters assigned exclusively to cover the Palestinian territories, enduring curfews, gunfire and accusations of being a traitor. Throughout, she remained committed to the place she called home, drawn, she said, to the drama, and passionate about her role “to observe, to locate centers of power in the society, to monitor them and to expose them, and to expose the system, because they have the power.”
What story (or stories) have you worked on since filming wrapped on DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE?
I continued to cover and monitor the Israeli occupation and its effects on the Palestinian population.
What do you think of the present and future of independent journalism?
I am not so familiar with the status of independent journalism worldwide. As for Israel, journalism is mostly connected with big publishers owned by some Israeli families. The main Israeli newspapers allow much freedom of opinion, mostly in the editorial pages. But I believe that the real test is in the news sections, which the public judges as the "mirror of reality" (and realm of objectivity). But with their selected hierarchy of news items, they do not dare to challenge the official and socially accepted conceptions of the reality. This is especially true about the Israeli occupation and its military policies.
Journalism, independent of commercial considerations and tycoons, is too marginal to have much influence. Serious electronic journalism (that defies power) usually reaches the converted. Yet, some independent-minded journalists have had their apprenticeship in these venues, and now work in more mainstream newspapers, without losing their spirit. Social movements, which defy power through grassroot activities, assist journalists and encourage editors––even of the established newspapers––to monitor the abuses of power not only through the editorial page or features, but also through the news sections.
What are some of the changes you've seen in the Palestinian territories, Gaza and the West Bank since filming ended?
It is not as much changes as it is worsening of past tendencies.
The social disintegration seems to have worsened. At the same time, people's ongoing resilience and internal solidarity vis-à-vis Israeli measures of attrition, continue to amaze me. The Israeli policy of separation is successful and there is no real opposition to it in the Israeli society. The disengagement achieved its goal: Israelis are convinced that Gaza is not occupied anymore (total deception), and therefore should be treated and punished as a "sovereign state." The Palestinian political map has not changed much after Arafat's death: it suffers from the old disease of internal competition and exaltation of the "armed struggle."
How has technology influenced your job?
It’s made me react hysterically when the PC doesn't work, when there is an electricity cut or when the telephone line is betraying me.
How do you find your stories?
Living in the Palestinian occupied territories is an asset, in order to understand the intricacy. At the same time, it also reduces the fascination with unique cases––always a "good story"—because I live in the midst of so much uniqueness. I am much more attracted by the structural trends, both of occupation policies and Palestinian attitudes.
It sometimes makes me lose some angles and events. Also, the relatively narrow space that is allocated for my stories has taught me to be succinct and avoid long descriptions. Sometimes I find my stories too short and abrupt, because of the severe "austerity" imposed on me. I wish I had more space to quote people's comments and observations.
Of all the stories you have covered, which has been most important, or the one you feel most proud of?
The most important are those which deal with all aspects of the Israeli policy of restrictions on movement:
1. The creation of a dual infrastructure of roads in the West Bank: one for Israelis (mostly Jews), one for Palestinians. One wide, quick, well lit, almost empty of cars and the other––long, unsafe, narrow and crowded.
2. The fragmentation of the West Bank into disconnected enclosures.
Read more by and about Amira Hass and her work:
Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege
by Amira Hass
(Owl Books, 2000)
Reporting from Ramallah: An Israeli Journalist in an Occupied Land
by Amira Hass
Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley: Conversation with Amira Hass
CounterPunch: reporting by Amira Hass
Read about the other journalists featured in the film >>