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Amira Hass receives hate mail for claiming Palestinian schools should teach children how to `resist occupation` `
Harriet Sherwood
The Observer

Israeli journalist is accused of inciting violence after backing Palestinian stone-throwers

A prominent Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, has been subjected to a wave of hate mail and calls for prosecution for incitement to violence since writing an article defending the throwing of stones by Palestinian youths at Israeli soldiers.

Hass, who has lived in and reported on the occupied Palestinian territories for 20 years, argued that `throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule`, and suggested that Palestinian schools should offer `basic classes in resistance`.

The opinion piece, published in the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz, for whom Hass works, drew outraged reaction on the internet and from media commentators. The Yesha Council, which represents settlers, and the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel filed complaints with the police and the Israeli attorney general, and demanded that Hass be investigated for incitement to violence and terrorism.

Hass argued that stone-throwing was `an action as well as a metaphor of resistance`. She wrote: `Steadfastness (sumud) and resistance against the physical, and even more so the systemic, institutionalised violence is the core sentence in the inner syntax of Palestinians in this land. This is reflected every day, every hour, every moment, without pause... The levels of distress, suffocation, bitterness, anxiety and wrath are continually on the rise, as is the astonishment at Israelis` blindness in believing their violence can remain in control forever.`

Throwing stones was `born of boredom, excessive hormones, mimicry, boastfulness and competition. But in the inner syntax of the relationship between the occupier and the occupied, stone-throwing is the adjective attached to the subject of `We`ve had enough of you, occupiers`.`

Schools, she suggested, should teach Palestinian children various forms of resistance, plus its rules and limitations – for example, `the distinction between civilians and those who carry arms, between children and those in uniform, as well as the failures and narrowness of using weapons`.

Hass`s article appeared during several days of clashes in the West Bank following the death of a Palestinian prisoner whose cancer, according to Palestinian leaders, was diagnosed late and treated only with painkillers; and the shooting dead of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli soldiers after they allegedly threw firebombs at a checkpoint. It was published the day after a military court convicted a Palestinian man of the murder of Asher Palmer and his baby son, Jonathan, whose car crashed after being struck with stones in 2011. Another Israeli child, three-year-old Adele Bitton, was critically injured in a similar incident last month.

Images of stone-throwing Palestinian youths, often with their faces concealed by chequered keffiyehs and sometimes using slingshots, have become symbolic of the resistance to Israel`s 46-year occupation. Their actions are routinely met with teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets fired by the Israeli military.

Addressing Hass directly, Adva Bitton, the mother of injured toddler, wrote in Ma`ariv: `I agree with you that everyone deserves their freedom. Arab and Jew alike. I agree with you that we all ought to aspire to liberty, but there isn`t a person on earth who will achieve freedom and liberty by means of an instrument of death. There`s no reason on earth that Adele, my three-year-old daughter, should have to lie in the intensive care unit now, connected to tubes and fighting for her life, and there is no reason, Amira, for you to encourage that.`

Another comment piece in the same newspaper said Hass`s `statements are the outpouring of a suppurating abscess of self-hatred, couched in hypocritical moral acrobatics. Her eyes are blind to Jewish suffering and are open only to her friends from Hamas, the champions of human rights.`

Hass said her critics had either not read or had not understood her article. `I`m surprised that they don`t read the whole text – and then I`m surprised at myself for being surprised,` she told the Observer, pointing out that she had drawn `a clear distinction between a citizen [as a target] and a soldier or someone who carries arms`.

Israelis, she said, adhered to `a concept of eternal victimhood which allows them to be in a state of denial about how much violence is used on a daily basis against Palestinians. They don`t like to be told that someone has the right to resist their violence.`

Hass, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, has been vilified for living among Palestinians and chronicling their lives under occupation.`I call it the `routine of catastrophes`, which of course is an oxymoron. But every Palestinian is threatened in some way in his or her life, at the very least just living with a permanent feeling of insecurity.`

She lived for more than three years in Gaza, and has been based in Ramallah, the main city in the West Bank from which Israelis are legally banned from entering, since 1997. `I feel privileged to know two societies, but sometimes I feel it`s futile. I`ve been writing about the occupation for 20 years, and it only gets worse.`

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