Tomorrow will be worse
Catherine Cornet - 14/04/2005
Amira Hass’ gaze is penetrating, both tired and decisive. Behind her small round glasses, her eyes move rapidly looking anxiously for information and images that can help her to reply to the question in the most concise way possible. You get the impression that here, in this Conference room in Rome, she is behaving exactly as she does everyday, going out of her house in Ramallah, the Administrative Capital of Palestine. There, nothing escapes her, some interesting comment made by her neighbour or a Romeo and Juliet like couple in her neighborhood. She has the look of a journalist who is not scared of displeasing when she recounts what she sees, what she hears, what she thinks. Amira is Jewish, Israeli, correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the only journalist in her country who speaks about her neighbours, from the inside. The new Italian publishing house, “Fusi Orari” part of the Italian newspaper “Internazionale” will, this month, publish her letters from Palestine and Israel, written between 2001 and 2005. Its title is clear: “Tomorrow will be worse”.
A “Down to Earth” Diary
Amira Hass’ letters are addressed to the Italian editorial team for whom she writes her diary each week. In less than a page and with incredible concision, she deconstructs nearly all the political framework of standard media, be it Israeli, Palestinian or international. The analysis is carried out on the ground, in its more political sense. For Amira the earth is the main explanation for the conflict. The « situation », as Israelis call it, is essentially a question of territorial occupation .The biggest strategic mistake made by the Palestinian Authority during the negotiations was to request political autonomy prior to a fair territorial division: «Of what use is a government “she asks, “if it has no clear territory to administrate?». Above all, her writing is “down to earth” in the most positive sense of the word. Starting with the territory: by reporting conversations with her neighbours, a young Israeli soldier at a check-point, a Fatah Militant, a Jordanian artist looking for his roots, friends in Jerusalem or taxi drivers from both sides, she draws the map of a human conflict, an occupation she lives through in her daily life. Finally, Amira knows Israeli and Palestinian territories well: from where she lives in Ramallah she goes to Gaza, Rafah or Betlehem crossing all of Cisjordania. With her Israeli passport she can also go back to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, getting the atmosphere from the “other”side…
The taste of privilege is disgusting
The first letter from the book, dated the 9th of February 2001, concludes as follows «Freedom of movement is a right that is denied to Palestinians not only since this Intifada but since 1991. Movements are only allowed with an Israeli permit. Even if I live in a Palestinian city, I’m an Israeli citizen and I’m free to enter and go when I want. After all, I’m a Jew and the taste of privilege is disgusting”. This phrase demonstrates the need for her presence in the Occupied Territories. Her disgust for the application of apartheid in her country provides her with all the energy needed to take advantage of her special status. She has to report everything, since she has, like few like her, the possibility to do this. All her moral and political standing is based on this attitude; even if privilege is what she hates most.... She does not please a lot of people, and it does not seem to disturb her in the least. In her letter of the 6th of April 2001, she writes about one of her article for Haaretz, in which she criticised the behaviour of some members of the Palestinian Authority, still attached to their privileges, to luxury and to corruption while the Gaza strip was under Israeli punitive measures. A PLO civil servant phones her to inform her of his disappointment. Two days later an Israeli civil servant blesses her article and her conclusions. A day later, a Palestinian activist from Ramallah congratulates her for her position. What conclusions can a journalist draw from this? An opponent of Israeli’s current policies, she does not blindly follow the occupied: « My objective ? Describe what I feel and what I see”. To speak freely is certainly the privilege she likes to abuse of the most. In this article, for example, she also wanted to explain “what Palestinians talk about between themselves, within the framework of an oral democratic system that unfortunately is rarely reported in the press ».
When Lili Gruber, the Italian journalist who presented the book at the Foreign Press Headquarters in Rome, asked her if it wasn’t too difficult to live as if she was a traitor in her own country, Amira spoke again about privileges, those that disgust her but that she uses a lot. The first one she quotes is « freedom of movement », one of the most fundamental and most symbolical rights in Palestinian daily life. Indeed, she crosses borders that few can cross - or that the majority simply do not want to see. When an Israeli soldier asks her at a check point « What are you doing here ? » she simply replies « What are you doing here ? ». In other letters, she describes the wall of misunderstanding between both countries. In West Jerusalem, when she goes to visit some friends, she never hears about Israeli agressions. In Ramallah, she can’t avoid seeing them. She is surprised how in Israel, restaurants and cafés are full of people, in peace. Everyday though, she writes to remind them.
« Tomorrow will be worse ». This kind of title provokes questions. Lili Gruber asks Amira if this choice of title was influenced by her own personal pessimism or from her analysis of the current situation. Amira replies simply: « I believe that this sentence is right, and hope it will become untrue ». Amira Hass is an optimist.