Amira Hass and the Activists of Nabi Saleh

Ha’aretz‘s longtime columnist Amira Hass has an unseemly journalistic history of perverting the facts in order to support her anti-Israel agenda. Both in columns and interviews, Hass routinely distorts the truth about what is happening in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. (See, for example, “Amira Hass Spouts Vitriol on the CBC“.) In fact, at one point, she was found guilty in court of libeling Israeli Jews with demonstrably false accounts of their abuse of Arabs.

Now again, Hass is trotting out her tired theme of Israeli abuse of Palestinians. In “For Palestinian women, a picnic with a purpose,” she allows a Palestinian activist in Nabi Saleh to use the Ha’aretz column as a platform to promote propagandistic claims about Israeli authorities preventing villagers from visiting a spring that was allegedly stolen from them.

The problem is that the same activist (possibly unwittingly) contradicted what she said in Hass’ column and exposed the villagers’ real goals in an article that appeared last year in a Palestinian publication, the Palestine Monitor.

No matter. Nabi Saleh activists serve Hass’ own mission of tarring Israel, and so the columnist plows ahead with an account of the villagers’ “fight for freedom…in a place where theft of springs has become part of the system.” Hass features activist Manaal Tamimi discussing her “efforts to tell the world” about a spring “which was part of our childhood and that of our parents” that was allegedly taken away and denied to villagers. The column cites Tamimi’s claim that for two years now, demonstrations in Nabi Saleh were staged in order to get authorities to allow Palestinians “to return to a spring belonging to the village.”

How then to explain the fact that the Palestinian demonstrators encounter no resistence from Israelis as they stage their picnic at the same spring? Hass seems at pains to acknowledge this inconvenient fact or the fact that Israeli authorities deny cutting Palestinians off from the spring,  and so she explains it away as follows:

..four IDF jeeps were positioned in front of a road that leads to the spring; the jeeps were waiting there when the group of women, and their male media reinforcements, arrived. This time, the soldiers did not block entry to the shady corner, where the spring is located. [emphasis added]


During the past two years, the Civil Administration or various military bodies would occasionally state that there is no ban preventing the Palestinians from coming to the al-Nabi Saleh spring, which has been declared an archaeological site. But as it turned out, each time Palestinians tried to reach it, they were stopped by soldiers. “There was just one exception, which was when a U.S. congressional delegation arrived,” Tamimi says.

Thus, even in the face of an Israeli denial of a ban and clear evidence to support this, i.e. the unimpeded picnic at the stream,  Hass nevertheless relays as fact Tamimi’s claim that villagers, with one exception, have no access to the spring.

But concealed from Ha’aretz readers is what Tamimi already acknowledged to the Palestine Monitor last July — namely, that the Israeli Civil Administration had long ago “offered the spring back to the village in exchange for an end to the demonstrations” but that the villagers refused.

According to Tamimi’s account at that time:

They [the Israelis] might give us back five dunums–but the settlement, the checkpoint, the watchtower, the gate, the suffering, the humiliations, these are staying. So what do I do with five dunums?

Well then, one might wonder,  Israeli authorities have already offered the spring to Nabi Saleh villagers who are using it for leisure activities, so what are all these demonstrations really about?

The answer again can be found in the Palestine Monitor, where Tamimi is cited explaining:

We are demonstrating against settlements and nearly every Palestinian village has a settlement nearby. So this could become something big, like a third intifada.

The journal further reports that “Tamimi feels that she is part of something that is gaining momentum. ‘It’s going to last,’ she said.”

In other words, the Nabi Saleh activist acknowledges outright  that the unrest in Nabi Saleh is not actually about access to a  spring, but rather about being at the forefront of a new intifada to rid the area of an Israeli presence.

The case of Nabi Saleh can be seen as a microcosm of the Palestinian conflict as a whole. Palestinian activists allege that they are demonstrating to be allowed to return to a place they claim is theirs by right, even as they refuse Israeli offers to give them what they are ostensibly asking for. Israeli civil authorities offered Nabi Saleh residents the spring and successive Israeli governments offered Palestinians a state. The refusal to compromise or to accept Israeli offers is based on an unrealistic dream that Palestinians can avoid accepting a Jewish state or presence in the area.  Intifada or armed struggle, they believe, can better achieve this goal than honest compromise and acceptance. 

And in order to gain public and international support, they present their message simply and disingenuously as a battle over stolen property and Israeli abuse. This message is broadly disseminated and amplified by useful dupes, media outlets like Ha’aretz, and ideologues like Amira Hass whose goal is to denounce and condemn the Jewish state.

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