Israeli journalist Amira Hass said Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid in front of a full room Wednesday at the University of Wisconsin Pyle Center.
Hass presented her opinions on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands in her speech “The Frog and the Goat: Why Israeli Colonialism is So Successful.”
“The fact that the fence [dividing the two groups] is there to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian terrorist attacks is true, but only partly,” said Hass during her speech.
According to Hass, Palestinians are not allowed to construct or develop in 60 percent of the West Bank. Israelis also control Palestinian construction by requiring permits to build. The goal of the Israelis, said Hass, is to disconnect and dismember Palestinian communities to limit their power.
Hass said she believes the implementation of Israeli policies segregating Palestinians is gradual, and therefore has garnered little media attention.
As an example, she cited the permit required if a Palestinian wishes to travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“Israelis deny all Palestinians the right to ‘freedom of movement,'” Hass said. “This measure was enacted in ’91 as temporary; however it still has not been lifted.”
In addition to limiting Palestinian infrastructure development and movement, Hass said another aspect of Israeli colonialism is the country’s excessive security forces.
Hass used a metaphor of a boy and his goat to illustrate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
She told the tale of a boy who becomes annoyed with the family goat, and his grandmother tells him to put the goat in the house. He does and becomes even more annoyed. The grandmother proceeds to tell him to remove the goat from the house.
“The Israelis make lots of checkpoints and roadblocks and then take a few out, then put one back, then take one away,” Hass said.
Even though the situation is bad now, Hass said she has hope for peace in the future.
“It is possible to have two states, but it requires political and human will,” Hass said. “Compared to other totalitarian governments, the Israel regime is not the most murderous.”
Uli Schamiloglu, chair of the UW Middle East Studies Program, who introduced Hass to the crowd, said Hass presented just one side of the argument.
“One of the important things to keep in mind is that the range of discussion [on this topic] is much wider in Israel than it is in this country,” Schamiloglu said. “There is a wide range of opinions on this hot button issue. It’s important to have this discussion, and that is why I’m glad to have had open-ended questions from members of the audience who disagreed with her.”
One audience member disagreed with Hass’ view that Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is comparable to apartheid because there is no minority oppressing a majority population and the Israelis are enforcing the will of the majority.
Hass won the International World Press Freedom Award in 1999 for her work within the Gaza Strip. She is scheduled to speak today from noon to 1 p.m. on 89.9 WORT FM.
UW Middle East Studies Program sponsored Hass’ appearances.