Debating Amira Hass' Lifetime Achievement Award

A recent full-page ad in The New York Times announced that Israeli journalist Amira Hass will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation at an October 20 luncheon at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Hass is a reporter and columnist at the influential Israeli newspaper Haaretz who is best known for her coverage of the daily life of Palestinians, and for her sympathetic perspective toward them.

According to the IWMF’s press release:

For almost 20 years Hass has written critically about both Israeli and Palestinian authorities. She has demonstrated her ability to defy boundaries of gender, ethnicity and religion in her pursuit of the truth in her reporting. In covering the Palestinian Occupied Territories, her goal has been to provide her readers with detailed information about Israeli policies and especially that of restrictions of the freedom of movement.” For many years, she made her home first in Gaza City and then in Ramallah. In 2002 the Los Angeles Times reported that Hass “is the only Israeli Jew known to be living under Palestinian rule and one of a handful of Jewish reporters who still cross enemy lines for the Israeli media.”

The award to the controversial journalist, who still lives in Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority, has sparked criticism in the Jewish blogosphere.

The staunchly right-wing pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) wrote on its blog here that “President Obama isn’t the only one receiving awards based on as-yet-unattained accomplishments.”

The blog continues:

Presumably, her “ability to defy boundaries” includes her two illegal entries into the Gaza Strip this year. Likewise, her “pursuit of the truth” apparently include her understatement concerning the amount of industrial fuel that Israel permits into the Gaza Strip, her misrepresentation of the Gaza Strip’s medical situation, and her false description of certain West Bank roads as “Jewish only.”

Phyllis Chesler, the feminist and anti-Islamist writer, on her blog, describes Hass’ critique of Israel as one which “constitutes a veritable Blood Libel.”

Chesler writes:

Hass describes Israel as an “apartheid” state. Her columns in Ha’aretz, a left-leaning Israeli newspaper, are often stomach-turning.

Chesler goes on to cite a 1996 interview Hass did with The Jerusalem Post:

Apparently, when Hass first moved to Gaza she felt “most comfortable (as a single woman) veiling her face, saying ‘it was not up to me to lead the feminist struggle in Gaza.” The same journalist being feted for standing up to Mighty Israel, could not, did not want to, stand up to the forces of Islamic fundamentalism in Gaza. Hass’s refusal to go bare-faced, as she does in Israel, possibly endangered all those brave women and men in Gaza who initially resisted the veil and, in addition, wrote or talked about honor killings, forced marriage, child marriage, polygamy, and gay rights, subjects which Hass does not focus upon–and which do not exist in Jewish Israel except, sometimes, among Palestinian Israelis.

Other winners of this year’s IWMF awards are female journalists in Belarus, Cameroon and Iran, three of the most oppressive countries in the world, and most dangerous for journalists. Each has faced threats to their lives and arrest in connection to their work.

An email seeking comment from Hass elicited no response.

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