Where Is the Palestinian Equivalent of Haaretz?
by Jacob Sivak
In “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor,” Yossi Klein Halevi, an American-Israeli, tries to break the impasse between Israelis and Palestinians by setting out his narrative (the Jewish/Israeli narrative, including the long and continuous connection to the land of Israel and the history of modern Zionism) while acknowledging that each side has a narrative. “To you we are colonialists, Crusaders. And to us you are the latest genocidal enemy seeking to destroy the Jewish people.”
Yet, Halevi also notes that while the Israeli writer AB Yehoshua has called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a struggle between right and right, he (Halevi) doesn’t see equivalent sentiments expressed by Palestinians. While thousands of op-eds have appeared in the Israeli media over the years, arguing that Israelis need to face the Palestinian reality, he hasn’t seen an op-ed or editorial acknowledging the Israeli narrative in the Palestinian media.
Halevi may be right when speaking of the Palestinian media, but there are a growing number of Israeli-Arab Palestinian writers, such as Mosab Hassan Yousef, who are willing to write about the Israeli side of the story.
In “Son of Hamas” (first published in 2010 and written with Ron Brackin), Mosab, the eldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding member and popular leader of the Palestinian terror group Hamas, describes how and why he switched sides and served for 10 years as a valuable informant for Israel’s internal security service. The turning point came when Mosab spent some time in an Israeli prison and witnessed how Hamas terrorized Hamas-affiliated inmates, accusing them of collaboration, often on the basis of hearsay, with little or no evidence.
Mosab, nicknamed the Green Prince for the color of the Hamas flag and his pedigree, describes his journey; from being a young terrorist wannabee, to someone who learns that the enemy is not the enemy he imagined, to making the decision to betray his family and friends. Ultimately, he converted to Christianity and sought asylum in the United States, where he now lives.
Bassam Eid, another Palestinian writer, is a human rights activist who worked for B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights monitoring group that reports on abuses by Israelis in the “Occupied Territories.” Later, Eid founded a group that monitored human rights abuses by Palestinians.
Eid, who lives in Jericho, has written extensively about human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. He now works as a political commentator for the Israeli media and his views appear frequently in publications such as The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel. My favorite is a blog he wrote titled “Israel–the Best Place to be an Arab,” in which Eid notes that “despite being the world’s only Jewish state, Israel is a welcoming, diverse country that boasts a thriving Arab population.”
There are other examples of Arabs who care more about the welfare of their people than they do about hating Israel. Khaled Abu Toameh is an Israeli-Arab journalist who also writes and speaks about the abuses experienced by Palestinians at the hands of other Palestinians. In one article, written after he completed a speaking tour of American universities, he is quoted as saying that, “what is happening on US campuses is not about supporting the Palestinians as much as it is about promoting hatred for the Jewish state. It is not really about ending the ‘occupation’ as much as it is about ending the existence of Israel.”
Yossi Klein Halevi had a similar experience at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, when he and Palestinian activist Mohammed Darawshe were invited to speak about the future of Israeli society and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the event began, several dozen students walked out, carrying signs saying “Stop Normalizing Genocide.”
I’ll mention one more, Mansour Abbas. Abbas is not a writer or journalist, but rather an Israeli-Arab Islamist politician (and dentist), who led his party into the short-lived coalition government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. Abbas angered some Palestinians, first by affirming that Israel is a Jewish country and then by denying that Israel is an apartheid regime.
As far as I know, none of the individuals I’ve just described has written an article with an Israeli perspective for a Palestinian news outlet.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is a widely cited liberal news source about the Middle East that is known for its sometimes criticism of Israeli government policy and for its empathetic portrayal of the Palestinian side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Haaretz has even been described by some as promoting an anti-Israel political agenda.
Where is the Palestinian version of Haaretz?
Jacob Sivak, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, is a retired professor, University of Waterloo.