Israeli-Arab Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh gave a speech on Tuesday in the Gowen Room in Wilson Commons about the issues concerning the conflict in the Middle East.
Toameh, an Arab-Muslim living in Jerusalem, began his career as a translator, before becoming a correspondent and finally editor of a Palestinian Liberation Organization newspaper while he attended Hebrew University. Toameh has been a journalist for 27 years.
When he graduated, Toameh chose to leave the PLO newspaper and work as an adviser and consultant for international media as well as to write for the Jerusalem Post, NBC, TV-2 Denmark television and other media channels.
Toameh covers news reports in the West Bank and Gaza and serves as a guide and translator for foreigners who would find it dangerous to enter into these territories without first being familiar with the language, land or people.
As one of the only Arabs writing in Hebrew for an Israeli newspaper, Toameh has received criticism and was often asked when he became a Zionist-Arab.
“I don’t see myself as pro-Israel or as a Zionist-Arab. I’m just a journalist,” Toameh said.
Toameh then spoke about the issues that he covers in his reporting.
“It’s a total mess in the West Bank and Gaza,” Toameh said. “I meet Jews and Arabs who miss the good old days before the peace talks began.”
Toameh expressed disappointment with the way which the Oslo Accords – the landmark 1993 agreement between Israel and Palestine in which Palestinians recognized the right of Israel to exist – was not beneficial. He said that the United States and other countries that supported ex-Palenstinian leader Yasser Arafat thought that Arafat would use funds to stop terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, Arafat used the money to create 16 or 17 security forces, a number that Toameh thought excessive, seeing as even Israel does not have that many different forces at its disposal. Most Palestinians did not even benefit from the Oslo Accords.
The only change in their situation, Toameh stated, was that Israelis implemented more security measures such as increasing checkpoints and further restricting the movement of Palestinians to protect themselves from Arafat’s forces.
In 2005, when Arafat died, the Palestinians voted to elect Mahmoud Abbas in the presidential elections. Abbas promised to get rid of corruption and to increase the freedom of the Palestinian people. Sixty percent of Palestinians voted for him in January 2005, but after taking office, Abbas did not make any of the changes he had advocated during the elections.
“Mahmoud Abbas turned out to be another Yasser Arafat,” Toameh said. With a bleak future in sight, many Palestinians began to support Hamas.
“Ironically, under Oslo, Hamas became stronger,” Toameh said.
Although Hamas won the election in January 2006, a power struggle ensued between Hamas and Fatah, who refused to relinquish control. There are now two separate political entities; an Islamic regime in Gaza and a Fatah regime in the West Bank.
“Fatah has lost much of its credibility among the Palestinians,” Toameh said.
Toameh believes that it will be impossible to create peace in the Middle East until the two Palestinian factions are united.
Although Toameh said that he despises Hamas, he thinks that the best option would be for the United States and other countries to remove themselves from the situation and to allow Hamas to run the government.
He believes that if Hamas is forced to be a legitimate governmental body, then they will have to help the people by opening schools and hospitals rather than returning to suicide bombings.
The event was sponsored by Hillel, Chabad and Hasbara fellowships. Board member of Chabad and junior Jacob Nacheman organized the event.
“[Chabad co-sponsored the event] because we think that the conflict in the Middle East is on the minds of many students – Jewish and not – and it’s good to get educated from someone with firsthand experience rather than just reading about it in the media,” head of Chabad House Rabbi Asher Yaras said.
Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development student Costas Solomou reacted positively to what Toameh had to say.
“That was refreshing. There is a lot of misinformation in the media,” Solomou said. “What he has to say needs to be heard on more college campuses. I’m really impressed and I’ve learned a great deal.”
Nacheman reacted to Khaled’s discussion and his point of view on the subject.
“He has a well-developed, balanced view. I feel like he has a rather even perspective. He reports the facts and not just speculation,” Nacheman said.
Handis is a member of the class of 2009.