PM: I work with an interpreter, as do most of my colleagues. Gaza is, as a journalist, a rare place. Just because, because it’s so small, it’s very difficult for you not to find the people you want. It’s an easy patch to work for the journalists. People can’t leave. If you go to their office or you go to their home, chances are you’re going to find them. Because they’re all locked in, they’re happy to talk at length about their circumstances and the circumstances of the Palestinian people and what it means. There’s an incredible resilience of the people, and you would have to say that’s one of the traits of the Palestinian people that we have seen over and over. I mean, look at what they have been through in sixty years and they’re still refusing to fall over.
There’s a quote in the book from Yasser Arafat before he died, a hundred years after the Balfour conference. It was a few weeks before he died, Arafat told a reporter, “One-hundred-seven years after the founding of the global Zionist movement at the Balfour conference, Israel has failed to wipe us out. We are here, in Palestine, facing them.” And then he added, and this is the line that would have had great resonance in the U.S., he said, “We are not red Indians.” And that’s what you see in Gaza, you see it in the daily lives, the daily existence of the people. They are still there, despite decades of privation. And they’re not going anywhere. Someday, they’re going to have to be reckoned with. That’s what their history says. One of the lines that many Israeli commentators use is that Israel is still fighting the seventh day of the Six-Day War, with good reason.
KB: I wanted to talk a little bit about the challenge journalists face when reporting on conditions in international affairs that are outside the definitions that are set forward by the governments where their newspapers are located. For example, the American government labels Hamas as a terrorist organization. Do you think it’s a challenge for journalists to throw off those labels that governments put on things and re-examine them, or do you think that it’s something they can’t overcome?
PM: Oh, they can, and they have to. Most journalists would tell you that it’s one of their objectives on a daily basis, to attempt to explain the story behind, the story that illuminates the policy position by various governments. Recently it has been very hard in some ways to do that, because you couldn’t get into Gaza. There was a deliberate decision to prevent the media from going into Gaza during the war. Reporters always need to be looking at the labels that politicians and policymakers use, and to be assessing them to see whether they are the only labels. Invariably, you hear of Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, the Fatah leader, being described as a moderate. But he is a moderate in terms of what? He is a moderate in terms of the militants in Hamas, but in the eyes of the Palestinian people?