Musa Abu Hashash is a Field Researcher (Hebron District) for B’Tselem/ The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. The organizational name, “B’Tselem,” comes from the Member of Knesset, Yossi Sarid, as an allusion to “And God created humankind in His image. In the image of God did He create them” from Genesis 1:27. B’Tselem aims to achieve democracy, equality, human rights, and liberty as a future for all people. Founded in 1989 devoted to documenting Israeli violations of Palestinians’ human rights in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. They have published eyewitness accounts, reports, statistics, testimonies, and video footage. After more than a half of a century of occupation, B’Tselem as a human rights organization unequivocally demands an end to the occupation.
Here we talk about his story and his work.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start with some brief background to provide a context of development for you. What are some family and personal backstory for you? Only have to provide that which you feel comfortable divulging at this time.
Musa Abu Hashash: First things first: I am Musa. My parents were refugees from a Palestinian village called Iraq Almansheyyah north of Gaza and close to the Israeli town Kiryat Gat. The village was wiped out and no marks have been left to tell about the history of the people who lived there for hundreds of years. My parents fled to Hebron district and lived in a refugee camp called Fawwar camp south of the city of Hebron where I was born and brought up in a tent for five years before UNRWA built small rooms for the families where I continued my life together with my brothers and sisters. I am the eldest. I have 26 brothers and sisters. Life in a small overcrowded house in an overcrowded refugee camp was not easy for me. I had to leave the camp when I got married. I am a father of 5 children who live in Ramallah with their mother.
Jacobsen: As we are here today, you work in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). In particular, you are a Field Researcher in the Hebron District of oPt. It is the work for B’Tselem. What is B’Tselem? How did you find B’Tselem? What was the development of becoming the Field Researcher for the Hebron District?
Hashash: I joined B’Tselem in the year 2,000, the very day of the start of the second Intifada, B’Tselem thought that they might hire me for a short time, hoping the Intifada would stop in a week or so, but it has been 20 years now. I still work for them. My work in B’Tselem changed my life as it gave me the chance to meet and listen to thousands of victims who were from the poor Palestinians. Despite the sadness and anger, I have experienced; I would say that working for Human Rights was interesting and rewarding, unlike other jobs.
Jacobsen: What is the real history of the Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem?
Hashash: The history of the Palestinian territories, West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip refer to the early fifties of the last century, when the West Bank including East Jerusalem was annexed to the kingdom of Jordan and when Gaza was annexed to Egypt. In 1967, these territories were occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. Israel immediately annexed Jerusalem and declared the united Jerusalem (East and West) as its capital.
Jacobsen: What is the emotional and physical toll on refugees? What is the same toll on their children during critical moments of development?
Hashash: The Palestinian refugees’ issues for me are the core of the struggle. Without solving it, the struggle will continue. In 1948, 60,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes in Palestine and took refuge in West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. They settled in refugee camps and most of them still, including my family. Life in camps has never been stable and comfortable and refugees felt it was temporary till 1967 when many of them lost hope and when hundreds of thousands of them fled to Jordan and became refugees for the second time in new refugee camps. The number of refugees increased by birth and statistics tell about more than six million Palestinians living abroad around the world. Most refugees still stick to their right of return and Israel and the other hosting countries did nothing to change their lives and kept them in miserable refugee camps much worse than the camp where my family still live (Fawwar refugee camp), where 12,000 people live in an area of one square kilometre in overcrowded houses and with a high rate of unemployment. In general, refugees were excluded from development in the hosting countries, especially in Lebanon.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Musa.
Some Background Resources on Musa
B’Tselem [btselem]. (2016, July 31). Inhuman conditions for Palestinian workers entering Israel: Checkpoint 300, June 2016. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi-XXYmIm_c.
Benton, S. (2014, February 22). Palestinians unite to demand ‘Open Shuhada Street’. Retrieved from www.jfjfp.com/palestinians-unite-to-demand-open-shuhada-street/.
Dudai, R. (2001, June). NO WAY OUT: Medical Implications of Israel’s Siege Policy. Retrieved from www.derechos.org/human-rights/mena/doc/nowayout.html.
Dudai, R. (2001, March). TACIT CONSENT: Israeli Policy on Law Enforcement toward Settlers in the Occupied Territories. Retrieved from https://www.btselem.org/sites/default/files/publications/200103_tacit_consent_eng.pdf.
Hashash, M.A. (2014, August 15). An Open Letter to His Colleagues at B’Tselem from the Most Decent, Honorable, Good, Humble Person I Have Had the Honor to Know: Musa AbuHashash of Fawwar Camp, Hebron. Retrieved from www.normanfinkelstein.com/2014/08/15/an-open-letter-to-his-colleagues-at-btselem-from-the-most-decent-honorable-good-humble-person-i-have-had-the-honor-to-know-musa-abuhashash-of-fawwar-camp-hebron/.
Hass, A. (2016, August 21). One Killed and Dozens Wounded at a Palestinian Refugee Camp, All for Two Pistols. Retrieved from https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-palestinian-killed-dozens-wounded-all-for-two-pistols-1.5427113.
Kate. (2016, August 22). Amid mass hunger strike, UN deplores number of Palestinian detainees, now at an eight-year high. Retrieved from https://mondoweiss.net/2016/08/deplores-palestinian-detainees/.
Levy, G. & Levac, A. (2013, March 2). What Killed Arafat Jaradat?. Retrieved from https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-what-killed-arafat-jaradat-1.5232055.
Mutar, H. (2014, February 21). Palestinians demand Shuhada St. reopened after 20 years. Retrieved from https://www.972mag.com/palestinians-demand-shuhada-st-reopened-after-20-years/.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.