Thursday, March 1, 2012

When Hanin Met Danny

Ami Kaufman of +972 posted a 10 minute clip  of Israeli news anchor Danny Kushmaro interviewing Hanin Zoabi. (Ami's clip provides English subtitles.) For the uninitiated, Hanin is a woman, an Arab and a member of the Israeli Knesset. The clip includes Hanin's brief history in the Knesset as a lighting rod. But what caught me about Ami's post was its title: "WATCH Hanin Zoabi: Israel has no right to live in security."

And indeed during the ten minute segment, Hanin said: "You are not allowed to live in security. An occupying people has no right for a normal life. It has no right." But this brief exchange was not the theme of the interview nor even a major part of it; there was no real followup to this declaration. My point here is not to take issue with or to defend Hanin.What struck me was something altogether different.

I commented at Ami's blog that I found the interview fascinating, but thought the title didn't convey its tenor. When I read "Israel has no right to live in security," I expect conflict. Enmity. Outrage. Though truth be told, what's left to be outraged about? Everything's been said, all the arguments made. But there wasn't even faux outrage. Quite the opposite in fact. I thanked Ami for the post and he responded by asking me what would have been a better title. I replied without offering one. Until now.

The viewer of the aforesaid clip is introduced to Danny and Hanin as they meet cute on the street. The first words you hear from Hanin are playful - "you don't do a warm up talk? You don't want to get to know your interviewee?" The camera follows Danny and Hanin walking through traffic to sit down at an outdoor cafe. The sun is out; they are each wearing sunglasses. Looks like they are drinking mashehu cham (something hot, coffee or tea). They smile at each other and laugh comfortably. What struck me was how utterly Israeli the scene is. Especially Hanin. It's true chevrai. I don't know if she's the most hated person in Israel as the clip suggests, but she may be the most Israeli. Not sure I'm going to win too many friends on either side with that. Oh well, watch the interview and tell me who is supposed to be the "other"?

So Danny asks Hanin how she felt when she was jeered by right wingers in Hebron, who, surprise, surprise, took notice of the fact that she is single. Danny takes his cue and lets us know that Hanin is "almost" 43, has never been married, has no children. A red-blooded Israeli, he basically asks what's up with that? Hanin giggles and explains that she has no plans to marry and no plans not to marry. "I'm very spontaneous on these issues." Danny responds by voice over "this is more or less the most personal we could get to the Balad MK." Not for lack of trying, Danny. But really, this hardly seemed to be the case. Danny tells us that Hanin lives with her parents in Nazareth, has multiple degrees - philosophy, psychology, communications, comes from a well-known family, a former Supreme Court Justice, a former Deputy Health Minister, and former warrior in "God forbid" the Hagganah. (I know some yidlach stateside that would kill for a pedigree like that.)

For her part, Hanin distances herself from her "good Arab" uncles ("now is the time when that oppressed Palestinian lifts his head up and says to you 'Enough'"), sidesteps the oath of allegiance she took to the State of Israel upon becoming a Member of Knesset ("I didn't think about it"), and justified accepting a salary from the state ("a fraction compared to the lands you took from my family"). They go to Hanin's office where she makes Danny coffee. Danny playacts the role of embarrassed guest, concerned about stereotypes of gender and ethnicity, tries in vain to takeover, but ends up submitting to Hanin's "No, no, not yet." All in good fun as it should be. And if you've watched the clip, you know the chemistry is better than I've portrayed.

So what's my take? This looked more like a first date that didn't go all that badly. And I'd definitely tune in to a second. There is hope yet.

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