"People ask me, 'when did you become pro-Israel?'" said Khaled Abu Toameh, the West Bank and Gaza correspondent for The Jerusalem Post and the US News & World Report, who was born to an Israeli Muslim-Arab father and a Palestinian Muslim-Arab father.
"Listen folks," he said, "yes, I am an Arab working for a Jewish paper. But I am not pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-American, pro-Russian, pro-American or pro-anything – as a reporter I tell the facts."
Speaking at the Tuesday morning session of Hadassah's Centennial Convention at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, Abu Toameh explained: "I have no problem working for any media organization. What is sad and ironic as an Arab Muslim is that my Arab peers have to work for Jewish or international media to practice real journalism."
Abu Toameh lamented the lack of freedom of speech and a free and independent media in the Arab world and said that local Arabs learned about democracy from the Jewish community.
He also explained that Palestinians, even if they disagreed with Israeli policies or the reporting in Israeli newspapers, did not boycott Israeli newspapers because "Palestinians know that the best way to relay a message to the Israeli public is through the Israeli media."
Abu Toameh claimed that the reason that Palestinian society faced so many repressions, militias and mafias was because of failures dating back to the 1993 Oslo Accords.
"I am not against the ideas of Oslo – the two-state solution, separation between Israelis and Palestinians and ending occupation are nice ideas," he said. "I am against the way Oslo was implemented."
The international community "dumped" Arafat in the West Bank and Gaza with lots of money and weapons without holding him accountable for building a democratic government that cared about the people, he explained.
"This is what led to the Hamas government in Gaza… an Islamic state funded by Iran, Syria, Islamic Jihad [and others]. This is not a place I would want to make aliya to – no thank you."
AbuToameh added that because of all the mistakes since Oslo, including all the financial corruption and infighting in West Bank and Gaza, the peace process was deadlocked. He suggested two ways for Israel to go forward.
He said that with Palestinians divided into two camps – Islamic radicals who do not accept a Jewish state and moderate Palestinians who do not have political clout – Israel should separate from Palestinians thoroughly for the time being, until a consensus develops accepting Israel in the region and rejecting violence.
His second suggestion was for Israel to refocus its energies on Arab Israelis for fear that Arab citizens will one day rise up in revolt if they do not feel they have equal rights.
Israel should "wake up and improve relations with Arabs in Israel," he said.