Just two days before Palestinians commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, the names of two Palestinian cameramen targeted and killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza last November were dropped from a dedication ceremony held to honor “reporters, photographers and broadcasters who have died reporting the news” over the past year. The move followed an Israel lobby pressure campaign led by anti-Palestinian organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the American Jewish Committee, efforts that were openly supported by the Israeli government.
The Atlantic Wire’s J.K. Trotter summarizes:
Two days after Washington, D.C.’s Newseum announced its intent to honor Hussam Salama and Mahmoud al-Kumi, who were killed in November while working as cameramen for the Middle East-based Al-Aqsa TV, the well-known temple of journalism has decided — for now — not to recognize Salama and al-Kumi, citing their employer’s deep ties to Hamas, a Palestinian organization currently designated by the United States as a terrorist group.
The Newseum, which honored 82 journalists on May 13, 2013, stated that it had “decided to re-evaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation,” even though just last week, in response to the hysterical reaction to Salama’s and al-Kumi’s initial inclusion, the museum had affirmed and defended their decision, noting that “the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers all consider these men journalists killed in the line of duty.”
Indeed, as Joe Catron notes, Reporters Without Borders has pointed out, “Even if the targeted media support Hamas, this does not in any way legitimize the attacks,” while the Committee to Protect Journalists “found that the Israeli military’s official justifications for its attacks on journalists…’did not specifically address CPJ’s central question: how did Israel determine that those targeted did not deserve the civilian protections afforded to all journalists, no matter their perspective, under international law?’”
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers includes both Salama and al-Kumi on its list of “69 Media Employees Killed in 2012,” as does the International Federation of Journalists in tis report, “In the Grip of Violence: Journalists and Media staff Killed in 2012.”
Human Rights Watch, in its December 20, 2012 report on “Unlawful Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Media,” concluded,
Four Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities in Gaza during the November 2012 fighting violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations.
The attacks killed two Palestinian cameramen, wounded at least 10 media workers, and badly damaged four media offices, as well as the offices of four private companies. One of the attacks killed a two-year-old boy who lived across the street from a targeted building.
The Israeli government asserted that each of the four attacks was on a legitimate military target but provided no specific information to support its claims. After examining the attack sites and interviewing witnesses, Human Rights Watch found no indications that these targets were valid military objectives.
“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the laws of war.”
HRW added, “The two men’s families, interviewed separately, said the men were neither participating in the fighting nor members of any armed group. Human Rights Watch found no evidence, including during visits to the men’s homes, to contradict that claim. Hamas’s armed wing, al-Qassam Brigades, has not put either man on its official list of killed fighters – an unlikely omission if the men had been playing a military role.”
For the Newseum to be bullied into omitting Salama and al-Kumi from its rededication ceremony by avowedly Zionist groups and right-wing media outlets demonstrates that the institution itself is no less a propaganda outfit than Al-Aqsa TV. This shameful last minute decision effectively grants the U.S. and Israeli governments the ability to decide who is and who is not a journalist and who should and who should not be honored for their work.
But the decision also reeks of hypocrisy and Manichean double standards.
The Newseum is essentially suggesting that sycophantic journalists parroting government propaganda may be legitimate targets in military operations and should be labeled combatants, rather than civilians who enjoy press freedoms and are subject to protection.
Yet this only extends as far as the U.S. State Department says it does.
The ADL’s Abe Foxman called Salama and al-Kumi “members of a terrorist organization advancing their agenda through murderous violence” and “terrorist operatives” who “were working for a propaganda outlet, not a legitimate news organization.” The AJC’s David Harris echoed these sentiments, labeling Salama and al-Kumi as “brazen terrorists” and “two individuals who were integral to the propaganda machine of the Hamas terrorist organization,” that could not be considered “a legitimate media operation.”
Such terms as “terrorism” and “terrorist” are perhaps the most loaded, politicized, exploited and, consequently, meaningless words in our current lexicon, employed as a bludgeon against critical thinking in order to reinforce “us vs. them” narratives.
Apparently, the Newseum has determined that our propaganda deserves respect and admiration, while their propaganda (in this case, documenting on camera the effects Israeli bombs and missiles have on the human flesh of Palestinian people at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital) should be condemned, targeted and investigated.
By this measure, plenty of alleged propagandists grace the memorial wall of the Newseum already, with more added during today’s ceremony.
Mohamed Al-Massalma, a freelance reporter for Al Jazeera, was killed by a sniper while covering the Syrian civil war in Busra Al-Harir in late January 2013. The Syrian journalist, working under the pseudonym Mohamed Al-Horani, was “an activist in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad,” before joining Al Jazeera.
In January 2012, Mukarram Khan Aatif was gunned down in the Pakistani town of Shabqadar by members of the Pakistani Taliban. Aatif was a journalist working for Deewa Radio, the U.S. government’s Voice of America Pasto-language service. He was among those honored by the Newseum this year.
The taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) and its affiliated services have been legally banned from broadcasting or distribution here in the United States for the past 65 years because of a Congressional act prohibiting the government from propagandizing to its own citizens. Only last year was this law reversed; the ban will be officially lifted this coming July 2013. VOA is literally U.S. government propaganda, yet its reporters are accorded due protection from violence, as they should be.
Another VOA journalist, Mohammed Ali Nuxurkey, was killed in an al-Shabab bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia, this past March There is no doubt he will be added the Newseum’s wall next year.
If any distinctions are to be made among different categories of journalists caught in the line of fire or deliberately targeted for murder, international law does not, in fact, favor the Foxman’s and Harris’ of the world.
While war journalists who are not embedded with troops or themselves soldiers taking direct part in hostilities are legally protected by the law of armed conflict, embedded reporters are not necessarily similarly protected.
According to international law professor Sandesh Sivakumaran, writing for the Oxford University Press, embedded journalists, while civilians, may be “casualties of lawful attacks” as “[t]he law allows for the targeting of troops and that targeting may result in bystanders or embedded reporters becoming casualties.”
Still, embedded journalists who were killed while accompanying American occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan – a policy promoted by the U.S. military in order to ensure positive reporting on American actions (some might call that propaganda) – have also rightly been accorded a place in the Newseum’s memorial. Journalists like Spanish reporter Julio Anguita Parrado and German correspondent Christian Liebig, killed by Iraqi missiles in an April 7, 2003 attack on the U.S. Army’s 3rd Division headquarters in Baghdad, are honored by the Newseum as is NBC News soundman Jeremy Little, killed in Fallujah in July 2003 while embedded with the Army’s 3rd Infantry.
Sivakumaran also explains that “[j]ournalists who work for media outlets or information services of the armed forces” are legally considered “members of the armed forces,” and therefore “don’t benefit from the protections afforded to civilians and their deaths don’t constitute a violation of the law.”
As such, the Newseum’s glaring duplicity is all the more evident when considering the case of James P. Hunter. A staff sergeant, reporter and photographer with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Hunter was killed on June 18, 2010 by an IED while covering the massive U.S. offensive taking place in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for The Fort Campbell Courier, an Army newspaper in Kentucky. He was an active duty soldier and the first Army journalist to die in combat since 9/11. Still, the Newseum saw fit to honor Hunter on its memorial wall.
Yet in the case of Salama and al-Kumi, “Israeli officials sought to justify attacks on Palestinian media by saying the military had targeted individuals or facilities that ‘had relevance to’ or were ‘linked with’ a Palestinian armed group, or had ‘encouraged and lauded acts of terror against Israeli civilians,’” according to Human Rights Watch. “These justifications, suggesting that it is permissible to attack media because of their associations or opinions, however repugnant, rather than their direct participation in hostilities, violate the laws of war and place journalists at grave risk.”
If repellant statements, including the justification of and praise for acts of violence against civilians, are the benchmark of propaganda and thereby constitute legitimate targeting for death by those opposed to such statements, then countless American journalists and commentators from across the political spectrum would be subject to the same fate as Salama and al-Kumi.
Warmongering and incitement abound in the editorial pages of The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Liberal commentators like Joe Klein and former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs exhalt the extrajudicial executions by flying robot of countless civilians, including a 16-year-old American citizen in Yemen and hundreds of children in Pakistan. Right-wing pundits like Jennifer Rubin and her friends at Commentary and The Weekly Standard openly advocate for the murder of Iranian and Palestinian civilians, endlessly call for permanent war and occupation, support torture and indefinite detention, advocate for the assassination of whistleblowers, scientists and foreign officials, and justify the war crimes of their preferred military forces and governments.
Just days before the car in which Salama and al-Kumi were traveling, marked clearly as a press vehicle, was blown up by an Israeli bomb, Rubin published a post praising the IDF assault on Gaza. Hardly able to contain her glee, Rubin anonymously quoted “an old Middle East hand” declaring that, after weeks of sporadic Israeli airstrikes (“a form of messaging to Hamas”), “the Israelis escalated. But still they are avoiding infrastructure, hitting pinpoint high-level Hamas target.”
A recent B’Tselem report on Israel’s actions last November, however, “challenges the common perception in the Israeli public and media that the operation was ‘surgical’ and caused practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians,” noting that, “in some cases at least, the [Israeli] military violated IHL [international humanitarian law] and in other cases there are substantial reasons to believe IHL was violated.” Israeli airstrikes killed 167 Palestinians in Gaza, at least 87 of whom were noncombatants, including 31 minors.
Two days after cheering Israeli war crimes, Rubin set her sights on a bigger target. “Israel can keep swatting down Hamas, using air power or, if need be, going into Gaza on land,” she wrote. “It has a solemn obligation to defend itself against what was a deliberate escalation by Hamas in the number and quality of weapons launched against Israel’s civilian population. But even with the most robust U.S. support this is not a long-term solution. That will only come when Iran is dealt with, either militarily or via regime change.”
Anyone arguing that Rubin could be targeted with violence for writing her opinions would be labeled sociopathic and lambasted for incitement, and for good reason. And there is no doubt that if correspondents from Israeli Army Radio or employees of the state-run Israel Broadcasting Authority were killed, they would be honored by the Newseum, without so much as a whiff of dissent, let alone outrage.
It is evident that, as always, Palestinians are subject to unparalleled scrutiny and suspicion due to the tireless defamation and lobbying efforts of big-moneyed Zionist organizations and ideological zealots.
But is it surprising that the Newseum should jump on this bias bandwagon?
In the late 1940′s, Bugsy Siegel’s former publicist Hank Greenspun was recruited by Jewish militias in Palestine to help them fight against both the occupying British and indigenous Palestinians. He hijacked a yacht and laundered $1.3 million through Mexico in order to smuggle machine guns stolen from the U.S. Navy in Hawaii to the prolific terrorist group Irgun, which had blown up Jerusalem’s King David Hotel the year before and would massacre the residents of Deir Yassin a year later. Soon thereafter, Greenspun was apprehended by the FBI while attempting to illegally ship surplus combat airplane engines to Haganah.
In 1950, he was convicted of violating the U.S. Neutrality Act and fined $10,000 for his arms deals. The same year, he purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal and renamed it the Las Vegas Sun, serving as publisher for the next four decades.
Upon his death in 1989, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres called Greenspun “a hero of our country and a fighter for freedom – a man of great spirit who fought with his mind and his soul; a man of great conviction and commitment.” In 1993, a one-acre plaza in the Jerusalem Botanical Garden of Hebrew University was dedicated to him.
- Jewish groups slam ‘Newseum’ for honoring Palestinian journalists killed by Israelis (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Two Hamas officials say the Palestinian Islamic group has re-elected Khaled Meshaal as its leader for the fourth time.
Mashaal, 56, who has run the Palestinian movement since 1996 from exile, was widely seen as a favorite.
He is backed by regional powers Qatar, Turkey and Egypt. He is now based in Qatar.
The officials said the majority of the group’s Shura council members voted for Meshaal. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret procedure.
There had been speculation that Meshaal, who is based in exile, would be forced aside by the movement’s powerful leaders in the Gaza Strip, which it has controlled since 2007. Meshaal himself had said last year that he would not seek a new term.
But Hamas officials had hinted that Meshaal would continue leading the Palestinian group.
“The movement’s leaders have decided to renew Meshaal’s term for four years,” a high-ranking Hamas official told AFP on condition of anonymity ahead of the vote.
Hamas officials were in Cairo on Sunday and Monday for the vote, and to discuss with Egyptian leaders reconciliation with the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
After 37 years in exile from Palestine, it was only last December that Meshaal made his first ever visit to Gaza.
He was propelled to the movement’s leadership in 2004 after Israel assassinated the movement’s founding leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor Abdelaziz al-Rantissi in the Gaza Strip.
Meshaal himself survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997 when agents of the Mossad secret service disguised as Canadian tourists bungled an attempt to poison him on a street in Amman.
(AFP, AP, Al-Akhbar)
‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’ is a remark about interviewing politicians commonly attributed to Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman (actually originally made by Louis Heren of The Times). For those of us who watch Newsnight and its like the question we need to ask is not only ‘why’, but also ‘how’ these lying bastards are lying to us. You may well get the feeling that what you are watching is skewed, but given the speed of TV reports it can be difficult to recognise exactly just how we are being manipulated.
There is little doubt that we are being manipulated. For example, the Glasgow University Media Group (GUMG) – in a study of BBC and ITV news bulletins – found that the Israeli perspective was used to structure news reports (see *Philo and Berry, 2011). There was also very little context given of the history of how the occupation developed and how it has been prosecuted by the Israelis. Reporters tended to use ‘loaded’ vocabulary, so only Palestinians were described as ‘militants’ or ‘gunmen’. In addition, the USA was unrealistically presented as being even-handed and trying to broker a fair peace. Many or perhaps all of these findings also appear to apply to Newsnight.
This article is based on research I carried out for my MA dissertation (the full text of which is available online). Here I’m going to analyse one Newsnight report on Israel/Palestine using a method called Critical Discourse Analysis. The full version of this uses a three-level analysis – the social context (government policy on the Middle East), the institutional context (how the BBC operates to construct news programmes on the Middle East in the context of its relationship with the state) and the text (the reports). For reasons of space I’m just going to concentrate on one programme here. This report was broadcast on 19 November 2012 amidst speculation that Israel was going to invade Gaza once again (the report can be watched online. A full transcript is also available).
CDA is a flexible approach which can analyse a number of aspects of a text – grammar, vocabulary, discourses (such as metaphors), genres and so on, with the aim of revealing the underlying presuppositions and discovering what has been left out. The results can help to illuminate the ideology of the producer. In this case, I’m going to look at the report stage by stage and point out some of the sleight of hand involved.
The first stage is the introduction to the programme which highlights the report on Gaza. The presenter Kirsty Wark begins by saying `who can stop Gaza and Israel descending into a ground war’ (line 1 of the transcript). Why does Wark set up Gaza and Israel as equal subjects of the process `descending into war’? This spuriously implies that there are two more or less equal sides with equal responsibility for the situation. A more honest introduction could be `who can stop Israel attacking Gaza and the Palestinians responding’. Wark’s verbal manipulation establishes the tone of the report which completely avoids discussing Israel’s motivation for starting the conflict.
The second stage is the studio introduction to the report itself, which concentrates on updating the viewer on the most recent events. Here we see a privileging of the Israeli point of view. In particular, Wark claims that `Israeli jets pound the Strip in retaliation for rocket attacks’ (l.11-12). The GUMG has shown that it is very common for TV news to claim that Israeli attacks on the Palestinians are `retaliation’, whether this is true or not. However, the Palestinians claim that Israel started this conflict when they killed a child in Gaza on 8 November. Why does the BBC completely ignore this (reported in The Guardian 18 November) and take the Israeli account as unproblematic?
Wark then asks one question to Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban who goes into an analysis of what has been happening. This format – which is frequent on TV news programmes – allows Urban to state his views unchallenged: a good way to establish his presuppositions as `the truth’. For example, he refers to the 2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza as a `limited conflict’ (l.33-35, from which we can guess that he wasn’t living there at the time). And although he refers to the Israeli attack on a building in Gaza which housed news organisations (l.50-52), this reference is `backgrounded’ as if it was accidental. In fact, Israel has a record (as does the USA) of attacking independent journalists, but Urban ignores this.
In the third stage we get an edited `package’ which starts to include other voices – where reporters select and incorporate the comments of interviewees into a chain with a linking voiceover. This may make it seem as if it is just telling a story in a natural way, but of course it is constructed to tell the story that the reporter wants – in other words it is ideological. The voices here are those of the Israeli and Egyptian governments, and Hamas. However, they are not treated equally. Individuals close to the governments are interviewed to give a semi-official point of view, but only a brief clip of a Hamas press conference is included – no direct interview. Why is this? Is the BBC denying a voice to Hamas, which is after all the elected representative of the people of Gaza, because the UK government will not recognise it? The BBC is funded by licence-fee payers, you and me, not the Foreign Office. But for Newsnight the importance of properly informing the viewer of events is secondary to toeing the government line. In practice, the BBC’s independence from government may be real to some degree but it is strictly limited (see my discussion of the reasons why in my original research).
Urban also discusses what will happen if Israel invades Gaza. However, this is done in a very matter-of-fact way, as if discussing military exercises. We are shown maps of Gaza with arrows and tanks, and mention of `2009’s ground push’, `severing communications’, and only additionally `producing hundreds of civilian deaths’ (l.98-101). Would the tone be the same if the US/UK security services’ lunatic fantasy of Iran attacking Israel ever happened? Would Urban calmly be discussing severing communications in Tel Aviv while we looked at graphics of tanks on maps? It hardly seems likely. The screen would be filled with voices denouncing this monstrous attack. Why aren’t we seeing this about the war crime of killing civilians in Gaza? Instead, the only external voice brought in to comment on this is Tony Blair. Newsnight chooses Britain’s major war criminal to sanitise Israel’s assault on Gaza, for that is effectively what Blair tries to do in the final stage of the programme.
Wark now asks Blair five questions. If we examine them we can see quite clearly the presuppositions that inform this report. Two of them are about Hamas receiving weapons via Egypt (l.141-143 and l.159-165) and clearly assume that there is something wrong with this. Why is this assumed? Palestine has been under occupation since 1948, and since 1967 the United Nations has called on Israel to pull back to its pre-1967 borders, which it refuses to do. Instead it uses violence to repress the Palestinians, which includes the use of weapons supplied by the USA and UK. Why should the Palestinians not have weapons to defend themselves? What about Israel’s weapons? These questions are completely suppressed by Newsnight.
It is particularly telling that Wark asks Blair `is there no pressure we can put on that this weaponry does not come through from Egypt’? Who is this `we’ exactly? Neither the UK nor the BBC is involved in the conflict, so why is Wark including the viewer in taking sides? The assumption throughout is that the Palestinians have no right to defend themselves. Even when Wark presses Blair to agree that the Israeli response has been disproportionate her question includes the ridiculous assumption that the Palestinians have been `harassing’ Israel (l.180-185). Blair’s response is a very good example of a politician trying to wriggle out of admitting the truth, which Wark fails to follow up on.
There are numerous other examples from this report which demonstrate how the BBC manipulates its reporting on this topic to favour Israel which lack of space prevents me from recounting (but you can read a fuller analysis in my original research). However, it is clear that the report is framed to privilege the Israeli viewpoint. The question remains – why? Is it the individual bias of particular journalists? That is hardly likely as the approach is consistent across a wide range of reporters. The reason lies in the relationship between the BBC and the state (see my discussion of this here). The BBC is allowed a certain amount of independence as long as certain boundaries are not crossed. One of those major boundaries is Israel’s repression of the Palestinians. We can – and should – pressurise the BBC to be more truthful. But don’t hold your breath for a positive response – we are in for a very long wait.
* Greg Philo and Mike Berry (2011) More Bad News From Israel Pluto Press
Peter Allen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Israel detained 382 Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in February including deceased Arafat Jaradat, three parliamentarians and ten women, a report has said.
The report issued by AHRAR for Prisoners Studies showed that 376 detainees from the West Bank and six from the Gaza Strip.
According to the report, the largest number of Palestinians arrested was from the West Bank city of Nablus followed by Jerusalem, Hebron, Jenin and Bethlehem. Many were arrested from other cities.
While most of the Palestinians were arrested from their homes at night, the report said that 38 of them were arrested at Israeli checkpoints. There are more than 500 of these spread around the West Bank which divide the cities and “make people feel like they are living in hell.”
What made the February detentions distinctive is that large numbers of the detainees are Hamas leaders or activists. The three parliamentarians detained were members of Change and Reform Bloc which is affiliated to Hamas.
Foad al-Khafash, a former prisoner and the head of AHRAR, affirmed that Israeli detention campaigns occur on a daily basis. He also said that the current numbers of those detained are not final as some detentions might not have been reported.
Al-Khafash called for international organisations to shed light on the issue of the Palestinian prisoners and how they are being “violently” kidnapped from their houses.
“The Israeli soldiers ignore all humanitarian norms and laws when they break into the houses of the Palestinians and kidnap them,” Al-Khafash said.
He also said, “the Israeli forces carry out barbaric assaults against prisoners who are not charged and put them into administrative detention.”
It is worth mentioning that, according to AHRAR’s report, the number of detentions has increased this month. “This shows an increasingly aggressive policy in dealing with the Palestinians,” Al-Khafash said.
- Israel breaches truce 820 times in three months (altahrir.wordpress.com)
Ignore the hype. It’s four more years of settlement growth
NAZARETH — Israeli and Palestinian officials have been in Washington laying the ground for President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank, scheduled for next month and the first since he took office four years ago.
Topping the agenda, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, will be efforts to restart the long-stalled peace process. Last week Palestinian officials said they had urged the White House to arrive with a diplomatic plan.
The US president began his first term on a different footing, ignoring Israel and heading instead to Cairo where he made a speech committing the US to a new era in relations with the Arab world. Little came of the promise.
Now he apparently intends to start his second term — as Netanyahu resumes office too, following last month’s elections — with an effort to engage with Israel and the Palestinians that is almost as certain to prove an exercise in futility.
The prospect of reviving the peace track between Israel and the Palestinians is not one that is appetising for either Obama or Netanyahu. Both are bruised from locking horns over a settlement freeze — the key plank of the US president’s efforts — during his first term.
But equally, it seems, the price of continuing inaction is high too. The Palestinians have repeatedly embarrassed Obama at the United Nations, not least by isolating the US in November as it opposed an upgrade in the Palestinians’ observer status. Inertia also looks risky given the growing unrest in the West Bank over hunger-striking prisoners.
Ahead lie potentially even bigger headaches, including the doomsday scenario — from Israel and Washington’s perspective — that the Palestinians approach the International Criminal Court to demand Israel be investigated for war crimes.
The perennial optimists have been searching for signs that Obama is readier this time to get tough. Neither of the president’s recent major appointments — John Kerry as secretary of state and Chuck Hagel, nominated as defence secretary — has been welcomed in Israel.
US determination has been buoyed, it is argued, by what is seen as a tide change in Israeli public opinion, highlighted by the surprise electoral success of centrist Yair Lapid and relatively poor showing by Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Netanyahu’s officials sense similar motives, complaining that Obama’s visit so soon after the election is direct “interference” in coalition-building. The centrists, they fear, will be able to extract concessions from Netanyahu, who will not wish to greet the US president as head of an extremist government.
Israeli officials, meanwhile, look eager to mend fences: they have hopefully codenamed the visit “Unbreakable Alliance” and announced an intention to award Obama Israel’s highest honour, the presidential medal.
The more hopeful scenarios, however, overlook the obstacles to a diplomatic solution posed both by Israel’s domestic politics and by the Palestinians’ inability to withstand Israeli bullying.
Not least, they ignore the fact that Netanyahu’s Knesset faction is the most right-wing in Likud’s history. He cannot advance a peace formula — assuming he wanted to — without tearing apart his party.
Equally, there is nothing in Lapid’s record to indicate he is willing to push for meaningful compromises on Palestinian statehood. On this issue, he occupies the traditional ground of Likud, before it moved further right. A recent poll found half his supporters called themselves right-wing.
Last week Netanyahu signed a coalition pact with another supposed centrist, Tzipi Livni, a former Likud leader who now heads a small faction called Hatnuah. The goal, as one Likud official cynically put it, was to use Livni to “whitewash the Netanyahu government in the world’s eyes”.
In other words, Netanyahu hopes a Livni or a Lapid will buy him breathing space as he entrenches the settlements and pushes Palestinians out of large areas of the West Bank under cover of what the Israeli newspaper Haaretz termed a “booby-trapped diplomatic process”.
What of the Palestinians? Will they not be able to mount an effective challenge to Israeli intransigence, given an apparent renewed US interest in diplomacy?
Here is the rub. Netanyahu already has a stranglehold on the politics of his potential peace partners. He can easily manipulate the fortunes of the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on the two biggest tests he faces: the “peace process” overseen by the international community, and reconciliation talks with the rival Palestinian faction Hamas.
The latest talks between Hamas and Fatah broke down in Cairo this month, even though unity, in the view of most Palestinians, is a precondition of their seeking viable statehood. The talks’ failure followed the “arrest” by Israel of 25 Hamas leaders in the West Bank, seizures that Palestinian human rights groups and Hamas warned were intended to disrupt reconciliation.
Meanwhile, Israel has repeatedly undermined Abbas’s rule, and kept his PA close to collapse, by turning on and off one of its major sources of income — tax monies Israel regularly collects on behalf of the Palestinians and is supposed to pass on.
As a result, Abbas is trapped between various pressures impossible to reconcile: the need to keep Israel happy, to maintain legitimacy with his own people and to foster a shared political agenda with other Palestinian factions.
The sticks that Israel wields force Abbas to keep the door open to negotiations even as most Palestinians recognise their utter pointlessness. Likewise, his constant need to appease Israel and the US serves only to widen differences with Hamas.
The Palestinians are stuck in a political and diplomatic cul-de-sac, unable to move forward either with the development of their national struggle or with talks on viable statehood. Whatever Obama’s intentions, the reality is that this will be another four years of diplomatic failure.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He won this year’s Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.
Egyptian forces have flooded smuggling tunnels under the border with the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip in a campaign to shut them down, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said.
The network of tunnels is a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a deadly blockade imposed by Israel for more than seven years.
Reuters reporters saw one tunnel being used to bring in cement and gravel suddenly fill with water on Sunday, sending workers rushing for safety. Locals said two other tunnels were likewise flooded, with Egyptians deliberately pumping in water.
“The Egyptians have opened the water to drown the tunnels,” said Abu Ghassan, who supervises the work of 30 men at one tunnel some 200 meters (yards) from the border fence.
An Egyptian security official in the Sinai told Reuters the campaign started five days ago.
“We are using water to close the tunnels by raising water from one of the wells,” he said, declining to be named.
While Gaza’s rulers have been reluctant to criticize Mursi in public, ordinary Gazans are slightly more vocal.
“Egyptian measures against tunnels have worsened since the election of Mursi. Our Hamas brothers thought he would open up Gaza. I guess they were wrong,” said a tunnel owner, who identified himself only as Ayed, fearing reprisal.
“Perhaps 150 or 200 tunnels have been shut since the Sinai attack. This is the Mursi era,” he added.
Dozens of tunnels had been destroyed since last August following the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in a militant attack near the Gaza fence.
Cairo said some of the gunmen had crossed into Egypt via the tunnels – a charge denied by Palestinians – and ordered an immediate crackdown.
The move surprised and angered Gaza’s rulers, the Islamist group Hamas, which had hoped for much better ties with Cairo following the election last year of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist who is ideologically close to Hamas.
A Hamas official confirmed Egypt was again targeting the tunnels. He gave no further details and declined to speculate on the timing of the move, which started while Palestinian faction leaders met in Cairo to try to overcome deep divisions.
The tunnelers fear the water being pumped underground might collapse the passage ways, with possible disastrous consequences.
“Water can cause cracks in the wall and may cause the collapse of the tunnel. It may kill people,” said Ahmed Al-Shaer, a tunnel worker whose cousin died a year ago when a tunnel caved in on him.
Six Palestinians died in January in tunnel implosions, raising the death toll amongst workers to 233 since 2007, according to Gazan human rights groups, including an estimated 20 who died in various Israeli air attacks on the border lands.
Israel imposed its vicious blockade on the coastal strip in 2007. Food imports to Gaza were cut by nearly 75 percent, from 400 trucks per day to 106 by the start of the blockade.
At one stage an estimated 2,500-3,000 tunnels snaked their way under the desert fence but the network has shrunk markedly since 2010, when Israel eased some of the limits they imposed on imports into the coastal enclave.
All goods still have to be screened before entering Gaza and Israel says some restrictions must remain on items that could be used to make or to store weapons.
This ensures the tunnels are still active, particularly to bring in building materials. Hamas also prefers using the tunnels to smuggle in fuel, thereby avoiding custom dues that are payable on oil crossing via Israel.
BETHLEHEM – Israeli forces launched multiple arrest raids overnight Monday against Hamas affiliates in the West Bank, Hamas sources and locals said.
Hamas leader Rafat Jamil Nasif, 45, was detained in Tulkarem in an arrest raid on his home, sources in the Islamist movement said. Nasif’s family were forced to stand outside in the cold while sniffer dogs searched his home.
Musab al-Ashqar, Abdullah Ismail al-Khalil and Ammar Jihad Ameir, students at al-Khadouri university, were also arrested in Tulkarem, together with the local Imam’s son Qitad Amar Bidawi.
In Nablus, Israeli forces detained a local Islamist student leader Muthanna Jamil Eshtayeh and students Osama Khalid Yamin and Walid Jamal Asida from An-Najah university, locals said.
Mousa Ahmad Yamin and Abed al-Ghani Ayesh Samara were also detained in nearby villages.
Four people were arrested in Qalandia refugee camp in Ramallah, including two ex-prisoners, and in Hebron two other students were detained.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said that 13 people were detained overnight, including four in Nablus, five in Tulkarem, three in Bethlehem and one in Hebron.
Another military spokesman said nine people arrested were affiliated with Hamas.
The latest detentions follow a sweep of arrests of Hamas-affiliated officials in the West Bank over the past week.
Last Tuesday, Israeli forces arrested 12 people including at least three Hamas-affiliates.
A day earlier, Israeli soldiers arrested 23 members of Hamas, including three lawmakers — Ahmed Attoun in al-Bireh, Hatem Qafisha in Hebron and Mohammed al-Tal in al-Dhahiriyya.
Hamas condemned the arrests as a “criminal act.”
- Israel arrests 22 Hamas members ahead of Fatah-Hamas talks (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israeli forces led an arrest sweep of at least 22 Hamas members Sunday night and Monday morning, including 3 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The Israeli military confirmed arrests were made but would not elaborate further.
The Palestinian Ma’an news agency identified two of the MPs as Hatim Qafisha of Hebron and Ahmad Attoun of Jerusalem. Qafisha has previously been detained six times by Israel, whereas Attoun was forcibly transferred from Jerusalem to the West Bank by Israeli forces.
The third MP was identified by WAFA news agency as Mohammad al-Tul from Dahrieh.
Israel has a history of arresting Palestinian politicians and legislators, mainly targeting members of the pro-Hamas Change and Reform bloc since 2006, when Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament.
According to prisoners’ rights NGO Addameer, nearly a third of all members of the Palestinian Legislative Council were held in Israeli prisons in 2009.
The recent upsurge in arrests is most likely a response to Friday’s planned talks between rival Palestinian parties Hamas and Fatah as a way to undermine attempts at Palestinian political unity, according to Murad Jadallah of Addameer.
“Israel wants to show it has the authority and the military power to decide whether reconciliation happens,” the activist told Al-Akhbar.
Addameer has recorded the arrests of at least 40 Palestinians in the past 48 hours.
As of January 1, Israel held 4,743 Palestinians in its prisons, including 12 Palestinian MPs and 178 held without charge, according to Addameer’s latest figures.
Citing security sources, AFP reported that Israel plans to step up arrests of “suspected militants” in the West Bank.
Extensive use of administrative detention is illegal according to international law, but is commonly practiced by Israel against Palestinians.
BEIRUT — The Hamas Movement categorically denied some news reports claiming that the head of its political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, had asked the Jordanian monarch to tell the US administration that Hamas accepts the two-state solution with Israel.
“We, in Hamas, affirm that such allegations are untrue,” its information office stated in a press release.
It added that during his meeting last Monday with king Abdullah in Amman Mashaal did not table at all the issue of the two-state solution.
According to the press release, Mashaal discussed with the Jordanian king the Palestinian situation in general as well as the national reconciliation and the events in the region.
Mashaal also reiterated his Movement’s keenness on Palestinian unity and its refusal of all plans about the alternative homeland.
Reading the text of a bill that was recently signed into law by US President Barack Obama would instill fear in the hearts of ordinary Americans. Apparently, barbarians coming from distant lands are at work. They are gathering at the US-Mexico border, cutting fences and ready to wreak havoc on an otherwise serene American landscape.
Never mind that crazed, armed to the teeth, homegrown American terrorists are killing children and terrorizing whole cities. It is the Iranian menace that we are meant to fear according to the new law. When compounded with the other imagined threats of Hezbollah and Hamas, all with sinister agendas, then the time is right for Americans to return to their homes, bolt their doors and squat in shelters awaiting further instructions, for evidently, “The Iranians are coming.”
It is as comical as it is untrue. But “The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act”, which as of December 28th is an official US law, is not meant to be amusing. It is riddled with half-truths, but mostly complete and utter lies.
Yes, Iran’s influence in Latin America is on the rise. However, by US standards, the expanding diplomatic ties, extending trade routes and such are considered a threat to be ‘countered’ or per Forbes magazine’s endless wisdom, ‘confronted.’
Language in politics can be very dangerous as it can misconstrue reality, turning fictitious scenarios into ‘facts’. Despite its faltering economy, the US continues to experience a sharp growth in its think tank industry – men and women whose sole purpose are to invent and push political agendas, which oftentimes belong to some foreign entity; in this case it is Israel. Ian Barman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council reflected that sentiment exactly in a recent article in Forbes.
Only in the past year, “policymakers in Washington have woken up to a new (Iranian) threat to U.S. security”, he wrote, citing an alleged Iranian assassination plot in Washington. According to Barman, that was the wake-up call leading to a “deeply worrisome” reality. In a moment of supposed level-headedness, he writes: “exactly how significant this threat is represents the subject of a new study released in late November by the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. That report, entitled ‘A Line In The Sand’, documents the sinister synergies that have been created in recent years between Iran and Hezbollah on the one hand, and radical regional regimes and actors-from Venezuela to Mexican drug cartels-on the other.”
But according to Agence France Press, reporting on the new law on December 29th, “Washington has repeatedly stated it is closely monitoring Tehran’s activities in Latin America, though senior State Department and intelligence officials have indicated there is no apparent indication of illicit activities by Iran.”
Indeed, on the issue of Iran’s influence in Latin America there are two contradicting narratives. One that merely acknowledges Iranians growing diplomatic outreach in Latin America since 2005 and another that speaks of massive conspiracies involving Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, drug cartels, and yes, even underground music piracy groups. The alleged conspiracy is not only far-fetched, it is purposely fabricated to further punish Iran, on behalf of Israel, for its nuclear energy program. The panic over Iran’s ‘infiltration’ of the US ‘neighborhood’ in Latin America, didn’t start a year ago (as alleged by Barman) but rather coincided with old Israeli-Western propaganda which pained Iran as a country ruled by religious fiends whose main hobby is to assemble bombs and threaten western civilization. When pro-Israeli think tank ‘experts’ began floating a scenario of ‘what if Iran and Hezbollah join forces with Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel’ a few years ago, the idea seemed too absurd to compel a rational response. Now it is actually written into the new bill turned law as if a matter of fact. (Sec. 2, Findings 12)
The bill doesn’t only lack reason, proper references and is dotted with a strange amalgam of politically-inspired accusations, it also relies on wholesale allegations of little, if any plausible foundation whatsoever: “Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies with a presence in Latin America have raised revenues through illicit activities, including drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forging travel documents, pirating software and music and providing haven and assistance to other terrorists transiting the region.” (Sec 2, Findings 8)
Of course, since the whole exercise is fueled by Israeli anxiety, Hamas also had to somehow be pulled in, if not indicted through the same inexplicable reasoning: “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration concluded in 2008 that almost one-half of the foreign terrorist organizations in the world are linked to narcotics trade and trafficking, including Hezbollah and Hamas.” (Sec. 2, Findings 10)
US author and journalist, Belen Fernandez has been looking into this matter for years. In all of her writings on the topic she seemed to trace the very thread that unites the invented upheaval over Iran’s supposed takeover of the ‘Western Hemisphere.’ In an article entitled: “Distorting Iranian-Latin American Relations”, nearly two years ago, she wrote: “Iranian ‘penetration’ in Latin America has in recent years become a pet issue of Israeli Foreign Ministry officials and American neoconservative pundits, many of whom take offense at the perceived failure of the U.S. government to adequately appreciate the security threat posed by, for example, the inauguration of a weekly flight from Caracas to Tehran with a stop in Damascus.”
The issue for Israel and its US conduits is entirely political. Iran is indeed expanding its political and diplomatic outreach, but entirely through legal and official means, something that the US has failed to do since The Monroe Doctrine gave the US exclusive hegemony over Latin America starting in December 1823. But much has changed since then, especially in the last two decades when the US swung towards disastrous Middle East foreign policies, much to the pleasure of Israel. The suffering endured by Arabs and Muslims was the needed break for some Latin American countries to challenge US policies in their respective countries. This period was the era in which powerhouses like Brazil rose and popular governments took the helm. US policies in Latin America are not failing because of Iranians ‘sinister’ plans, but because of something entirely different.
Demeaning Latin America as a hapless region waiting for US saviors and pinning US political stocks on Iran might serve immediate Israeli purposes, but it will certainly contribute to the growing political delusion that permeates Washington. Alas, there are little indications that Washington politicians are anywhere near waking up from Israel’s overbearing spell. Just examine the author of the anti-Iran bill: Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina’s 3rd District. He is a ‘freshman’, but has massive ambitions. He joined the Congress in 2011 and quickly learned the ropes. He knows that in order to succeed on Capitol Hill, one must win favor with the pro-Israeli lobby. He sponsored the bill on January 3, just a few days before the Iranian President went on a major diplomatic tour in Latin America to expand his country’s international relations. That alone was unacceptable, for Latin America has long been designated as the US ‘backyard’, per the belittling perception of US mainstream media. The trip ignited the ire of Israel, which both media and officials considered a travesty at a time that Tel Aviv was tirelessly working to isolate Iran. The bill was clearly a coordinated move, as its language indicates textbook Israeli hasbara.
Duncan might have been a novice, but he is quickly catching up. On May 20th, he proudly posted a statement on his House of Representative page that sharply censures his own president’s remarks on Israel, while fully supporting the political stances of the leader of another country, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He decried Obama’s siding with the “Hamas-led government”, thus “undermined(ing) Israel’s position in the negotiation process.”
“President Obama’s statement that Israel should retreat to its impossible to defend 1967 borders breaks a promise to one of our strongest allies, threatens Israel’s security, and jeopardizes the future of democracy in the region,” he wrote. Of course, Duncan wholeheartedly agreed with Netanyahu’s right-wing policies. “(The Israeli) Prime Minister understands the hard reality of Israel’s precarious security situation and daily threats of terrorism. I agree with the Israeli Prime Minister that President Obama’s position is simply unrealistic.” He concluded with a very telling statement: “As a Christian, I ask Americans to continue lifting up the people of Israel with prayers for safety and the hope for a lasting peace.”
This strange attitude towards politics and American national security is the real threat, not Iranian embassies and water purification projects in some Latin American countries. But considering the rising religious zealotry, shrewd Israeli lobby and the numerous think tanks of catered wisdom, there is little space for pragmatic politics or sensible approach to anything that concerns Israel. Thus, Obama enacted the bill into law and funds have been secured to evaluate Iran’s growing ‘threats’ in ‘America’s backyard’ so that proper measures are taken to counter the frightening possibilities.
What Duncan doesn’t know however, is that Latin America is no longer hostage, neither to the whims of Washington, nor to his South Carolina’s 3rd District. And that the ‘Western Hemisphere’ is no longer defined by the confines of US foreign policies, which seem to be narrowing each year to meet Israeli expectations and not those of America.
The double standard of Israel-no-matter-what supporters can reach spectacular proportions. The recent case of Liberal Party leadership candidate Justin Trudeau’s speech proves the point and also illustrates the tactics employed to demonize the Islamic community.
Montreal-based anti-Muslim website Point de Bascule and pro-Israel Jewish group B’nai Brith successfully turned Trudeau’s speech to the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference last weekend into a controversy. With help from some right-wing media outlets they made a big deal of the fact that one of (17) sponsors of the Toronto event has been accused of aiding Hamas by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
In a bid to quiet the controversy the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN), which is challenging the CRA’s accusations in court, withdrew its sponsorship of the conference. Operating in a dozen countries, IRFAN is a leading Canadian Muslim charity that sponsored four thousand orphans at its high point.
In November 2004 then opposition MP Stockwell Day, backed by the pro-Israel Canadian Coalition for Democracies, called on the Liberal government to investigate IRFAN for any ties to Hamas. The CRA investigated the group but failed to register a serious complaint. Soon after Day and the Conservatives took power, the CRA audited IRFAN again. After a series of moves against the organization, in April 2011 the CRA permanently revoked the group’s charitable status, claiming “IRFAN-Canada is an integral part of an international fundraising effort to support Hamas.”
A big part of the CRA’s supporting evidence was that IRFAN worked with the Gaza Ministry of Health and Ministry of Telecommunications, which came under Hamas’ direction after they won the 2006 election. The Mississauga-based organization tried to send a dialysis machine to Gaza and continued to support orphans in the impoverished territory with the money channeled through the Post Office controlled by the Telecommunications Ministry.
This author cannot claim any detailed knowledge of the charity, but on the surface of it the charge that IRFAN was a front for Hamas makes little sense. First of all, the group was registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank when the Fatah-controlled PA was waging war against Hamas. Are we to believe that CRA officials in Ottawa had a better sense of who supported Hamas then the PA in Ramallah? Additionally, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) viewed the Canadian charity as a legitimate partner. In 2009 IRFAN gave UNRWA $1.2 million to build a school for girls in Battir, a West Bank village.
The CRA spent hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating IRFAN. It appears that the Revenue Agency wanted to help their Conservative bosses prove that Muslim Canadians financed “Hamas terror”. And the recent controversy over Trudeau’s participation in the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference demonstrates how the CRA’s accusation can be used to demonize the million-strong Canadian Muslim community and specifically to deter them from associating with the Palestinian cause.
The case against IRFAN also illustrates the flagrant double standard between how Ottawa treats charities working in Israel versus those helping the much poorer Palestinians (Gaza’s per capita income is $1,483 whereas Israel’s is $31,000). It’s illegal for Canadians to aid any group directly or indirectly associated with the elected Hamas government in Gaza yet it’s legal — and government will foot part of the bill — to finance charities linked to Israeli settlements that contravene international law.
The Conservatives have reinforced Canada’s post 9-11 anti-terrorism laws that make it illegal to directly or indirectly assist a half dozen Palestinian political organizations all the while embracing tax write-offs for illegal Israeli settlements. Guelph activist Dan Maitland emailed former foreign minister Lawrence Cannon concerning Canada Park, a Jewish National Fund of Canada initiative built on land Israel occupied after the June 1967 War (three Palestinian villages were demolished to make way for the park). In August 2010 Maitland received a reply from Keith Ashfield, national revenue minister, who refused to discuss the particulars of the case but provided “general information about registered charities and the occupied territories.” Ashfield wrote “the fact that charitable activities take place in the occupied territories is not a barrier to acquiring or maintaining charitable status.” This means Canadian organizations can openly fundraise for settlements illegal under international law and get the government to pay up to a third of the cost through tax credits for donations.
The exact amount is not known but it’s safe to assume that millions of Canadian dollars make their way to Israeli settlements annually. Every year Canadians send a few hundred million dollars in tax-deductible donations to Israeli universities, parks, immigration initiatives and, more controversially, “charities” that aid the Israeli army in one way or another.
While a number of Jewish groups publicly promote their support for the Israeli military few Jewish charities openly tout their support for those stealing Palestinian land in violation of international law. Interestingly, it appears that Christian Zionist groups are more explicit about their support for West Bank settlers. One such charity registered with Ottawa, Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC), says it supports “the Jews currently living in Biblical Israel —the communities of Judea and Samaria (and previously Gaza).” Judea and Samaria is the biblical term right wing Israelis use to describe the occupied West Bank. CFOIC explains that it “provide(s) Christians with deeper insight into the significance of Judea and Samaria — the heartland of Israel — and the people who live there. This is done by bringing groups of Christians to visit the communities, and providing information about the communities on an ongoing basis; and provide financial and moral support to the Jewish communities who are developing the land in faithfulness to their God.”
So here we have the blatant double standard for all to see: The current Canadian government uses “anti-terrorism” legislation to prevent a dialysis machine from being sent to Gaza but encourages, through tax write-offs, donations to illegal settlements that have terrorized and displaced thousands of Palestinians.
Shame on all those who voted for this government.
Yves Engler is the author of Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt. His latest book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. Visit Yves’s website.
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned that Israeli airstrikes targeted individual journalists and media facilities in the Gaza Strip between November 18 and 20. Journalists and media outlets are protected under international law in military conflict.
A series of Israeli airstrikes struck two buildings that house news media, resulting in injuries to nine journalists, while separate missile attacks resulted in the deaths of three journalists, according to news reports and CPJ research. Israeli officials have broadly asserted that the individuals and facilities had connections to terrorist activity but have disclosed no substantiation for these very serious allegations. CPJ has repeatedly sought, by email and phone, supporting details or evidence from the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson’s office. We have yet to receive information from the spokesperson’s office to substantiate its allegations.
On November 18 and 19, airstrikes targeted Al-Shawa and Housari Tower and Al-Shuruq Tower, both of which are well-known for housing numerous international and local news organizations. The attacks damaged the offices of Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Quds TV, Sky News, Russia Today, Al-Arabiya, and the independent Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency. Among the nine wounded journalists was Khader al-Zahhar, a cameraman for Al-Quds TV who lost his right leg in the explosion, according to news reports. Several other international and local news organizations, including Reuters, Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press, and CNN, also have offices in the targeted buildings. Israeli spokesman Mark Regev told Al-Jazeera English on November 19 that Al-Aqsa TV is a “Hamas command and control facility” and that “Hamas used communication facilities on top of the buildings.” He did not state whether or how Hamas used the station militarily.
On November 20, Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama, cameramen for the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV, were driving away from an assignment at Al-Shifaa Hospital when an Israeli missile hit their vehicle, according to Al-Aqsa TV. The car was marked “TV” in neon-colored letters, the Hamas-run station said. The two men were killed.
A third journalist was killed when his car was hit by a missile that same day, AP reported, citing a Gaza health official. Local news reports identified the victim as Mohamed Abu Aisha, director of the private Al-Quds Educational Radio, whose vehicle was hit while he was driving in the Deir al-Balah neighborhood. The reports did not say whether Abu Aisha was engaged in journalistic work at the time, and CPJ continues to investigate the circumstances of his death.
Al-Aqsa TV, the official Hamas-run television channel, provides news and information that overtly reflect the organization’s anti-Israel perspective. Al-Quds Educational Radio is a private radio station geared toward educational programs; it also provides a pro-Hamas perspective.
On November 20, AP cited Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, as saying the three individuals were Hamas operatives. “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity,” AP quotes Leibovich as saying. An unsigned entry posted on the Israel Defense Forces blog that day asserted that an individual named Muhammed Shamalah, whom it referred to as a Hamas military commander, had been targeted in an airstrike that struck a vehicle identified as “TV.” Neither Leibovich nor the IDF blog entry provided any details to support the claims. Leibovich reiterated these unsupported claims in a letter to The New York Times published on November 29.
CPJ has contacted the IDF spokesperson’s office multiple times, beginning on November 20 and then again on November 27, 28, and 29, and we have sent three written requests seeking an explanation for its claims. We were directed to a Maj. Zohar Halevi who has not responded to our requests.
Alarmingly, spokeswoman Leibovich seeks to erase the crucial legal distinction between armed combatants and journalists covering the perspective of an adversary. “Such terrorists, who hold cameras and notebooks in their hands, are no different from their colleagues who fire rockets aimed at Israeli cities and cannot enjoy the rights and protection afforded to legitimate journalists,” Leibovich writes in the letter to The Times.
All journalists, whether local or foreign, regardless of the perspective from which they report, are afforded the same civilian protections under international law. The Israeli government does not have the right to selectively define who is and who is not a journalist based on national identity or media affiliation. International law also places strict limits on military attacks on all civilian sites, including media outlets. Article 51 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits attacks on civilian sites in which potential damage and loss of civilian life “would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”
We request your government provide an immediate and detailed explanation for its actions in targeting Mahmoud al-Kumi, Hussam Salama, and Mohamed Abu Aisha and the two media buildings in the Gaza Strip.
We ask that you consider this a matter of urgency.
Executive Director, CPJ
- Israel’s War on Palestinian Children (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- #GazaUnderAttack | 2 journalists killed in Israeli airstrike on Gaza (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)