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November 1, 2014 / 8 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘journalists’

The Images Missing From The Gaza war

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

There has been no shortage of images from the Gaza conflict.

We’ve seen rubble, dead Palestinian children, Israelis cowering during rocket attacks, Israeli military maneuvers and Israeli army footage of Hamas militants emerging from tunnels to attack Israeli soldiers.

What we haven’t seen are practically any images of Hamas fighters inside Gaza.

We know they’re there: Someone’s got to be launching those rockets into Israel (more than 3,200) and firing at invading Israeli troops. But so far the only images we’ve seen (or even heard about) are the Israel Defense Forces’ videos of Hamas fighters using hospitals, ambulances, mosques and schools (and tunnels) to launch attacks against Israeli targets or ferry arms around Gaza.

Why haven’t we seen journalists’ photographs of Hamas fighters inside Gaza?

We know Hamas doesn’t want the world to see images of Palestinian fighters launching rockets or using civilian havens like hospitals as bases of operation. But if we’re able to see images from both sides of practically every other war – in Syria, in Ukraine, in Iraq – why is Gaza an exception?

If journalists are being threatened and intimidated when they try to document Hamas activity in Gaza, their news outlets should be out front saying so. They’re not.

Last week, The New York Times published an account by photographer Sergey Ponomarev on what his days are like in Gaza. Here’s what Ponomarev said:

“It was a war routine. You leave early in the morning to see the houses destroyed the night before. Then you go to funerals, then to the hospital because more injured people arrive, and in the evening you go back to see more destroyed houses.

“It was the same thing every day, just switching between Rafah and Khan Younis.”

If you’re wondering whether the Times has assigned another photographer to cover the Hamas aspect of the story, it hasn’t. Looking through the 45 images in four of the Times’s recent slideshows on the conflict, there’s not a single one of a Hamas fighter.

Why not? After all, Hamas attacks against Israel are crucial to understanding what’s underpinning this conflict.

When I posed this question to the Times, here’s what Eileen Murphy, the newspaper’s vice president for corporate communications, told me:

“Our photo editor went through all of our pictures recently and out of many hundreds, she found 2 very distant poor quality images that were captioned Hamas fighters by our photographer on the ground. It is very difficult to identify Hamas because they don’t have uniforms or any visible insignia; our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun.

“I would add that we would not withhold photos of Hamas militants. We eagerly pursue photographs from both sides of the conflict, but we are limited by what our photographers have access to.”

Now, I’m no war reporter. It’s a risk I’m not willing to take, and I commend those who do. So I’m hesitant to question the work of reporters in Gaza right now.

But here’s what I don’t get: With the hundreds of journalists there, including numerous photojournalists with experience covering bloody conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, and Afghanistan, how is it that they aren’t able to get any images of Palestinians fighting the Israelis?

We know these images exist – unless you believe the IDF is fabricating its footage of Palestinian fighters using ambulances to transport rockets, firing from hospitals and mosques, and launching rockets at Israel.

It’s certainly important to show the human and structural devastation in Gaza. But with more than 3,200 rockets fired at Israel thus far from Gaza, and plenty of other fighting there, you’d think media outlets would be able to document some of it. But they haven’t. (Israeli news outlets are barred from Gaza, so they get a pass.)

Foreign Journalists Testify to Hamas’ Threats for Honest War Coverage

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Journalists from across the globe who flooded Israel and Gaza to cover the war have testified to the Israeli government that they often suffered violence and that their equipment was damaged by Hamas because they had documented criminal activity by Hamas, such as the launching of rockets from the heart of civilian areas.

The Government Press Office (GPO) has dealt with 705 foreign journalists from over 42 countries who came to cover the war, dubbed by The Jewish Press as the IDF’s Protective Edge campaign against Hamas’ Operation Death Wish.

The number of foreign journalists reporting on the war was more than double the 303 reporters who came to Israel in November 2012 to cover Operation Pillar of Defense.

The GPO said Wednesday it has accumulated testimony by foreign journalists regarding harassment by Hamas activists regarding the carrying out of their assignments. Journalists said that during their coverage of the fighting they received threats and, in several cases, were the victims of violence that included destruction of their equipment

At the onset of the operation, the GPO opened a media and information center in Ashkelon and held weekly tours, briefings and press conferences with Cabinet ministers and government and military officials. Journalists noted that their meeting with Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who briefed them on the challenges of urban and guerrilla warfare, assisted them in understanding the complexity of the current violence.

Reporters also visited and spoke with wounded IDF soldiers at Sheba Medical center at Tel HaShomer as well as with Gaza Arabs who were being treated in Israel.

They toured the IDF field hospital at Erez Crossing, which received and treated approximately 50 wounded Arabs. The number would have been much higher, but Hamas prevented hundreds from arriving and being helped by Jews.

During the tour, the journalists witnessed the violation of the ceasefire by Hamas and heard t explosions in the area. They also observed the scope of the humanitarian assistance, which included medicine, medical equipment, food, clothing and fuel. In the past month, approximately 1,500 trucks with humanitarian aid entered Gaza, belying the libel that Gaza is under Israeli siege.

Despite the international condemnation from governments around the world, newspaper coverage was less anti-Israel than usual, with the obvious exception of The New York Times.

Another major factor in the change in coverage was the work by the staff of the office of the IDF Spokesman. The army learned its lessons from Operation Cast Lead and Pillar of Cloud and filmed dozens of Hamas war crimes violations and provided footage of the IDF warning civilians in Gaza to stay away from areas from which Hamas was shooting rockets and which were to be bombed.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jewish Home party chairman Naftali Bennett, both fluent English speakers and communicators in the media, flooded American television programs with precise answers on false allegations by Hamas and international leaders that tried to paint Israel as the villain for defending against rocket attacks and terrorists infiltrations.

Arab-Israeli Journalist to Gazan Journalist: Hamas is Playing a PR Game on the Expense of the People of Gaza”

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

i24 News’ anchor Lucy Aharish, an Israeli Arab, lashed out against a Gazan journalist who was a guest on her show last week, telling him that Hamas were to blame for the crisis in Gaza. The journalist, Alaa al-Mashehrwi, was asked about the current situation in Gaza. He began lamenting about the reality there, accusing Israel of war crimes, of occupying Gaza and of generating a humanitarian crisis, which he defined as ‘very bad, very strong and very dangerous’.

Lucy Aharish did not sit silent and allow the lies to be aired and cut him off, saying that Hamas leaders use civilians as human shields, hide weapons caches and launchers in civilians homes, and therefore they are responsible for the civilian casualties.

She called on al-Mashehrwi to go out together with other journalists and civilians, face Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and demonstrate against their use of the civilian population. She urged them to demand from Hamas that they stop firing into Israel, assuring him that once they stopped the suffering on both sides would stop.

Egypt Slaps White House, Jails Al Jazeera Journalists for 7 Years

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Journalists around the world are expressing outrage in the wake of an Egyptian court’s decision to sentence three Al Jazeera journalists to prison for seven years.

The three were taken from their hotel room in Cairo in December 2013 and charged with conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to tarnish Egypt’s international reputation. Australian ex-BBC reporter Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian ex-CNN journalist Mohamed Fahmy, and local Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were among 20 accused in connection with the charges.

Al Jazeera has denied the accusations and journalists around the world have condemned Egypt for conducting what is seen as a direct campaign by Egypt’s new president to snuff out freedom of speech.

In the United States, the issue was also perceived as a diplomatic slap to the White House, which condemned the sentence. Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri to express his government’s “serious displeasure” over the matter.

The court decision had come just one day after Kerry’s unannounced visit to Cairo in which he announced that Washington had unfrozen billions of dollars in military aid to Egypt. He also vowed during his visit that the U.S. would deliver 10 Apache attack helicopters for use in the fight against terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula.

Newly-elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi refused to “interfere in the judicial verdict,” setting off an international firestorm.

“Egypt should review its unacceptable sentences against Egyptian and international journalists, and show commitment to freedom of the press,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Al Jazeera reported.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott added that his government would work to get the imprisoned journalists out of the country “quickly.”

Leaders from various other international groups said that they, too, would work to free the journalists.

Does Israel Recognize Itself as a Jewish State?

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

A government press release, referring to Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot as the “autumn holiday” raises a question whether the Netanyahu administration recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, a demand it has made of the Palestinian Authority.

The Government Press Office sent a letter to “press attaches at foreign embassies” with an invitation to attend a “Spirituality and History Tour of Jerusalem” next month.

The “spirituality” part is a bit hard to understand unless it is limited to Christianity.

“We will watch the Armenians march from their theological seminary to prayers in the St. James Cathedral, in the Armenian Quarter,” the letter stated.

“We will then proceed to the Jewish Quarter where will hear about the autumn holidays, visit the Old Yishuv Court Museum and ascend to amazing view from the roof of Aish HaTorah Yeshiva,” it continued.

“We will end our tour at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where will hear about Jerusalem’s multi-faceted Christian communities while observing ceremonies of the various sects.”

There are two glaring absences. One, there is no reference to Islam, which like it or not, is part of the history of the Old City.

The other and more blatant gaffe is the mention of “the autumn holidays.”

Autumn holidays?

A case could be made by a secular Jew that Sukkot really is all about the harvest and is one of the three Festivals in which agriculture is a major part.

But Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur?

Would the GPO dare refer to refer Christmas as “the winter holiday?”

The Jewish Press asked a couple of questions from people involved in the tour, and everyone emphasized there was no slight intended and that, in fact, the holidays do fall in the autumn.

One person indeed was taken aback and said that the question would be looked into.

It would be too complicated to explain non-Jews that they are “High Holidays” – then you have to explain what is a “low” holiday.

To explain “Tishrei,” the month in which the holidays occur, requires a long span of listening attention, although Ramadan is accepted.

But Jewish? Can’t they even say the word “Jewish?”

Before the High Holidays, the GPO will send out its annual multi-page explanations of the Jewish holidays, allowing all of the foreign journalists to study the spirituality, if they want to wade through it all.

Maybe on the actual “Spirituality and History Tour of Jerusalem,” the autumn holidays will become Jewish.

One person told The Jewish Press,” Don’t make a mountain of a mole hill.”

Well, we are, because those when those little mole hills pile up on each other, they become a big, big mountain.

A Glimpse of Things to Come: Arab Press Protesting Hamas Repression

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

The biggest victims of the peace talks, it turns out, are not the Israelis, not even those hardier, more spirited Israelis living east of the green line. Without a doubt, the ones who stand to lose the most from the creation of a Palestinian state are the Arabs who live there.

I wrote in the past about the sharp decline in the quality of life in the Arab parts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, after the signing of the Oslo accords, back in 1993.

The Oslo Accords were a terrible idea. They were not at all an honest attempt to establish long-lasting peace between Arabs and Jews. Instead, they schemed to keep the Arabs under the control of a team of outside gangsters, paid by Israel.

In Oslo, Israel inflicted on the Arabs a permanent policy of Divide and Conquer, sentencing them to a slow and debilitating decline. So far, unfortunately, the Israeli plan has been working. One half of the Palestinians have been reduced to poverty. All of them are living in constant fear of violence, without the most elementary rights which you and I take for granted.

On Thursday, a group of Arab journalists joined a sit-in strike near Ramallah protesting a decision by the Hamas government in Gaza to close media offices of Ma’an Network, Al Arabiya and others.

Earlier this year and last year, those same journalists protested the heavy handed manner in which the Palestinian Authority was dealing with unflattering reports on Facebook – interrogating and throwing the authors to jail. A Human Rights Watch report issued in 2011 said Palestinian journalists are being subjected to detention and abuse at the hands of Palestinian security agencies, “a pattern that has led many to self-censor and produced a chilling effect on the free exchange of information and ideas.”

In the seven “West Bank” cases examined in some depth in the report, HRW said the “harassment and abuse of journalists reflected attempts to prevent free speech and inquiry into matters of public importance, and to punish writers solely because of their statements critical of the Palestinian Authority or their perceived support of its political rivals.”

But this time around it was all about Hamas, and the protesters included Palestinian politicians and dignitaries–who, no doubt will some day intimidate and brutalize those very protesters. For now, though, they urged the Hamas government to reopen all the media offices it closed, and to end a ban on the entry of three major Palestinian newspapers into Gaza.

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The protest was organized and called by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, the main press union in Palestine.

Back in 2004, the Palestine Journalists Syndicate (PJS) announced a ban on journalists who dared to report on disputes between Palestinians. On July 20, 2004, the PJS threatened that journalists would face “penalties” if they “dealt with or carried statements or publications dealing with internal events and inclined to slander, libel or harm others.”

Not in Gaza, mind you, in Ramallah, and not Hamas – back then the PLO still ruled in Gaza.

Obviously, there’s only one place where those frisky reporters are permitted to roam around freely and report whatever they wish, with cordial and professional assistance from the authorities. You guessed it – in Israel, that apartheid state they so love to revile.

Head of the journalists syndicate Abdul-Nasser Najjar addressed the protesters and expressed astonishment over the ongoing assaults against journalists in Gaza.

“We were surprised as Hamas continued with assaults against Palestinian media organizations, shutting down offices of Ma’an News Network and some other media offices. This is part of an ongoing practice,” Najjar said. He highlighted that “since Hamas staged its coup in Gaza, the main three Palestinian daily newspapers were banned in the Gaza Strip.”

But, you know, only a year ago, in July 2012, Abdel Nasser Najjar called for boycotting a meeting between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Arab journalists. Najjar, an old PLO hand, warned that punitive measures would be taken against journalists who attended the meeting in Jerusalem.

It must be embarrassing, if not outright infuriating, for a journalist who spends half his day working like a serious professional in a Western democracy, vilifying Jews and whatnot, and then, at night, crossing over to the Heart of Darkness that is the Palestinian-run areas.

Israel, Syria and Double Standards

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Syria’s civil war recently entered its third calendar year. With worse still to come, in recent days it has been estimated that the number of people killed in Syria since the uprising began now stands at more than 90,000. Any death is a tragedy for someone and the people close to him; and a million deaths are not a statistic but a million individual tragedies. How can this fact glide by us with so little comment?

When it comes to Syria, there are probably a few practical reasons. One, undoubtedly, is that people get bored with long news stories. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown — in which American, British and other Western troops have after all featured prominently – public and media attention was fairly short-lived. After an initial burst of fascination, once the new norm was established, peoples’ attention wandered elsewhere. Syria has now dragged on too long to hold peoples’ ever-smaller attention spans.

There is also the fact that in Syria – as in other recent wars – journalists have found themselves becoming targets. While many journalists are willing to take the same risks as the population at large, few are willing to stay in situations where they might be the actual object of death-squads or the attentions of RPG’s. In Syria, most journalists have found it hard to get in, or once there, are unwilling to stay, so the amount of footage coming out is necessarily limited. With an absence of plentiful footage, if the story cannot be visualized, there is now rarely a story. Evidently we need pictures.

But there is another, more important, reason why this story has got so little attention. There are often underlying, as well as immediate, reasons why something does not make news. There are some situations in which a tragedy helps a political cause and others in which it hinders it. For some people, casualties are not tragedies or statistics, but simply a well-spring for political point-scoring. To compare the cases of Israel and Syria is to see this at its most stark.

Take, for instance, the highest figures for all the wars in which Israel has been involved throughout its history. The upper estimates suggest that the War of Independence in 1948 cost around 20,000 casualties in total – that is 20,000 on all sides. The upper casualty estimates of the wars of 1968 and 1973 are similar: another 20,000 and 15,000 respectively. The smaller wars in Lebanon and Gaza in the years since add several thousand more to this sad total. But something is striking here.

All the wars involving Israel, throughout its history, have caused at least 30,000 fewer deaths than have been caused in Syria in the last couple of years alone. Say that you added together all the wars involving Israel, and they had all happened either consecutively or in one go. Would we have seen the same amount of coverage that we have seen in Syria? Would there have been more or fewer protests around the world involving people of all religions, races and backgrounds, than there have been outside of Syria in recent months? Would the nations of the world, the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council, have been quieter or noisier than they have been when it has come to the matter of Israel’s neighbor, Syria, over recent months?

The answer to all these questions is that the air and ground incursions in Gaza in recent years have on each occasion led to deaths — tragic though they may be — that are a fraction of the number in Syria since the uprising there began. Yet the world, and the world’s press, and the world’s protest movements, and the world’s governments and the world’s supra-national organizations have on each and every occasion mobilized in a way which seemed at the time, and in retrospect, to demonstrate an obsession which is probably at best unhealthy, and at worst the expression of straightforward bigotry. All those people who claim that small incursions into Gaza have not been small incursions, but in fact a “holocaust,” where are they now? If the death of a hundred people is a “holocaust,” what is the death of 90,000?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/israel-syria-and-double-standards/2013/04/03/

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