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Israel Is Assassinating Journalists in Gaza

Op-Ed 2023-12-03, 12:10am

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By Amanda Yee

Israel is intentionally assassinating journalists in Gaza. As it wages its genocidal onslaught on the enclave, having murdered at least 13,000 Palestinians so far, Israel is simultaneously killing media workers in order to prevent the world from seeing the unspeakable atrocities it carries out.

The situation at hand is as dire as it is unprecedented. Since October 7, the Israeli military has killed 60 media workers, according to the Gaza Government Media Office. The Committee to Protect Journalists has stated this is the deadliest month for attacks on journalists since it started keeping record in 1992. Additionally, many other Palestinian reporters outside of Gaza face intimidation and harassment by Israeli forces.

“We have never experienced anything like this and we are overwhelmed,” admitted Nasser Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, a Ramallah-based trade union representing Palestinian media workers. “We are losing colleagues and friends every day as a result of the ongoing Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people and the policy of targeted killing against journalists.”

“We can’t keep up with the number of attacks against our journalists,” Abu Bakr continued. “We are receiving more calls and information about … incidents than we can process. Our journalists have always been a target for the Israeli military, but Israel moved from killing [an average of] one Palestinian journalist a year before October 7 to killing [over] one a day.”

And it’s not just Palestinian reporters the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)  is attacking—any journalist who may potentially disseminate information critical of Israel is a potential target.

Among the long list of reporter casualties is Reuters photojournalist Issam Abdallah, who was killed by an October 13 Israeli strike on the Lebanese border while covering clashes between Hezbollah and the IDF. According to an independent investigation by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), Abdallah was explicitly targeted by Israeli forces—he was clearly identified as a journalist through his press helmet and vest, and he was standing next to a vehicle marked “press” on its roof. Immediately before the attack, other journalists in the area had witnessed an Israeli helicopter flying overhead, so the military was able to clearly see that Abdallah was a non-combatant. According to ballistic analysis done by RWB, the missiles were launched from the side of the Israeli border and “two strikes in the same place in such a short space of time (just over 30 seconds), from the same direction, clearly indicate precise targeting.”

Not even the families of journalists are safe from Israeli retaliation. After learning on air that an Israeli air raid had killed his wife, son, daughter, and grandson, Gaza Al Jazeera bureau chief Wael Al-Dahdouh rushed to the hospital, followed by press cameras. Upon finding his son there, he knelt over his lifeless body and lamented, “They take revenge on us with our children.”

On November 7, Mohammad Abu Hasira, a correspondent for Palestinian news agency Wafa, was killed by an Israeli air raid, along with 42 members of his family. And just days before that, an Israeli strike killed Palestine TV reporter Mohammad Abu Hattab and 11 members of his family in south Gaza, including his wife, son, and brother.

Israel Invents Lies to Justify War Crimes

Just as it has claimed that Hamas was hiding in Gaza hospitals, near schools, and in ambulance convoys in order to justify its bombing and killing of civilians, Israel has peddled the same predictable excuses for these targeted assassinations of journalists. In a chilling November 2 article that effectively doubles as a hit list, the Jerusalem Post spotlighted several independent Palestinian journalists who had been reporting from Gaza and smeared them as part of “Hamas’s propaganda team.”

Then, pro-Israel media watchdog group HonestReporting released a report on November 8 claiming—with little evidence—that the Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times, and Reuters freelance photographers in Gaza knew in advance of the October 7 Palestinian Resistance counter-offensive and even collaborated with Hamas in order be on location to get their shots during the operation.

Israeli officials quickly jumped on the story to vindicate their assassination campaign against Palestinian reporters.

In response to the report, former Minister of Defense and current member of Israel’s war cabinet Benny Gantz said, “Journalists found to have known about the massacre, and [who] still chose to stand as idle bystanders while children were slaughtered, are no different than terrorists and should be treated as such.”

Danny Danon, Israel’s representative to the United Nations, went so far as to declare that these reporters would be put on a hit list, stating on X, “Israel’s internal security agency announced that they will eliminate all participants of the October 7 massacre. The ‘photojournalists’ who took part in recording the assault will be added to that list.”

Gil Hoffman, executive director of HonestReporting, later admitted that he had no evidence to substantiate the claims made, but was just “raising questions.” According to Hoffman, he and HonestReporting “don’t claim to be a news organization.”

Accusations that Palestinian reporters are embedded within and acting in coordination with Hamas lay the propaganda groundwork to depict journalists as legitimate military targets.

Israel Restricting Information Coming out of Gaza

Not only is the IDF killing Palestinian journalists on the ground, but the Israeli government is actively denying access to foreign press into Gaza. The only reporters allowed into the strip are those embedded within the IDF, and media outlets such as NBC and CNN have confirmed that in exchange for access, they must submit all materials to the Israeli military prior to broadcast for review and approval.

Additionally, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate reported that as many as 50 media outlets in Gaza have been partially or entirely destroyed by Israeli air strikes since October 7. If Israel is not outright bombing news outlets, then they are actively trying to repress the flow of information coming out. In late October, the Israeli government approved regulations that would allow it to shut down any foreign news channel if it believed the outlet posed a threat to national security. This regulation was then used to block the programming and website of Lebanese outlet Al Mayadeen, because of its “wartime efforts to harm [Israel’s] security interests and to serve the enemy’s goals,” according to a statement released by the Israeli security cabinet.

In the absence of foreign press bearing witness to Israel’s atrocities in Gaza, Palestinian civilians have taken to documenting the horrors themselves and sharing them on social media sites such as X and TikTok for the outside world to see.

The Israeli government has responded by repeatedly shutting down internet and communications systems across Gaza, even further restricting the flow of information coming out.

History of Israel Targeting Journalists

Even before its current war on Gaza began on October 7, Israel had a long history of targeting reporters and news networks. During its 2021 military incursion on Gaza, Israel was accused of “silencing” journalists by press freedom advocates after it bombed the offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. This occurred just days after it had bombed another building that housed a number of other news outlets, including Al Araby TV, Al Kofiya TV, and Watania News Agency, among others.

According to the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, Israel killed 55 journalists from 2000 to 2022, either by live fire or bombardment. This figure includes Shireen Abu Akleh, the beloved Palestinian-American journalist and longtime Al Jazeera correspondent who was shot by Israeli forces while reporting on IDF raids in Jenin, as well as Yaser Murtaja, a cameraman for Palestinian network Ain Media, who was shot and killed by the IDF while covering the 2018 Great March of Return.

Like so many other Palestinian journalists Israel murdered on the job, Abu Akleh and Murtaja were both wearing their press vests at the time of their killings. Immediately after his death, Israel predictably—with no evidence—rushed to accuse Murtaja of being a Hamas fighter in order to cover its tracks.

The day after Murtaja’s killing, Israel’s then-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman bluntly stated, “In the march of terror, there were no innocent civilians. They were all Hamas.”

Israel Is Losing the Information War

Israel relies on its advanced military weaponry and billions of dollars in funding from the U.S. to carry out its genocidal violence against the Palestinian people across Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank. Its Hasbara and “Brand Israel” campaigns work around the clock to justify its war crimes through outright lies and disinformation.

However, Israel has suffered significant losses in the information war as reports and images of the atrocities have reached millions across the world, many of whom have joined the mass mobilizations in support of the Palestinian cause. On the international stage, Israel is further politically isolated, with more and more countries cutting ties or recalling their diplomatic staff.

This battle of ideas cannot be won through sheer force and U.S.-backed military superiority. Israel cannot prevent information about its atrocities from leaking out, especially in an age of social media in which ordinary Palestinians are emboldened to act as citizen journalists, documenting what they are living through in Gaza for the world to see. As Israel escalates its assassination campaign against media workers, support for the Palestinian Resistance continues to grow.

Grim as the current situation may seem, it speaks to the reality at hand: The people of the world are waking up to the atrocities carried out by the Zionist state and refusing to allow it to continue.

And that speaks to another reality: Israel is living on borrowed time, and that time is running out.

Amanda Yee is a journalist and organizer based out of Brooklyn. She is the managing editor of Liberation News, and her writing has appeared in Monthly Review Online, The Real News Network, CounterPunch, and Peoples Dispatch. 23 November 2023

Source: countercurrents.org via JUST Commentary, Malaysia.