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|"They Shoot Reporters, Don’t They?"|
|07/02/02 at 15:20:28|
|They Shoot Reporters, Don’t They?|
By Yusuf Agha
Historian - USA
This article is dedicated to Anthony Shadid, a Boston Globe reporter, who had both shoulders shot out by Israeli forces during the Israeli siege of Palestine, but lacked the moral courage to place the blame squarely where it belonged.
Anthony Shadid reported on the onslaught of the Israeli forces on Palestine in April this year. In a leading feature entitled “Blood on the boundaries” for the Sunday section, he was eyewitness to three onslaughts by Israeli forces on civilian areas in a single day - two of them on Palestinian hospitals.
Shadid writes how soldiers, springing out of armored personnel carriers and crouching behind cars and along walls, trained their rifles on bewildered doctors and staff. “In the Mideast,” muses Shadid, “the red lines that shielded civilians, medical workers, and journalists have been ignored.”
In one of these onslaughts, Shadid experienced first hand the pain and suffering of the Palestinian people: simply stated, he was shot. “I began to fall, even before I heard the shot… I crumbled to the ground… Then I felt a sharp sting on my spine.”
His Palestinian stringer took Shadid to the Arabcare Hospital where he was treated by medics. A bullet entered his left shoulder and exited though his right.
“The Israeli military was in complete control of the area and had been for days. There was no crossfire,” admits Shadid. Even during his internment in the hospital, Israeli soldiers raided the premises: “Two soldiers with guns drawn entered my room,” the narration continues, “shouting at me in Hebrew… they lined up suspects along the wall of the hallway, young Palestinian men whose wrists were bound by plastic handcuffs.”
And yet Shadid - himself brutalized by the Israeli army, witness to the havoc and humiliation being rained down on Palestinian doctors and patients, rescued by a Palestinian stringer, and nursed to health by Arab medics - has not one word of disdain for the inhumanity of his Israeli tormentors, not one word of kindness for his Palestinian saviors.
If Shadid failed to figure out the strategy behind his shooting, Julie Hyland of WSWS.org did not. She believes that “the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is employing intimidation and violence against international journalists in an effort to prevent them reporting on its brutal occupation of Palestinian towns.”
The assault on Shadid is not an isolated case. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) reports a near identical case: “On May 15, Bertrand Aguirre, a correspondent for the French television channel TF1, was hit in the chest by a bullet fired by an Israeli border policeman while he was covering clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli troops near the West Bank city of Ramallah… Aguirre might have been killed had he not been wearing a bulletproof vest.”
The shooting of journalists by the Israeli Forces, states the CPJ, “is the most dangerous and immediate threat to media professionals covering the current unrest. The large number who have been wounded - many under circumstances that clearly distinguished them from the parties to the conflict - raises questions about the IDF’s willingness to ensure the safety of journalists.”
The Guardian of London reports an incident where Israeli troops threw stun grenades at a convoy of 25 foreign journalists who were on their way to cover a meeting between Yasser Arafat and a U.S. diplomat: “The [Israeli] soldiers inside the jeeps then threw stun grenades at the journalists. The grenades are used to disorient and frighten their targets by creating a loud noise and giving off a bright flash.
“As the convoy turned back, some of the journalists left their vehicles and fled on foot but the Israeli border police gave chase and confiscated the identification cards of some of the journalists. A bullet hole was later discovered in the car used by the CNN crew.”
Reporters without Borders (RSF) has documented at least 45 cases of journalists injured by bullets since the start of the second Intifada, many of whom were seriously wounded. Of these, states an RSF release, “more than 30 journalists have been wounded in shooting by the Israeli army in the Occupied Territories. Most were photographers or cameramen, clearly identifiable as such and shot some distance away from clashes.”
Indeed, the hero of our story, Anthony Shadid writes that he was clad in a flak jacket, with “ ‘TV’ written prominently with red tape on our backs, the best-known symbol for the international press.”
In most cases, continues the RSF release, “RSF imputed responsibility to the Israeli army and asked it to expedite its inquiries. In mid-December 2001, 15 months after the first clashes, the Israeli defense ministry made the results of its inquiries public. Only nine cases of journalists were mentioned in the document which exonerated Tsahal [Israeli forces] in all cases but one.”
Reporters without Borders has established a list of “Predators” - persons who order violations of press freedom and have others do the deed. These lists of “luminaries” include Robert Mugabe, Saddam Hussain - and Shaul Moffaz, army chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces.
The Israeli assault on journalists has taken an added dimension when it comes to Palestinian reporters, even those working for major international networks. “Since January 2002,” reports Reporters without Borders, “most of them have not been able to renew their press cards, without which they cannot travel between Israel and the different territories. On 19 January 2002, the Israeli Army destroyed the building in Ramallah housing the Palestinian radio and television headquarters.”
In a separate incident, Israeli soldiers captured a six-story building housing the offices of Reuters and other foreign media.
The list of reporters shot by Israeli forces continues: Carlos Handal of Nile Television; the Italian photographer Raffaelli Ciriello, killed by Israeli troops in Amari refugee camp; Jussry al-Jamal, a 23-year-old Reuters television cameraman, detained in the West Bank city of Hebron, to name a few.
“When a city is occupied, horrible things happen,” states the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. “The Israeli and world media need to be there in order to document what is going on.”
Yet during the rape of Palestine, the media was prevented by the Israeli forces from entering or reporting from the cities under siege. “The city of Ramallah,” states The Christian Science Monitor, “continued to be off limits to reporters yesterday after two journalists were shot.” The report continues: “During this decisive period, strictures on the media, as well as mounting danger faced by journalists, promise to significantly curtail the flow of information for shaping opinion and making policy decisions.”
“The Israeli army is waging an appalling campaign that has targeted media and journalists,” says Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists. “Reporters continue to be detained, shot at and victimized. It is an unprecedented campaign against press freedom and a reckless war on media that should not go unpunished.”
If there was not a squeak of protest out of the mainstream press - CNN, Reuters, or the Boston Globe, the latter recently bought out by the New York Times - they were not alone.
“No Western government has protested against the attacks on journalists, even those from national state TV stations,” writes Julie Hyland. Quite to the contrary, it was during this very period that both houses of the U.S. Congress came up with a resolution endorsing whole-heartedly all actions by Israel.
Shadid is one of the few reporters who have reported incidents of Israel’s battle against journalists, most probably because he “became” the story. But while reporters, through their unions and societies, clamor and yell bloody murder, their voices in the mainstream media are stifled and silent.
Writing for The Independent, Robert Fisk tells of “When Journalists Refuse To Tell the Truth About Israel”: “Our gutlessness, our refusal to tell the truth, our fear of being slandered as “anti-Semites” - the most loathsome of libels against any journalist – means that we are aiding and abetting terrible deeds in the Middle East. Maybe we should look up those cuttings of the apartheid era and remember when men were not without honor.”
It is a supreme irony that when the journalists themselves are embattled, the printer’s ink has run dry of honor. Is the pen of the reporter - muzzled by the control of the Zionist lobby - no longer mightier than the blood-drenched sword of Israel?
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