Israel's war on Palestinian journalists in Gaza goes beyond silencing truth
No government has ever killed so many journalists so quickly.
That is more than one media worker per day, accounting for 72 percent of all media deaths worldwide, more than any other war or conflict in over 30 years, according to the International Federation of Journalists.
Right now, Gaza is simultaneously the deadliest place on earth for children and for the media workers documenting their mass murder.
One in every ten journalists in Gaza has been killed by Israel, according to the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate. And yet, so many prominent Western journalists and writers remain silent as their peers in Gaza are systematically slaughtered.
The reason Gaza is the deadliest place on earth for journalists isn't because they are accidentally getting caught in crossfire on the frontlines. It is because Israel has carried out a systematic, intentional campaign of targeted killings against journalists (and their families). Many were shot by Israeli snipers while wearing press insignia. Some were killed in their homes, alongside their parents, siblings and children, and even their grandchildren.
"For those familiar with Israel’s behaviour, none of this comes as a surprise. Israel has a long record of killing journalists and media professionals and then making false claims about their death"
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) describes, “an apparent pattern of targeting of journalists and their families” — with multiple reports from journalists online claiming they received threats from Israeli officials and the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) directly, before their family members were targeted and killed.
Of course, the IOF claims that it does not target journalists, just as it claims it is not committing genocide, and denies that its aim is to ethnically cleanse Gaza of Palestinians.
To appease the West, Israel sometimes says it will investigate the killing of journalists, while simultaneously pushing false narratives and claiming that the journalists are terrorists without providing any evidence.
This pattern is designed to evade responsibility by throwing the word “terrorists” out, as officials in the White House and Downing Street obfuscate and publicly deny facts to be true, in order to shield Israel from accountability.
Like when Antony Blinken says that “the US stands unequivocally for the protection of journalists during armed conflict”, even as all of us with an internet connection watch Israel continue its rampage of killing not only journalists but also their entire families.
"No one is safe, nowhere is safe, and fear is everywhere. Either I stay at home or I go outside. Why should I stay at home? I have to stand up and show the world the truth through the camera lens."— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) November 7, 2023
An interview with @azaizamotaz9: https://t.co/eM4V3IgGIb pic.twitter.com/m9MHlnQM2c
For those familiar with Israel’s behaviour, none of this comes as a surprise. Israel has a long record of killing journalists and media professionals and then making false claims about their death.
Long before 7 October, a CPJ report found that 20 journalists had been killed by Israeli fire without a single person being held accountable. Perhaps the most notable is Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was murdered outside the Jenin refugee camp by Israeli snipers in the occupied West Bank while wearing a press vest and helmet. Israel immediately denied responsibility, but several investigations confirmed she had been killed by an Israeli sniper.
Issam Abdallah, a Reuters reporter, was killed by Israel in Lebanon in October in a strike that Reuters and AFP describe as “deliberate and targeted”.
In Issam’s case, like almost all cases of Israel's killing of journalists, independent investigations using physical and forensic proof from the scene show that the journalists were seen by an Israeli drone at least an hour before the attack, and they were visibly expressing or showing press signs and only their cameras.
Much like Shireen Abu Akleh, as well as Yasser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein, who were killed in Gaza during the Great March of Return protests in 2018, there was no justification for the use of lethal force by Israel’s army.
Despite this pattern, Israel continues its belligerent conduct, because it has been granted impunity in all forums, not just for killing journalists but for an endless series of violations of international law dating back more than 75 years. Israel knows that its main sponsor, the US, will at most call for an investigation, even when those killed are its own citizens.
By attacking journalists, Israel is attacking the truth itself, and the ability to establish truth and to share it, so as to allow their propaganda to gain more traction amidst the fog of war. This, like the targeting of journalists, is deliberate and intentional.
In addition to killing journalists, Israel has destroyed nearly all journalistic infrastructure in Gaza, including twenty six radio stations knocked off the air and at least 70 media offices including those used by AFP and Reuters.
At the same time, Israel continues to double down on its attempts to kill the messenger by interrupting communications and internet services in Gaza. Earlier this month marked the longest telecommunications blackout since the start of the genocidal war.
Media blackouts are used to further conceal Israeli most egregious and violent crimes. When Israel bombed Al Shifa hospital and the Al Ahli Baptist hospital, they did so under the cover of night and a telecommunications blackout.
This is meant to limit emergency workers' ability to respond to victims of airstrikes while also limiting media coverage from Palestinian journalists that remain alive in Gaza, severing Gaza's information lifeline to the rest of the world.
Perhaps no one epitomises the suffering and resilience of Palestinian journalists in Gaza better than Al Jazeera's bureau chief Wael Al Dahdouh, who left the strip earlier this month to go to Qatar for medical treatment.
On 4 October, four members of his family, including his wife, his 15-year-old son, his 7-year-old daughter, and his grandson, were killed in an Israeli airstrike targeting the refugee camp where they sought shelter after their home was bombed.
Then, on 15 December, Wael and his cameraman Samer Abudaqa were injured in an Israeli strike. While Wael escaped, Samer was left to bleed as Israel deliberately prevented ambulances from reaching him. Samer died of his wounds.
On 7 January, Wael’s eldest son, 27-year-old Hamza, also a journalist, was killed in an attack along with Mustafa Thuraya, a freelance journalist, while a third journalist was left seriously injured. Following Hamza's death, Israel's military claimed that Mustafa Thuraya and Hamza were terrorists.
"Killing journalists in an attempt to conceal its crimes while simultaneously admitting them might seem irrational to some, but it's a logical outcome of Israel's long-standing impunity"
From impunity to hubris
Israel’s behaviour in the last 4 months is as paradoxical as it is deeply disturbing.
By preventing international journalists from entering Gaza and murdering the Palestinian journalists on the ground who are documenting Israel's crimes, Israel may hope to prevent the accumulation of evidence that could be used against them in international courts or tribunals.
But for each journalist that Israel kills – a ruthless attempt to maintain control over the flow of information and offset widespread condemnation that its genocidal war deserves – exist countless videos of Israeli politicians openly calling for genocide and ethnic-cleansing of the Palestinian people or Israeli soldiers bragging about their war crimes on TikTok.
Both members of the armed forces and politicians have openly expressed genocidal intentions prompting even the most staunch Israel supporters, such as Piers Morgan to openly ask on X, ''Why do Israeli soldiers keep filming themselves doing this kind of crass, insensitive thing? Why don’t their commanders stop them? Makes them look callous when so many children in Gaza are being killed.”
This paradox may be hard for some to wrap their head around at first. But for those intimately familiar with the culture of Zionism, and how it has effectively managed to enjoy an exceptional amount of impunity, awarded to it by Western governments and institutions, it makes sense.
For more than 75 years, Israel has enjoyed complete impunity for occupation, colonisation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing in Palestine. The genocide in Gaza that we are witnessing today, and the way in which it is being shared on social media by the soldiers committing it, is a manifestation of this impunity that the world, and specifically the Western world, has gifted to Israel, bringing us to this dystopian reality.
These soldiers committing war crimes and sharing them on TikTok are emboldened by the irrefutable perception that they will never be held accountable. Their brazen choice to disgracefully and often obscenely defy moral and legal norms while violating the rules of war is born out of the belligerence of exemption from consequence enjoyed by individuals and the entire Zionist state.
Much like a child who is never punished or made to face any consequence for a tantrum, Israeli soldiers and officials both believe not only that they can get away with (mass) murder, but that they deserve to get away with it, based on an unhinged belief that they are the chosen people on the holy land, and that they can use any means necessary, no matter how vile or repugnant to maintain their perceived superiority and dominance on this land that they are owed (ironically, in part due to a genocide their ancestors endured).
Decades long impunity orchestrated by the US and Israel's European allies has created a sense of hubris leading them to defy logic, and to the sheer arrogance on display from members of the Israeli government, military, and even public.
It is this arrogance that leads Israel to murder the journalists that are broadcasting their genocide to the world while simultaneously bragging about their genocide to the world. Killing journalists in an attempt to conceal its crimes while simultaneously admitting them might seem irrational to some, but it's a logical outcome of Israel's long-standing impunity.
It is this same arrogance born from decades of impunity that leads them to declare absurd fallacies in an attempt to justify their genocide, for example, when Israel's president says there are no innocent civilians in Gaza.
This phenomenon was in full display when Former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett erupted at a presenter for Britain’s Sky News for asking him about the death and suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Bennett said that Israeli forces do not target civilians but are "fighting Nazis."
Later, Melbourne asked: "What about those Palestinians in hospital(s) who are on life support and babies in incubators whose life support will have to be turned off because the Israelis have cut off the power?"
"Are you seriously keep on asking me about Palestinian civilians? What's wrong with you?" he said.
The outrage and shock over a simple question speaks volumes about the impenetrable shield Israel has enjoyed in the mainstream media for decades.
With no fear of repercussions, there's little incentive for restraint within the rogue regime.
Israel’s playbook has been perfected for decades, with full participation from mainstream society and media in the West: Israel commits a war crime. Israel denies the war crime. Then when evidence is provided, it casts doubt on the war crime to obfuscate and absolve itself of accountability. The media becomes distracted by debating whether it was Israel that committed the atrocity, instead of focusing on the massacre itself, and the pattern and precedent of countless similar massacres.
And then days later, when the news cycle has moved on, Israel either admits to it quietly, or more often, just doubles down by committing a similar massacre in order to flex its muscles of impunity.
This happens when Israel bombs hospitals, murders journalists and weaponises starvation and hunger.
Since last Friday, when the world's top court ruled that Israel must stop committing genocide in Gaza and ordered it to allow in humanitarian aid, hundreds more Palestinians have been killed.
As Gaza collapses into famine, Israel has also doubled down on its crime of using starvations as a weapon, calling UNRWA, the UN body providing life-saving aid, a terrorist organization, prompting western powers to cut off funding for the strip's main lifeline of aid due to unproven allegations against 0.04% of its staff – based on interrogations obtained under torture.
"With this grasp of the true extent of Israel's impunity, Israel's targeted killings of Palestinian journalists while simultaneously boasting about committing genocide are revealed to be two sides of the same coin"
“We haven’t had the ability to investigate [the allegations] ourselves," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of Israel's charges against UNRWA employees. Blinken then adds: "But they are highly, highly credible."
Israel knows that its claims will not be questioned, its actions will not be investigated, and its crimes will never be brought to justice by a Western-led world order that considers Palestinian lives disposable.
With this grasp of the true extent of Israel’s impunity, Israel’s targeted killings of Palestinian journalists while simultaneously boasting about committing genocide are revealed to be two sides of the same coin.
But despite its ruthless efforts to silence and dehumanise Palestinians, Israel is on the brink of a legitimacy crisis, both at home and abroad. As more people around the world come to understand the Palestinian plight and Israel’s crimes, the tide of accountability will only grow stronger.
Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is an Emmy-nominated journalist, producer and actor. His latest documentary investigation, produced for the BBC, Queer Egypt Under Attack, won a British Journalism Award for Social Affairs, Diversity & Inclusion. Prior to that he worked as a Senior Correspondent for AJ+ where he produced award-winning documentaries focused on social justice and human rights. He also worked as a reporter and producer for Al Jazeera English, The New York Times, The Huffington Post and PBS. He is most widely known for creating and co-hosting Al Jazeera English’s flagship program ‘The Stream’ an interactive live talk show nominated for an Emmy Award for Most Innovative Program in 2012.
Follow him on Twitter: @ASE
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