Embedded Gazan Journalists: Reading only the title
Perhaps readers can be excused for thinking Israel deliberately murders journalists covering the war in Gaza if all they read is the long winded title in a Reporters Without Borders (RSF) article. After all, these days, with so much to read online, who has the time to actually read complete articles?
Journalists, however, would be expected to read the entire piece before using it as material upon which to base articles of their own. Also, may I be so bold as to suggest that a website dedicated to journalists, as this one is, should be more careful about what they write?
This article was published on 10 November. I am critiquing it now, almost two months later, as part of a series of articles combatting the lie that Israel deliberately targets journalists in Gaza, such as this one. I find articles to critique when they are either referred to by journalists as sources for their own writings or come up in Google searches.
On the banner on their “X” account, RSF declares itself to be an independent NGO fighting disinformation Let us see if the article in question here corroborates this goal.
This is the title of the article under discussion here:
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns calls by Israeli politicians in the past 24 hours for journalists in Gaza to be killed. Prompted by unsubstantiated conjecture about the journalists’ integrity, the calls coincide with a disturbing amendment to Israel’s terrorism law. Targeting journalists is a war crime, RSF stresses.
When I first read this, I thought it was saying that politicians in my country are gunning for journalists in Gaza — all journalists and not just Gazan journalists — and that they have just passed a law that allows them to do this, even though it is a violation of international law. What led to this call for murder, according to the title, was some flimsy, unverified speculation that the journalists were not acting consistent with journalistic ethics.
The article begins with:
An Israeli non-governmental organisation posted an undated photo 9 November showing a freelance photographer with a Hamas leader, … The article implied that journalists working in Gaza knew in advance about the Hamas attack on 7 October.
I suppose one could overlook the fact that, in the first phrase, the article refers to an Israeli NGO when it is not, in fact, Israeli. Honest Reporting is American, and it says so on the bottom banner of their website. But calling it “Israeli” allows easy chiding: “Oh! What can you expect from an Israeli NGO!” And once you know it is American, you can easily chide it with: “Oh! What can you expect from an NGO run by Zionist Jews!”
Did the embedded journalists have advance knowledge of the attack?
But then we must ask: How much time before an event constitutes knowing about it in advance? A month? A week? A day? An hour? It seems that Nasrallah knew about the attack only 30 minutes before it began.This means that the organizers of the pogrom were exceptionally good at keeping it under wraps.
It is possible that the journalists were invited but not told what they were invited to — and perhaps they were only let in on the impending border crossing minutes before it took place. However, at least one (in the “X” post below) was riding on a motorcycle driven by a terrorist who knew exactly what they were going to do.
Is it possible that before the actual crossing, they neither informed the embedded journalists accompanying them that they were going to break through into Israel nor about what was going to happen in the communities on the other side of the fence?
Yo, @AP, @Reuters, @cnn – what your freelancer in Gaza Hassan Eslaiah is doing on a motorbike with a grenade, on his way to the massacre of women and babies? Is a grenade part of the equipment you provide? pic.twitter.com/jU85KEo7Ec
— עמית סגל Amit Segal (@amit_segal) November 9, 2023
According to the Times of Israel, Eslaiah said he was given a ride back to Gaza and not to Israel from Gaza and that he is not the one holding the grenade. I leave the reader to decide which version to believe as this is not a case that has been tried in a court of law. Material submitted by Eslaiah will no longer be accepted by AP and CNN, citing his photo with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar as the reason for that and not anything he did on Oct 7th..
Let us give the embedded journalists the benefit of the doubt and suppose that, apart, perhaps, from Eslaiah, they did not know anything before the attack.
More problems in the article
Israel has claimed that it does not target journalists. But 36 journalists have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza since 7 October, …
The “but” here makes it seem as if the authors do think Israel targets journalists.
The Israeli military recently told international news agencies that it “cannot guarantee the safety of their reporters in the Gaza Strip” – an admission that is a complete contradiction of the principles on protecting civilians as defined in international law.
Perhaps it was superfluous and stupid of the IDF to tell news agencies that it cannot guarantee reporters’ safety: I wonder if there can be any reasonable expectance of safety when reporters enter a war zone. Has any other country said they would guarantee embedded journalists’ safety at the front? And, if journalists in Gaza want a guarantee of safety, perhaps they should join the other civilians who moved into safe zones delineated by the IDF and use their journalist skills to report on what happens in those zones.
Later in the article, RSF writes:
Meanwhile, the Israeli parliament approved an amendment to the terrorism law on 7 November under which a sentence of up to a year in prison can be imposed on anyone who “systematically and continuously consumes terrorist publications,” which are defined as “a direct call to commit an act of terrorism” or “words of praise, sympathy or encouragement for an act of terrorism.”
Even if publications “providing information to the public” are specifically excluded, the amendment’s loose wording is open to broad interpretation and therefore poses a threat to press freedom.
I would think that, even if a particular news site provides information to the public, if it expresses praise, sympathy, or support of terrorist acts, that constitutes incitement to terrorism. Preventing incitement to terrorism within the State of Israel is precisely the purpose of the anti-terrorism law. Until now, Israel has not been very effective at apprehending, investigating and/or bringing down indictments where justified re members of the population (including MKs serving in the Knesset) who support and encourage martyrdom and “resistance against the occupation,” which is a fancy way of saying killing Jews and wiping Israel off the map. It took Oct 7th for the government to wake up and one can only hope that there will now be consistent application of this law in our society.
There are two points relevant to this article to be made here:
- In democratic countries, inflamatory speech or writings and incitement to violence are not considered part of protected free speech or press freedoms.
- There is nothing in this law that suggests that journalists of any kind are to be targetted on the battle field.
The call to kill journalists, voiced by some politicians immediately after the Honest Reporting exposé, was a call to kill those who were embedded with the terrorists on Oct 7th, thereby being regarded as terrorists indistinguishable from the ones they photographed on that day. In fact, all the citizens who were not officially Hamas militants but who slaughtered, tortured, raped, burned, and abducted Israelis, or just egged them on, likewise are considered terrorists and as such liable to be sought out and killed. This is war.
Israel is not engaged in war in Gaza for the purposes of retaliation for Oct 7th. No. Oct 7th showed Israel that the generally accepted approach to controlling terror and missile attacks from Gaza – i.e., mowing the grass — was ill advised. A new approach arose from that understanding — the total elimination of Hamas fighters and supporters. If journalists are among those, then they are not JUST journalists, they are also terrorists. And, as terrorists, they have signed their own death warrants. Israel has nothing to apologize for this.
And shame on RSF for publishing an article that gets it so wrong, from the title on downward.