Murdering the messengers: Israel’s war on journalists

Veteran Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan says Israel is deliberately assassinating journalists to conceal its crimes from the world.

Although estimates differ Israel has killed at least 64 media workers in the ten weeks of fighting and perhaps as many as 100.

This despite the fact that journalists and camera operators are careful when covering wars and other dangerous events to wear helmets and bullet proof vests with the word “PRESS” emblazoned on the front and back.

Of course this is meant to protect them by identifying them as members of this noble profession, and the established rule is that this should ensure they are treated as neutral parties and kept safe.

But not when it comes the Israeli occupation state. It treats the “PRESS” label as a sign that its wearer should be immediately targeted and killed.

Several weeks ago we mourned the loss of our colleagues reporter Farah Omar and cameraman Rabie al-Mimari from Al Mayadeen channel while they were covering Israeli shelling of villages in southern Lebanon.

A few days earlier, we lost Reuters photographer Issam Abdallah when a convoy he was travelling along with ten other colleagues was hit. Nine of them were injured by shrapnel from Israeli missiles and drones that were monitoring their movements and deliberately targeted them.

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I raise this painful issue because of the wounding last Friday of Al Jazeera correspondent Wael al-Dahdouh and the murder of cameraman Samer Abu-Dagga in a deliberate Israeli missile strike in the Gaza Strip.

I use the term “deliberate” because of the many precedents in which the Israeli occupation army has assassinated journalists, not least the much-loved Shireen Abu Aqleh.

Wael al-Dahdouh became an icon of the profession when his wife and several of his children and grandchildren were killed when his home was targeted by an Israeli airstrike to intimidate him.

Despite the enormity of the tragedy, he continued working to cover the Israeli massacres in the Gaza Strip with his usual dedication. He moved from the north to the south in search of safety, and perhaps a few more months or years of life to continue carrying out his mission among the bombs and bullets.

Wael Dahdouh

This time, he survived, sustaining only moderate injuries. We can only hope for his speedy recovery and for mercy on the soul of his colleague Samer Abu-Dagga.

Israel, whose army has claimed some 20,000 lives and 55,000 injured and destroyed half the homes in the Gaza Strip since it started its war of extermination 70 days ago, comfortably occupies the top spot globally in terms of killing, persecuting and silencing journalists to cover up its crimes against the Lebanese and Palestinian people.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor says the Israeli army has assassinated 89 journalists since the start of the war on the Gaza Strip and arrested eight. And it is unlikely that it will stop at that number given its determination to terrorise members of the profession in order to cover up the facts and conceal its massacres and the images of the broken bodies of its victims.

No previous war in recent history has seen such intense bombardment of hospitals, schools, mosques and churches, with patients and newborn babies thrown out onto the streets, and all supplies of medicine, food, water and power cut off from innocent civilians.

This raging Israeli war on the Gaza Strip has set new records, with the support and direct participation of the U.S., the leader of the “free world and guardian of human rights worldwide.”

But the bullets and missiles will not prevent our colleagues in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon from continuing to tear down the masks, expose Israel’s cruel and hate-filled bloodlust, and convey the truth in all its horrific detail to every part of the world.

Nobody expressed it better than the journalist Salman al-Bashir. He threw down his helmet and tore the “PRESS” labels off his bulletproof vest, saying they no longer have any value in the eyes of an enemy that has no morals or human values and delights in the murder of journalists.

With heroic truth-tellers like these, we are surely on a path to victory.

This article first appeared in Raialyoum.

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