By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Israel must be held to account for the targeting and killing of journalists

Protest in Tel Aviv against the Netanyahu government last June. Photo (cc) 2023 by RG TLV.

CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy wrote an important analysis last week about journalists who have been killed by Israeli forces in the the Gaza war. Citing figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists, Darcy observes that at least 95 journalists have been killed since Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel last Oct. 7, and that all but five of those journalists are Palestinian — the highest death toll for members of the press since CPJ began tracking such casualties in 1992.

In addition to deaths that might be attributed to the fog of war, there have also been killings that Israel carried out despite what appear to be clear indications that it was targeting media workers. Darcy writes that the United Nations recently finished a report showing that Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah had been killed in southern Lebanon after a tank fired at a group of “clearly identified journalists.” Israeli officials responded to the U.N. that it “does not deliberately shoot at civilians, including journalists.”

In addition, The Washington Post last week found that a Jan. 7 missile attack resulting in the deaths of two Al Jazeera journalists and two freelancers in southern Gaza may have lacked any military justification. The Israeli military claimed it had “identified and struck a terrorist who operated an aircraft that posed a threat to IDF troops” — but the Post found that the “aircraft” was a drone apparently being used for reporting purposes.

Darcy includes accounts of Palestinian journalists who have alleged been abused by Israeli forces as well — a topic that is the subject of a new report from CPJ, which “found multiple kinds of incidents of journalists being targeted while carrying out their work in Israel and the two Palestinian territories, Gaza and the West Bank” as well as the deaths of journalists’ families.

CPJ has posted an open letter signed by 36 leaders of top U.S. and international news organizations calling Israel to end its attacks on journalists. Among the Americans the letter are Julie Pace, the executive editor of The Associated Press; Mark Thompson, the chair and CEO of CNN; A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times; Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of The Washington Post; Kim Godwin, the president of ABC News; and Rebecca Blumenstein, the president of editorial at NBC News. Significantly, the international news leaders signing the letter include Aluf Benn, the editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The letter includes this:

Journalists are civilians and Israeli authorities must protect journalists as noncombatants according to international law. Those responsible for any violations of that longstanding protection should be held accountable. Attacks on journalists are also attacks on truth. We commit to championing the safety of journalists in Gaza, which is fundamental for the protection of press freedom everywhere.

This weekend, as NPR reports, tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netananyu, calling for a deal with Hamas to release the more than 100 hostages the terrorist group is still believed to be holding.

The horrendous situation in the Middle East began with Hamas’ attacks, claiming some 1,200 lives and leading to Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which have killed more than 30,000 people, mostly civilians. Starvation looms. President Biden has been ever-so-slowly been backing away from the Netanyahu government, allowing a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire and the release of the hostages to take effect.

Israel’s targeting of media workers is a small part of a much larger picture — a horrendous problem that would seem to have no good solution. But let’s start with this: Journalists are the world’s eyes and ears. They need to be able to tell us what is taking place on the ground without fear of being killed.

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15 Comments

  1. Stephen Walker

    Should also be held accountable for slaughtering 15,000 children as well. And completely leveling an area the size of Philadelphia.

  2. Steve Schnapp

    Thank you for this important piece. As Aeschylus pointed out 2000 years ago, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” The assassination of journalists and photographers covering war zones ensures that the military — in this case the IDF — determines what the world knows about the conflict.

    One small quibble, in your penultimate paragraph you say “The horrendous situation in the Middle East began with Hamas’ attacks, claiming some 1,200 lives and leading to Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which have killed more than 30,000 people, mostly civilians.” It is more accurate to say rather that “the latest upsurge in violence and the ensuing crisis began with Hamas’ attacks . . .” or the horrendous situation in the Middle East began with the expulsion of several hundred thousand Palestinians during the creation of the state of Israel, or the horrendous situation in the Middle East with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the carving up of the area into zones of influence by European colonial powers.

    • Dan Kennedy

      That’s not a small quibble. It represents a fundamental disagreement between you and me. My starting point is that Israel has the right to exist in peace and within secure borders.

      • Adam Smith

        FYI: “Israeli lawmakers have passed a bill paving the way for a ban on Al Jazeera and other foreign news networks deemed a ‘security risk’,” according to aljazeera.com

        • Dan Kennedy

          The Qatari government funds both Al Jazeera and Hamas. That’s a problem, no?

          • Adam Smith

            I just thought it seemed like relevant news to your post, in case you didn’t see it.

          • Adam Smith

            wait, I might be misreading this, after looking at this again, are you saying that you think banning Al Jazeera would be justified?

          • Dan Kennedy

            I said that getting its money from the same source as Hamas is a problem. Please read carefully. Meanwhile in the U.S., we’re getting ready to ban TikTok.

          • Bob Gardner

            This reminds me of an exchange we had years ago. You found a problem with a Globe stringer who had posted something pro Palestine. I thought that the NY Times reporter with a son in the IDF was a bigger problem.
            Now we have the Times using a reporter who is both connected to the IDF and has a bigoted record on social media. That should be pretty easy to condemn but you seem to be oddly non committal.

      • Judy Kaplan

        The Netanyahu government seems to be doing everything in its power to prevent Israel from existing in peace within secure borders. Steve Schnapp didn’t say anything about whether Israel has the right to exist. He just reminded us of some history that is part of the background of the horrendous attack on October 7 and the horrendous Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank.

  3. Adam Smith

    p.s. When watched and read while knowing its funding source, the English version of AJ appears to me as a valuable source of information when consumed with a balanced media diet that includes other sources, such as the New York Times, WSJ, Guardian, NPR, PBS, +972 (and other random foreign media), The Intercept, and others. Of course, much of the commentary and news of many publications is best with a grain of salt, or at least a pinch of fact-checking to the extent possible.

  4. I do find it concerning that Israel would block AJ.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Yes, I’m concerned as well. It hasn’t happened yet, I don’t believe. And I’d like to see something more specific than the ad hominem attacks on Al Jazeera that we’re getting from the Israeli government — not coverage they don’t like, but collusion with Hamas, for instance. The White House has spoken out against the ban. Of course, this is the same White House that’s trying to ban TikTok.

  5. Stephen Walker

    Don’t ever criticize Israel. You might lose your job.

    https://www.democracynow.org/2024/4/5/israel_ai

  6. Adam Smith

    I was thinking about that topic recently after watching Marc Lamont Hill, an amazing interviewer now at Al Jazeera; +972 has had some really compelling stories.

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