By Musheir El Farra and Dick Pitt
When the Israelis stop mass killings in Gaza, the media turns its unblinking eyes away. Life goes on in, what David Cameron called, a huge prison. Why do we not hear about life in Gaza? What is their daily life like? What are the day to day discussions? What are the shortages? How is people’s mental health? What are the political discussions?
On Friday 14th June, a group of local journalists from Sheffield were in a video discussion with journalists from Gaza.
The Gaza journalists had got together and approached Palestine Solidarity Campaign Chairman Musheir El Farra about how they can contact British journalists to talk to them about their work in blockaded Gaza. Over a period of two hours we got to hear bits of the story that they want the world to know.
The journalists pointed out that they were non-combatants. They were there to report the facts. The demonstrations, ‘The right of Return’ was not an invasion, not organised by any faction. They were the march of a people who wished to return home from forced exile.
The Journalists’ tools are cameras not guns. They need to write and become witnesses for a voiceless people. They need to be able to show their photographs in exhibitions and tell their stories free from harassment arrest, wounding or killing. Journalists wear very distinctive, easily identifiable gear. Yet 200 journalists had been injured by various projectiles, tear gas canisters, and bullets since the start of the protests, March 2018. The journalists were clear that they felt Israel has targeted Journalists. It was also pointed out that Israel is holding 40 journalists in prisons.
A representative present from Human Rights organisation explained the frustration of getting no results to their hundreds of complaints to the Israeli authorities regarding attacks on Palestinian journalists.
There is also repression by the Hamas authorities. One journalist described how she obtained a story on corruption in the obtaining exit permits for medical treatment. The result was that she was arrested, and four separate charges were filed against her, including one of impersonation (she had worn a face veil to avoid recognition). The case against her collapsed. Reports of demonstrations against Hamas were repressed.
One Palestinian journalist described how he built up a following of 35,000 people and 5000 friends. His website was cyber attacked by the Israelis leaving him to restart the hard grind of building it up again from nothing. In total, 100 Facebook accounts for journalists in the Gaza Strip were cyber attacked by Israel in an identical way.
Some of the journalists present explained how they received threatening phone calls and text messages from unknown numbers to try to intimidate them to stop covering attacks by the Israeli army against civilians.
They pointed out that they needed to get to journalist conferences to share knowledge and experiences. To do their work properly that have to have freedom of movement.
They needed to challenge the bias of programs like the BBC A day in Gaza. At present they are not able to.
Everyone agreed that further such conference calls would be very useful.
One journalist explained the frustration of being in his thirties and being unemployed as a result of the Israeli blockade. However, this doesn’t stop journalists from rushing to places were Israeli attacks are happening.
The Palestinian journalists present; asked the British journalists to work on a plan to create a mechanism by which they, the British journalists, become their voice among the British people. The British journalists promised to do their best to try to pass the message to as many journalists as possible within the NUJ.
It was agreed that this meeting was the start of cooperation between journalists in Palestine and Britain. Campaigning work should start to organise a tour in Britain to repeat similar meeting format with audience from the media and the public.
It was also agreed that Sheffield PSC and the South Yorkshire branch of NUJ will try their best to help with supporting small projects like short videos made by the Palestinian journalists to counter bias Western media reporting such as the BBC programme “A day in Gaza “ and others.