All posts by Dick Pitt

Gaza journalists seek a voice

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.

Small Park Big Run

Small Park Big Run

At the end of the Small Park Big Run, some of the runners posed behind the huge Palestinian flag (on their way to tea and cake.). One runner was given a special welcome, Becky had walked the whole 24 hours!!. After the run there was a telephone greeting with co runners in Palestine. A special moment was shared when Palestinians in Gaza wished their friend and comrade Graham well. His health has prevented his running. At the end of the run there was a fun run/walk open to all. Naturally the kids set it off. We were very pleased to have Sheffield Lord Mayor, Tony Downing, attend and start the fun run.

Solidarity on the way to tea and cake
The start of the fun run
Special welcome for Becky wo walked for 24 hours
Live linkup with Gaza special greeting for Graham.

HSBC Protest

On Saturday 1st June we protested outside HSBC on Fargate. HSBC ptofits from the arms industry. Specifically it profits from arming Israel. A presence on the street enables us to talk to members of the public and explain the nature of the oppression of Palestinians, and the British Government’s support for Israel. Join us the first Saturday of each month.

BDS and Justice for the Palestinians

I signed up for Future Learn.   They run a huge collection of on-line courses on a vast section of subjects from different Universities.  I thoroughly recommend them. 

I believe that people learn from people they disagree with.  (On the grounds that it if two people agree, there will not be much learning going on.)

I signed up to an on-line course on Anti-Semitism at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Centre.  I believe that the holocaust was an incredibly evil act.  The process by which an advanced first world country can be organised for the industrial slaughter of six million Jews should never be forgotten and never be repeated.  (The process is, I believe, at the start of being repeated today, with a new target, Muslims.)

However, the course is irredeemably Zionist.  That is, the course ceased to be educational and flipped over to propaganda.  I only want to talk about one example. 

Here is a video on Boycott Sanctions and Disinvestment, BDS.  The description promises us –  What is the BDS movement, what are its goals and what characterizes its activity?

We are given bland material about Boycotts and South Africa, and that choosing a Spanish orange rather than an Israeli one is not anti-Semitic.  We are told that the aims of BDS are deliberately kept vague, in order to bring in a wide variety of people.  This is not true. Then we are told that behind the nonviolent campaign of BDS is a global invitation to mass violence.  No individual, or organisation is quoted as supporting any violence let alone mass violence.

The key questions are “who called for BDS?” and “What are their demands?”  The presenters both have PhDs.  It took me about 5 seconds to look up BDS on Google and find the answers.  So why would academics with honed research skills not look it up?  I cannot believe that they do not know.  That is when they moved from objective academics to pro-Israel propagandists.  So what do they want to hide?

  1. The BDS movement was launched by 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, women’s organisations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society bodies in 2005.
  2. There are three demands

A             Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

B             Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality

C             Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194

The demand comes from a people who have lived under Israeli oppression for 71 years.   Palestinians do not like the occupation, the Apartheid Laws, the kidnappings, the daily humiliations let alone water and land thefts.

These academic spokespeople for the oppressor refuse to even accept that the oppressed have made demands.  They refuse to discuss those demands.

It is much easier for them to attack people who answer the call for solidarity with the smear of anti-Semitism than discuss why Palestinians are oppressed and how we can end it.  It is clear to me that we need to build BDS till Israel starts to listen. <