‘NYT’ predictably comes under attack for reporting Israel targeted journalists in Gaza

on 24 Comments
A Palestinian journalist inspects his work car in Gaza City on November 18, 2012.
(Photo: Mohammed Abed/ AFP)

New York Times media reporter (and erstwhile movie star) David Carr is being criticized by Israel supporters for his column yesterday claiming Israel intentionally targeted journalists during its recent attack on Gaza. He focuses on the deaths of Al-Aqsa TV cameramen Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama who were killed when an Israeli missile destroyed their car, and Mohamed Abu Aisha of Al-Quds Educational Radio, who was killed in a similar manner (although these weren’t the only examples of Israel targeting media). Here’s the nut from Carr:

On the same day as the Waldorf event, three employees of news organizations were killed in Gaza by Israeli missiles. Rather than suggesting it was a mistake, or denying responsibility, an Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, told The Associated Press, “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.”

So it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as “relevance to terror activity.”

Predictabily, Carr immediately came under attack from Israel’s supporters. Alana Goodman defended Israel in Commentary by saying the reporters Carr mentioned were in fact terrorists not journalists, because Al Aqsa TV is affiliated with Hamas, and besides the U.S. does the same thing so why pick on Israel? Goodman wrote, “Apparently, Israel is the only country that’s expected to treat terrorists-posing-as-reporters the same way it treats actual reporters.” Tablet‘s Adam Chandler took a similarly contradictory tack arguing that Israel was both justified in killing the reporters and that Carr shouldn’t focus on Israel because there are worse offenders when it comes to targeting media such as Syria, Russia or Mexico. Chandler then does one better and uses a report from the IDF blog to defend the claim by IDF Spokesperson Avital Leibovich that the journalists were terrorists.

Carr responded to the critics in Buzzfeed:

“The three men who died in missile strikes in cars on Nov. 20 were identified by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Washington Post and many other news outlets as journalists,” Carr told BuzzFeed in an email. “The Committee to Protect Journalists, which I treat as a reliable, primary source in these matters, identified them as journalists. (as did Reporters without Borders.)”

“I ran my column by reporters and editors at our shop familiar with current events in the region before I printed it,” Carr said. “And I don’t believe that an ID made by the IDF is dispostive or obviates what the others said. Doesn’t mean that I could not have gotten it wrong, only that the evidence so far suggests that they were journalists, however partisan.”

Here is an excerpt from the November 20 statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Two Israeli airstrikes killed three journalists in the Gaza Strip today, according to news reports. The fatal attacks followed a series of Israeli strikes earlier in the week that injured at least nine journalists and damaged news outlets.

Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama, cameramen for the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV, were covering events in the Al-Shifaa neighborhood of central Gaza when a missile hit their vehicle at around 6 p.m., according to a statement by Al-Aqsa TV. The statement said the journalists’ car was marked “TV” with neon-colored letters. The journalists suffered severe burns and died in a nearby hospital, the statement said. Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, confirmed the journalists’ deaths to Agence France-Presse.

“We’re alarmed by the mounting toll on journalists in Gaza,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Israeli airstrikes continue to put journalists in harm’s way. This reflects the risks journalists face while reporting on conflict, especially in such a densely populated area.”

A third journalist was killed when his car was hit by a missile this evening, The Associated Press reported citing a Gaza official. Initial local news reports identified the journalist as Mohamed Abu Aisha, director of the private Al-Quds Educational Radio. The reports said his vehicle was hit while he was driving in the Deir al-Balah neighborhood, but did not say whether Abu Aisha was reporting at the time. CPJ continues to investigate the circumstances of his death.

And the condemnation from Reporters Without Borders:

Reporters Without Borders condemns Israeli air strikes targeting news organizations in Gaza City today and calls for an immediate end to such attacks. At least nine journalists were reportedly injured and several local and international media were prevented from operating.

“These attacks constitute obstruction of freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We remind the Israeli authorities that, under humanitarian law, the news media enjoy the same protection as civilians and cannot be regarded as military targets.

“Even if the targeted media support Hamas, this does not in any way legitimize the attacks. We call for a transparent investigation into the circumstances of these air strikes. Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Those responsible must be identified.”

Israel’s supporters could have a valid point if these were isolated incidents, but the truth is that Israel has been harassing, imprisoning and targeting journalists for years. Nora Barrows-Friedman broke down the recent history at Electronic Intifada:

Since 2008, as The Electronic Intifada has reported, nearly a dozen Palestinian media outlets have been raided, and fourteen media stations have had their equipment stolen and confiscated by the Israeli military.

The Committee to Protect Journalists have issued reports on the Israeli military arresting Palestinian journalists in the occupied West Bank during demonstrations against Israel’s wall, settlements and land confiscations. CPJ also reported on the arrest by Israel of the head of the Palestinian prison news service earlier this year.

And EI’s Asa Winstanley reported last March that Israel refused to release two Palestinian journalists it had arrested, after the International Federation of Journalists appealed to Israel to do so.

In April 2008, Israel’s army killed Palestinian journalist Fadel Shana’a, a cameraman for Reuters, in a targeted tank shelling attack. Israel then exonerated itself for the killing. 

EI reported that:

After the first missile that killed Fadel, a second tank missile directly hit the Reuters vehicle in which Fadel had been traveling, killing two children and another civilian close by, and injuring 12 others, including five children. Wafa Abu Mezyed, 25, a Reuters sound man, was injured.

As Rami Almeghari reported shortly after Shana’a’s killing, “The Israeli military advocate-general stated in a 12 August letter to the Reuters news agency that it had found Israeli soldiers had acted properly in the April killing Fadel Shana’a.”

Indeed, Israel’s entrenched policy of literally shooting the messenger continues to go unchallenged.

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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24 Responses

  1. amigo
    November 27, 2012, 12:09 pm

    “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.”

    Is she referring to herself and do the Palestinians have the right to “Target her”.

  2. Eva Smagacz
    November 27, 2012, 12:15 pm

    This is a superb video from RT ( via Juan Cole) where Abby Martin gives it with both barrels, after Israel attacked Media Tower in Gaza:

  3. pabelmont
    November 27, 2012, 12:30 pm

    Excellent report, here. Hope NYT gives both the killings and the Zionist attack on reporting the killing some prominent play.

  4. David Samel
    November 27, 2012, 12:31 pm

    While Jodi Rudoren’s awful facebook remarks about Palestinians feeling less grief over the loss of loved ones attracted more attention, she was equally reprehensible when she wrote: The spokesman for Al Quds television, the office hit hardest yesterday, talked about news coverage as part of the Palestinian struggle, which is certainly different from the Western media ethic, and that makes the Israeli assertion that these agencies are part of the government/military agenda more understandable, at least. How could she lay a moral groundwork for targeting journalists with “unpopular” views with lethal violence? Aside from the morally repellent aspect of this position, doesn’t she realize that her own self-interest is at stake? Wouldn’t her reasoning allow Palestinians to target her as a propaganda arm of Israel/US? And wouldn’t it have justified Mubarak firing on US reporters in Tahrir Square? Would Rudoren “understand” it if Israel killed reporters and pundits who advocated for a one-state solution because it would necessarily mean the “destruction” of the Jewish State?

    • MRW
      November 27, 2012, 2:46 pm

      Listen to Max Blumenthal cover this on the Scott Horton Show. He says that the entire NYT staff in Palestine was in the car in front:

    • Donald
      November 27, 2012, 4:30 pm

      “The spokesman for Al Quds television, the office hit hardest yesterday, talked about news coverage as part of the Palestinian struggle, which is certainly different from the Western media ethic, and that makes the Israeli assertion that these agencies are part of the government/military agenda more understandable, at least. ”

      Yeah, that was disgusting. I’ve defended her because I think she is making a good faith effort to improve (and has written some good things too), but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be called out for comments like that.

      And morality aside, it’s such a clueless thing to say. It’s fine to blather about the “Western media ethic”, but her paper certainly doesn’t live up to it–very few papers do. Western journalists and politicians and foreign policy apparatchiks often seem utterly blind to the gaps between what they profess to believe and how they actually behave. I don’t think it’s hypocrisy in many cases–I think they really are blind. (Ann Marie-Slaughter, the subject of a different post, comes to mind here. Jodi Rudoren, IMO, is someone who can improve. AMS, probably not.)

  5. Les
    November 27, 2012, 1:13 pm

    Meanwhile from the Guardian comes this:

    Britain ready to back Palestinian bid for statehood at UN


    • pabelmont
      November 27, 2012, 1:37 pm

      But UK demands that Palestine, when it become a state, not pursue Israelis in Criminal Court. What one hand delivers, the other removes. Ho hum, UK already denied its own citizens the right to prosecute Israeli (and other) war criminals under “universal jurisdiction”. Palestine is to be a state, but not sovereign, I guess. UK veto.

      Oh, that wonderful Israel, always exceptional, why it’s so exceptional that its leaders can do no wrong.

      • piotr
        November 27, 2012, 2:43 pm

        This is actually interesting. Suppose that I sue my municipality, can they retaliate, e.g. by declaring my home to be in code violation and fining me for living there, and tell me that they will let me go back home if I drop the lawsuit and pledge to never sue them?

        Internationally, shouldn’t it be a separate crime to threaten violent actions or collective punishment for filing legal complaints? It seems like brazen tampering with the court.

      • Talkback
        November 27, 2012, 4:02 pm

        Just think about UK’s mafioso message:

        We support your state only if you don’t prosecute all criminals.

  6. Oklahoma farmer
    November 27, 2012, 1:16 pm

    For a couple days on the net, at several sites, I’ve seen something about how Israeli drone pilots pick out their targets…. Today I traced it to Wired.com. I mean wired dot come of all things? Related to Wired? My favorite magazine for gosh sakes? I could not believe it….

    But yep, there it is… a 2009 story dusted off just for this, yet another, occasion. How Israeli Drone Pilots Made Their Life-and-Death Choices Over Gaza
    By Noah Shachtman

    A nice chatty hasbara lesson on how drone pilots try to be ever so careful when going about their killings.

    Reporters in Gaza don’t stand a chance. Well, they might stand a little better chance if they are careful to not wear anything visible that identifys them as members of the press.

    I casually wondered if maybe Palestinian children are too small to be seen on drone pilot screens….and maybe that would expalin why Israeli drones kill so many Gazan babies?

    It’s just a thought.

    • BillM
      November 27, 2012, 3:43 pm

      Read the Shachtman piece again, it’s a good propaganda laugh. Shachtman explains how the Israeli positively identify their target as a terrorist by looking at him through an infra-red camera. Apparently, terrorists give off a unique heat signature (maybe it’s their cold, cold hearts).

  7. yourstruly
    November 27, 2012, 1:16 pm

    since every palestinian in gaza is at least a messenger (if not resister), killing the messenger amounts to genocide.

  8. piotr
    November 27, 2012, 2:36 pm

    It is easier to get flak for small shit than for huge one.

    For a smallish operation (with grandiose name), Israel killed, wounded and maimed a lot of journalists plus the infant son of BBC cameraman, and there was really no “combat”. Then the spokes-creep of IDF was explaining on al-Jazeera that they were not “international”, hence proper “game in season”, including those that work for foreign news services, like from England and Lebanon. This unmitigated gall apparently got even to the very docile mainstream press in USA.

    Interestingly, in USA journalists working for Hamas related TV could perhaps get life in prison because of our insane laws, and also Emir of Qatar for giving aid to Gaza: material support for terrorist organization, but the rest of the world does not work that way.

    Concerning attacks on TV stations, I will keep mentioning attacks on TV stations in Ramallah where IDF was confiscating equipment — breaking the rules of Area A — ostensibly because they did not agree to frequencies they were using. At least they did not kill anyone on those occasions. If a TV station in Buffalo had interference with a TV station across the river in Niagara, Ontario, I guess this would be quickly resolved without dispatching Marines to Canada.

  9. pipistro
    November 27, 2012, 5:13 pm

    The same old story.

    “Israeli soldiers had acted properly killing…”

    Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 – Additional Protocol I (1977)
    Article 52 n. 3: “In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house, or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.”
    Article 79. Measures or protection for journalists
    1. Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50, paragraph 1.
    2. They shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians, …

    There’s plenty of matter for the ICC.

    Two examples (sorry for google translation):
    Murder of Raffaele Ciriello and Fadel Shana’a

  10. DICKERSON3870
    November 27, 2012, 6:24 pm

    RE: “Alana Goodman defended Israel in Commentary by saying the reporters Carr mentioned were in fact terrorists not journalists, because Al Aqsa TV is affiliated with Hamas, and besides the U.S. does the same thing so why pick on Israel? ~ Adam Horowitz

    MY COMMENT: Since the U.S. unfortunately seems to emulate Israel in many ways (preemptive wars, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, for instance), doesn’t it make sense to for us here in the U.S. to be especially concerned about Israel’s behavior (which might unfortunately be adopted by our own government)?
    This “monkey see, monkey do” phenomenon illustrates my fear that Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of its inordinate sway over the U.S.) with its Revisionist Zionism might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment ! ! !

    • ALSO SEE: “How We Became Israel”, By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, 9/10/12
    LINK – http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-we-became-israel/
    • AND SEE: ‘Israelis are helping write US laws, fund US campaigns, craft US war policy’, by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 6/30/12
    LINK – http://mondoweiss.net/2012/06/israelis-are-helping-write-us-laws-fund-us-campaigns-craft-us-war-policy.html
    • AND SEE: “America Adopts the Israel Paradigm”, by Philip Ghiraldi, Antiwar.com, 7/05/12
    LINK – http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2012/07/04/america-adopts-the-israel-paradigm/
    • AND SEE: “Report: Israeli model underlies militarization of U.S. police”, By Muriel Kane, Raw Story, 12/04/11
    LINK – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/12/04/report-israeli-model-underlies-militarization-of-u-s-police/
    • AND SEE: “David Yerushalmi, Islam-Hating White Supremacist Inspires Anti-Sharia Bills Sweeping Tea Party Nation”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 3/02/11
    LINK – http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2011/03/02/david-yerushalmi-islam-hating-white-supremacist/
    • LASTLY SEE: “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12
    LINK – http://mondoweiss.net/2012/08/boston-airport-security-program-rife-with-racial-profiling-has-israeli-links.html

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 27, 2012, 7:20 pm

      RE: “Since the U.S. unfortunately seems to emulate Israel in many ways (preemptive wars, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, for instance), doesn’t it make sense to for us here in the U.S. to be especially concerned about Israel’s behavior (which might unfortunately be adopted by our own government)?” – me (above)

      “Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza”, By Glenn Greenwald, guardian.co.uk, 11/15/12
      The US was once part of the international consensus against extra-judicial assassinations. Now it is a leader in that tactic.

      [EXCERPTS] Israel’s escalating air attacks on Gaza follow the depressingly familiar pattern that shapes this conflict. Overwhelming Israeli force slaughters innocent Palestinians . . .
      . . . Meanwhile, most US media outlets are petrified of straying too far from pro-Israel orthodoxies. . .
      . . . Obama had no choice but to support these attacks, which were designed, in part, to extra-judicially assassinate Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari as he was driving in his car. . .
      Extra-judicial assassination – accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children – is a staple of the Obama presidency. That lawless tactic is one of the US president’s favorite instruments for projecting force and killing whomever he decides should have their lives ended: all in total secrecy and with no due process or oversight. There is now a virtually complete convergence between US and Israeli aggression, making US criticism of Israel impossible not only for all the usual domestic political reasons, but also out of pure self-interest: for Obama to condemn Israel’s rogue behavior would be to condemn himself.
      It is vital to recognize that this is a new development. The position of the US government on extra-judicial assassinations long had been consistent with the consensus view of the international community: that it is a savage and lawless weapon to be condemned regardless of claims that it is directed at “terrorists”. From a 15 February 2001 Guardian article by Brian Whitaker on the targeted killing by Israel of one of Yasser Arafat’s bodyguards [emphasis added]:

      “International opprobrium was directed at Israel yesterday for its state-approved assassinations of suspected terrorists – a practice widely regarded as illegal. . .
      . . . “The United States, while also condemning Palestinian violence, made clear its disapproval of the assassinations. . .
      “State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: ‘The use of Israeli helicopter gunships, Palestinian attacks against settlements and motorists, the use of mortars by Palestinians and the targeted killings by the Israeli Defence Force … are producing a new cycle of action or reaction which can become impossible to control. . .

      . . . As the Council on Foreign Relations documented in April of this year:

      “The United States adopted targeted killing as an essential tactic to pursue those responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have employed the controversial practice with more frequency in recent years. . .

      In essence, what we find, yet again, is that the governments of the United States and Israel arrogate unto themselves the right to execute anyone they want, anywhere in the world, without any limitations, regardless of how many innocent civilians they kill in the process. . .

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/15/israel-gaza-obama-assassinations

    • Emma
      November 28, 2012, 6:36 am

      “…. Revisionist Zionism might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment ! ! !”

      Totally agree. Support for Israel perverts moral and ethical thinking, as in: ethnic cleansing is sad but unfortunately necessary, not everyone has a right to self-determination (whatever that is), there is no right or wrong, people sometimes just willingly leave their homes, all their personal possessions, businesses, farms, etc. behind and when they do they should never be allowed to return; a change in government (say from Jordan to Israel or Britain to Israel or Republican to Democrat) means that the new government owns everything belonging to anyone who opposed it — the title to people’s houses, furniture, land, and so on. Oh, and reporters should be killed.

  11. mmayer
    November 27, 2012, 8:38 pm

    Why are we surprised by this? Israel has no qualms targeting civilians, scientists and now journalists. I gather reporters are now “terrorists” when they challenge the Israeli narrative. What is next, pregnant woman who may be carrying a “terrorist”. Forgot, they already do that too.

  12. Bumblebye
    November 27, 2012, 10:14 pm

    You’re forgetting the various bombings of Al Jazeera, ie in Afghanistan, or Iraq. Who dunnit first? Who’s copying who?

  13. Qualtrough
    November 28, 2012, 5:31 am

    The mask is slowly slipping off Israel, and at this rate it will not be long before it has entirely slipped off. Important mainstream Israelis as far back as the 1960s (Golda Meir) and more recently military historian Martin van Creveld have threatened that Israel will take the entire world down with it before they go down. With their stockpile of nukes and nuclear missile enabled submarines they are entirely able to do just that. A nation making that threat is the very definition of a terrorist state, without even taking into consideration all the myriad acts of terrorism they have deployed against the Palestinians and others since the foundation of their state.

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