As Adam Horowitz reported today, Washington, D.C.’s Newseum decided against honoring two Palestinian journalists killed by Israeli’s November airstrikes on Gaza at a memorial ceremony. I have two immediate thoughts on this.
Firstly, it is not exactly true, as the Huffington Post reported, that “[t]he Newseum reversed its decision.” What it did was promise a future decision based on pending research. According to the Newseum’s statement today, “We take the concerns raised about these two men seriously and have decided to re-evaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation.”
Taken at its word, this can only be a good thing. Any impartial review of Israel’s killings of Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama will likely reach conclusions similar to those of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders.
As HRW reported:
The two men’s families, interviewed separately, said the men were neither participating in the fighting nor members of any armed group. Human Rights Watch found no evidence, including during visits to the men’s homes, to contradict that claim. Hamas’s armed wing, al-Qassam Brigades, has not put either man on its official list of killed fighters– an unlikely omission if the men had been playing a military role.
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.
For its part, the CPJ found that the Israeli military’s official justifications for its attacks on journalists, published in full at the link,
did not specifically address CPJ’s central question: how did Israel determine that those targeted did not deserve the civilian protections afforded to all journalists, no matter their perspective, under international law?
Any attention to these crimes is a good thing. And the Newseum’s investigation, along with the coverage its memorial has already received, promises a great deal.
As the Huffington Post also reported, “it remains to be seen what further investigation the Newseum will do. A Newseum spokesman did not immediately respond to a question about plans to investigate.”
To preserve its integrity, as both a museum and a journalistic institution, the Newseum must quickly level with the public. Who will conduct this investigation? How long will it take? What exact questions will it address? And can we reasonably expect that, if its outcome favors them, two murdered journalists will receive the public honors denied them today?
The process must be public, credible, and thorough. For my part, I place myself at its disposal when it inevitably needs help coordinating visas, hotel rooms, and meetings in Gaza.
Secondly, if the Newseum fails on these counts – if its investigation is secretive, partisan, or perfunctory, or if the same conclusions already reached by every other responsible body fail to produce equivalent tribute to al-Kumi and Salama – some response will be demanded from all of us who are, as the Newseum describes its criteria for inclusion on the Journalists Memorial,
a contributor of news, commentary or photography to a news outlet; an editor or news executive; a producer, camera operator, sound engineer or other member of a broadcast crew; or a documentary filmmaker.
Personally, I will make it known that I have no desire to ever be included in the Newseum’s own version of the “apartheid wall,” or otherwise honored by such an odious institution. And I will encourage as many others involved in the production of news to join me as possible, starting in Gaza’s al-Shorouk building. Watch this space for updates.