The Newseum’s ‘further investigation’ must be public, credible, and thorough – and what we should do if it isn’t

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 JournalistsHuman 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.

RWB said:

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.

About Joe Catron

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine, where he works with Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks, particularly in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and prisoners' movements. He co-edited The Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange, blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com and tweets at @jncatron.
Posted in Activism, Israel/Palestine, Media, US Politics

{ 9 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. What attention would be given to them? And why would it be a good thing if further researched as claimed by Newseum? They wont research. Besides these is nothing to research, these were journalists nothing else, Newseum bowed for the israeli lobby nothing else.

  2. seafoid says:

    “public, credible, and thorough”

    must be antisemitic.
    When did Israel ever do anything that was public, credible, and thorough ?

  3. ToivoS says:

    When the US military, in the opening days of the war against Iraq after entering Baghdad, were killing journalist , newseum honored them including al-Jazeera cameraman Tarek Ayyoub. The US at that time accused Al Jazeera of propaganda but it seems that wasn’t enough to deter the Newseum for honoring Tarek. Recall, Tony Blair and Bush discussed killing Al jazeera journalists at the time.

    Is the lobby even more influential than the US military? I don’t think so. The US had the sense to not make an issue of something that would go away if they remained silent. The lobby is thrashing about in desperation now — they have so completely lost control of the message that anything they now try just blows up in their face. Be interesting to see what kind of revenge they will try to extract from the Boston Globe and what kind of blow back they attract doing that.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Joe such great points. Will you do a petition where we can sign and stand behind your reasonable request for a “public, credible and thorough” investigation. It seems like the investigators should clearly be neutral experts. If “neutral” investigators exist

  5. Dutch says:

    Excellent piece. Thanks, Joe.

  6. W.Jones says:

    Thanks for you, Joe.

  7. Yasmeen says:

    I say we bombard them with letters on their hypocrisy. I came across an article that states the newseums terrace is dedicated to a journalist who was a member of the infamous Irgun gang/terrorists.

  8. just says:

    Thank you Joe.

  9. just says:

    from ‘wiki’ re: the Newseum:
    “Its mission is “to help the public and the news media understand one another better” and to “raise public awareness of the important role of a free press in a democratic society”
    —————–
    Well, that’s definitely NOT the case. It’s a Nauseam now.

    I much prefer the Smithsonians anyway………….