Last week we reported Israel supporters were pressuring the Newseum to drop two Palestinian journalists, Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama, from its yearly event honoring reporters killed in the line of duty. Al-Kumi and Salama worked for Al-Aqsa television and were killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza last November. Although the Newseum originally defended their inclusion, this morning the Washington, DC-based museum dedicated to the news industry announced that al-Kumi and Salama would in fact not be a part of today’s ceremony.
Starting last week, pro-Israel advocates and organizations started to pressure the museum arguing that Al-Kumi and Salama should be considered terrorists because Al-Aqsa TV is affiliated with Hamas. The campaign to pressure the Newseum picked up over the weekend with both the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee chiming in.
First the ADL:
ADL said the inclusion of Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi in the Newseum Journalists Memorial was “a dark day for an American institution devoted to free speech and the First Amendment.” Salama and Al-Kumi were members of Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.
“It is a dark day when members of a terrorist organization advancing their agenda through murderous violence are honored as part of a tribute to journalists killed in the line of duty,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “This decision flies in the face of the founding mission of Newseum to ‘educate the public about the value of a free press in a free society.’ Salama and Al-Kumi were terrorist operatives working for a network that routinely promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence. These men were working for a propaganda outlet, not a legitimate news organization.”
ADL urged the Newseum to reconsider the decision and remove the names of Al-Kumi and Salama from the roster of the Journalists Memorial before they are officially added to the permanent memorial scheduled to be unveiled on Monday.
“The Newseum board of directors should be ashamed of themselves for saluting two individuals who were integral to the propaganda machine of the Hamas terrorist organization,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We are astonished that the Newseum did not reconsider its stance after initial concerns were raised. What are they thinking, seeking to conflate authentic journalists and operatives for a murderous group banned by the U.S. and European Union?”
The U.S. government has designated both Hamas and its Al-Aqsa television station terrorist organizations. Al-Aqsa regularly disseminates vile hatred of Israel and unadulterated anti-Semitism, glorifies terrorism, and promotes “martyrdom.”
“If Newseum is true to its mission of ‘educating the public about the value of a free press in a free society,’ then it should acknowledge there is an awful lot of work to be done in Hamas-ruled Gaza before Al-Aqsa can be considered a legitimate media operation,” Harris added. “Meanwhile, if Newseum opts to go forward with honoring Salama and al-Kumi, it will bring shame on itself for a shocking inability — or unwillingness — to distinguish between heroic journalists and brazen terrorists.”
The Newseum initially stood behind its decision to include al-Kumi and Salama (see their statement here), but this morning announced that the Palestinian cameramen will not be included in today’s ceremony.
Here’s the announcement from the Newseum:
JOURNALIST MEMORIAL UPDATE
Serious questions have been raised as to whether two of the individuals included on our initial list of journalists who died covering the news this past year were truly journalists or whether they were engaged in terrorist activities.
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.
Terrorism has altered the landscape in many areas, including the rules of war and engagement, law, investigative and interrogation techniques, and the detention of enemy combatants. Journalism is no exception.
To further our First Amendment mission to provide a forum where all may speak freely, the Newseum will establish a new initiative to explore differing views on the new questions facing journalism and journalists.
Ex-AIPAC spokesperson Josh Block was the person to break the news:
In wise move, @newseum announces it will not honor Hamas terrorists at ceremony today.
— Josh Block (@JoshBlockDC) May 13, 2013
The Embassy of Israel appreciates the Newseum’s decision to reconsider the inclusion of members of Hamas, a terrorist organization, on its list of journalists who lost their lives covering the news. The decision taken by the Newseum reflects a core journalistic value that it works to honor: the pursuit of understanding the full story.