Dangerous, but essential work: my experience as a field reporter in Palestine

FeaturesIsrael/PalestineThey Fear The Truth: We Report It
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I remember the very day I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I was about 12 years old, and I was watching a Palestinian reporter live on Abu-Dhabi TV covering the beginning of the second intifada. Suddenly she was hit by an Israeli bullet while presenting on air. This reporter, Laila Oudeh, became a hero to me.

Donate buttonOver a decade later, I am now that composed journalist reporting live on confrontations between Palestinians and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). I know from experience, as both the audience for news and its reporter, how vital it is to inform the world of Israel’s crimes. I’m writing today to ask you to support Mondoweiss as a unique and critical channel for getting the news out.

I wanted to be like Laila, and now my dreams of becoming a field reporter are fulfilled. I still admire how Laila—today a correspondent with France 24—showed no fear even in the midst of battle. And I feel very lucky because Laila has become a personal friend.

I remember the first time I was sent to cover clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinian protesters. I was afraid of being shot by the soldiers. I saw sprays of bullets and hid behind my cameraman.

Drawing by Carlos Latuff

Being a field journalist in the Palestinian territories is very dangerous. The Israeli authorities treat journalists like civilians. They ignore the international conventions for protection of the press, especially when journalists are Palestinian. And almost no one tells how Israel defies international rules—but Mondoweiss does.

I have personally been targeted many times by the Israeli military while wearing the identifiable blue flak jacket with “PRESS” in large print. I have been threatened with arrest, and once at Qalandia, the IDF deliberately fired tear gas toward me and other reporters.

At one of my close calls—the closest I hope I ever have to experience—Mondoweiss reported the IDF’s violation of journalism norms. Two years ago, I was covering a protest in the village of Bi’lin, where Israel’s wall cuts through Palestinian farmland. The demonstration, which took place on Palestine Prisoners Day, was also marking the memory of Bassem Abu Rahme, an IDF victim who had led Bi’lin’s weekly nonviolent demonstrations against Israeli land grabs.

While reporting live on that April day, I had to jump out of frame to avoid being hit by a gas canister. As IDF projectiles filled the sky with streaks of tear gas, I gasped for air. Trying to breathe hurt. Even my eyes hurt. I felt I was going to die. I thought of my family and how I would not see them again. Then everything went black. The live broadcast showed me passing out from breathing in tear gas.

I was later revived, on the air, by Mustafa Barghouti—a leader of the Palestine National Initiative who is also a doctor. It was a shocking glimpse for viewers of the perils we journalists face. It is like working in a minefield. I was grateful that Mondoweiss shared this outrage with its global audience.

I’ve experienced many other injuries, such as when a tear gas canister struck me in the back. Dozens of times I’ve been hit by the putrid chemical called “skunk water” that the IDF uses to disperse demonstrations. Just last month I was drenched while covering a march in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. It took a full week to get rid of the smell…and the humiliation and sense of helplessness lingered even longer.

Beyond the physical hazards, there is also frequent bullying and harassment. For example, an Israeli officer once approached and threatened to arrest me, cursing at me although he could see I was live on the air. This time I hid behind my cameraman not because I feared the officer’s threats, but to hide my tears from the audience. I had never cried on the air before, but I was mortified by being berated and cursed just for doing my job.

Sometimes I ask myself if this is what I dreamt of all those years ago. Why do I keep reporting despite the danger and abuse? What helps me continue is the courage I get from others. I receive letters from students who tell me they aspire to be like me, and it gives me the determination to stay with this work.

To work as a journalist in Palestine means to expect at any moment injury, arrest, or even death. During politically tense moments when the danger increases, I used to tell my mother not to grieve for me should the worst happen.

Why? Because I am privileged to do meaningful work that has the capacity to change injustice. I believe from the bottom of my heart that sharing news stories from Palestine with people around the world is the most powerful way to mobilize resistance and cripple the oppressive, ethnocratic regime. If I face death in order to help build a better tomorrow—well, there is no more important cause for which to take such a risk.

Donate buttonAnd I appreciate all that Mondoweiss does to multiply the impact of reporters like me. If you agree that we must increase the numbers and passion of people worldwide who challenge injustice in Palestine, join me in supporting Mondoweiss. There is no better way to get news out, and channel the outrage of good people everywhere toward real, lasting change.

About Linda Shalash

Linda Shalash is a news reporter at Al-Quds TV.

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4 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    June 23, 2017, 12:41 pm

    that video of Shalash getting skunk sprayed! it’s as if the the truck came along as a prop and performed right on cue for the camera! and how anyone could remain calmly reporting with that looming threat coming from behind — and then obviously she was targeted directly even after she rushed away! i would not have the stamina or guts to do this — for sure!

  2. B.yassin
    June 23, 2017, 7:44 pm

    Iinda is not a reporter, but as the 10 years went by her job, she became an icon for women’s struggle, when I follow her news broadcasting or watch her reportages i feel so proud of her, and of my people, that we can be successful in any field, and no matter how dangerous it is

  3. Jackdaw
    June 25, 2017, 2:57 am

    Uhhh…. Linda. Now can you please tell us what the average Palestinian wants done with Israel?

    Linda? Are you there? Linda!

    • Marnie
      June 26, 2017, 1:58 am

      Are you there Jackdaw? Ask an ‘average Palestinian’. I’ll tell you what I want though – one state for all people,all ethnicities under a secular democratic government. What do you want?

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