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Federation of Arab Journalists visit condemned

January 24, 2014 at 3:19 am

A visit by a number of Arab journalists to the city of Ramallah has resulted in a surge of condemnation from Palestinian media institutions, which saw the move as a form of normalisation with the Israeli occupation. They stressed that Arab-Palestine solidarity movements must keep away from the umbrella of Zionism. Palestinian journalists need a lot of support and assistance and support for their causes, although not necessarily through visits and meetings.

The delegation of the Federation of Arab Journalists visited Ramallah in mid-November to discuss the differences between members of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and the convergence of views between them so as to enhance their position in the face of Israeli aggression. The federation called recently for a meeting in the same city in April next year.

Despite accusations to the contrary, the federation stressed that its rules prohibit all forms of normalisation, professional and personal, with Israel. Indeed, they ban the establishment of any relations with Israeli media organisations and their representatives until the liberation of all occupied Arab territories. This was made clear in the decision of the General Assembly of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate and other Arab news organisations on the issue of normalisation.

The move came in an explanatory statement issued by federation Chairman Ahmad Behbehani regarding the position of the members of the delegation from the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate in their recent visit to the State of Palestine, at the invitation of the Palestinian union and in coordination with the EU.

The statement pointed out that it is moving actively to support the Palestinian people and Palestinian journalists on the ground. Such support comes in the light of the demographic situation and Israel’s Judaisation policy, whereby a number of Arab delegations responded to the requests of the Palestinians and visited the city of Ramallah and other parts of the occupied territories.

However, author and political science professor at the University of Qatar, Mohammed Musfer, criticised such visits, saying that they amount to “a crime” against Palestine and the Arab and Islamic nations, and are a betrayal of journalists in Palestine.

Political purposes

The media spokesman for the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, Daoud Shihab, explained that there are many dangers behind the federation’s visit, the most serious of which is the fact that the journalists arrived through Israeli border posts. He told Al-Istiklal, “This dimension may be absent from the federation’s thinking, in the belief that it is important to show solidarity with Palestinian journalists and the Palestinian cause, but the Israeli occupation will exploit this in its own media and political framework to encourage normalisation in all its forms.” It is possible, he added, that those who favour normalisation with Israel will also use this in the future.

Shihab pointed out that the Ramallah meeting served a number of political purposes for those responsible for the negotiations project, more than the slogans of solidarity brought by those who advocated such a meeting.

Pretext for normalisation

In a related context, the director of Safa News Agency, Yasser Abu Hein, said that while it is important for there to be communication within the Arab world, between Arab journalists and their Palestinian counterparts, it should not be under the umbrella of the Israel’s occupation and normalisation which grants Israelis legitimacy. “There are journalists killed when going about their work,” he said. “Media institutions were destroyed in Gaza and in the West Bank journalists are being prosecuted, arrested and prevented from continuing their work.”

Abu Hein insisted that Arab solidarity movements must keep their distance from the Israelis. “These visits must not be used as an excuse to normalise and open cooperative relations with Israel on the subject of the media.” He noted that Palestinian journalists need a lot of support and assistance, “not only through visits and meetings.” This, he suggested, could include efforts to prosecute Israelis in international courts. “Even sending letters of support to Palestinian journalists will help them as they try to continue their work in the face of the occupation.”

Unacceptable behaviour

According to the President of the Palestinian Assembly Youth Media, Tawfiq Salim, the visit by the Federation of Arab Journalists “was a form of normalisation with the Israeli enemy and this is rejected by Palestinian journalists and rejected by Palestinian society as a whole.”

Mr Salim called for the federation to remain independent and not make official visits to the occupied Palestinian territories in times like these, because they take place with the consent of the Israeli occupation authorities. “We hope that the Arab journalists will come to Palestine when it is liberated, and not require a transit visa from the occupation,” he said. “It is more important for Arab journalists to fulfil their responsibilities towards their fellow journalists in Palestine who are exposed daily to Israeli violations, assault, shootings, arrests and death.” He reminded the federation that the anniversary is approaching of the deaths of journalists who were killed whilst on duty during Israel’s aggression against Gaza last year.

“The Palestinian media is strong due to its presence in the field,” he concluded. “Our journalists expose the illegal policies and practices of the Israelis and their human rights violations against the Palestinian people.” Support is needed, but this does not come through such visits, he insisted.

A serious issue

Furthermore, writer and political analyst Mustafa Sawaf stressed that the meeting arranged for the Federation of Arab Journalists in Ramallah served Israeli interests. He explained that there was no pressing need for a meeting which needed Israeli approval for Arab journalists to enter the occupied West Bank. “Even if the intention was to meet Palestinian journalists and visit occupied cities,” he said, “the visit will be used to normalise relations with the Israelis.” This is unacceptable, he added. “The federation must not be a bridge for normalisation.” Such a serious issue must be addressed, he told Al-Isiklal.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.