The targeting of journalists reporting on the Gaza massacre in recent days appears to have been a deliberate attempt by Israel to distort media coverage. On November 18, two buildings housing Palestinian and international media outlets were targeted. Eight journalists were injured; cameraman Khader al Zahhar’s leg was blown off. Israeli air strikes on November 20 were murderous, with missiles striking two cars and killing three journalists. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Israeli spokesman Mark Regev was keen to point out that no foreign journalists were killed, flaunting Israeli racism openly.
In an attempt to justify its strikes upon the media, the IDF issued a statement that it had “surgically targeted Hamas communications capabilities on the roof of a civilian building in Gaza Strip”. According to Israel, journalists working for Hamas are not exercising their profession legally, thus rendering them legitimate targets, a policy which seems to have developed from Operation Cast Lead, when Israel didn’t allow journalists to enter Gaza to report on the conflict.
Article 79:1 of the Geneva Convention states: “Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians…” Whilst Israeli propaganda recycles the adage that Hamas hides behind the civilian population, including journalists, the reality behind such statements is an attempt to annihilate alternative reporting. Once again, however, Israel remains unscathed after committing a war crime which should have had international leaders and the UN clamouring for justice.
It is difficult to extrapolate the Israeli government’s definition of “civilians”. All deaths caused by airstrikes were not even listed as “collateral damage”. The IDF dropped leaflets in civilian areas, telling people to evacuate their homes to go to “safe zones”. This was an untenable request, considering that Gaza is a besieged enclave. Journalists were regarded as legitimate targets, despite a supposed universal application of international humanitarian law.
Considering the major role which social media plays in the immediate dissemination of information, Israeli attacks on media facilities and journalists were deliberate and designed to distort reports of the massacre happening in Gaza. Israel’s acclaimed free press was restricted by boundaries of allegiance to the state and its policies.
While the bias of Israel’s official statements have been reproduced by the mainstream media, discussion of this war crime has been suppressed. Targeting the press has become a commonplace in war zones. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, media outlets were targeted by NATO and the US in order to eliminate the government’s possibility of “spreading propaganda” and thus ensure a preliminary victory.
Israel has once again demonstrated its ability to avoid any accountability or responsibility for the airstrikes, demonstrating the international community’s application of humanitarian law. It has failed in repressing the flow of information, thus resulting in a heightened awareness on behalf of the people, who, in contrast to previous years, had the opportunity to rely less on mainstream media. With regard to human rights, Israel, together with the political powers on the international scene, has ridiculed any semblance of protection for media outlets whose narration of events differs from its unwavering official line. In the absence of any systematic protection, international law, declarations and resolutions have failed to establish any tangible security for journalists, thus distorting any possible significance into a caricature of a system corrupted by the higher powers.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.