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A tale of two journalists

This is the story of two journalists treated unjustly by Israeli occupation authorities. Yet they are not being equally treated by the media. Indeed, they should not be equally treated, because their plights are anything but equal.

But the media has its priorities upside down.

One journalist was detained for 40 minutes merely for conducing interviews. The other is being detained without charge or trial, deprived of all basic human rights.

Journalist number one was detained briefly on Tuesday. The response on Twitter was instant. Journalists around the world blasted the Israeli Border Police (who are in fact a heavily armed and paramilitary gang) for restricting his right to report freely in Jerusalem.

The Foreign Press Associated in Israel tutted about the “heavy handed tactics”. The journalist’s editor frowned that it was “extremely troubling”. Even the normally reliably pro-Israel Washington Post correspondent Rush Eglash moaned about journalist number one and his colleague getting “harassed” for “doing their jobs.”

After all the pressure, Israeli officials and spokespeople rushed into damage control mode. The foreign ministry said it was “a regrettable incident”. A spokesperson for the prime minister, Ofir Gendelman came up with an absolute non-sequitur: “on the brief detention [of journalist number one]: … we don’t detain journalists.”

Do a search on Google News today for their respective names and you will find 574,000 results for journalist number one, but only 4,920 for journalist number two (and most of those are from alternative media websites).

And yet, journalist number two has been detained, based only on secret “evidence” by a purely military kangaroo “court” system and charged with precisely nothing. He has been in Israeli dungeons since the end of November.

Desperate for freedom, he has been on hunger strike for 87 days.

Exclusive Images: Palestinians in Gaza go on hunger strike in solidarity with Al-Qeq

So the two men are not equal: the treatment of journalist number two is in fact far, far worse.

And yet, the mainstream media coverage of the second journalist’s incarceration has been almost zero. Why?

Because journalist number one is William Booth of the Washington Post and journalist number two is Muhammad al-Qeeq, a Palestinian who works for the Saudi news agency al-Majd.

According to his wife, al-Qeeq is in jail for “doing his job”.

An irony, of course, is that the Washington Post is one of the most pro-Israel newspapers in the planet, seriously in competition with the New York Times for that inglorious title. It was only because of their record of propaganda services to Israel that the Israeli government even bothered to back-peddle, because they knew of the reputational damage it could cause.

Ben White: The Washington Post whitewashes the violence of Israel’s occupation

But Palestinian lives are of little account in the western media. Israel frequently bombs Palestinian and international journalists during its many wars against the civilian population of Gaza.

Even with al-Qeeq at death’s door on hunger strike, the Post barely even reports it. I could only find a single story on their website. And that was reposted from the Associated Press wire service, and was almost two weeks old. When the media does report it, they throw in unattributed rumours from anonymous Israeli spokespeople claiming that al-Qeeq is a “Hamas supporter” – as if that would justify internment without charge or trail in any case.

According to Amnesty International: “Israeli courts have failed, over many years, to provide effective legal recourse to the thousands of Palestinian administrative detainees held without charge or trial on the basis of secret ‘evidence’ withheld from them and their lawyers, under orders that can be renewed indefinitely.

“As an unconvicted detainee, al-Qeeq has the right to treatment by doctors of his choice. Given his critical health situation, the Israeli authorities must respect his wishes and transfer him to the hospital that he has chosen without delay,” Amnesty adds.

It’s not that Israel’s detention of Booth should not have been publicised: of course it should have. But we have to ask questions as to why far too many journalists do not consider the lives of Palestinian journalists to be equal to those of their “own” journalists in American and Europe.

And why does so much of the media report totally unfounded Israeli insinuations where they would not do so for the propaganda slurs of other oppressive middle eastern military regimes?

For Israel, everything and anything, it seems.

We need to strive for a world where Israel abuses are no longer given carte blanche.

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