Reporting Gaza

Martha Gellhorn,  American war correspondent of  Spanish Civil war vintage,  was  quoted as saying,  “If a journalist can do nothing positive, to make the world more liveable or less cruel or stupid, he can at least record truly, and that is something no one else will do”.

And that is the thing –  ‘reporting truly’ –  that Israel doesn’t want done,  in respect of its current offensive in Gaza. Israel’s refusal to allow foreign correspondents inside Gaza prevents media scrutiny of the plight of civilians there.  And the world media appears to have accepted the situation.  BBC telecasts occasionally brief reports from its Gaza-based producer Rushdi Abulaouf, but much of its war coverage is done by reporters looking in on Gaza  from the Israel end.

100_05881Rushdi, functioning under severe limitations and a constant threat to his personal safety, comes on ‘live’ on BBC, usually during the daily three-hour truce in Israel bombing.  And there isn’t much he can do by way of reporting Gaza on his own.

There are other Arab journalists inside Gaza, notably from Al-Jazeera. But then their coverage is seen mainly in the Middle-East.  Al-Jazeera telecast has been banned in most parts of the US.  Besides,  people in the US,  and even in India,  are led to believe that Al-jazeera is Osama’s mouth-piece.

Had Martha Gellhorn  been around  (she died in 1998, aged 89)  I wonder what she would have done. Or could have done.  Refusal of entry to foreign media is not the only unacceptable act of  Israel in  its war on Gaza. World media,  the press freedom and human rights activists  appear to have accepted the unacceptable.

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Gaza under ground attack.

After a week of pounding from air Israelis moved their troops into Gaza strip. TV channels,  notably CNN,  kept up  a running coverage,  but their reporting was from the Israel end,  for no foreign journalist has been allowed into  Gaza. 100_0571100_0562TV doesn’t take us behind this picture of  smoking  Gaza.  It takes a  blogger to give us a sense of the misery and hardhip of ordinary Gazans,  whose most normal condition of life  today is its uncertainty.  A US-based blogger Laila El-Haddad,  who has, till now,  managed to stay in touch with her parents in  Gaza,  shares her thoughts on the plight of  Gazans, trapped in their homes and nowhere to go for safety.

100_0566Excerpts from Laila’s blog post,  after a call to her father,  a physician in Gaza, soon after the land offensive  started on Saturday night:  He said Israel destroyed 3 JAWAL  centers (the mobile  provider); so many mobile phones, including his own,  are  down,  but his landline is functional.. He tells me that a building behind my cousin’s house in Gaza City was destroyed,  and is now burning down in a voracious fire.  It had an orphanage in it.  My mother says she won’t lie..they are terrified.  100_0568

Flares and firebombs are being shot to light up the sky.  Propaganda fliers telling the people of Gaza that  “they chose Hamas and Hamas has abandoned them”;  that “Hamas  will lead them to catastrophe”…and calling on them  (Gazans) to “take charge of their destiny” and to call a given phone number or email with tips and then a warning  to call  “in secrecy” (thanks for the tip). Israel is also  broadcasting on al-Aqsa TV station there.

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A sampling of a spate of comments to Laila’s post:

It happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina,  it happened in  Rwanda,  it’s happening in Darfur and what exactly should  we call the mass murder of Palestinian civilians?  Surely not a “quest for peace”.

We are so frustrated,  we go to rallys,  we blog but we feel so helpless. We call our cousins and they sound so scared it frustrates us – Nadia Hammad

I just watched the CNN news interview with you (Laila) and your dad.  I can’t belive how your dad, mashallah,  controlled himself while under attack and you didn’t lose it either listening to him . 

I am a Canadian…non Arab, non Muslim…but a human being and a mother. I cry for the Palestinians just as I did for the people in Lebanon and the Iraqis.