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Drawing the Line Between Terrorist and Journalist
Observers…or willing participants?
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
A U.S.-based media watchdog group issued a report last week exposing a half-dozen Arab photo-journalists who accompanied Hamas terrorists in the early hours of October 7 on their killing spree in Israel, documenting their atrocities.
All six of the photo-journalists whose work Honest Reporting examined were employed by major media organizations, including the New York Times, CNN, Reuters, and the Associated Press. Reuters heralded one photo, showing a lynch mob brutalizing an Israeli soldier they had dragged out of a tank, as its “image of the day.”
An AP photographer took a video of himself in front of the burning Israeli tank, glorifying that he was seeing it with “my own eyes.” He was wearing nothing to identify himself as a member of the press, and appeared to be part of a celebratory crowd.
Another AP reporter snapped close-ups of Hamas terrorists dragging a terrified and bleeding Israeli civilian to a vehicle for transport as a hostage to Gaza.
Others captured the initial breaching of the Israeli border fence, the torching of Israeli homes, and the capture of female hostages.
The report earned cringing excuses from all four news organizations, ranging from the expected “just doing their job,” to embarrassed denials that they had embedded their reporters with Hamas.
Senator Tom Cotton sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, demanding that the Department of Justice open a national security investigation into the four media outlets “to determine whether they or their leadership committed federal crimes by supporting Hamas terrorists.”
The six photo-journalists “almost certainly knew about the attack in advance, and even participated by accompanying Hamas terrorists during the attack and filming the heinous acts,” he wrote.
As someone who has reported frequently from Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Jordan, and with Palestinian guerrilla fighters in the Bekaa Valley, I can tell you: the Palestinians control information tightly, just like any other totalitarian. They want to control the “narrative.”
I write about several instances where I succeeded in evading Palestinian attempts at control in my latest book, And the Rest is History: Tales of Hostages, Arms Dealers, Dirty Tricks, and Spies. It was always a challenge; often, it was dangerous. The Palestinians a long history of punishing journalists who do not comply with their demands.
But these six “photo-journalists” were not seeking to get around the Hamas narrative to report independently. They sought to glorify Hamas and its atrocities.
And there is no way they just happened upon the scenes they filmed. They were led there by Hamas.
Their actions show that they were not journalists, but Hamas operatives. They should be treated as such by Israel. I will shed no tears when that happens.
On Senator Cotton’s question of culpability of The NY Times, AP, Reuters, CNN: their pathetic efforts to escape responsibility demonstrate that “ethics” and corporate journalism are incompatible.
They published those photographs because they were sensational, and because there was virtually no news (and certainly no images) coming from the Israeli side in the early hours of the attack.
Remember Mike Wallace (of 60 Minutes fame) who said proudly during the Vietnam war he would report from the Vietcong side even if it meant watching the killing of American soldiers — and that he would not warn the Americans?
I have always found such journalistic “ethics” despicable. That’s one of many reasons I never felt I had “betrayed” my profession when I become an Israeli “spy” briefly in the late 1980s, in an effort to free downed Israeli aviator Ron Arad, held hostage at the time by Lebanese militiamen. Or when I helped my country during the first Gulf War to better understand the sophisticated weapons Saddam Hussein had acquired from the French, which I had seen with my own eyes in Baghdad not long before the war. (For both mercantile and political reasons, the French were refusing to provide that information to the Americans.)
Sen. Tom Cotton is right to threaten media owners and editors that employed these terrorists with legal action. If nothing else, when they filed those photos, a vigorous discussion with editors should have ensued, as in “Mohammad, how the *** did you get that photo? Where is your Press brassard?”
Hamas obviously alerted them to the upcoming action and brought them along, including them in its genocidal rampage. They were willing participants, not observers. That is the line that they crossed.