During last year’s Operation Pillar of Defense, three Palestinian terrorists were killed when an Israeli airstrike struck their car while traveling in a convoy in Gaza. It was reported at the time and parroted by the Reuters, AP, AFP that the two men were not terrorists, but journalists driving in a car that was clearly marked ‘TV.’ The Times‘ David Carr wrote a story in which he led with their deaths as emblems of intrepid journalists targeted by forces that sought to use war as a cover to kill journalists. On A-1, Israel was implicated.
As I argued at the time, Carr and others were wrong to honor the men as fallen truth-tellers because…well…for two of the men their “media outlet” was a state-run Hamas organ that had been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States government in 2010 for glorifying civilian murder and indoctrinating children to become suicide bombers.
“Al-Aqsa is a primary Hamas media outlet and airs programs and music videos designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood,” notes the 2010 press release. “‘Treasury will not distinguish between a business financed and controlled by a terrorist group, such as Al-Aqsa Television, and the terrorist group itself,’ [Treasury Secretary Stuart] Levey said.”
(By the way, the third “journalist” in the car, Mohamed Abu Aisha, named and dismissed by Carr as the director of a private educational Palestinian radio program, was identified on the Islamic Jihad website as a uniformed member of its military.)
Naturally, several months later, when the two Al-Aqsa “journalists” were honored by the swank Pennsylvania Avenue Newseum, who added them to their Journalists’ Memorial this week, an uproar ensued. (The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is already considering pulling out of an event there.)
The most ridiculous part of the ordeal? When I reached out to the Newseum–which honors the principles of journalism–for a comment, they stonewalled me and other journalists. A very nice media relations person who couldn’t speak on the matter explained that someone else would call to respond to questions and when that never happened, I was promised a statement about the controversy instead. Here is part of that statement:
The Newseum Journalists Memorial recognizes 2,246 journalists who died or were killed while reporting the news. To be listed on the memorial, an individual must have been a contributor of news, commentary or photography to a news outlet; an editor or news executive; a producer, camera operator, sound engineer or other member of a broadcast crew; or a documentary filmmaker.
Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi were cameramen in a car clearly marked “TV.” The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers all consider these men journalists killed in the line duty.
The Journalists Memorial selection committee conducts case-by-case reviews using the above criteria.
The Newseum also lists the two men as having been killed in Israel, which is obviously untrue. They were killed in Hamas-run Gaza, where there is no free press, and Al-Aqsa TV is free to broadcast things like this:
Update: An earlier version of this post misidentified Hammed Shamalah, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike while driving in a car that was marked “TV.” Al-Aqsa’s Hussam Salama, named a Hamas operative, was killed a day later. We apologize for the error.