Israel Murders “Record-Breaking” Number of Journalists in Gaza

Palestinian journalists Hamza al-Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuraya were killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza on Sunday, while driving to interview victims of a previous bombing. The deaths raise the total number of journalists killed in three months of Israel’s war to at least 79, the highest of any year of conflict in a single country on record and more than the entirety of the Second World War.

The rampant killing of journalists constitutes a brazen war crime, carried out without a squeak from Israel’s “democratic” imperialist allies.

Israel seeks to silence those reporting on its atrocities in Gaza, so that it can continue to carry out its new Nakba under the cover of darkness. It feels emboldened by the knowledge that it can act with impunity, without any consequences under the so-called rules-based order of bourgeois legality.

Targeted killings

Typically, Israel has attempted to wash its hands of these crimes. Mark Regev, a senior advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in response to the latest killings:

To say Israel deliberately targets the press is ridiculous, we’re the only country [in the Middle East] that actually enshrines the free press.

Israel’s actions followed a predictable pattern. First, they attempted to justify the murders, claiming that the fatal missile strike on the car containing Hamza al-Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuraya was also occupied by a “terrorist aircraft operator.”

Unable to produce any evidence, they then retreated to saying that the journalists simply looked like terrorists because they had previously operated a camera drone. This was al-Dahdouh and Thuraya’s job, as videographers and camera operators.

In much the same way, Israel has justified past murders of journalists by saying that they were “armed with cameras.” What does it say about a regime and military that considers a camera, designed to document the truth, as a weapon?

These appear to be yet more deliberate assassinations of prominent journalists. Especially since Hamza was the eldest son of Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief, Wael al-Dahdouh. Wael was himself injured in an airstrike while covering the bombing of Haifa School. He has also lost his wife and 13 relatives to Israeli attacks, including a seven-year-old daughter and one-year-old grandson. Nor is he the only journalist whose family has been targeted.

On top of the outright killings, 16 journalists have been injured, three have been reported missing, 21 have been arrested and 50 different media offices have been destroyed.

To supplement the work of bombs, the press is also being censored through more traditional means. In October, the Israeli government passed a regulation allowing it to shut down news channels which “harm national morale.” Foreign journalists have been banned from the Strip unless they are embedded with the IDF and agree to have their footage checked by the military before publication. The Israeli Communications minister even drew up regulations targeting Israel’s third largest newspaper, Haaretz, because of its “defeatist and false propaganda,” although this was not approved by the cabinet.

In Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, Reporters have been faced with assaults, cyberattacks and threats. In Tel Aviv, one journalist who expressed solidarity with the Palestinians was forced to go into hiding after his home was attacked by a far-right mob.

Such is par the course for this bastion of “democracy” and “free speech.” Israel has a long and bloody history of dealing with the critics of its 75 year occupation. Between 2000 and 2021, 30 journalists were killed by the IDF, including Shireen Abu Akleh, who was murdered in 2022 by an IDF sniper. The following week, her funeral was attacked by Israeli police.

Much like with these latest killings, the IDF initially denied responsibility, claiming Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian militants; before concluding she had been “accidentally” shot by an Israeli sniper. Israel has refused to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of Abu Akleh’s death, and we expect nothing different in the case of al-Dahdouh and Thuraya.

No one has ever been held accountable for this endless list of crimes against journalists, which have increased to sickening proportions in line with the current indiscriminate slaughter.

Imperialist crocodile tears

These mounting atrocities have put the Americans in an embarrassing position. Not for any moral reasons, in fact, the US set the standard for killing journalists in Iraq, but because Israel’s reckless abandon is provoking major opposition from the masses around the world, and carries the risk of sparking a wider conflict. Israel’s disregard for the international laws also exposes the capitalist establishment’s legal niceties as a sham.

AB BN Image U.S. Embassy Jerusalem Wikimedia Commons
To save face, Blinken said Hamza al-Dahdouh’s death was “an unimaginable tragedy.” / Image: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, Wikimedia Commons

The fact that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Qatar engaged in negotiations aimed at smoothing over tensions at the time of the killing of journalists for the main Qatari broadcaster was highly convenient for the Israelis. They knew exactly who they were targeting. It is quite possible that this was a cynical murder aimed at sending a message to the US: “when you’re negotiating, remember that you need us, and this war will continue until we say so.”

To save face, Blinken said Hamza al-Dahdouh’s death was “an unimaginable tragedy” and added that “far too many innocent Palestinian men, women and children” have died in the war. However, no action will be taken: money, weapons and political support for Israel will be maintained.

This is tantamount to a shrug of the shoulders. Though the Americans might disapprove of the candor of Israel’s unmitigated slaughter, Israel represents a key ally for American interests in the Middle East, meaning any excesses are excused.

In the words of Joe Biden in 1986:

3 billion dollars a year to Israel is the best investment America makes. If Israel didn’t exist, America would have to invent an Israel to protect America’s interest in the region.

To facilitate these interests, the “free press” of the western world has been called to heel. All manner of lies have been broadcast by the bourgeois media to obscure the truth and an unprecedented campaign of slander and censorship has rained down on pro-Palestinian activists and journalists, including our comrades in Britain.

Compare that to the Ukraine war, in which the yellow and blue flag was waved from every state building in the West! Meanwhile, the western ruling classes wept for all of the 17 journalists killed in Ukraine. Each of Putin’s alleged war crimes (real and imagined) made front page news.

Today, Israel is carrying out a full-scale massacre and is breaking records for killing journalists, while the so-called “land of the free” stands shoulder-to-shoulder with it. The shameless hypocrites in the editorial teams of the western press have been remarkably silent on the deaths of their colleagues in Palestine.

The solution?

In response to the most recent killings, Al Jazeera published a statement saying:

The assassination of Mustafa and Hamza … while they were on their way to carry out their duty in the Gaza Strip, reaffirms the need to take immediate necessary legal measures against the occupation forces to ensure that there is no impunity.

But if legal measures were taken, who would enforce them? Certainly not a toothless body like the UN. In the last 50 years, the US has blocked 53 of its resolutions condemning Israel.

Israel is an imperialist power, backed and funded by the most reactionary and well armed force on the planet. No amount of moral or legal appeals will change that.

The only force powerful enough to hold these armed gangsters to account is the working class of the world, united for the overthrow of the rotten capitalist system that seeks to conceal its crimes under a pile of corpses.

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