After caving in to intense Israel lobby pressure, Washington’s Newseum has removed the names of two Palestinian journalists extrajudicially executed by Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip last November from its memorials for journalists killed while doing their jobs.
The Newseum has refused to answer my questions about its decision-making process regarding the two men.
Meanwhile Palestinian journalists and a member of al-Kumi’s family have spoken out against the Newseum’s cave-in, as the video report above from The Real News shows.
Mahmoud al-Kumi’s brother speaks out
“The Newseum’s decision not to include the names of Palestinian journalists who were killed at the hand of the Israeli occupation forces by American-made war planes during the eight-day war on Gaza was a slap in the face,” said Islam al-Kumi, Mahmoud’s brother.
“They dare to take this decision because of Israeli pressure,” al-Kumi added, urging the Newseum to reverse course.
“We received the Newseum’s decision with great disappointment,” said Yousef Alostaz of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, saying it reflected a “double standard.”
“We hope those who made the decision will reconsider and stop siding with the Israeli occupation forces and their crimes against Palestinian journalists,” Alostaz added.
The killings of Salama and Al-Kumi were part of a wave of deliberate Israeli attacks against Palestinian journalists and media organizations during the Israeli assault that Human Rights Watch investigated and said amounted to war crimes.
Human Rights Watch found no evidence to support Israeli claims that the men were engaged in anything resembling “terrorist activity.” They were riding in their car, returning from filming the injured at Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital when Israeli forces extrajudicially executed them.
Despite this, the Newseum said in a statement last week that it had “decided to re-evaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation.”
But the deletion of Salama and al-Kumi’s names from the website suggests the decision has been made and implemented.
Newseum refuses to explain how it came to decision
I wrote to Newseum spokesperson Jonathan Thompson on 14 May to ask him to clarify certain aspects of the Newseum’s statement which had said:
Serious questions have been raised as to whether two of the individuals included on our initial list of journalists who died covering the news this past year were truly journalists or whether they were engaged in terrorist activities.
We take the concerns raised about these two men seriously and have decided to re-evaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation.
My questions to Thompson were:
(1) As of today, what is the status of al-Kumi and Salama as far as the Newseum is concerned. Do they remain part of the memorial wall or not?
(2) What process will you use for “re-evaluation” and when will this take place and who will it involve?
(3) Has the Newseum heard from, or reached out to, any Palestinian journalists’ organizations or human rights groups or any other media professional organizations or human rights organizations since the attacks on the Newseum by pro-Israel groups began?
(4) What “serious questions” have arisen about whether these men have engaged in “terrorist activities”? As you surely know, Human Rights Watch conducted a credible investigation into their activities and found no evidence whatsoever that they were doing anything other than journalistic work as cameramen. Moreover, Human Rights Watch and others have said that the fact that their channel may be affiliated with the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, would not suddenly turn them into combatants and strip them of their basic human rights and protection from extrajudicial murder. So, have you received any credible information whatsoever that contradicts the findings of the Human Rights Watch report?
(5) For the sake of balance, will Newseum re-evaluate the inclusion of, for example, Raphael Unger in its memorial? According to the record, Unger worked for Israel’s government-controlled propaganda broadcasting agency “Kol Israel” and was in an armored personnel carrier that was actually engaged in military activities (invasion of occupied territory) when he died.
Thompson’s answer this morning was very brief: “The statement is the extent of our comment for now.”
Basically, no comment.