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This excerpt from the documentary, In the Line of Fire, produced by Patricia Naylor, shows journalist Nael Shiyoukhi, of the Reuters news agency, as he is being shot by Israeli soldiers in his hometown of Hebron. A 20-minute version of the documentary, which was made in 2002, can be seen on the Frontline website.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Israeli forces have killed 9 journalists in the West Bank and Gaza since 2001, 7 of whom were Palestinians. Some were apparently not targeted, like Basel Faraj, who died of shrapnel wounds from an Israeli attack during the Gaza War in January 2009. He was killed as many other Palestinian civilians have been killed. Palestinian journalists say that others may have been targeted. They tell of how journalists’ cars were marked “TV” and “PRESS,” how they were carrying cameras, and wearing helmets and bulletproof vests. They tell of how they were located far from Palestinian protesters or militants, away from the line of fire. They tell of how they shouted out to soldiers that they are journalists, in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.
It’s difficult to discern the full facts concerning any one shooting, though, since Israel does not generally investigate these incidents. Instead, what we have to go on are statements like this one from the head of the Israeli Government Press Office, Daniel Seaman, who was skirting around a question about why shootings of Palestinian journalists were not seriously investigated:
"There's a war on the survival of the state of Israel by the Palestinians. … The past two years has been an assault against the state of Israel. It's combat. And in this combat almost every Palestinian is engaged in one way or another, either deliberately or (being) used by the Palestinian Authority." (http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/israel.palestine/seaman.html)
Not only does this statement offer insight into how the press office regards these shootings – but it also must be seen as part of Israel’s larger public relations effort. The lack of professional recognition of Palestinian journalists has been a fairly consistent message from this office. In the same interview, Seaman accused Palestinian journalists of being in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority, and thus, he insinuated, posing a threat to Israel. Is this a kind of speech act that makes possible violence against Palestinian journalists, not only by casting aspersions against Palestinian journalists as professionals but also by categorizing potential negative coverage of Israel in the same category as physical attacks against Israel?
Second, I want to briefly consider what this documentary in itself does. Obviously Naylor’s documentary has raised awareness about attacks on Palestinian journalists. How about the video shot by the Nael Shiyoukhi’s colleagues? The camerapeople of Hebron have an agreement that if one of them is being attacked, another will document the beating or shooting. On this night, a cameraperson turned on his camera, and it not only recorded the shooting, making possible a distinct kind of advocacy, but also illuminated the target. How can we account for the multiple effects of video like this, both at the scene of an attack, and in their many lives after the fact?