Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 18th, 2012

Documentary: How Western media covered Israel Gaza attack?

Only two English-language journalists, Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros, reported from Gaza as it suffered an all-out attack from Israel in late 2008 and early 2009. The War Around Us is a powerful new documentary through the eyes of these two reporters.

Sarah Irving, posted in The Electronic Intifada on 15 June 2012:

 In The War Around Us, reporter Sherine Tadros reflects on the roles and responsibilities of journalists during wartime. 

“Directed by Abdallah Omeish (Occupation 101), The War Around Us is 75 minutes long.

Tightly focused and intentionally restricted in its scope and aims, it follows in chronological order the course of the conflict, intercut with post facto interviews with Mohyeldin and Tadros.

At the time, both were reporting for Al Jazeera English. Mohyeldin was based in Gaza, but Tadros was there on an assignment to cover reactions to the election of US President Barack Obama.

With apparently free access to Al Jazeera footage of the attack, as well as images from the Palestinian news agency Ramattan, the film is extremely graphic and disturbing.

Scenes include that of a mother and her two dead children lying side-by-side on a hospital floor; another man screaming with grief as the body of his little girl flops on a blanket; young men lying in the courtyard of a police station hit by Israeli air strikes, each with one hand raised as they say the final prayers of the dying.

A victim of the horrific burns inflicted by illegal white phosphorous munitions (made in the US, fired by the Israeli military) lies in a hospital bed; huge pools of blood lie clotting on the steps of a school in Jabaliya refugee camp run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA).

Icy fury

Less graphic but equally devastating is the interview footage.

Rima, a beautiful and intensely dignified young mother, tells Tadros how her children no longer say they are afraid of dying — they just want to make sure that they die along with her so they’re not left alone.

John Ging, then a leading figure in UNRWA, speaks with icy fury as desperately needed food supplies burn behind him.

And 16-year-old Ahmad Samouni’s face writhes in pain: He is describing how he was lying for days surrounded by the bodies of his family, waiting for the Israeli army to allow ambulances to fetch him.

Many viewers think they are perhaps inured to the kind of violence we regularly see on YouTube and activist media.  Watching news media footage — where cameramen have often risked their lives to chase the most graphic images, and which has been edited and soundtracked for intensity and impact — for over an hour is hard to stomach, even now.

It is a relief that the film intercuts the material from the attack on Gaza with extended interviews with Mohyeldin and Tadros.

The two reporters reflect on the roles and responsibilities of journalists in such a situation, on their “anger” at finding that they were the only mainstream Western journalists reporting from inside Gaza, and on the personal impacts of covering such a horrific story.

“Where was the outrage?”

Mohyeldin, already a seasoned conflict reporter when he was posted to Gaza, is the more political one in his comments. He is patently furious at the Western media for their failure to adequately deliver to their audiences the truth of what he calls in the film “a story of great shame to humanity.”

American and British news channels “neglected the story and then had the audacity to question the only journalists on the ground … they tried to spin it in a way that would marginalize or diminish what was happening.” Mohyeldin went on to condemn the “silence of the international community. Where was the outrage?”

Tadros’s comments are more personal. A newcomer to frontline reporting, she is frank in saying that she will never put herself in that position again.

Hugely affected by the mothers and children she interviewed — in their homes and hospital beds — she recounts how, coming home to London after the attacks, she couldn’t hold her one-year-old nephew because she imagined blood seeping through his clothes. She also describes vividly the difficulty of facing death day after day, not from one’s own perspective, but from that of the family, thousands of miles away, who are powerless to help.

Tadros admits that during the attacks, Mohyeldin found her to be a “princess.”

But behind-the-scenes footage shows a drained, haggard woman working 19 hours a day, snatching sleep on an office floor, desperate to achieve her role of showing the human impacts of a conflict which much of world was seeing only from Western reports in southern Israel or the insidious lies of Mark Regev and Avital Leibovich, chief mouthpieces for the Israeli government and military.

Specific aim

Ayman Mohyeldin, in a question and answer session following a screening of the film in Amman, acknowledged criticism of the documentary for its focus on two mainstream journalists, rather than telling the story from a Palestinian perspective.

Although Mohyeldin has a Palestinian mother, he doesn’t labor this as a claim to authenticity. Instead, he insists that the film has a very specific aim — to speak to Western audiences, to use himself and Tadros, two Western journalists of Arab origin, as a bridge to the sympathies of Western viewers, and to “make people question their own media for not telling [the truth about the attacks].”

Ultimately, The War Around Us is a damning critique — from within the industry — of the Western media’s reporting of Palestine, as well as a powerful tool in the hands of Palestine solidarity campaigners.

There is no way to walk away from this film not feeling angry and deeply distressed, but also with a visceral and fundamental grasp on the depth of Israel’s denial of the Palestinian right not only to life and liberty but, in Ayman Mohyeldin’s words, “of the right to aspire.”

Apparently, Israel started the genocide after it managed to “coax” all Gaza-based foreign correspondents to vacate the region…

For details of future screenings of The War Around Us, see

Sarah Irving is a freelance writer. She worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06.

Sarah is the author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine and co-author, with Sharyn Lock, of Gaza: Beneath the Bombs.

Litmus test for Arab intellectuals? So many of these litmus tests, and so few to pass…

Apparently, every period has its main litmus test of patriotism and progressive positions, regardless of how little action and engagement are linked to them. A litmus test is to show how acid or basic a liquid is, and in political jargon the term is to judge someone on his political social stands, irrespective if the individual is the most passive kind in his actual engagement…as long as he is considered a “public figure”…

In the Arab World, the litmus tests were for many decades, especially in the 70s:

What is your stand on the Palestinian cause?”

How far would you support the military wings of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in its struggle against the apartheid State of Israel?

Would you ask the PLO to take your side in any civil war against “archaic regimes” that are ready to sign any peace agreement with Israel?

Would you dare direct you critics to the main danger to oligarchies instead of the Palestinian cause?

Are equality of rights between genders as urgent a priority in the political spectrum? 

A few angry intellectuals want to shift the “support for the Assad leadership’s struggle against the imperialist-Zionist-Arab moderate axis’ onslaught” and replace it with supporting the Syrian insurgents funded and armed by the Saudi Wahhabi absolute monarchy and the Qatari absolute Emir…

No, maybe not supporting these radical salafists, but the “good insurgents” are so shifty, very rational people, and refuse to submit to this ridiculous litmus test, that it is very convenient to focus on the “blood thirsty” Assad regime… 

As’ad AbuKhalil  posted on June 13 under “Outrage of the week: absurd levels in defending the Asad dictatorship” (with slight editing):

“Now the real litmus of Arab intellectuals’ and activists’ commitment to the Palestinian cause is no longer their support for Palestinian rights.
Rather, their support for the “Assad leadership’s struggle against the imperialist-Zionist-Arab moderate axis’ onslaught.”
(Can this angry Arab mention the name of any intellectual who claimed that Bashar does not have to go?)
Litmus test according to whom?  Who sets this litmus test?  Rami Makhluf or Dunya TV?
Let me get this absurd notion: so one need not support Palestinian struggle because support for the Asad dictatorship suffices?
(I think this sentence is an absurd counterpoint and totally irrelevant to the content) 
The Asad regime is NOT in any way struggling against “the moderate axis”.  The regime is merely struggling to stay in power: do you see Bashshar EVER speaking out against Saudi regime and alliances?
(Bashar did speak out on several occasions and was punished for his haughty public statements. Particularly after the 2006 preemptive war of Israel against Lebanon)
Do you see him ever even responding to hourly Saudi propaganda attacks on him?  He does not dare.  No, because he wants to eventually reach a compromise with that Arab ruling order to stay in power.  
(Which regime would not? The US is the best ally to Saudi Arabia…and the AbuKhalil would follow suit if they came to power…)
If support for the Asad regime is the litmus test, please register me as failing in that test every minute of my life, ever since the Syrian regime intervened in Lebanon in 1976 to crush progressive Palestinian and Lebanese struggle–real struggle–against “the imperialist-Zionist-Arab moderate axis”.  
(It is not because the “Christian” Phalengists allied to Israel that the opposition alliance was that progressist…and was willing to give Arafat free power to reign over Lebanon…
In fact, as Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, most of these progressive parties were showering rice on the invaders and opening strategic route for the advance of the tanks…and their leadership were nowhere to be found, and only the Palestinian forces stopped the advance of the Israeli army in Saida, before the enemy regrouped and amassed 500,000 soldiers and 1,200 tanks.
And the Syrian troops were sitting duck along the highway, by their tanks, waiting for the Israeli jets to bomb them, just for the fun of it, and the abandoned Syrian soldiers managed to stop Israel advance toward the higher region of the Chouf and denied Israel the luxury of cutting off Lebanon from the Syrian borders…)
The Assad regime was for many years part of that axis until it was kicked out for reasons that have nothing to do with the struggle.  
(What struggle is meant here? How can we erect a litmus test if we fail to define what is the struggle?)
The Asad regime failed the Palestinians at every crucial moment of Palestinian struggle:
1. the regime failed the Palestinians when they were being slaughtered in Jordan in 1970,
2. the Assad regime failed the Palestinians when they were being slaughtered by pro-Israeli militias in Lebanon,
3. and even engineered the war on the camps against the Palestinians in Lebanon.
(Can AbuKhalil recall any State bordering Palestine that did not indulge in repressing Palestinian infiltrations into Israel?)  
The litmus test for Arab intellectuals should entail opposition to all Arab regimes without exception, unless one wants to pick sides in the regional conflict between Arab dictators and other Arab dictators.  (thanks “Ibn Rushd”)
This angry Arab intellectual published a self-indulgent post and is trying to please the current mood of the western media, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia…
What is the freshest litmus test again? I got confused of the previous litmus test.
Litmus test must be applied to engaged politicians, with enough power to make a difference…
Let us name names… And stop the angry rhetoric




June 2012

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