ADL raps journalism museum for honoring Hamas cameramen

Group charges move by Newseum in Washington is ‘an insult to other journalists’; museum defends choice

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

The Newseum journalists memorial (photo credit: CC BY-SA jsmjr, Flickr)
The Newseum journalists memorial (photo credit: CC BY-SA jsmjr, Flickr)

NEW YORK – The Anti-Defamation League on Sunday blasted a Washington, DC, journalism museum for including two Hamas-affiliated reporters in its tribute to journalists killed on the job in 2012.

The ADL expressed “shock and outrage at the decision by the Newseum to proceed with honoring two members of the Hamas terrorist propaganda television operation Al-Aqsa TV as part of its ongoing memorial to journalists,” according to a statement from the group released on Sunday.

Hamas members Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi were among the 84 journalists whose names and faces were projected starting Saturday evening onto the 74-foot-tall “First Amendment tablet,” an outside wall of the Newseum’s building inscribed with the First Amendment.

Their names are being added to a larger curved-glass memorial wall in the museum that commemorates 2,246 journalists killed in the line of duty. The newest group of reporters, editors, photographers, producers, videographers and others will be formally recognized as part of that larger memorial in a rededication ceremony on Monday.

“It is a dark day when members of a terrorist organization advancing their agenda through murderous violence are honored as part of a tribute to journalists killed in the line of duty,” said ADL’s national director Abe Foxman, adding, “It’s an insult to other journalists. A spokesman for the mob is still a member of the mob.”

Salama and Al-Kumi, both cameramen for Al-Aqsa TV, were killed in an IAF air strike on November 20, 2012. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit has said they were specifically targeted for their role as Hamas operatives.

On their memorial web pages, the museum explained simply that Salama and Al-Kumi were “killed in an Israeli air strike. They were covering fighting between Israel and the militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, when a missile hit their vehicle. Al-Aqsa said the journalists’ car was clearly marked ‘TV.’”

In response to the media attention the honors have garnered, a Newseum spokesperson repeated that “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.”

“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,” Newseum spokesman Jonathan Thompson told Buzzfeed.

“The Journalists Memorial selection committee conducts case-by-case reviews using the above criteria,” he said.

But critics are pointing out that the two cameramen were working for a station funded and operated by senior Hamas officials, and designated part of the terror organization by the US government.

Al-Aqsa TV “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,” the US Treasury Department said in March 2010, when it designated the station part of the terror operations of Hamas. The station’s assets are frozen in all US jurisdictions under US anti-terrorism laws.

“Treasury will not distinguish between a business financed and controlled by a terrorist group, such as Al-Aqsa Television, and the terrorist group itself,” said then-undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Stuart Levey.

The Treasury notice pointed to Al-Aqsa TV’s founding and senior officials, who are also Hamas political and military leaders.

“Fathi Hammad, the former director of Al-Aqsa TV, currently serves as the Hamas interior minister in Gaza, is a former senior member of Hamas’s military wing in Gaza, and as of 2007, was a member of the Hamas Shura Council,” the 2010 Treasury statement noted. “Hammad has supervised the construction of smuggling tunnels for Hamas and has encouraged the building and use of homemade weapons for use against Israel. In May 2009, Dr. Mahmud Abu-Daf replaced Hammad as the head of Al-Aqsa TV. Abu-Daf is a senior Hamas figure who served as a member of the Hamas Shura Council and Political Bureau.”

The Newseum’s downtown Washington building includes an event space that hosts conferences and other gatherings. One organization, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has already said it was considering moving its annual policy summit to another venue because of the museum’s honoring of the two Hamas cameramen, the Foundation’s president, Cliff May, told Buzzfeed over the weekend.

“I know the difference between a reporter and a terrorist propagandist. I’m hopeful that the folks at the Newseum also are able to make such distinctions,” said May.

The Newseum’s decision to honor the Al-Aqsa men “flies in the face” of its founding mission, the ADL’s Foxman said, “to ‘educate the public about the value of a free press in a free society.’ Salama and Al-Kumi were terrorist operatives working for a network that routinely promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence. These men were working for a propaganda outlet, not a legitimate news organization,” he added.

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