Museum to ‘reevaluate’ honors to Hamas cameramen

‘Questions have been raised’ over whether Gaza duo ‘were truly journalists or were engaged in terrorist activities,’ says Newseum spokesman

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 — A Washington journalism museum will “reevaluate” its decision to honor two Hamas-affiliated cameramen killed in an Israeli airstrike in November 2012 as journalists who died in the line of duty.

“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,” Newseum spokesman Jonathan Thompson said in a statement sent to The Times of Israel on Monday.

Hamas members Hussam Salama and Mahmoud al-Kumi were among the 84 journalists whose names and faces were projected, as of 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 were going to be 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.

But criticism has come from many quarters arguing that the two men, who worked for the Hamas-funded Al-Aqsa TV, were part of the organization’s propaganda arm and were engaged in incitement to terrorism.

“We take the concerns raised about these two men seriously and have decided to reevaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation,” Thompson wrote. “Terrorism has altered the landscape in many areas, including the rules of war and engagement, law, investigative and interrogation techniques, and the detention of enemy combatants. Journalism is no exception.”

Mahmoud Al-Kumi (L) and Hussam Salam honored on the Newseum website (photo credit: screen capture
Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama honored on the Newseum website (photo credit: screen capture

In response to the initial criticism, the Newseum noted, “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.” Human Rights Watch has objected to the Israeli airstrike that killed them, arguing that even if they were “propagandists,” they were not legitimate targets unless they were engaged in actual fighting.

The latest statement marks an apparent about-face on the issue.

The Newseum, one of the most popular museums in downtown Washington, D.C., will “establish a new initiative to explore differing views on the new questions facing journalism and journalists” in the wake of the incident.

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