Palestinian journalists denounce Israeli colleagues

Syndicate blasts Union of Journalists in Israel for its response to the killing of press photographer Yasser Murtaja in Gaza

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Palestinian journalists take part in a protest after the killing of fellow journalist Yaser Murtaja, near the Israel-Gaza border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 8, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
Palestinian journalists take part in a protest after the killing of fellow journalist Yaser Murtaja, near the Israel-Gaza border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 8, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) in the West Bank on Saturday accused Israeli journalists of complicity in “crimes and killings” and called for sanctions on the Union of Journalists in Israel.

The syndicate, which is dominated by loyalists of the ruling Fatah faction, accused the Israeli union of being “in blatant symmetry with the crimes of the occupation.”

The PJS’s accusations came in response to a statement issued last week by the Union of Journalists in Israel about the death of Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja in the Gaza Strip.

In a letter to the IDF chief of staff, the Israeli union demanded an investigation into the killing of Murtaja, who the Palestinians say was shot to death by an IDF sniper during mass demonstrations along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The Palestinian syndicate expressed outrage over the following words written by the Israeli union: “We are convinced the IDF shares the values of democracy, including the importance of freedom of the press, and that journalists from every nations are in conflict zones to to report what is going on, and that the army of a democratic state is not supposed to harm journalists who are doing their work.”

In its response, the PJS said: “The statement of the occupation union contained phrases glorifying the occupation army, in a letter it sent to to the criminal IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.”

The Palestinian syndicate also denounced statements made by Yair Tarchitsky, chairman of the Union of Journalists in Israel, and accused him of “justifying and burnishing” the actions of the IDF.

The PJS took Tarchitsky to task for ostensibly saying in a radio interview that he was opposed to international criticism of the IDF.

“There are malicious attempts by the occupation media to conceal the crimes of the occupation through letters to the occupation army,” the Palestinian syndicate charged.

Demonstrators assist injured Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja during clashes with Israeli security forces, following a protest near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 6, 2018. Murtaja later died of his wounds. (AFP/Said Khatib)

“The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate is not only documenting and exposing the crimes of the occupation, but it is also documenting the blatant collusion of the [Israeli] union and the occupation’s media with the crimes of the army,” it said. “This puts [Israeli journalists] on the level of accomplices in killings and crimes.”

The PJS rejected the IDF argument that there was no proof that soldiers were targeting Palestinian journalists. It claimed that the IDF had “executed” Murtaja in “cold blood” and was deliberately targeting Palestinian journalists.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said last week that Murtaja was a member of Hamas. However, Liberman did not provide evidence to back up his claim, which has been dismissed by Palestinian journalists as “ridiculous.”

The Palestinian syndicate said that its chairman, Nasser Abu Baker, had asked the International Federation of Journalists to impose sanctions on the Israeli union and to quickly form a commission of inquiry into Israeli “violations” against Palestinian journalists.

The Palestinian syndicate has previously urged its members to boycott Israeli journalists, warning that anyone who defied its call would be accused of “promoting normalization” with Israel. It has also threatened to boycott any Palestinian official who gives interviews to the Israeli media.

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