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> Shahdi Al-Kashif, journalist
> Eugene Cotran, lawyer
> Susan Abulhawa, author
> Emily Jacir - Palestinian-American artist wins...
> Aliyyeh Nuseibeh: school principal
> Abdel-Hamid Hamam: A composer and a scholar
> Jumana El-Husseini: painter
> Salma Khadra Jayyusi, poet and critic
> Badrans: A Century of Tradition and Innovation
> Dr. Naseeb Shaheen, historian
> Amin Nasser, composer
> Khalil Rabah, artist
> Fr. Gaudentius Orfali of Nazareth
> Amoun Sleem, community organizer
> Nasri Fernando Dueri, musician
> Fayeq [Mike} Nasser
> Abdul Jawad Saleh, politician
> Laith Bazari, DJ
> Augustine Lama, composer
> Talal Nasereddin, CEO
Becoming Part of Breaking News in Gaza and Doing It Right!
As I was growing up as a child, my life was affected - and steered in a way - by five major wars by the time I was eighteen years old. I graduated from the college of journalism in Baghdad, Iraq, at a time when Iraq was under siege and the Iraqi economy was in a slump; unemployment staggered and the entire Iraqi infrastructure was crumbling. The scene in Gaza today is strikingly similar to that in Baghdad under siege before the second Gulf War broke out.
But nothing prepares one for what Gaza has to offer when things go wrong here; not even an early dose of wisdom, having seen the effects of several wars as a child.
On May 15, 2007, together with my colleagues at Ramattan News Agency, where I have been working for a few years, I experienced what we remember as the shock of reporting on journalists and civilians injured as a result of clashes between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza. Throughout our careers in Gaza, we documented the effects of Israel’s occupation, including all the incursions and attacks on Gaza, but we had never been in a position to report on self-inflicted injury and death.
Later, the events which broke out in June of 2007 touched the entire crew personally. While I was in my office, in the middle of the clashes between Hamas and Fatah, I got a call from my family telling me that they were all stretched on the floor of our apartment as fierce battles were under way outside. It was impossible for me to leave my office and head home to help protect them. Worse yet was how Gaza was so polarized and highly strung that I could not find any other means to help them; a bitter feeling of being incapable and helpless especially because no emergency public services were available for those who were not literally dying.
In the meantime, reporters and journalists from all kinds of news organizations were hurriedly compiling reports in Ramattan’s offices, authenticating information and filming and editing reports on the events. In a fraction of a second, I was shaken from my distress over my family’s fate into another reality. The high-rise building we were in came under fire. Minutes later, we knew we were in an even worse situation; a crossfire. It was the very first time that I saw fear and a true sense of mortality in the eyes of courageous reporters. Among them were film photographers who, in months and years past, physically hung half of their bodies out of the windows of our offices on the 10th floor to capture a rocket from the moment an Israeli Apache helicopter launched it until the moment just before impact, three levels below us.
What Palestinians so desperately need today is what we did that day. Journalists from all organizations and backgrounds, packed together in a small place to avert the stray bullets coming in through the windows, were united in wanting to peacefully denounce what was going on and its terrible effects on civilians. We all decided to transmit live video and audio satellite feeds for any, and all, news stations to run depicting the dilemma we were in; the same dilemma that all Gazans were living. Countless local and international news stations picked up the transmission and ran it live. Only then were national and international audiences shocked at the footage of our cameras, which “spoke a thousand words.” All of us wanted to know that someone was watching what we thought may be our final minutes.
Starting a career in professional journalism was the beginning of an adventure, but not like this. I thought, and still do, that seeking and reporting the truth was, in a way, just as challenging as scientific research since both would reveal facts that were either little known or never known before.
I was born in Baghdad, Iraq, to a father who was Radio Monte Carlo’s correspondent in Iraq. My father’s job as a journalist took the entire family to Beirut, Lebanon, which was the centre of Arab journalism especially during the 1970s. After the Lebanon war ended and the PLO was evacuated to Tunisia, our family flew to Cyprus, which hosted many Arab media figures and journalists for a period afterwards. A year later, we decided to move back to Iraq, which we considered home after Israel’s occupation in 1967. As we returned to Baghdad, the Iraq/Iran war, which started in 1980, was still going on.
Later we experienced the first and second Gulf wars until we returned to Gaza in 1995, months after the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) following the signing of the Oslo Accords.
I started my career working for WAFA, the official Palestinian News Agency, where I quickly felt that I could do more than cover news around Palestinian officials, their movements and activities. I thought that more could be done to communicate with the outside world. I decided to use my free time to accompany and work with foreign journalists. I then landed freelance jobs and more permanent ones with the German Press Agency (DPA), CNBC, and Reuters. Consistently, it became very clear that economics and politics could not be separated in a region like Palestine. Working with these agencies, I enjoyed freedom in writing and expression and that enabled me to multiply my productivity as a journalist and my contribution to my cause as a Palestinian. I then left Reuters to join Ramattan News Agency in Gaza.
Soon after returning to Gaza, my eyes on the Palestine I had imagined while outside, I felt that it was not as socially unified as I had once imagined. People’s togetherness was not as I expected. Also, my political independence in an environment where most people were thought to be affiliated, or at least sympathized, with one party or another in Palestinian politics was not necessarily seen neutrally; certainly not favourably. But I kept my line and was focused on becoming a professional and productive journalist.
No matter the situation, good journalism continues to look for encouraging signs, facts, and stories, together with having to report on unpleasant realities - and there are plenty such examples. Being the chief editor at Ramattan carries the responsibility of having to encounter heartbreaking examples of people who are in deep poverty or who have experienced politically motivated torture or death in their families, all wanting to be reported on. Journalism in Gaza, as has been the case for a long time, can be a job of anguish more often than expected.
But of all the stories I researched and reported on, one was of great symbolic social responsibility. It was the story of an elementary school teacher who taught CPR to children during the day and then volunteered with emergency services all afternoon and evening to rescue victims of Israeli attacks, whenever they occurred. This man not only captured my thoughts for the noble service which, essentially, occupies his life, but also left me with the great lesson of how some people sacrifice their lives to serve the public. This was a very positive social theme and not just the story of a good man.
It is such stories of heroism and great service which we must look for instead of living in endless worry about our futures and those of our children after us, at a time when Palestinians are not united.
This Week in Palestine