Anat Saragusti, who has lived and reported from both southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, is recognised as Israel’s first woman war photographer. In a Haaretz podcast, she asserts Israeli mainstream media barely shows images of what’s happening in Gaza and isn’t regularly reporting on the dire situation in the strip.
“The fact that Israeli audiences don’t see images from Gaza means that journalists are not doing their jobs”, she says. “They have to show the images. Hebrew-speaking Israelis watching television news are not exposed at all to what’s going on in Gaza. We don’t see the atrocities, the rubble, the destruction and the humanitarian crisis. The world sees something completely different.”
After over three months of Israel’s relentless air and land offensive in Gaza well over 22,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed.
The scale of devastation has ensured that normal life is now impossible.
Gaza: documenting a catastrophe
A Wall Street Journal report presented these stark facts. Up to mid-December Israel dropped 29,000 bombs, munitions and shells on the strip and 75% of Gaza’s 439,000 homes and about half of its buildings have been damaged or destroyed.
It quotes Robert Pape, a political scientist who has written about the history of aerial bombing: “Gaza is one of the most intense civilian punishment campaigns in history.”
More than 85% of the 2.3 million population, forced from their homes to take refuge in the south, live in overflowing apartment blocks, schools, hospitals, buildings used by the UN, and tents.
Israel’s war has created a humanitarian catastrophe. People queue for hours for bread or to use a toilet, and a UN report predicts that half of Gaza is at risk of starvation.
Devi Sridhar, the global public health expert, points out, “We are now likely to see more children dying from preventable disease than from bullets and bombs”.
Killed in the line of duty
Since the onset of the war western news organisations have not been allowed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to report independently on the carnage in Gaza.
The fact that the international journalists who briefly enter the Gaza Strip to report must assent to Israeli government censorship makes the work of Palestinian journalists especially valuable as stringers and freelancers for international news outlets.
It is local journalists who have provided crucial first-hand reports of conditions in Gaza. The handful of existing Gaza bureaus from major international outlets (Reuters, the BBC, the Associated Press, Al Jazeera, Agence France-Presse, and others) are overwhelmingly staffed by Gazan residents.
They work under extreme, hazardous conditions. More than 50 media premises in Gaza have been completely or partially destroyed by Israeli attacks. Media workers now live and report amid frequent communication blackouts and military destruction.
A further threat is that the IDF, according to Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF), targets journalists. It has filed two complaints with the International Criminal Court in the Hague for alleged war crimes committed by the Israeli army against Palestinian journalists in Gaza. The second, filed on 22 December, concerns the deaths of seven Palestinian journalists killed in Gaza from 22 October to 15 December.
Daily battle for survival
Since 7 October the deaths of Palestinian journalists have become almost a daily occurrence. As I was writing this the news came out that the eldest son of Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief had been killed in an Israeli strike in southern Gaza.
Hamza al-Dahdouh, an Al Jazeera network journalist and cameraman, was with other journalists on a road between Khan Younis and Rafah when a drone strike hit. Another freelance journalist Mustafa Thuraya was also killed.
Now there are fewer voices to report this stark Gazan reality to the rest of the world. There are fewer because so many of the people who were doing this work are dead, and so many of the ones who have not been killed now face a daily battle to survive along with their families.
As catastrophe unfolds, reporting and living in Gaza is a deadly business.
Article first published in Media North: Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (North). For more from Media North, and to subscribe to their newsletter, visit their website.