In an attack on journalism, the state of Israel killed the family of Al Jazeera Arabic bureau chief and veteran journalist Wael al-Dahdouh. His son Mahmoud; his daughter Sham; his wife, Umm Hamza; and several others were killed in an airstrike. Dozens of others were injured, including other members of Dahdouh’s family, at a relative’s home in central Gaza where they were sheltering. Dahdouh was covering Israel’s airstrikes across Gaza live with Al Jazeera when he received the news of his family’s murders.
For many across the Arab world, Dahdouh is the face of Al Jazeera’s Gaza coverage. Many are saying that this was a targeted attack to silence journalists who show the true face of Israel’s grisly occupation and the extent of its genocidal attacks in Gaza. If that’s true, it isn’t the only attempt at censorship — at least 29 journalists have been killed in Gaza since October 7.
Al Jazeera, the world’s largest Arabic-language news outlet, has been covering Israel’s bombardment of Gaza since it began. Israel has barred anyone from leaving or entering Gaza, which is now under complete siege, and it is not allowing electricity, fuel, or other supplies to enter. Therefore, Israel’s airstrikes are being covered by the few media outlets that were already there when it began, including Al Jazeera. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) told Reuters and Agence France-Presse that they couldn’t guarantee the safety of their journalists in Gaza.
Because of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the relentless Israeli assault on Gaza — and because it is a long-standing critic of Israel that has documented its brutality in Palestine — many officials seek to shut it down. Earlier this week, the Israeli government approved “emergency regulations” that would shut down broadcasters deemed a threat to the “security of the state.” Israeli communications minister Shlomo Karhi said the legislation was aimed specifically at Al Jazeera. The ban is expected to be approved by Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant.
But it’s not just the Israeli state that is attempting to control Al Jazeera’s coverage. The United States is trying to use its geopolitical might to silence media outlets that are sympathetic to Palestine. This week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked the Qatari prime minister to “rein in” the network and its reporting of Israel’s assault on Gaza.
This is not the first time that Al Jazeera reporters have been targeted. On October 14, Al Jazeera reported that “Israel has once again attempted to silence the media by targeting journalists. … Israeli forces fired a guided missile at Al Jazeera crew in southern Lebanon, wounding two and killing a Reuters journalist.” And let’s not forget last year, when Palestinian American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by an Israeli soldier while reporting in Jenin, West Bank.
Attacks on free speech and journalism by the “only democracy in the Middle East” also include, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “more than 10 incidents of assaults, arrests, threats, cyberattacks, and censorship targeting journalists carrying out their work in Israel and in the two Palestinian territories, Gaza and the West Bank.”
Zionist propaganda and Israel’s imperialist allies repeat ad nauseam that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East,” yet it is seeking to silence and censor the few voices that manage to speak from Gaza, as well as keeping the entry of foreign journalists blocked. This “democracy” is taking these undemocratic measures to silence news about its ethnic cleansing and collective punishment of Palestinians. On October 27, Israel cut off the internet in Gaza with airstrikes to prevent further news and on-the-ground footage on social media from getting out.
The reports on the ground tell us what is actually happening and Israel’s genocide, which is leading millions around the world to protest Israel’s atrocities, along with journalists who are resigning from mainstream networks in protest. The state of Israel needs consensus to launch its genocidal attacks, and reports of what is actually happening make it harder to accept the narrative that Israel, its imperialist allies, and the bourgeois media are pushing: that Israel is merely exercising its “right to defend itself.” The attack on press freedom will be used against all who stand up to Israel. We have to protect the right to fight for Palestinian liberation. We condemn the silencing of journalists and social media posts reporting on Palestine, both on the ground in Gaza and throughout the world, and demand an immediate end to the U.S.-backed Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people and U.S. aid to Israel.