Palestinian journalists may be expelled from union after meeting Israeli colleagues

Israeli and Palestinian journalists at a working luncheon following a session of The Mideast Press Club.

Palestinian journalists face the possibility of expulsion from their union after they travelled to Tel Aviv  to meet Israeli colleagues.

Media outlets in both Israel and the West Bank are reporting  the possibility that  these journalists could be expelled from their union.

Three of the Palestinian journalists who visited Tel Aviv in March were from the Gaza Strip, and the other two from the West Bank.

They now face expulsion from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalists Syndicate on charges of promoting normalization with Israel, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The Ma’an News Agency reported that the leadership of the union held an emergency session on Monday ( March 29, 2010)  to hear from journalists who met with Israeli members of the press.

There is much discussion inside Palestinian society about the meaning of this development because it is not an unusual event for Israeli and Palestinian journalists to meet and work side-by-side.

Bethlehem journalists protest treatment by PA security

Seperately Bethlehem journalists  have gone on strike over Palestinian Authority security officers  use of force at a rally this week. ( March 29, 2010).

The Ma’an News Agency says  the PA security people preventing press people from properly covering the Bethlehem protests voicing dissent against the continued detention of Palm Sunday detainees, and marking Land Day.

Troubled struggle for a free and representative Palestinian journalist union

Earlier this year attempts to democratize the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate ( PJS) –  and make it more responsive to members rather than political factions – collapsed.

The Palestinian Authority leadership was accused by a wide range of  PJS members of stealing the vote to ensure that Fatah members and security officers took control of the union.

No union election for twenty years

The PJS had not had an election for nearly twenty years and has been almost moribund for most of that time.

The International Federation of Journalists had been very active in supporting the revival of the Palestinian journalist union – and when it became obvious that the proposed elections would be undermined they called, unsuccessfully, for a postponement of the vote.

Journalists who meet Israelis condemned as collaborators and black-listed

The Jerusalem Report says Hamas has also condemned the Palestinian journalists as “collaborators.” Hamas officials claimed that some of the journalists were known as supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security commander in the Gaza Strip.

Several Hamas-affiliated groups said that the journalists who visited Israel would be put on a “black list” – a sign that they would be boycotted by their colleagues and the government institutions.

Demand repentance for meeting ‘Zionist reporters’

One of the Gaza groups, the Democratic Press Association, called on the journalists to “repent” and express publicly apologize for visiting the “Zionist entity and meeting with Zionist reporters,” the Jerusalem Report says.

It described the journalists’ visit to Tel Aviv as a “despicable and harmful” act, saying it came at a time when the “Zionist occupation army was killing Palestinians. This visit does not represent the positions and morals of Palestinian journalists.”

Gaza reporter says journalists must not normalize relations with Israel

Ahmed Daloul, a Palestinian journalist from the Gaza Strip, also launched a scathing attack on the same journalists, accusing them of embarking on an “adventure” aimed at normalizing ties with Israel.

“These journalists did not leave the besieged Gaza Strip to receive education or medical treatment or to defend their cause, but to tour Tel Aviv and meet with Zionist journalists,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “The climax of their visit was a meeting with an Israeli army spokesman.”

Daloul added: “It’s really a tragedy that these people call themselves Palestinian journalists. By getting involved in normalization [with Israel], they dealt a blow to their people and colleagues, whose image has now been tarnished.”

Union to issue new clear recommendations for Palestinian journalists interaction with Israelis

The Ma’an News Agency report went on to say it was not entirely clear why the general secretariat of the PJS decided to form a commission of inquiry into the event, during which journalists described the pressures of working in a hostile press environment.

Officials told Ma’an that the union’ s general secretariat will meet next week in order to discuss the issue in detail, and produce “clear and declared recommendations for all Palestinian journalists.”

Working with Israeli reporters not unusual but trust sometimes tested

“ Collaboration with Israeli reporters is not unusual, although tensions over a government scandal first reported by an Israeli news network has significantly altered some journalists’ trust in their counterparts,” the Ma’an news report says.

“ Many Palestinians believe the reports, aired by Israel’s Channel 10, intended to discredit the Palestinian Authority.”

Israeli and Palestinian journalist unions worked side-by-side  for Ma’an English language editor

When the Ma’an News Agency’s Chief English Editor, Jared Malsin, was deported in January 2010 to the US after being detained by Israeli authorities for over a week at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport Israel’s Jerusalem Journalists Association joined with the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, and other global media organisations, to provide support.

This was a rare instance of union-to-union support between Palestinians and Israelis.

Palestinian journalists first ever visit to Israeli parliament – Knesset

In January this year a group of Palestinian journalists went on a tour of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in Jerusalem, and interviewed the Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

It was the first time ever that Palestinian journalists had been to the Knesset.

The visit was organized by the MidEast Press Club who regularly organize joint meetings of working journalists from Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Read earlier reports on the TULIP website