Ali Samoudi 2 (Edited)

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Ali Samoudi, Palestinian journalist under occupation

Could you describe the dangers of being a Palestinian journalist under occupation? One of your colleagues, Abed Qusani, described it as a "double jeopardy": you are under attack both as a journalist and as a Palestinian. Do you believe the Israelis target journalists? Could you describe the conditions you work under?

Palestinian media was born, raised and came into its own in spite of the most difficult of circumstances. The Israeli occupation treats Palestinian journalists as it treats all Palestinians. Israel has targeted the Palestinian media in exactly the same way as it has targeted all facets of Palestinian civil society.

From the beginning, Israel has tried to muzzle the Palestinian media. Why? Every word uttered by the Palestinian media exposes and disgraces Israel and the occupation. Thus, Israel has always guarded against having <anybody speak, so they wouldn't be disgraced - so nobody would expose its practices or DARK SIDE (we want a better word here)>.

Israel's DARK SIDE has long been pointed at the Palestinian media. Newspapers have been confiscated and outlawed, media offices have been <overrun VS sacked> and shut down; editors and publishers have been arrested. All of this is in addition to the military opening fire on journalists, killing and wounding many of them. Those who are not killed are subjected to beatings and physical intimidation. There has been a fierce [and dirty CHANGE THIS] war being waged against the Palestinian media by the Occupation forces, especially since Muhammad Al-Durra.

The story of Muhammad Al-Durra in Gaza unmasked the ugly yet real face of an Israel that would kill a child in his father's arms. As a consequence, Israel directed even more fury at the Palestinian media by closing off large areas, denying press passes, prohibiting travel within Palestine and abroad. What followed was the killing of several journalists, the wounding of many others, and the arrest of even more.

<You see this picture? [pointing to a picture of himself on the wall of his office, his body is heavily bandaged]. This is me. They shot me from a tank. With my vest and helmet.>

You could say that every method used against the Palestinian people is also used against Palestinian journalists. Every Palestinian - be it a woman, child or elderly person, a teacher, surgeon, journalist, scientist, labourer… is a target. So the situation that the Palestinian media finds itself in is an extremely poor one; but despite it, there are many successes. The papers are still printed, the media centres still operate, internet sites are still up, there are 33 local television stations, 20 local radio stations. You could say that on this front, in the war between Israel and the free press in Palestine, the media has still found itself a place in the spotlight [i.e., not in hiding] from which it can articulate what is happening to Palestinians. Despite the difficult circumstances, despite the lack of resources or allies, Palestinians have been successful in creating media structures and centres.

As a journalist under occupation, do you see your role as being different from a journalist working in, say, Canada or Britain?

The Palestinian journalist's situation of course differs from other journalists in the world.

On the Israeli front, a Palestinian journalist is considered guilty, much like any Palestinian person, and is treated with the same disdain and disrespect. This is in contrast to the different standard by which Israeli and international journalists are treated. I am a journalist. It's true that Israel robs me of my rights to travel, not be shot, and not have my life threatened. But Israel cannot rob me of my journalistic integrity and the desire to continue delivering my message and carrying out my duties as a journalist for my people. I am a Palestinian and a journalist. I honour my profession, but I am also a Palestinian, and so I am charged with being a voice for our people, conveying its despair, our hopes, our lives and our freedoms. And that's it: the core demand is freedom, but freedom is contradicted by occupation.

It is possible for the Occupation to hamper the media, but all of its efforts only increase the dedication and desire to send out our message. We don't need Israel to recognize us and testify about the status of Palestinian journalists and the media. Israel's approval or assessment means nothing to us.

Are you afraid for your life, and does that place limits on the work you are able to do?

I am human, and as a human it's normal for me to be afraid. But at the same time, I believe in what I'm doing, so even in the face of danger and fear, I must continue. I think that faith is more important than any other characteristic. Conviction is more powerful than fear, and determination will help you more than anything can hurt you. I try to be as careful as possible, and always operate within the boundaries of the law, but the fact is that I am part of this reality, and so have to live in [with?] it.

Shukran.