‘Silence is complicity:’ UNICEF spokesperson denounces Israeli massacre, calls for world attention

A post published on Tuesday by UNRWA on social media described the situation in Gaza as “intolerable” and warned against further escalation of the conflict. (AFP/File)
A post published on Tuesday by UNRWA on social media described the situation in Gaza as “intolerable” and warned against further escalation of the conflict. (AFP/File)
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Updated 05 December 2023
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‘Silence is complicity:’ UNICEF spokesperson denounces Israeli massacre, calls for world attention

‘Silence is complicity:’ UNICEF spokesperson denounces Israeli massacre, calls for world attention
  • Conflict has killed largest number of UN workers in history, James Elder said
  • At least 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7 

LONDON: Accounting from southern Gaza, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder called on the world not to remain complicit and urged heightened attention to the unfolding crisis in Palestine.

The conflict, which has now claimed the lives of more UN workers than any other in history, has resulted in the death of at least 15,000 Palestinians since Oct. 7, according to reports.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Elder emphasized the devastating toll on UNRWA colleagues, with more than 100 individuals killed in what he described as the largest number of casualties in the history of the UN during a seven or eight-week period.

He condemned the situation as both immoral and likely illegal, referring to the current state in Gaza as nothing short of a “bloodbath.”

Elder said: “I feel these safe zones are trying to prepare a narrative for continued massacres of children. Silence is complicity.”

In a separate interview, he criticized the illusion of safety in Gaza, citing instances ranging from children being bombed in hospitals to the deaths of UN colleagues.

UNRWA has confirmed the loss of 111 colleagues since Oct. 7, further underscoring the severity of the crisis.

The UN agency responsible for supporting the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees also revealed alarming statistics: 117 incidents at 85 different premises, with 30 camps directly hit and 55 sustaining collateral damages.

Videos documenting these events circulated widely, drawing attention to Elder’s humanity and compassionate dedication amid extreme circumstances.

A post published on Tuesday by UNRWA on social media described the situation in Gaza as “intolerable” and warned against further escalation of the conflict.

“The resumption of the military operation and its expansion further in southern #Gaza is repeating horrors from past weeks,” the post reads.

“We have said it repeatedly. We are saying it again. No place is safe in #Gaza.”

Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 19, the Gaza Ministry of Health reported more than 12,700 deaths.

Subsequent updates were halted as multiple hospitals collapsed.

Recent reports from the Gaza Government Media Office suggest a grim escalation, with fatalities rising by more than 2,300 to a staggering total of more than 15,000. Among these casualties, about 6,150 are children and about 4,000 are women.


East London’s streets become canvas for pro-Palestine art 

East London’s streets become canvas for pro-Palestine art 
Updated 44 min 6 sec ago
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East London’s streets become canvas for pro-Palestine art 

East London’s streets become canvas for pro-Palestine art 
  • Nine graffiti murals spotlight Palestinian journalists and doctors in Gaza with their Instagram handle
  • 'History will judge us all,' Creative Debuts founder says

LONDON: When exploring East London, a vibrant display of creativity and dissent is evident.

Amid the backdrop of coffee shops spinning vinyl records and speakeasies tucked away in butcher shops, the streets have become a canvas for an array of art voicing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The latest addition has been the “Heroes of Palestine” project, a collection of nine graffiti murals celebrating the resilience of frontline workers in Gaza.

A mural of Palestinian journalist Bisan Owda in London by Lours. (Creative Debuts)

First launched by the art platform Creative Debuts in January, each mural spotlighted a civilian journalist along with their Instagram handle. They include Motaz Azaiza, Wael Dahdouh, Plestia Al-Aqad, Bisan Owda, Hind Khoudary, and Doaa Al-Baz.

Citizen journalists, who are risking their lives to document Israel’s bombardment and military invasion of Gaza, have played a crucial role in humanizing Palestinians.

Through platforms like Instagram, they have forged deep emotional bonds with a global audience, drawing attention to the death and destruction brought on by the war. 

“The murals bring it back to the human beings on the ground and the fact that there’s a huge, tremendous loss of life,” Creative Debuts founder Calum Hall told Arab News. 

“There’s a horrendous amount of casualties, with 90 percent of the population displaced. There’s obviously the situation happening in Rafah at the moment, which is devastating,” he added.

The community-driven project has captured the attention of both the local community and a global audience, with Hall noting that “as far as social media goes, the murals are by far the most engaged pieces we’ve ever done.”

A mural of Palestinian doctor Ahmed Moghrabi spray painted in Peckham, London. (Creative Debuts)

Following the campaign’s initial success, Creative Debuts expanded their project in February to include a tribute to Gaza’s doctors.

Hall says the murals, which have all been seen by their subjects in Gaza via social media, also serve to boost morale.

“Particularly, with the medical professionals, they’re dealing with such harrowing circumstances all the time. So, if we can even provide a 1 percent bit of hope, encouragement, and love, that has a knock-on effect for the people around them.

“We want the people out there to know they’re being seen, know they’re being heard, and know they’re being loved.”

Meanwhile, Hall advocated for the use of street art as a form of activism, a conduit for dialogue, and a tool to connect communities.

“Street art is for the people. It’s the most accessible art form, so it very much should be depicting what’s going on in society.

“Everyone loves it, taking photos, engaging with it. But it is a form of rebellion, it is a form of activism in itself and it’s the perfect way for us to get this campaign out.”

A mural of Palestinian journalist Plestia Alaqad in London painted by  Ed Hicks. (Creative Debuts)

Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, now in its sixth month, has killed nearly 30,000 people, the majority of whom are women and children.

As of Feb. 15, a YouGov poll indicates that 66 percent of Britons want Israel’s war to stop. However, the UK government has not called for an immediate ceasefire, nor has it halted the transfer of arms to Israel amid concerns that they might be used to commit “war crimes” against Palestinians.

London has witnessed some of Europe’s largest pro-Palestine protests since October, with regular marches on Saturdays, drawing hundreds of thousands.

“What seems to be really apparent is there’s a disconnect between how serious the issue is, how the politicians are handling it, and what the public thinks,” Hall said.

“I think that’s creating a bigger fissure between the public and the people in charge in this country,” he added.

The founder concluded: “The murals are an important legacy for all of us, to rally behind the people in Gaza but to also let our politicians know that we’re not happy about it.

“We’re not happy seeing this destruction and devastation in real time on our social media; it’s unavoidable. History will judge us all.”

Creative Debuts has launched a GoFundMe to continue the creation and documentation of the “Heroes of Palestine” murals, with funds directly allocated to the artists, materials, and the photographer.


UN urged to probe deadly Israel strikes against journalists in Lebanon

UN urged to probe deadly Israel strikes against journalists in Lebanon
Updated 28 February 2024
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UN urged to probe deadly Israel strikes against journalists in Lebanon

UN urged to probe deadly Israel strikes against journalists in Lebanon
  • More than 120 individuals and groups signed the letter calling for an investigation into the death of three media workers last year
  • Israel has been accused on several occasions of deliberately targeting journalists

BEIRUT: More than 120 individuals and groups on Wednesday called for a United Nations probe into Israeli attacks on journalists in south Lebanon, where three were killed last year.
An appeal addressed to UN rights chief Volker Turk expressed concern over “the Israeli forces’ apparent deliberate targeting of journalists and media workers in Lebanon.”
An AFP investigation into strikes on October 13 that killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and wounded six others, including AFP photographer Christina Assi critically and AFP video journalist Dylan Collins, pointed to a tank shell only used by the Israeli army in the border region.
On November 21, Farah Omar and Rabih Maamari from the pro-Iranian channel Al Mayadeen were killed in Israeli strikes on southern Lebanon, the broadcaster and official media said.
The letter to Turk urged “an investigation to establish the facts and circumstances” around the attacks and for the findings to be published “with a view to holding those responsible accountable.”
Signatories included the Committee to Protect Journalists, local and regional rights groups, Lebanese lawmakers and media outlets including Al Jazeera, as well as AFP’s Collins and Assi.
A separate letter, sent to UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay, urged her office to “advocate for accountability for the apparent war crimes committed by Israel in south Lebanon.”
In December, Israel’s army said the October strikes occurred in an “active combat zone” and were under review.
Following the November strike, the Israeli military said it was “aware of a claim regarding journalists in the area who were killed as a result of IDF (army) fire.”
It added that there were “active hostilities” in the area and that the incident was under review.
The AFP investigation into the October strikes, jointly conducted with Airwars, an NGO that investigates attacks on civilians in conflict situations, found the attack involved a 120-mm tank shell only used by the Israeli army in this region.
A Reuters investigation found that two Israeli tank rounds fired from the same position across the border were used in the attack.
Human Rights Watch concluded that the October strikes were “apparently deliberate attacks on civilians, which is a war crime” and which “should be prosecuted or may be prosecuted for war crimes.”
France’s foreign ministry in December said “all light” must be shed on the October 13 strikes, while US top diplomat Antony Blinken welcomed an Israeli investigation into the strike as “important and appropriate.”


News outlets call for free access to Gaza for foreign media

News outlets call for free access to Gaza for foreign media
Updated 28 February 2024
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News outlets call for free access to Gaza for foreign media

News outlets call for free access to Gaza for foreign media
  • After 5 months of war, journalists are still denied the freedom to enter the territory without direct supervision by the Israeli army, which is accused of ‘limiting insights’
  • In an open letter to Israel and Egypt, the organizations also called for greater efforts to ensure the safety of local reporters in the territory

LONDON: More than 50 broadcast journalists from major outlets have signed an open letter sent to the Israeli and Egyptian embassies in which they call for foreign media outlets to be granted unrestricted access to Gaza.

The letter, signed by representatives of British media organizations BBC News, Sky News, ITV News and Channel 4 News, and US broadcasters CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC, expressed frustration about the limited coverage they are able to provide because of the obstacles faced by international news crews.

“Almost five months into the war in Gaza, foreign reporters are still being denied access to the territory, outside of the rare and escorted trips with the Israeli military,” they wrote.

“We urge the governments of Israel and Egypt to allow free and unfettered access to Gaza for all foreign media. We call on the government of Israel to openly state its permission for international journalists to operate in Gaza and for the Egyptian authorities to allow international journalists access to the Rafah Crossing.”

The letter also calls for improved safety measures to protect local reporters on the ground in the territory.

“There is intense global interest in the events in Gaza and for now the only reporting has come from journalists who were already based there,” it said.

“It’s vital that local journalists’ safety is respected and that their efforts are bolstered by the journalism of members of the international media.

“The risks of conflict reporting are well understood by our organizations, who have decades of experience of reporting in war-zones around the world and in previous wars in Gaza.”

The signatories of the letter include noted correspondents including Alex Crawford of Sky News, Jeremy Bowen from the BBC, and Christiane Amanpour from CNN.

It is all but impossible for journalists to enter the Gaza Strip except under the direct supervision of the Israeli military, which has been accused of “offering only limited insight” by controlling the movement of journalists and their access to information.

Instead, news organizations are largely forced to rely on local journalists in Gaza to report the latest events and developments at a time when their lives, and those of their families, are at risk every day.

Crawford, the Sky News special correspondent, said that like many other journalists, she and her crew have “spent the bulk of the past nearly five months trying to get into Gaza” but have yet to pass through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt.

In one report, she said about 90 journalists are believed to have been killed since the war began on Oct. 7, an average of about 20 a month or one every other day.

“Can you take that in? Because I am finding that hard to,” she said.

Clarissa Ward, CNN’s chief international correspondent, who also signed the letter, is believed to be the only journalist not resident in Gaza who has managed to enter the territory since Oct. 7 without being embedded with Israeli troops. She traveled there with a medical team from the UAE.

Ward said the trip “provided a window into the war zone but only a small one.”


Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher

Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher
Updated 27 February 2024
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Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher

Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher
  • Fakhri Karim was leaving a book fair with his wife when shots were fired by a group of unidentified individuals
  • Committee to Protect Journalists calls on officials to quickly pinpoint, punish those responsible

LONDON: Media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned an assassination attempt on prominent Iraqi publisher and politician Fakhri Karim.

Sherif Mansour, CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said in a statement the assassination attempt “in a highly secure area of Baghdad sheds a bright light on the darkness Iraq and its journalists are increasingly facing.”

He also called on authorities to quickly pinpoint and punish those responsible.

A group of unidentified individuals — armed and masked — fired at least 17 shots at Karim’s car on Feb. 22 before fleeing in two trucks, according to reports from media outlets and statements on Facebook from his organization.

Karim, publisher and editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper, was leaving a book fair hosted by the Al-Mada Foundation for Media, Culture, and Arts in Baghdad.

Karim and his wife, Ghada Al-Amily, were uninjured in the attack.

The incident occurred at about 9 p.m. in the Al-Qadisiyah district of Baghdad, a heavily guarded area that houses Iraqi government security agencies and officials close to the Green Zone, where foreign embassies are located.

In a Facebook statement on Feb. 23, Al-Mada called it a “cowardly assassination attempt” and called for a criminal investigation.

Iraq’s Interior Minister Abdul Amir Al-Shammari said that he had instructed a special security team to enhance security and intelligence operations in order to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for the crime.

Karim is a well-known politician and journalist who worked as an adviser to former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. He was a strong critic of former Iraqi dictator and President Saddam Hussein. His newspaper, Al-Mada, is considered one of the few remaining independent newspapers in Iraq.


Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity

Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity
Updated 27 February 2024
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Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity

Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity
  • Politically charged edition of film festival saw many artists, including many of Jewish heritage, expressing solidarity with Palestine
  • Mayor Kai Wegner called promotion of ‘antisemitism’ during festival an ‘intolerable relativization’
  • Israeli Yuval Abraham, co-director of winning documentary ‘No Other Land,’ said he received death threats after speech

LONDON: Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner has accused the Berlin Film Festival of promoting “antisemitism” following speeches expressing solidarity with Palestine during the closing ceremony on Saturday.

Wegner urged the state-backed festival management to “ensure that such incidents do not happen again.”

In a post on X, he said: “What happened yesterday at the Berlinale was an intolerable relativization. Anti-Semitism has no place in Berlin, and that also applies to the art scene.”

Although Wegner did not specify the particular aspect of the ceremony or the artists he took issue with, he emphasized Berlin’s commitment to freedom and its “firm” support for Israel.

A member of the Christian Democratic Union party, Wegner assumed office as mayor in April 2023. Throughout the recent crisis in the Middle East, he has consistently voiced support for Israel, attributing “full responsibility for the deep suffering in Israel and the Gaza Strip” to Hamas.

During the 10-day festival, numerous artists used the stage to express solidarity with Palestine, including Yuval Abraham, director of the documentary “No Other Land,” who called for a ceasefire as he received his award on Saturday.

Accompanied by Palestinian fellow co-director Basel Adra, he said: “In two days, we will go back to a land where we are not equal. I am living under a civilian law, and Basel is under military law. We live 30 minutes from one another, but I have voting rights, and Basel (does not have) voting rights. I am free to move where I want in this land. Basel is, like millions of Palestinians, locked in the occupied West Bank. This situation of apartheid between us, this inequality, it has to end. We need to call for a ceasefire.”

Abraham, an Israeli journalist, filmmaker, and activist based in Jerusalem, accused Israel of a “massacre” and criticized German arms sales to Israel.

Abraham later posted the Berlinale clip to X, saying that he had received multiple death threats following the broadcast of the speech by Israel’s Channel 11.

“Our film ‘No Other Land’ on occupied Masafer Yatta’s brutal expulsion won best documentary in Berlinale. Israel’s channel 11 aired this 30 second segment from my speech, insanely called it ‘anti semitic’ — and I’ve been receiving death threats since. I stand behind every word,” he said in a post on X.

Other filmmakers and jury members, including American Jewish director Eliza Hittman, also used the closing ceremony to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The festival also faced an attack by anonymous hackers, who accessed the official Berlinale Panorama Instagram account and shared a series of infographics about the war in Gaza.

The posts highlighted Germany’s involvement in the conflict, criticizing what they perceived as the country’s exaggerated historical guilt toward Jews.

“From our unresolved Nazi past to our genocidal present — we have always been on the wrong side of history. But it’s not too late to change our future,” read one of the posts.

The festival promptly removed the posts and announced plans to “file criminal charges against unknown persons” responsible for sharing “posts about the war in the Middle East.”

In a statement, the Berlinale management clarified that filmmakers’ statements were independent and “in no way represent” the opinions of the festival. They emphasized that statements should be accepted as long as they “respect the legal framework.”

On Monday, a governement spokeperson said German officials will investigate how Berlin film festival winners made “one-sided” comments condemning Israel’s war in Gaza at the awards gala.

Amid the widespread anger at the comments at the award ceremony, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor, said on social media: “Once again, the German cultural scene showcases its bias by rolling out the red carpet exclusively for artists who promote the delegitimisation of Israel.”

At the film festival, “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel discourse was met with applause”, he added.

This year’s Berlinale marked the final edition under the leadership of Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek. The next edition will be led by former London Film Festival head Tricia Tuttle, who was present at the closing ceremony and received recognition from Rissenbeek.