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International news outlets deny photographers colluded with Hamas after report suggests they knew attack plans
(JTA) — International news outlets denied that photographers they hired had advance knowledge of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, after a report suggested without hard evidence that the journalists may have coordinated with the terror group ahead of the invasion.
But the Associated Press and CNN have said they will no longer work with one of the photographers named in the report, Hassan Eslaiah. The other publications named in the report are Reuters and The New York Times.
The report, by pro-Israel media watchdog Honest Reporting, said freelance photographers working with the four publications were at the scene in the early hours of the Hamas attack, saying their presence raised “ethical questions.”
It comes as dozens of journalists have been killed in the war, mostly in Gaza, and as reporters and photographers in the territory face scrutiny for their approach to the conflict. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 39 journalists have been killed since the start of the war, including 34 Palestinians, four Israelis and one Lebanese journalist. (Some have died in their homes and not while engaging in journalism.)
On Thursday, Sherif Mansour, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said in a statement that “journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties.”
But citing the Honest Reporting document, the Israeli Government Press Office said it “demands explanations” of the international outlets, adding that the “involvement of their photographers” in the attack “crosses every red line, professional and moral.” Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi wrote a letter to the news outlets, demanding they investigate possible collusion between the photographers and Hamas.
The report released on Wednesday, did not include concrete evidence of collusion. But it suggested the photographers knew ahead of time about the assault or “coordinated” with the attackers, since Hamas breached Israel’s border early on a Saturday morning when the journalists would likely not be working.
“Is it conceivable to assume that ‘journalists’ just happened to appear early in the morning at the border without prior coordination with the terrorists? Or were they part of the plan?” the report said, placing quotation marks around the word “journalists.”
“Even if they didn’t know the exact details of what was going to happen, once it unfolded did they not realize they were breaching a border?” the report added. “And if so, did they notify the news agencies?”
The four publications all denied that they coordinated with Hamas. Reuters said in a statement that it “categorically denies that it had prior knowledge of the attack or that we embedded journalists with Hamas.” AP said it “had no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened.” The New York Times called the allegations “untrue and outrageous.”
CNN told the Israeli publication Ynet it has not “found reason to doubt the journalistic accuracy of the work [Eslaiah] has done for us,” even as it cut ties with him.
The four photographers named in the report took pictures of a burning Israeli tank from which soldiers were killed or kidnapped, as well as attacks on Israeli homes and terrorists taking hostages and bodies back into Gaza.
HonestReporting, citing screenshots of deleted tweets, said Eslaiah posted footage of himself in front of a burning tank and photographed attacks on Kfar Aza, the scene of one of the worst massacres of the day. Eslaiah was not wearing a press vest or helmet to identify him as a member or the media, the report said.
Eslaiah, who works with CNN and AP, was also seen in an undated photograph with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar that Honest Reporting shared after the report was released. Sinwar is kissing Eslaiah’s cheek in the image, suggesting that he was friendly with the terror group official in a way that crosses clear ethical lines in journalism.
And here is footage of Eslaiah after he crossed into Israel and took photos of a burning Israeli tank. He then captured infiltrators entering Kibbutz Kfar Azza.
Note that he is not identifiable as a member of the press. But AP & CNN deemed it acceptable to use his services. pic.twitter.com/fA0VI2df2i
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 8, 2023
Amit Segal, a prominent Israeli reporter, said Eslaiah appeared to hold a grenade while riding a motorcycle on the day of the attack in a video posted to Eslaiah’s Facebook page. His face is not clearly visible in the video.
Yo, @AP, @Reuters, @cnn – what your freelancer in Gaza Hassan Eslaiah is doing on a motorbike with a grenade, on his way to the massacre of women and babies? Is a grenade part of the equipment you provide? pic.twitter.com/jU85KEo7Ec
— עמית סגל Amit Segal (@amit_segal) November 9, 2023
The publications say they haven’t breached any journalistic ethics. Reuters said it had no prior relationship with the photographers before Oct. 7, though it did not elaborate on that, and said that their images were taken two hours after Hamas launched a rocket barrage against Israel. The terrorists breached the border shortly after the salvo.
AP said the first pictures it used had been taken more than an hour after the attack started.
The New York Times, which has worked with a different photographer named in the report, said, “It is reckless to make such allegations, putting our journalists on the ground in Israel and Gaza at risk.”
The Times drew fire from Israel supporters last month for rehiring a Gaza freelancer after finding out he made statements in support of Adolf Hitler. It also received criticism for initially reporting claims by Hamas that Israel bombed a hospital. Later assessments by Israel, the United States and a range of other governments and press outlets have found that a misfired Palestinian rocket was very likely the cause of the explosion.
The Times later said its early coverage of the incident “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified,” said an Oct. 23 editor’s note. “The report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.”
Pro-Palestinian activists have also criticized the Times, filling its lobby in a protest on Thursday that called for a ceasefire. According to a video posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, protesters held mock copies of the paper with the headline, “Ceasefire Now! Honoring Gaza’s dead — and fighting for the living.”
Israel has drawn criticism for not adequately protecting the lives of reporters covering the region’s violence. But on Thursday, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s emergency war cabinet, wrote on social media that Israel would not make allowances for journalists who coordinated with Hamas.
“Journalists found to have known about the massacre, and still chose to stand as idle bystanders while children were slaughtered — are no different than terrorists and should be treated as such,” he wrote.
Three-quarters of American Jews fear Israel-Hamas war is making their communities less safe, poll finds
(JTA) — Large majorities of American Jews are worried for their safety amid Israel’s war with Hamas and believe antisemitism is on the rise, according to a new poll.
Two-thirds of American Jews also support the Biden administration’s policy on Israel and the vast majority support military aid for Israel. Most Americans overall also support military aid for Israel, the poll found.
According to the poll, which was commissioned by the Jewish Federations of North America and published Thursday, 75% of American Jews are either very or somewhat concerned that the war will cause issues in terms of security and safety in their communities. Nearly three in 10 said they knew of “physical acts of violence or acts of hate” against Jews in their communities, and
And 72% of Jews said antisemitism in their local communities has increased over the past few weeks. Zero percent believe it has decreased. Most Jews also believe antisemitism will continue to increase.
The poll, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, is the first measure of the sentiments of American Jews since Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7, sparking a war in Gaza in which Israel has vowed to defeat the terror group. In the weeks since the war began, law enforcement agencies and Jewish security groups have documented a spike in antisemitic acts. Earlier this week, a Jewish man near Los Angeles died following a confrontation with a pro-Palestinian protester.
Asked to describe how they feel or the climate in their local community since the war started, 32% of Jews responded “tense,” 21% said “uncomfortable” and 20% said “scary.” Sixteen percent of Jews said it felt “normal.”
A broad spectrum of Jewish groups have come out in support of Israel, pressed the Biden administration to support its military campaign and staged rallies on behalf of Israel and the hostages held by Hamas. Jewish groups are planning a large rally in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to drive home those messages and speak out against antisemitism.
At the same time, a small number of Jewish groups have delivered statements and staged a series of large rallies and actions calling for a ceasefire and placing blame for the conflict on Israel, which they have accused of “genocide.”
The poll did not ask about the particulars of Israeli policy or the war. The words “Gaza,” “hostages” and “ceasefire” do not appear in its questions. But Eric Fingerhut, the CEO of the Jewish Federations, said the poll results show that those demonstrations do not represent most Jews or Americans.
“We know that large majorities of Americans support Israel in its fight against terror, and it’s important not to let a vocal minority warp that view,” he said in a statement.
The poll was taken form Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 and reached respondents via text message. It included 3,777 American adults, including 2,199 Jews. The margin of error was approximately 1.5% for the overall sample and 2% for the Jewish respondents.
The survey found that 85% of Jews and 53% of Americans overall have been following news about the war closely. An additional 15% of Jews are following the war news somewhat closely.
Among Jews, 46% strongly approve of Joe Biden’s handling of U.S. policy toward Israel and an additional 22% somewhat approve. Twelve percent somewhat disapprove and 14% strongly disapprove. The survey did not segment out why people disapproved of Biden’s policy. Americans overall are split: 44% strongly or somewhat approve of Biden’s Israel policy, and 46% disapprove.
Regarding U.S. military aid to Israel, 73% of jews said it’s very important and 14% said it is somewhat important, versus 13% who said it’s not too, or not at all, important. Among U.S. adults overall, 60% say it is important and 40% say it is not.
The survey also found that both Jews and Americans overall feel there is significant prejudice in the United States against Jews, Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians. Two-thirds of Jews said there is “a lot” of discrimination against Jews, and an additional 26% said there is some, for a total of 92%. Likewise, 78% of Americans overall said Jews face a lot or some discrimination.
In addition, approximately 75% of Jews said Arabs as well as Muslims face discrimination in America, and 66% of Jews said Palestinians face discrimination. Majorities of Americans overall also said those groups face discrimination.
Jewish respondents have felt less secure over the past month, with 42% saying they have worried for their personal safety very much or all the time during that period, and an additional 30% saying they are somewhat worried. And 74% of Jews said there is a lot of antisemitism in the United States today; 86% say there’s more antisemitism than there was five years ago.
Jews who wear Jewish symbols were twice as likely to say they worried for their personal safety “all the time.”
Brawls erupt outside LA Museum of Tolerance screening of Hamas atrocities footage
(JTA) – Fistfights broke out Wednesday night between outside a Holocaust museum in Los Angeles that was screening footage of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre of Israelis after pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated against what they said was a “Gal Gadot military propaganda video.”
Several people were reportedly pepper-sprayed and detained by police following the Museum of Tolerance screening of “Bearing Witness,” a 45-minute compilation of footage largely from cameras carried by Hamas terrorists when they attacked Israeli civilians on Oct. 7. About 1,400 Israelis died in the attack and about 250 were taken hostage in Gaza, which Israel has invaded with a stated goal of demolishing Hamas.
An LAPD helicopter reportedly circulated overhead and ordered protesters to disperse. In footage of the confrontations circulating online, pro-Israel protesters sexually harassed a Jewish woman who demonstrated with pro-Palestinian protesters and accused her of being “Arab.”
The clash came days after a Jewish man in Los Angeles died after an altercation with a pro-Palestinian protester at a rally, the first known incident of a death in the United States related to protests around Israel. Police said they had identified a suspect but had not yet made any arrests in that case.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass denounced the violence. “We cannot allow current worldwide tension to devolve into this unacceptable violence in our city,” she tweeted late Thursday. “This is a time of immense pain and distress for thousands of Angelenos. We must stand together.”
The film being shown, whose title is frequently used in Holocaust discourse, was first compiled by the Israel Defense Forces and screened for foreign journalists covering the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and siege of Gaza. The IDF said it undertook the step to prove that the Hamas atrocities had actually happened amid a rising tide of denial.
Critics of Israel’s war in Gaza say the film is being used to justify ongoing bombings there that some of them say is causing a “genocide” there. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says more than 10,000 people have been killed; it does not differentiate between civilians and Hamas fighters. Israeli officials have said the number killed could be around 20,000 but said the vast majority were terrorists.
The film has since made its way to the United States with the backing of some Jewish and Israeli entertainment industry leaders, including Gadot, whose reported involvement in Wednesday’s screening had been seized on by pro-Palestinian protesters online.
Dubbing the screening a “Gal Gadot military propaganda video” and a “Zionist trap,” some left-wing social media users encouraged non-Jewish protesters to stay away from the protest to avoid being labeled as antisemitic. A screening in New York earlier in the week passed without incident.
Gadot was not present at the Museum of Tolerance screening for around 200 industry professionals, though her husband, Israeli film producer Jaron Varsano, was. The screening was invitation-only, with industry reports deeming it the town’s hottest ticket, and its location was obscured from public view out of security concerns.
“You have a film that is being shown at a time when people are calling for a ceasefire,” one protester told the Los Angeles Times. “The screening is only for a few privileged people and it doesn’t lead to conversation.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, several other notable Jewish and Israeli industry executives were present at the screening, including “Golda” director Guy Nattiv (who also helped organize it); “Pulp Fiction” producer Lawrence Bender; and Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz, who shepherded this year’s smash-hit “Barbie” movie.
Melissa Zukerman, a Hollywood publicist, identified herself as the main organizer at the screening and thanked a former IDF spokesperson for helping it come together. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, also spoke, as did Rabbi Marvin Hier, longtime head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which oversees the museum.
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