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Friday, August 08, 2014

‘Any journalist who professes to observe without bias, feeling or fear is a liar’

JPost reporter Lahav Harkov interviews Christian Stephen, a European journalist who was in Gaza during the war, but is now in Israel and heading for Iraq.
The Jerusalem Post: Have you been able to take photographs of Hamas fighters or rocket launchers? If not, why not? If yes, can you show us an example?

Christian Stephen: Unfortunately, I don't have any shots for you. I saw a good amount of buildings releasing rocket fire towards Israel. However, the fighters were more or less ghosts in living rooms.

Not to mention the fact that on more than one occasion of venturing towards a possible Hamas spot, by the time we got there the building was dust, rubble and bodies.

JP: How would you assess the conditions for foreign journalists in Gaza?

CS: The conditions within Gaza are as good as can be expected from a densely populated area being bombarded. As far as the access inside, there's a definite sense of urgency for fixers and civilians to display the situation, for absurdly obvious reasons.

Without being political (if it's possible in this arena), regardless of motivations for each sides actions, the situation on the ground is a humanitarian apocalypse consisting of buildings becoming time bombs, the streets becoming morgue runways and the limbs of the dead and the dying marking the street stops. If you put aside the politics, it's a chronologically challenged mass grave with both sides to blame.

So as far as conditions go for foreign journalists, the fact that a press card is sitting snugly in your pocket doesn't change the fact that it's a hellhole.

JP: Have you faced any threats or intimidation from Hamas or Israel?

CS: A fighter inside Gaza city threatened to shoot me in the head if I didn't stop taking pictures of a group of cars with tarp-covered trunks parked behind a building.

Another young guy near the outskirts of the city was waving an old handgun around screaming at me because he wanted me to take a picture of the dead boy on the ground next to us under the rubble of a building. He was screaming "This is our hell! This is our hell!"

After a minute or so he sat down and kept murmuring the same words in Arabic.

It's a dichotomy of them needing the situation to be seen, as long as you only show the damage and not the retaliatory measures.

As for the Israeli side, near Netivot there was a firefight near a Kibbutzim. Hamas fighters had come from under the wire through tunnels. An officer tried to take my camera away after the fact, however, instead they insisted I wouldn't be released until I gave them my SD cards. He argued on the grounds that I was there illegally, although they had been more than happy to smoke and chat beforehand.

The cards were destroyed and I was taken away to a nearby petrol station.

These are obviously isolated incidents, although infuriating nonetheless.
Read the whole thing.

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