Jerusalem – I might be cutting my foot off here talking about this, but if no-one starts talking then the rocks will cry out on the mountains of Jerusalem. First of all I am a freelance photojournalist. I work hard and go into many places that others will not go. I go into places where human beings are suffering to a great and horrific magnitude. I have spoken to the suffering and looked into their eyes and heard their pleas.
I have been treated with great respect and many have been very hospitable, always offering tea, coffee and sweets and sometimes a wonderful meal. Even in their distress and poverty, they had time and smiles to give to those that came upon their path.
When I heard the stories and saw with my own eyes the situation of oppression and racism, I noticed that what I was seeing wasn’t being told in the major media. I saw the camera crews hurry with their shots in competition with others to be the first to get the “story” on the air. I made hundreds of telephone calls in attempt to sell my photographs with the common comments of “Did anyone die?” or “The Story is not big enough”. What do you mean the story is not BIG enough, I thought. Has this world turned so cold that we turn our backs on the underprivileged and destitute? I quickly learned that this was so. This is what we have done.
The story is not big enough when arriving at a checkpoint, approximately 400 Palestinians are standing at a checkpoint during a recent siege into their city, in the rain and cold and made to stand for four days with their shoes off? That story is not Big enough because no one died? I wonder where our perspectives are.
I heard the comment from a Major television News station that those stories do not sell. Well, I think he really meant, that he would loose his job. The story of a man pleading for his life on the hospital steps in Jenin for hours while the hospital crew had to stand and watch because when they attempted to retrieve him bearing a white flag they were shot at. It took four hours to get “permission” to help the man. He died.
Does anyone know his name? His name was, Nidal Al Haj, 28.
The truth is: The Media follow the flow of the other media; we do what is respectable and proper. If a writer would start telling the stories, he/she would most likely loose his/her job and may never be able to work in the main stream again. They would be labeled as believing “propaganda” or labeled as one that helps a terrorist. He/she would risk getting deported and even killed if they do not report what either side wants them to report. Where is the freedom in the Press? In reality, the Freedom of the Press does not exist.
I am guilty. I soft peddled, I didn’t yell and scream in my stories or articles. I can tell you why, because I need to eat. This is why; this is the bottom-line.
I spoke to the hospital director, Dr. Aleed Jabar, in Jenin the other day he told me that, “Four men are sharing a piece of bread, they are running out of food.” That was two days ago. This is a hospital. They are running out of fuel to run their generator and people are dying all over the place. It is estimated that yesterday, in Jenin 70 Palestinians have died. Seventy Palestinians have died. I didn’t see that in the headlines. Well, I understand that the number cannot be confirmed, we are not allowed to go inside. It is a closed military zone and we can get shot at, arrested or deported for trying. This is censorship at its best.
I have seen and heard of horrible things, humanitarian issues are desperate on both sides. To report from this area a journalist needs to be careful. The threat of deportation exists from the Israeli side and the threat of being shunned or killed exists on the Palestinian side. The Israeli/Palestinian Intifada is a media propaganda war.
A while ago, I decided that I wanted to tell the “story” because no one else was; I could not keep silent any longer. I do not have any buyers for my stories and I never get any responses from any major media request that I send out. I write for free and I photograph for free. I have been in the current Intifada for over one year now and have not made a penny. I am not whining, I just work real hard and keep two jobs. Believe me under these circumstances journalism alone is too much for one person. But, I cannot keep silent. I will continue to tell the story in hopes that someday, someone will read it and then someone else and maybe enough people will start to open their eyes to the situation that is going on here. Human right issues are being broken at every point of any UN resolution. I see war crimes going on all around me.
This issue is complicated and it would take pages to explain what is going on here. Crimes are occurring on Both sides. Why doesn’t anyone know? Because of censorship and syndication. These things just do not sell. What have we become to turn our heads for so long to the suffering of others? What has become of humanity? I really wonder.
This is not a political issue when it comes to human beings. This is real oppression, tears and death that is rising up from the ground. The toll will be horrendous once this is over, like one Palestinian said to me in Nablus, “When you watch your father get shot, you never forget.” Sharon has brought up a new generation of Palestinians that will not forget. How can they? I am concerned for Israel’s future once these little children get older; another man told me in an interview, “They have taken the life out of our hearts.”
These people are not all terrorist, they are families, the elderly, mothers, children and men who want to work everyday and enjoy life. That life has been taken away, what else is there?
It is time to use our rights as journalists and photographers to have the freedom to report what we see. Any good journalist knows to check the source and to weed out the rumors. This is life and rumors will occur.
It is time for the major networks to hold their heads high and step into the water to tell the truth and expose what has been occurring in the West Bank for the last 8 days. Will someone please stand up? This is my plea as well and over 100,000 Palestinians who are most likely without food at this very moment. Will someone Please stand up?
Susan Brannon (a.k.a Amanda White) is an American Freelance Photojournalist and MMN’s correspondent in Jerusalem.