Faizel Patel, Radio Islam, 2014-09-01
Tying in with Radio Islam’s “Know Your Palestine” campaign (1-5 Sept), which is aimed at serviceable Palestine awareness beyond the platitudes and slogans, journalist and news anchor Faizel Patel reflects on how he covered operation “Protective Edge”
A question I’ve been asked many times is how I reported on the Gaza issue?
I was in the mosque one evening during the blessed month of Ramadaan, when a friend texted me to ask: "Hey, what's happening in Gaza?" Since that evening on the 4th of July, I was actively involved in reporting on the war in Gaza, tuned to social media especially, to stay updated about the situation.
We need to remember that ceasefire in Gaza is by no means the end to any suffering. The targeted bombing of 360 km² over 51 days has taken its toll, not only on the many Palestinian innocents who lost their lives or deliberately maimed, wounded and displaced, but also on journalists who reported on the crisis.
According to Tonya Khouri from Media Monitoring, South Africa generated so much news on Gaza that it entered the top 10 countries worldwide.
It is obvious that as a Muslim journalist, reporting on a story involving Muslims, whether in Gaza, Iraq or Syria, one is expected to have a biased opinion.
Well, it was John Pilger who aptly said: “Journalism, not truth, is the first casualty of war.” He’s also quoted Dan Rather as one who referred to those who apologised for the Iraq invasion as “stenographers”, not journalists.
My heart bleeds for Gaza, especially the children. When I looked at my 7-month-old baby the thought never ceased to cross my mind: “It could be you my son.” In this context I speak as a father and a Muslim. I want justice for the Palestinian people.
However, when I walked into the radio studio at 4am to script and present the news, was I being held ransom by our listeners to present the news in a particular manner leaning on one side more than the other? Did I present what they wanted to hear? Or did I try to be as objective as possible and present a story that is fair and accurate?
The same challenge presents itself with television. A 30 minute program featuring Gaza takes a week to prepare. Why? To choose words that are not biased while maintaining the facts.
The war in Gaza has manifested itself in the many newsrooms across the world as Western media versus Islam... I don’t believe there is justice in reporting something just for the sake of it.
Biased reporting or ‘embedded journalism’ is a common tactic in media rooms. My reporting on Gaza may enrage those who have an anti-justice agenda.
Palestine/Israel is characterised by deep and vicious apartheid. History has shown that people will surge through adversity and isolation to achieve liberty and freedom.
The war in Gaza is a religious issue. Jews versus Muslims. This, coupled with the humanitarian crisis makes anti-Jewish sentiment rife where I report.
But, you can't hide the facts. More than 2100 people have been killed by Israel in Gaza and 80% are civilians. 400 innocent children & 200 women have been murdered.
While Jews want the world to sympathise and share the history of the Holocaust after a Nazi mad man named Hitler murdered six million of them, do they not feel anymore?
British colonialism, Israeli settler occupation, policies of Palestinian dispossession and dehumanisation including the undeniable fact that the United States have given its unrelenting support to Israel. All of this flagrantly dissolves the right of Palestinians to live in dignity and peace.
Over two months the world became fragmented in their support, while Israel and its sympathisers continued to lament the "right to defend itself." From who?
The moral outrage against Netanyahu and his army has reverberated across the world with a plethora of solidarity marches in support of Gaza.
The people of Gaza have won the war on Twitter with hashtags such as #gazaunderattack and #SaveGaza. The criminal acts of Israel's atrocities could not be hidden from the world.
The sway has strongly been that Gaza is under attack by Israel; Gaza needs to be saved -- and this is reported as per the majority posts on social media.
So, as I walked into the studio at 4.00am or sat in front of the television camera with thousands listening attentively, I told a story that was not fiction, but a story that was filled with facts and cannot be disputed. Bias and support of Palestine doesn’t feature in the least.
The cries of the Gazans was carried by the winds through the valleys across the world into the hearts of millions of journalists, and I am of one of them.