‘5 Broken Cameras’, targeting Palestinian journalists and the Bristol Palestine Film Festival, 2012

Smoke and debris are seen after an Israeli airstrike on the office of Al-Aqsa TV in a building that also houses other media in Gaza City Nov. 18, 2012. (Reuters/Majdi Fathi, File)

By Iqbal Tamimi 

It is November, and the Bristol Palestine Film Festival is almost in its full gear and about to knock the doors of art lovers and those who are interested in diverse ways of expression through innovation. At the same time Israeli occupation forces has targeted again, journalists and media outlet headquarters directly to silence journalists covering events and the crimes committed by IOF in the Gaza Strip.

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On the morning of the 18th of November 2012, the Israeli occupation forces targeted the offices of Al-Quds TV and Al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip, causing injury to six journalists and a driver working for Al-Quds TV in addition to causing severe damage to their offices.

Imad Ifranji, director of Al-Quds TV in Gaza, told MADA that the Israeli occupation forces fired three missiles at the TV editing and filming department and at the eleventh floor of Burj al-Shawa – Husari at 1:30 am. IFranji added: “shelling caused injury to all those who were in the office; photographers, production assistants and a driver, in addition to significant damage in the department, the ambulance that rushed to the location to transfer the injured, and the TV vehicle.” According to IFranji, the injured were the following:


Khader al-Zahar: amputation of his right leg from below the knee and bruising.

Hazem Da’our: wounded by shrapnel and bruising.

Mohammed al-Akhras: shrapnel fragments throughout his body. His injuries are considered of medium severity.

Ibrahim Lapad: wounds and bruising.

Hussein al-Madhoun: suffocation and bruising.

Omar Ifranji: wounds in the foot.

Darwish Bulbul: minor injuries.

Saed Radwan, programme director at Al-Aqsa TV, reported that Israeli Occupation warplanes targeted the broadcasting section on the fifteenth floor of the Alshorouq tower, in the Alrimal area of Gaza at 6:30am, causing severe damage to the building, the equipment and studios were destroyed. Radwan added: “one rocket penetrated the office of ‘Palestine Media Production’ on the fourteenth floor”.

Last Friday, 16th November, the occupation forces targeted the house of European Agency photographer, Ali Ibrahim, resulting in moderate injuries to his 71 years old father, his sister (40 years) and her daughter (8 years), as well as causing extensive damage to their home. On the same day, the Israeli occupation forces targeted the headquarters of “Free Media” in the Sheikh Radwan area of the Gaza Strip, almost completely destroying it.

The Israeli occupation forces killed Omar Mashharawi, the 11-month-old son of a BBC Arabic employee, Jihad Mashharawi, when his home was targeted on Wednesday.

Arab Women Media Watch Centre in UK (AWMWC), The Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), the National Union of Journalists in UK (NUJ) and The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemned the renewed Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and the direct targeting of journalists and media organisations and called for the need to protect journalists and prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes against the press and freedom of expression. The fact that Israel has not been punished for killing four journalists during the aggression on Gaza in 2009, enabled the occupation forces to commit further crimes against journalists and the media institutions, which reflects the urgent need to prosecute the perpetrators of attacks on freedom of the press.

I was privileged to participate last year in the Palestine Bristol Film Festival, though not as a Palestinian journalist in exile, but as a poet. I am pleased that one of the 90 minute films that will be shown Friday 7th December, 2012 at the Watershed, has a very important and interesting story to tell, from my point of view as a Palestinian journalist. I am talking here about the ‘5 Broken Cameras’, film by Emad Burnat.

Emad Burnat / 5 Broken Cameras

For some time, I wanted to explain to others, the close relationship between Palestinians and their cameras. The camera in UK or any other western country is used by the majority of people to capture happy memorable moments like weddings, christenings and graduations. Things and events that people want to look at and remember with a smile on their faces. But this does not necessarily apply for Palestinians.

From being a peaceful agricultural society 64 years ago, Palestinians were turned into refugees, a displaced nation whose land, properties, heritage, history and life were stolen in broad day light with the collusion and blessing of the international community. It has been difficult to tell stories describing their plight from their point of view for many years. But things changed after they had access to cameras that became a close companion of many Palestinians. Cameras became an extremely important tool for survival; every Palestinian was forced to carry a camera, exactly as soldiers carry guns.

Cameras became an extra limb for most Palestinians, carrying them around to defend themselves. Not only for collecting visual concrete evidence of the Israeli occupation and its brutal aggression against unarmed civilians, but also to use them as a shielding shelter from the buzzing bullets. As Burnat puts it ‘The bigger the camera was, the better it is as a shield’.

Their cameras filmed massacres, uprooting trees, killing animals, destroying the Palestinian heritage and demolishing homes and historical buildings. Cameras became the refuting device of the recycled lies on mainstream media which orchestrates feeding the audience with half told stories on many television channels, stories of badly brought up aggressive Palestinian children chasing army vehicles with stones. But Palestinians realised, since the Israelis are fully armed and supported with tanks, automatic weapons, grenades and drones, the Palestinians should be armed with cameras that tell their side of the story as the nation that has the highest record of detention in the history of modern world. Emad is only one of those people struggling on daily bases to stay alive. When people watch Emad’s film about his 5 broken cameras, or read his interview by David Jenkins, they will realise how a journalist tool is perceived by the Israeli occupation as very dangerous weapon and you will understand why our colleagues are being targeted and killed, including foreign journalists, such as Welsh cameraman, James Henry Dominic Miller, who was shot by the Israeli army even though they knew perfectly well that he was a journalist. You can watch this documentary produced by Aljazeera about targeting journalists carrying cameras, entitled ‘Shooting the Messenger’. 

Even Fadel Shanaa, the Reuters camera man who appeared in the documentary to talk about Israel’s targeting of journalists, was killed too by the Israeli forces following his interview.

“A photographer or videomaker can be the eyes of the world. Images can reach the core of one’s being, to support and yet go beyond words to show raw reality.  The fact that photographers and videomakers are targeted in Palestine, and elsewhere, shows that they are both effective and feared by those who don’t want the world to know what is happening.  Shooting the messenger is the brutal response of someone who has no answer to the message.” Says Simon Chapman, a Bristol based photographer and NUJ member.

It is a sad reality for Emad Burnat that one of the first phrases mastered by his toddler son Gibreel, was ‘the wall’. Many Palestinian children are born on check points, to find their world unsafe, aggressive, and discriminative procedures rule every aspect of their lives. No more they are permitted to visit their family members because an apartheid wall was erected in the heart of their neighbourhoods, dividing families and separating them from other family members, their source of living and their own orchards.

Although Burnat first bought a camera to film his family, the chaotic scenes that took place around him were part of the whole scene. While taking shots of the beautiful landscape outside his house, he realised that he was filming the continuous destruction and oppression his neighbours are suffering day in day out. When his camera was broken by Israeli soldiers, he moved onto another one –in five years he had five broken cameras, giving the film its title and chapter structure.

David Owen, the Director of the Bristol Palestine Film Festival and Palestinian journalist Iqbal Tamimi

‘Although he never planned to be a film-maker, Burnat proves to be both a brave and an extraordinary man, keeping his camera rolling amidst frightening scenes of unpredictable aggression, often aimed at himself, in a film richly deserving of its many awards’ says David Owen, the Director of the Bristol Palestine Film Festival.

Funny enough, it takes a camera to document the life of another. The camera of Guy Davidi told the story of Emad’s five broken cameras too. Guy Davidi, was born In Jaffa to a Jewish family. In the age of 19 he refused doing his obligatory military service in the Israeli Army. Later he became engaged with the Israeli branch of Indymedia and filmed many video reports and short documentaries about Israel social and political issues, many of the documentaries were filmed in the Palestinian occupied territories, dealing with the Israeli occupation. He was also teaching cinema and video to Israeli artists and activists in private workshops. For the creation of his first long documentary he spent 3 months living in the West-Bank village of Bil’in and there his camera met the 5 broken cameras of Emad and documented the suffering of another Palestinian.

Iqbal Tamimi is the Director of Arab Women Media Watch Centre in UK

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