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One Dead Journalist

Amy Goodman interviews a photographer who witnessed the Israeli army kill an Associated Press cameraman in the West Bank on Saturday.
 
 
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Editor's Note: On Saturday an Israeli soldier shot and killed an Associated Press cameraman in the West Bank city of Nablus. Nazeh Darwazeh, 45, was filming Israeli troops firing on rock-throwing Palestinians. The IDF has killed seven journalists -- six Palestinians and one Italian -- in the past two years in the territories. Abed Qusini, a Reuters photographer who was standing next to Nazeh Darwazeh when he was shot, talked to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on Monday, April 21, 2003.

Can you describe exactly what happened on Saturday in Nablus?

In the early morning on Saturday there was a raid by the Israeli army into the old city of Nablus. We were covering that since the early morning, me and Nazeh Darwazeh and other friends.

There were a lot of students here throwing stones at the Israeli tanks and jeep and we were covering that. At the time, before 10 o'clock, we were on another road where there were a lot of youths throwing stones at two Israeli tanks and a jeep standing at the end of the road. We tried to get closer to the scene to take closer pictures. We were four working with AP and Reuters trying to get closer. We were standing at the opposite side of the stone-throwers. [inaudible]. If you are talking about the Israeli army we were at their right and the stone-throwers were at the left side of the soldiers.

Four of us were wearing vests, helmets and yellow vests with a big sign of 'Press' on it. And when we got closer, Nazeh Darwazeh was shouting in English and in Hebrew: "press," to make the soldiers and also the stone-throwers know that journalists are in this house. We were standing at the gate of the house taking pictures and the soldiers were aiming their weapons towards the stone-throwers.

Suddenly one of the soldiers left his Hummer armored jeep and went down the tank and shot one bullet toward the right, toward our side. One bullet which hit Nazeh Darwazeh's head over his right eye, the eye in which he is looking inside his video camera. It broke the glasses and entered his skull causing his death immediately. I was just standing on his left.

With my right eye which was inside the camera, I saw his camera going down, falling in the front. Some woman from the house shouted: "the man fell down!" I looked behind, I found him falling near my feet on the ground with half of his head broken and all of his brains on the ground. It was something, a nightmare, we began screaming and crying at that moment.

Our colleague died, I know that he is dying because no way -- the scene that I have seen means that he is dead. No way to say, something more emotional, something like a nightmare in front of my eyes for my brother or colleague.

We have been together for the last years covering everything. We are not a part of the conflict. We are just taking these pictures to our agencies to show the world what is going on. We are not a part. We are not throwing stones, we are not gunmen, we are not soldiers. We are not a part of what's going on and the soldier aimed his gun towards us and he killed our friend Nazeh Darwazeh who left his children alone.

Abed Qusini are you going to continue shooting pictures for Reuters?

You know at the funeral, all my managers from Reuters and the others from AP and AFP they all came to Nablus. My manager asked me: "You want to continue? If you want to leave the work you can do. You can take your money and leave the job. You can do." Because he saw me on the channel, on the TV screaming, he asked me if I wanted to leave. But you know it is a shock for some days but then we will carry the cameras again.

We have seen others before, in Baghdad we have seen guys from Reuters, from Al-Jazeera who were killed and we have seen in the West Bank cameramen who were killed. It is a shock and we will calm down and go back. We are crazy, our job is a crazy job. I have a bad situation in my family, my wife, my kids, my mother, they are calling me to look for a job. There are fears for tomorrow.

We were surprised more when the Israeli army who said there was gunfire said they were not sure from where the bullets came. This is crazy. No one other than them was in the field and they were shooting. So we are concerned for tomorrow. We are calling all the journalist associations in the world to put pressure on the Israeli army to say -- I expect the Israeli army to say: "I am sorry, we are mistaken." But to say they did not do that, that is the most crazy thing, so we are afraid and our families are afraid for tomorrow.

Maybe Nazeh fell today, maybe I will be tomorrow or the other. But in the end, it's our life and I will carry the camera. I just need a couple of weeks maybe to go out of the country to get rest and then I will carry the camera again and shoot pictures.

What were Nazeh Darwazeh's thoughts about filming the Intifada, about filming in Nablus and other places given that at that point, three other journalists had been killed by the Israeli troops since the second Intifada began.

He was covering with us since the beginning. He was with AP for the last two years. He was covering day-by-day the incursions, the clashes in Nablus. He was with us the last two years all the time. We see each other more than we see our wife or our kids. The other family for me is the journalists.

I wanted to read you the New York Times account and ask if you think this is accurate, describing more than 30 Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers backed by attack helicopters roaring into the southern Gaza strip in a nighttime raid directed at Palestinian militants. But that earlier on Saturday in the West Bank they describe a Palestinian cameraman shot dead by an Israeli soldier while filming violence in Nablus.

At the end of the piece it says: As the troops were pulling out, a tank hit a curb and became stuck and large numbers of Palestinians began throwing stones and fire bombs with some firing guns at the stranded vehicle, this according to an Israeli major. When Israeli troops responded by firing rifles, the youths ran for cover in the alleys and narrow side streets.

Video footage taken by Reuters shows a soldier kneeling beside the tank and pointing a rifle down the alley where the journalists were wearing fluorescent green bullet-proof vests that read 'Press.' A moment later Mr. Darwazeh was hit and fell to the ground. Is that your recollection of what happened Abed Qusini?

Yes, but the point is that there was no gunfire in the area. Before half an hour we saw gunmen in other streets shoot at the Israeli army. But I'm talking about at that point. We mustn't mix between an hour before and an hour after.

At that point, at that street there were tens of stone-throwers throwing just stones, even no bombs. And the soldiers were inside their tanks and jeep and one soldier left the Hummer jeep and kneeled down at the tank and shot the gun. Many youths were wounded and we were filming at that minute the wounded being carried by the paramedics to the ambulances.

At that point, the soldier moved to the right side of the narrow road and shot one bullet which hit Nazeh Darwazeh. This is the 100 percent truth that happened.

You were wearing fluorescent green bullet-proof vests that said 'Press?'

Yes, all of us and over the vests we were wearing a yellow phosphoric color which you can see even at night. But he was hit in the eye. There is no protection on the eye. Even if he had a helmet, the face appears.

Do you feel that the Israeli military is targeting journalists and do you feel as a Palestinian journalist you have less protection?

Yes, of course I have less protection. In the last two years we have had bad experiences with the Israeli army, they are dealing with us as Palestinians.

In the curfew and in the bad situations, they stop us and they don't stop the foreigners. They say: "You are Palestinians before you are journalists." And when I give them my Reuters ID he asked me for a Palestinian ID, he said: "You are a Nablus guy, you are under curfew. You are Palestinian before journalist." They say always: "No immunity for Palestinian journalists." I have been arrested for a couple of days before and they said to Reuters: "He will be investigated if he is cleared he will go. He is a Palestinian." So that's the big problem.

Of course we are concerned about tomorrow. We are concerned about the way that the Israeli army has no exact rules, it depends on the nerves of the soldier or the officer on the street. He can make his decision on the ground. He does not have rules to deal with us and that's the most problem, we feel, that the soldier can decide even to shoot, to arrest, to punish, to break the equipment or to do whatever.

Abed Qusini, earlier we reported four journalists had been killed in the last two years, but now looking at Ha'aretz, the Israeli newspaper, it says the IDF has killed seven journalists, six Palestinians and one Italian in the past two years in the Territories and that demonstrations protesting the IDF shooting of Nazeh Darwazeh were held in Ramallah and Bethlehem, the demonstrators covering their mouths with black cloths symbolizing the gagging of the media and the foreign press association in Israel calling for a comprehensive investigation into Darwazeh's shooting. What kind of solidarity is being expressed by Israeli journalists now as Mr. Darwazeh has just been buried.

I think they are doing well. Since the morning they were calling us, many Israeli journalists were calling us, taking more details and they will stop in front of the army because they will be heard more than us -- whether the defense ministry or the government -- because they are Israelis.

They promised us that they will stop in front of them and they will ask for more details for an investigation and to put the punishment on the soldier. They must find the soldier who shot. Not to leave it like: "We are sorry," or "we don't know from the bullets." They will help a lot I think. And yesterday we had a Knesset member, an Arab Knesset member, who visited us in Nablus: Mohammed Baraka and he promised to talk about that in the Knesset and to work to investigate the issue.

We are working with all the people in the world, with agencies, with organizations, with journalists, we must make this issue very big and maybe we can try to make it the end. Four or seven were killed, but we hope he will be the last. And to make the Israelis think more about the journalists who are working in front of them that he is covering, he is not a part of the conflict.

We, the journalists, we are thinking about new rules for us in working. We don't want to go to clashes, not to cover this and to wait. If there is a funeral, to go to the funeral, if there is a severe demonstration: to go. We were talking today to have new rules in covering what's going on because I want to stay with my family, I don't like to take pictures and die.

To have less salary, less money, to cover half of the events in the West Bank is better than to cover everything and to be wounded or jailed or killed and lose my family.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!