For years, Hosam Salem covered the Gaza Strip as a freelance reporter for The New York Times. That was until this week, when the Times chose to oust Salem from his post because of a collection of recently discovered Facebook posts. With thunderous applause, to the tune of thousands of likes and retweets, Salem took to Twitter to blame his recent unemployment on an international conspiracy to silence Palestinian journalists, the result of a smear campaign to paint anyone who is “contr to the Israeli occupation”. being anti-Semitic. From Salem’s long twitter thread, we see that the internet loves nothing more than to portray the State of Israel and its supporters as censorious tyrants, directing mobs to undermine anyone who dares challenge their agenda . This idea, rooted in anti-Jewish tropes, is irresistible, regardless of how, for example in the case of Salem, it is absolute.
Salem describes his work for the Times in respectable language. Note his coverage of protests on the Gaza-Israel border in 2018, the investigation into the death of a field nurse during one of these protests, and the recent Guardian of the Walls operation in May 2021. From this, it can be assumed that Salem is an objective, professional journalist who only represents what is happening on the ground in one of the most controversial regions of the world. It can also be assumed that the decision to fire him because of his Palestinian heritage or perhaps because of his sympathy for the Palestinian cause is unreasonable. However, a look at their aforementioned Facebook page suggests otherwise.
Salem uses Facebook to constantly advocate for the Palestinian cause, which, based on his rhetoric, we can only assume means the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel and its replacement with an Arab-majority state from the Mediterranean Sea to the river Jordan. Examples of Salem’s activism include his continued glorification of “martyrs,” that is, Palestinians who “resist” Israel by killing innocent civilians. In 2021, he praised Mahmoud Salem and Nabil Masoud, two Palestinians responsible for a 2004 terrorist attack that killed ten workers in the Israeli city of Ashdod. He wrote about the attack: “May Allah have mercy on them and have mercy on those who planned, prepared and participated.” Earlier, in 2014, Salem expressed support for the massacre of four rabbis and an Israeli Druze police officer in northern Israel, writing (quoting the Koran): “Those who are killed in the way of Allah they will not be led astray… the rivals until you exalt them.
The organization responsible for bringing these comments to light is Honest Reporting. HR, an NGO with the mission of “monitoring media bias against Israel,” certainly did its job. Their report on Salem, which they provided to the New York Times, was clearly in response to the prejudice and unfair double standard against Israel by those who are paid to be impartial. However, in Salem’s view, Honest Reporting is part of “a systematic effort to distort the image of Palestinian journalists as incapable of reliability and integrity, simply because we cover human rights violations that the Palestinian people suffers every day at the hands of the Israeli army.” Salem condemned the editor of Honest Reporting for branding him and other Palestinian journalists as “anti-Semites,” using quotation marks around the word to impose an air of disbelief on the claim that he does not like Jews. Apparently, sympathizing with terrorists who indiscriminately kill civilians and expressing approval for a violent jihadist campaign to eliminate Israel is “covered human rights violations,” and not bigoted radicalism.
This trick provides cover to those who engage in anti-Semitic behavior, because now they have an excuse, and if they are held accountable, they can “punch-up” the nefarious and powerful forces working against them.
Although the online firestorm was primarily related to Salem’s previous support for terrorism, Salem’s placement of the word “anti-Semitic” in scare quotes reveals more about the game that is actually being played here. Detractors of the Jewish people, mainly from the left – from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party to progressive organizations on American university campuses – have made a habit of attaching suspicion to accusations of anti-Semitism. They have successfully trained their followers to distrust the Jews they claim to be the target of vilification, especially when it comes to Israel. This is in stark contrast to the left’s usual reactions to complaints of bias, which typically consist of proper investigations and solidarity with the aggrieved marginalized community. By normalizing the narrative that “Jews are constantly crying wolf,” and that Jews deserve to be investigated when they yell “anti-Semitism,” rather than the people they yell it at, stories like Salem have become incredibly popular, and sensationalized adapts the broader conspiracy theory of a Jewish-led witch hunt to silence his critics. This trick provides cover to those who engage in anti-Semitic behavior, because now they have an excuse, and if they are held accountable, they can “punch-up” the nefarious and powerful forces working against them.
It is worth repeating that the Jewish people, and Israel for that matter, are not trying to silence their critics. In a seminal 2014 essay for Tablet Magazine, author Matti Friedman describes his time as a correspondent for the Associated Press in Israel, and notes that during his work, “the agency had more than 40 staffers covering the Israeli-Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia or India, or in all 50 countries in sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of employees of gathering news in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually broke out.” Friedman acknowledges the absurdity of how saturated media attention was on Israel in 2014, during a war that claimed 42 lives, as opposed to the smaller average presence in areas with much higher casualty rates, including in Chicago and Portland, Oregon, where every month more people. are killed than in the entire span of Operation Protective Edge.
Just by looking at how many cameras and notebooks are between the river and the sea at any given time, it is obvious that criticism of Israel is not swept under the rug, but always front and center, always available to those who want to engage. it, and reliable given a microphone by organizations, institutions, media and governments. The insinuation that a cabal of Zionists are working overtime to whitewash any deviation from a pro-Israel worldview is rooted not in fact, but in lies about the Jewish people that have existed for centuries (if you need proof , just look at Kanye West’s deleted ad). tweets.) The New York Times’ decision to fire a dignified shill for part of the conflict who was hired to be an objective observer is the bare minimum of journalistic standards and does nothing to imply the existence of a plot left to undermine the pro-Palestinians. politics
I consider myself a pro-Israel advocate, and because of that label, it would certainly be inappropriate for a major news corporation to hire me as a news reporter on Middle Eastern affairs. Based on my previous activism and writing, no one who spoke honestly should admit that I could be neutral about Israel and Palestine, whether by taking pictures or interviewing soldiers. I’m not a victim for that, and I’m certainly not going to be silent. Nor Hosam Salem.
Blake Flayton is the New Media Director and columnist for the Jewish Journal.