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A camera is not a weapon – redux

August 13, 2008

fadel.jpgI’ve written before  that a camera is not a weapon, that a journalist is not a combatant, that the pen and the sword should not be confused.

Yet the Israel Defense Forces seem to be putting the camera very much in the category of weapon in a report on the death in April of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana.

I’ve given a quote to our reporters about my disappointment in the report.

That it does state that the death was a “tragedy” does not counteract the fact that it condoned the firing of two deadly shells at people it admitted had not been identified clearly and whose only crime was to put a camera on a tripod.

Said the report: “Two persons were spotted leaving the vehicle, carrying a large black object. The black object was placed on a tripod above a dirt mound, and directed at the tank…. The tank crew reported the spotting to its superiors. The latter authorized firing a tank shell at the characters, in light of the genuine suspicion that the object mounted on the tripod and directed at the tank was an anti-tank missile or mortar, a suspicion consistent with the characteristics of that day’s hostilities…”

I do understand the stresses of the battlefield.

I do understand that wars are horribly dangerous – Reuters has had close calls in Georgia; colleagues from other organizations have been killed.

I do not understand the deliberate decision to fire on the basis of suspicion and uncertainty.

I wonder how journalists can do their job if doing that job raises such suspicion in the eyes of the Israeli or any other military.

The dangers seem too great.

And yet, the stakes of not reporting a war to the world are too high as well.

“…the tank crew was unable to determine the nature of the object mounted on the tripod and positively identify it as an anti-tank missile, a mortar, or a television camera,” the report said.

To me, killing on the basis of such little certainty makes the death of Fadel Shana much more than just a tragedy.

For a little more investigation, a little more military intelligence, would have shown clearly that he was just a professional doing his job.

And that his camera was a weapon only for the truth.


Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana looks out of the window at the Reuters office in Gaza City April 4, 2006. Shana, 23, and two other Palestinian civilians were killed on April 16, 2008, in what local residents said was an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip. Picture taken April 4, 2006. REUTERS/Don Pessin


“For a little more investigation, a little more military intelligence, would have shown clearly that he was just a professional doing his job.”

Sadly, ‘investigation’ and ‘intellegence’ are alien words to the IDF. They have killed unarmed civilians before, and they will do it again. How can you conduct a thorough investigation when the entire chain of command suffers from a God-Complex? Even Israeli refusniks have accused their country of losing its moral compass long ago.

R.I.P. Fadel Shana…

Posted by Nu'man El-Bakri | Report as abusive

There is an old Indian saying, “don’t judge a person until you live in their shoes.” You think it is so easy to tell the difference between a large video camera and a portable rocket from a mile away? Here is a site with pictures of both. You be the judge.  /idf-troops-cleared-in-death-of-reuters .html

Posted by Johnny | Report as abusive

i am also a still picture photo-jouranlist, i have been to war-zone to do my job. but if the tank crew honestly beliveved the camera and tripod were some kind of weapon, such as anti-tank missile or mortar …… how can we blame the tank crew? on the otherhand, phot-journalists must do thier job on site, the question is that how high the rise can we take? i totally agree, if we only walk away,” the stakes of not reporting a war to the world are too high as well.” so it is the last question how the news organizations take care to their photo-journalists? especially the war photo-journalists?

Posted by marco ling | Report as abusive

Yes, it’s not good that journalist Fadel Shana is killed in a War Zone. Yes, it’s possible that Israel’s technology within their Tanks could probably have adequately determined it was a camera instead of a rocket launcher… But is it possible that the Fadel Shana’s journalistic integrity may be compromised when he willingly participates in Hezbollah propaganda?

See the link and review the pictures pertaining to the injury Fadel Shana sustained in the Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006. An unstained white shirt underneath a bloodied overshirt?? september06.htm#Two_Wars:_Propaganda_and _Military

Here is a link to a website questioning the damage to the vehicle given that it was “Hit with a missile”. If it were hit, there certainly would have been more damage than indicated. It would have been obliterated…much like the photos that show the vehicle marked “TV” that Shana was in when killed… hp

Posted by Serge | Report as abusive

Serge, we’ve looked into the various accusations that some have thrown around about Fadel and others and have been able to dismiss them as calumnies. Though he lived in Gaza and was Palestinian there is no evidence that he was ever anything other than professional – just as Americans report about the US and Japanese report on Japan, professionals are able to set aside their origins and report in an objective, fair way.

There is also no dispute with the Israel Defense Force about whether Fadel was killed by an Israeli shell or about whether all he was pointing at the tank was a camera. The only disputes are whether the tank used undue force, whether the crew took appropriate care under the circumstances in trying to identify the object of their concern and whether it was reasonable for the crew to assess that they were under threat, when in fact all that was pointed at them was a camera on a tripod.

Posted by David Schlesinger | Report as abusive

Mr. Schlesinger is right. The accusations are baseless and, frankly, obscene. Not only do they attempt to blame the victims, but they also foster the atmosphere of impunity in which Israeli troops operate. Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have condemned the investigation into Fadel Shana’s death, and point to its lack of impartiality. Haaretz columnist Uzi Benziman best sums up IDF policy as one which:

“…avoids accepting responsibility for an unfortunate event, to produce a version that describes the chain of developments in such a way as to place the source of the tragedy on the enemy, and to create a demonic image of the adversary as someone who is capable of purposely causing bloodshed among his own people so as to achieve diplomatic gain, or as someone who does not hesitate to stage a horrifying arena of death so as to besmirch Israel’s name, repeats itself every time tragedies of this nature occur”

In memory of other who were killed while telling the truth:

JAMES MILLER (England) – Killed by the IDF in while on assignment in Gaza for Channel 4. Was carrying a white flag at the time. Died May 2, 2003

NAZIH DARWAZEHN (AP)- Killed in Nablus despite repeated shouts to the IDF in English and Hebrew that he was with the media. Died April 19, 2003

MOHAMED ABU HALIMAM (Palestine) Shot in stomach while covering clashes in a refugee camp outside Nablus. Died March 22, 2004

TOM HURNDALL (England) – Shot in the head by an Israel soldier while acting as a human shield for Palestinian children. Died January 13, 2004

IMAD ABU ZAHRA (Palestine) – Bled to death after being shot in the leg by the IDF. Died July 12, 2002

RAFFAELE CIRIELLO (Italy) – Shot 6 times by IDF troops in Ramallah. Died March 13, 2002

Related Links:  / es/news/armys-so-called-inquiry-camerama ns-killing-gaza-scandal-20080815 =3569 east/3235155.stm 46.html t/countryDetail.asp?size=10&page=1&Count ryID=107 ml?res=9E07E5DE1E30F930A25754C0A9649C8B6 3&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

Posted by Nu'man El-Bakri | Report as abusive

By the help of camera the common man can understand what is going on far off places. Sometimes it is a weapon also. Photograph can not lie. I am praying for sincere photographers. Photrography is a dangerous work.


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