About 50 Palestinian journalists have Government Press Office cards issued by Israel, but almost all of them work for international organizations. Only a handful of Palestinian journalists working for West Bank or Gaza media can report in Israel, and their movements can be severely restricted.
Some Palestinians accuse their Israeli colleagues of providing a false picture of the West Bank. “We have noticed that 95 percent of the Israeli journalists present a line that is aligned with the Israeli military and intelligence services,” said Omar Nazzal, a documentary film maker and member of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a union representing 1,500 reporters.
The Israeli journalists who cover the West Bank say that is not true. “I felt myself an ambassador to the Palestinian people. I wanted a solution. For us, for them. I wrote stories; I was crying when I wrote them,” said an Israeli journalist and author with decades of experience covering the “other side,” who also spoke anonymously because he did not want to be singled out for complaining.
The Israeli journalists concede one point in the petition against them: They often did have better access to top officials, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, than their Palestinian colleagues.
“Instead of giving Israeli journalists all the interviews, give better access to us,” Nazzal said.
At the al-Naqba rally Wednesday in the central square in Ramallah, there were scores of Palestinian journalists. But the days when one would see a TV crew from Israel may be gone.
“Their coverage is biased against us, so we don’t really care,” said Ahmed Sahah, a Palestinian Interior Ministry employee who stood before the stage in a ball cap that called for the Palestinian right to return.
“I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” said Meha Siyam, a Palestinian American attending Rutgers law school in New Jersey, who was visiting relatives in the West Bank, when asked about the absence of Israeli reporters. “But it is understandable. It is natural to want to block someone who is blocking you. It’s a reaction to the situation. It is a reaction to the stress.”
Sufian Taha and Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.