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A tribute to Samer Abu Daqqa

The likes of Samer Abu Daqqa and Shireen Abu Akleh, who dared to show the Israeli atrocities to the outside world have made a great sacrifice. It is the cause, not the death, that makes the martyr.

– Syed Sultan Mohiddin

It was yet another day of Israeli strikes in Gaza on 15 December. Israeli drones had fired missiles indiscriminately on an UN-run school in Khan Younis, where civilians sought refuge, resulting in a number of casualties. Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa and correspondent Wael Dahdouh went to the place to cover the incident when they came under a second drone attack.  Both were wearing the blue protective gear clearly identifying them as journalists. Samer was hit by the shrapnel and was left to bleed to death for over 5 hours, as Israeli forces prevented ambulances and rescue workers from reaching him, denying much-needed emergency treatment.

Samer, a Khan Younis native, was born in 1978 and leaves behind three sons and a daughter.  He joined Al Jazeera in June 2004, working as a cameraman as well as an editor.  Samer Abu Daqqa’s body, bearing his bullet-proof vest and helmet, was carried through a crowd in Khan Younis before being buried in a grave dug by fellow journalists. His mother Umm Maher accused Israel of targeting journalists, “especially those working for Al Jazeera.” Obviously, Samer paid the price for showing the world what is happening in Gaza.

Scenes from his burial with family members and fellow journalists mourning and paying their respects (WorldTimes)

Wael Dahdouh, who was accompanying Samer, got injured in the same attack.  Only a few weeks ago, Dahdouh had lost his wife Um Hamza, his 15-year-old son Mahmoud, his 7-year-old daughter Sham, and his 18-month-old grandson Adam in an Israeli airstrike on the Nuseirat refugee camp.

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says – three quarters of deaths of the journalists worldwide in 2023 were in Gaza.  At least 95 Palestinian journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza since October 7.  Additionally, 11 journalists were reported injured, three reported missing and 19 reported arrested.  There are reports of multiple assaults, threats, cyberattacks, censorship and killings of family members as targeted by the Israeli Occupation Forces.

It’s not Gaza alone where the Palestinian journalists faced the wrath of Israel.  Many have paid the price with their lives, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Shireen Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist who worked as a reporter for 25 years for Al Jazeera was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier on May 11, 2022.  She was wearing a blue press vest and covering a raid on the Jenin refugee camp when she was killed.  She was one of the most prominent names across the Middle East and was seen as a role model by the women in the Palestinian territories.

Zionist tactic – ‘Silence the dissenting voice’
Though the US and its western allies stood firmly behind Israel in the aftermath of October 7, there has been a growing support for the Palestinian cause among the people of many of these nations.

A recent survey conducted by ‘Harvard CAPS/Harris poll’ found that a majority of Americans in the 18-24 age group have opined that ‘Israel must cease to exist’ to achieve peace in the region. To the question, “Can Hamas’ Oct 7 attack on Israel be justified?” – 80% of the young adults (aged 18-24) replied that it can be justified by looking at the grievances of Palestinians.  To the question, “Is Israel committing Genocide or defending itself in Gaza?” –  60% said that Israel is committing genocide.

The Zionist lobby in the U.S. is very uncomfortable with the rising pro-Palestine public sentiment, especially in the youth. It orchestrated the censure of Rashida Tlaib, a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives for her tweet “From the river to the sea – Palestine will be free”.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives in the U.S. has passed a resolution in a 311-14 vote, with 92 Democratic members abstaining. The resolution though symbolic and not binding to become a law, it contains language saying that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism’.  It also condemned the slogan “From the River to the Sea”.  Though the Palestinians’ rights advocates say that the slogan is an aspirational call for equality in historic Palestine, the resolution described it as a “rallying cry for the eradication of the State of Israel and the Jewish people”. The resolution also characterized the demonstrators who gathered in Washington DC last month to demand ceasefire as “rioters”.

The Presidents of three top universities in the U.S. – Claudine Gay from Harvard University, Sally Kornbluth from M.I.T and Elizabeth Magill from Pennsylvania University were summoned to give testimony before the Congress. They had to face withering criticism during the Congressional hearing about a rise in anti-Semitism on their college campuses following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

All the three defended the culture of freedom of expression in their campuses which gives liberty to the faculty and the students to talk about the Palestinians’ rights.  Magill had to resign as President of Pennsylvania University after her testimony and there is mounting pressure on the other two to step down. Evidently, the U.S. administration is sending a dictatorial message to the college campuses that – ‘Speaking in support of Palestine is tantamount to anti-Semitism’.

‘To silence the dissenting voice’ is what the Zionist lobby is trying to push through. While in the U.S. House of Representatives, it wields influence through its funding initiatives, in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, it adopts brutal tactics. The likes of Samer Abu Daqqa and Shireen Abu Akleh, who dared to show the Israeli atrocities to the outside world have made a great sacrifice. It is the cause, not the death, that makes the martyr.

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