The Palestine Entries: Shooting the messenger, a tribute to Palestinian journalist Fadel Shana’a

// Entry #34

A tribute to Fadel Shana’a, Reuters journalist
1984/85 to 2008

Fadel Shana’a was only 23 years old when his body was pierced by metal darts. Working for Reuters as a cameraman, Fadel ‘s enthusiasm, bravery, and dedication to a life of honest reporting compelled him to be at the scene of an attack even as it unfolded. The footage he captured validated the use of the terms “violent” and “systematic” when describing Israel’s occupation, specifically his final seconds of footage.

On 16 April 2008, Fadel and an accompanying Reuters soundman made their way to the site of an ongoing tank shelling. Standing alongside a silver Mitsubishi SUV labeled in bright red with the words “Press” and “TV”, Fadel focused his camera lens on an Israeli tank in the distance. As he slowly zoomed out, the tank fired a flechette shell that within moments hit near his location. This was the second time he was targeted by Israeli troops. The first was in a 2006 air strike that left him bleeding but alive.

This time, unfortunately, Fadel was not so lucky. The impact of the tank missile threw the camera to the ground and blacked the screen. High velocity shrapnel tore Fadel’s body into pieces. He died at the scene while his soundman survived with severe injuries. Two passing men were also killed by the attack. (His final footage can be found at the end of this article.)

A second shell hit the Reuters SUV, destroying it completely, killing three more, including two children, and injuring twelve others.

Reuters demanded an investigation into the death of one of the agency’s best journalists in the Gaza Strip. Four months later, the Israeli military closed the investigation without taking any disciplinary measures. The tank crew faced no repercussions for its actions even though the attack was captured on film.

According to comments and a letter sent to Reuters by the Israeli military, the tripod Fadel was using for his video camera bore a resemblance to weapons that could have been used against Israeli troops. The attack was therefore justified, said the letter. Fadel was one of at least ten journalists killed by Israeli forces in the years between 2000 and 2008.

A marble monument guarded by a small fence stands in front of Gaza City’s main media and press building. It stands as a reminder of the sacrifices Fadel made in order to present to the public the reality of occupation and war.

As for me, Fadel is the inspiration that motivates whatever passion for journalism I might have. I try to view journalism as an enormous and complex attempt at storytelling, one that involves courage and moral refinement, and the stories that Fadel shared with us are the ones that we must never forget. He was a messenger, his camera was his pen, and he captured the reality that still today threatens the Palestinian identity. He has given us a visual reference to model our work after, and as long as we maintain his poise and dedication, his death will not have been in vain. Reportage has never been so urgent.

Reuters aired his final footage which can be seen below. Viewer discretion is advised.

Sami Kishawi

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