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Under Cover of War in Gaza, Assault on West Bank Intensifies: Palestinian Journalist Dalia Hatuqa

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The Western corporate media is failing in its coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza, says Palestinian independent journalist Dalia Hatuqa. “A lot of what’s missing from the bigger portrait … is the Palestinian voice,” says Hatuqa, who applauds local journalists in Gaza for providing the world a crucial window into what’s happening there while international reporters are blocked by Israel from entering the territory. “Nobody knows Gaza better than the Gazan journalists on the ground.” Hatuqa also speaks about her latest piece for The Century Foundation about rising Israeli state and settler violence in the occupied West Bank, which she says can accurately be described as pogroms. “The fog of war has allowed Israel to perpetuate crimes at a very large scale, not only throughout the West Bank, but including occupied East Jerusalem.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

The Intercept is reporting The New York Times has instructed its reporters to avoid using the terms “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing” and “occupied territory” in its coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza. The Intercept's report is based on an internal memo from the Times. One newsroom source told The Intercept, quote, “I think it's the kind of thing that looks professional and logical if you have no knowledge of the historical context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But if you do know, it will be clear how apologetic it is to Israel,” they said.

Today we’re joined by a Palestinian journalist who’s been highly critical of how the Western media has portrayed Israel’s war in Gaza. Dalia Hatuqa is an independent Palestinian journalist specializing in Israeli-Palestinian affairs, usually based between Amman, Jordan, and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. She was a close friend and colleague of the Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead by an Israeli sniper in the occupied West Bank May 11th, 2022. Dalia’s latest piece for The Century Foundation is headlined “Under Cover of Gaza War, Assault on West Bank Accelerates.” Dalia joins us now in our New York studio after speaking last night at the Columbia Journalism School.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. This was also the topic of your panel at the Columbia J School last night, the issue of how the conflict is being covered. What do you think is most important for people to understand, Dalia?

DALIA HATUQA: Well, I think that a lot of what’s missing from the bigger portrait or the puzzle, so to speak, is the Palestinian voice. So, in order to find out what’s going on in Gaza, we need to not just rely on Western journalists coming into Gaza. I know that’s very important, and it’s a demand by a lot of us and by, you know, the Committee to Protect Journalists and other journalism rights groups. But it’s also to amplify Palestinian voices, because, ultimately, nobody knows Gaza better than the Gazan journalists on the ground who are actually doing the work that they’re doing right now. And in a way, these journalists, not only are they fighting for their lives while doing all of this, they’re also resorting to extraordinary measures to be able to cover what’s going on. And speaking to journalists on the ground, they tell us that what we’re seeing from them is only like 10% of what’s happening in Gaza at the moment.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dalia, I wanted to ask you — the Western press does have the opportunity to cover what is going on in the West Bank, and yet, this — as you wrote in a recent piece, more than 4,000 West Bank Palestinians have been displaced just in 2023, the highest number ever recorded. What is going on in the West Bank, from what you’ve been able to see?

DALIA HATUQA: Basically, in the West Bank, the fog of war has allowed Israel to perpetuate crimes at a very large scale not only throughout the West Bank, but including occupied East Jerusalem. And in the West Bank, we’ve got what a lot of even Israeli officials have admitted are pogroms that are going on by and being perpetrated by Israeli settlers, especially in villages around Nablus, for example, which are in the north, where there are many settlements surrounding villages. We’re not talking about just, you know, the torching of houses and the torching of cars and whatnot. We’re talking about people getting killed by armed settlers.

And while they’re being armed and attacking Palestinians, they’re also being helped or aided by Israeli soldiers, whose job, technically, is to be there to not allow such things to happen, but in a way, you know, sometimes they just sit by idly and not do anything, or they actually participate in these attacks. That’s why when you look at the U.N. figures, a lot of times we see, you know, 10 Palestinians have been killed by settlers, two Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, but then there is a line that says three Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers and/or soldiers. So, we don’t know, because they are part of the system that’s subjugating these Palestinians, that’s, you know, carrying out all this violence against them.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And it’s not just those who are killed, but also the detentions of Palestinians in the West Bank. Could you talk about the conditions that they’re facing in Israeli custody?

DALIA HATUQA: The detentions, honestly, they’re atrocious, and they are the least talked about, even among Western journalists, who actually haven’t been really mentioning this at all. We’re talking about the least amount of, you know, livable situations that can be — that any detainee can live in. So, they get water up to two hours a day now. Sometimes they don’t get to shower. The food that they get is rotten. I’m talking about the detainees in — the 9,000 or so in Israeli prisons. They don’t have access to their families. They don’t have access to lawyers. The people who have come out have come out with — some have had their limbs amputated because of the extended use of handcuffs. So, honestly, the conditions are really harrowing, and there’s not much access.

And right now, as we speak, I was just seeing that there is a detainee who died in, actually, an Israeli hospital a few days ago, and his body is still being withheld. And his family has not been able to put him to rest, because — even though he had already carried out his sentence, 30 or more years, which is, quite frankly, a devastating thing for the family, because they’re unable to get any kind of closure.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking, of course, about Walid Daqqa. Human rights groups, everyone had asked for him to be released, as he was there for almost 40 years and he was dying of cancer. Speaking of people who have died, not in prison, but outside, the last time I spoke to you was just after Shireen Abu Akleh was killed May 11th, 2022, as she was a dear friend of yours, the Al Jazeera Arabic reporter, outside the Jenin refugee camp, all laid out now, determined to be an Israeli sniper who killed her. As her colleagues tried to reach her, they shot at them, clearly wearing “press.” It wasn’t in the middle of any kind of skirmish. They were just standing outside. This issue of journalists being killed, that you spoke of before — the memorial for Shireen, outside Jenin, has now been bulldozed over, destroyed by the Israeli military. But even in Gaza — and you took this up last night, you and your colleagues on the panel, of what’s happening to journalists. Even you were surprised, you said, as we spoke before the show, by learning about when David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, asked, “How do you know that journalists are targeted?” Talk about the response.

DALIA HATUQA: Basically, we were very lucky to have a journalist from Gaza who managed to leave the coastal enclave, the besieged coastal enclave, to Qatar. Her name is Ameera Harouda. And she had to leave, obviously, because, you know, for her well-being and her family. She has four kids. Anyways, she was talking about the fact that journalists would get phone calls from Israeli authorities, military authorities, basically questioning them about their work, especially if they worked for Qatar, which is a little strange, considering that Qatar is the go-between, you know, between Israel and Hamas for the talks to reach a ceasefire and to release the hostages. And in the meantime, also CPJ was talking to a few journalists who were released after being detained, and they had been taken away for 33 days, made to sit in squatting positions, in horrific conditions. They came out, you know, having lost 30 kilos or so.

There’s a lot going on in that sense, but also the targeting of journalists. People know because there are UAVs or drones, as we say, constantly hovering in Gaza. It’s so perpetual that people in Gaza, if they don’t hear a UAV, they think something’s wrong. UAVs have been part of the Gaza skyline for years, long before October 7th.

AMY GOODMAN: And even the phone calls from the Israeli military to journalists, threatening them?

DALIA HATUQA: Yes, absolutely. And in the West Bank, they do the same thing. They call them in. They say, “We want to have a chat with you.” And then they don’t come out, because, you know, they take them in. They can put them in administrative detention, which, as you know, is basically when you put people in or Palestinians in prison without any kind of — without any kind of proof or without charging them. And it’s very easy to do that. I mean, right now there’s a young Christian girl who’s a student. She’s in administrative detention for four months. And I know that the archbishop of Canterbury was calling for her release. So, all these things are intertwined. There’s a lot of things going on that don’t — that are far-reaching. It’s not just about journalists.

AMY GOODMAN: And the journalists who are being detained in Gaza are being questioned about their reporting?

DALIA HATUQA: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: Interrogated for hours?

DALIA HATUQA: Absolutely, because what — the questions that they were being asked is, “Why did you write this? Why did you say this? Do you talk to Hamas people?” Of course they talk to Hamas people. It’s their job. It’s like how you talk to Israeli forces. You’re going to — how you talk to Israeli military personnel or government officials. I mean, that’s your job as a journalist. Your job is to talk to people.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you, Dalia Hatuqa — you’re usually based in Amman, Jordan, or in Ramallah in the West Bank, but you’re here in the United States now. What’s your message to the American public and to the Biden administration, given that this country is the largest supplier of weapons and military aid to Israel?

DALIA HATUQA: I think, honestly, the American public has been very instrumental in working with Palestinians. Large segments of the American public have been working with Palestinians. I’ve seen a lot of support. I’ve seen a lot of support among Israelis, you know, the few Israelis who get it. I’ve seen a lot of support among American Jews, and I believe that they are one of the Palestinians’ biggest allies.

But my message, obviously, to Biden is, I mean, there’s a lot at stake right now. The Biden administration can do so much, and that’s been proven over by the fact that, you know, once Biden put his foot down, several steps were taken by Israel in order to open the border crossings, or some of the border crossings, into Gaza. But I believe that taking this kind of blind support for Netanyahu is leading us nowhere.

And as an American, as well, not only as a Palestinian, I have bigger fears of what’s to come, come November, because if Biden loses the election — and he might, because of the situation, because of what’s going on in Gaza — then we are doomed, basically, to have another four years of a Trump administration. So, in my mind, I’m like, you know, we are doomed in the Middle East, we’re doomed in the U.S. And I know that’s a lot of doom and gloom, but, honestly, these are some of the thoughts that people, especially dual nationals like me — these are some of the thoughts that they have.

AMY GOODMAN: Dalia Hatuqa, we want to thank you so much for being with us, Palestinian independent journalist, usually based between Amman, Jordan, and occupied Ramallah — that’s Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Next up, we speak with journalist Peter Maass. He has a new piece for The Washington Post. It’s headlined “I’m Jewish, and I’ve covered wars. I know war crimes when I see them.” Stay with us.

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“I’m Jewish, and I’ve Covered Wars. I Know War Crimes When I See Them”: Reporter Peter Maass on Gaza

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