Frontline World


Israel/Palestinian territories, IN THE LINE OF FIRE, MARCH 2003 border=



Read through archived FRONTLINE/World conversations around this story.

Claire O'Connor - Chicago, Illinois
When I heard the news that Mazen Dana had been killed in Iraq I was devastated. I was very moved by the first broadcast of this documentary. It gave me hope that the world hadn't gone completely insane. The bravery of Dana and Naylor, to report such a censored story, inspired me. Mazen's murder seems to enforce Naylor's assertion that information is indeed a target in the new way of war. If the intent was to silence Mazen, I think the powers that be just made a huge mistake.

Anonymous - Houston, Texas
I was saddened to learn of the death of Mazan Dana today, the Reuters' photojournalist filming in Iraq and shot dead by American soldiers. I recognized his face immediately on the nightly news (8/17/03) from your Frontline World story just this past Thursday night. Journalism is a dangerous calling in a war zone, but without these brave people, we'd never know the 'story.' A photograph is indeed worth ten thousand words. We owe them a debt of gratitude beyond measure. Condolences to his family.

Cheryl Bukoff - Detroit, Michigan
The documentary, aired again tonight, highlighted in a very disturbing way the necessity of freedom of the press and the need to maintain journalist in such difficult and dangerous areas. The film was made before the two most recent deaths of journalist seemingly caused by the Israeli Army. We need to know what is happening. I appreciate your keeping us informed.

Anonymous - New Jersey
One of the most revealing television productions I have seen in a long time. It unveils the intentions of the state of Israel to keep impartial observers out of the scenes of the conflict, which prevents the world from having an unbiased view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With this attitude, even if the Israeli Army's actions are in fact justifiable, they are ruling out any possibility for us to believe that it is the case.

M. Schneider
Ms. Gross [see Sylvia Gross, March 2003 conversation, below], you forget the underlying fact that it is against all international conventions, laws and democracy rules to shoot at journalist. You can accuse Ms Naylor, PBS or whoever you want of trying to show this fact, that the reality is that the Israeli military is shooting at journalists. THERE IS NO WAY TO JUSTIFY THAT. You seem to be against the Palestinians, no matter who they are or what they do. Turn the mirror around and look at yourself.

Jack Garbuz - Queens, New York
I support the unofficial policy and sub-rosa policy of the IDF to target so-called journalists, because journalists are supposed to REPORT news, and not create it. When the PLO and journalists collude to create incidents for the edification of a new-hungry TV audience which thereby puts the lives of Israeli soldiers in danger, then their lives should be put in danger as well. A news organization and its journalists should REPORT the news, and not help to manufacture it, especially when they are willing to jeopardize the lives of OTHERS to do so. In such cases they should be prepared to participate in the hazards they create (not report).

Maria Schneider - Haverford, Pennsylvania
I thank you for having the courage to report this story on American TV. I cheer the courage of all those journalists that put their lives on the line to give us the real facts on the ground -- and not the story that the established powers want us to hear. Seeing the truth will perhaps change the view of many.

Sathi Gupta - New York, New York
Perhaps there would be an overall more varied response, if the individuals who have responded were from different racial and religious backgrounds. This is just a thought.

Anonymous - New York, New York
My thanks for your courage and dedication to broadcasting how things really are in this conflict. This program was so different from the usual Charlie Rose type presentation.

James Smith
Simply put, sometimes the truth hurts. Perhaps, that is why some of the viewers have responded negatively.

Anonymous - Livingston, New Jersey
I am a student but I think that anyone who chooses to work in a war zone (and I think that the West Bank and Gaza during this Intifada is in fact a war zone) has to accept the physical risks of violence. Even our servicemen understand the potential loss of life that has occurred and continues to occur from "friendly fire." I would expect that the risks of getting caught in a cross fire are self evident especially when covering a rioting crowd or a stone throwing incident.

I am concerned that Ms. Naylor and PBS have not chosen to provide a broader and more current perspective on the problem. There is no reference to the 4/30/03 suicide bombing at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv where an Italian journalist was an unwitting accomplice to the terrorists. That a journalist's credentials facilitated the passage of the terrorists through Israeli checkpoints and resulted in the civilian carnage can only serve to strengthen the argument to limit the freedom of the press. What also is lacking is a presentation regarding the intimidation and abuse of journalists by the Palestinian Authority and the organizations that support terror including Hamas and Fatah (i.e. the case of Radio TV Luxembourg producer Jean Pierre Martin and his production crew or RAI correspondent Riccardo Cristiano). When dealing with such a sensitive situation in a violent environment I do not think you should be in any way perceived as lacking balance. The spotlight needs to shine on all.

Art Altman - San Carlos, California
After decades of financially supporting public television and radio, I quit. We need solid, honest, fair, unbiased public television and radio. Instead we get subtle and not-so-subtle anti-Semitism.

The Israeli army is doing an extremely hard job. They have to defend against killers who hide behind civilians and even, as we have seen recently, use reporter vehicles as cover to transport them to murder opportunities (Mike's Place).

A Frontline report on how difficult is the job of the Israeli soldier, facing the cult of hate of the Militant Islam and brainwashed suicide bombers -- THAT would be a useful report. How about a report on the constraints placed on western reporters in Palestinian areas? The treatment of Italian reporter who provided film of Palestinians with blood on their hands -- literally -- celebrating their murder of an Israeli. (That Italian reporter was forced to apologize. Don't report this on Frontline of course..).

PBS has become a vehicle of distortion and hate.

Adam Varsano - New York, New York
Not only do Western new agencies employ Palestinian cameramen but most of their crew's are made up of Palestinians as well. In addition saying ABC, Reuters and Associated Press would not use them if their personal view distorted their work is like saying that these three News organization are unbiased themselves. All three have proven that they clearly are not unbiased. Instead of offering objective and balanced reporting they, as Frontline has, have taken the Palestinian side on this issue.

The following conversation took place in response to the first broadcast and launch of "In the Line of Fire" in March 2003.

Michelle Stowell - Sacramento, California
Thanks so much for running this story. Too often the human rights abuses that Israel commits, not only to Palestinians, but to journalists of all nationalities, are ignored. Programs like this are necessary if we Americans are going to be well informed! Thanks for bringing some balance to US journalism!

St. Louis, Missouri
I strongly disapprove of the hard-line of the Israeli Government and the brutality they inflict on other human beings in the name of justice.

Washington, DC
I think it most important to remember that this story is not about Palestinians, nor is it about Israelis. This story is about journalists - the people that we rely on to inform our conscience. The fact that ANY branch of ANY state knowingly and willingly endangers the lives of journalists is intolerable.

Sylvia Gross - Oakland, California
A question not even raised by Patricia Naylor but which seems so basic and inescapable as to be unavoidable is why international western news services such as Reuters use Palestinian cameramen as their eyes and ears when the Palestinians are the least likely people on earth to furnish anything remotely resembling an objective point of view, being themselves so deeply embroiled in the conflict. Perhaps Israeli resentment at international news coverage of their problems and their less than friendly attitude to the foreign press arises from the fact that that coverage is so uniformly biased against them, an not unjustifiable response and not surprising given the role of Palestinians as reporters for that press. Remember the hysterical accusations of genocide and massacre in Jenin reflexively leveled against Israel by the press, accusations which proved groundless upon subsequent careful inspection?

If journalists want to be protected why don't they make arrangements with the IDF; why don't they "embed" themselves in the Israeli Army the way the press is doing in the current war in Iraq? If, on the other hand, journalists take it upon themselves to independently interpose themselves in the battle between Arab and Israeli, isn't it reasonable to expect that they should accept the risks inherent in such a position? In other words, isn't your program nothing but self-serving, irresponsible whining, first, because you side with the Palestinians but complain when you are dealt with in a less than hospitable way by the Israeli's; and second, because you intentionally put yourself in high risk situations and then complain when you get hurt?

The foreign press takes full advantage of Israel's robust thriving democracy with nary a "thank you." It moves in like a freeloading in-law and shows its gratitude to its host by allowing itself to be used as the mouthpiece for the Palestinian propaganda machine. As far as I'm concerned, you have been up till now more than tolerated by Israel, you have been pampered to the point of being spoiled. Your sense of entitlement is downright petulant and offensive. If you don't like the way Israel treats you, why don't you move your news headquarters to Gaza, or Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, or Jordan? You bite the hand that feeds you yet complain when you get slapped...

FRONTLINE/World responds:
We appreciate the press freedoms that do exist in Israel. But we are concerned whenever journalists are threatened or targeted. In a previous episode of FRONTLINE/World, we reported the dangers that foreign reporters face in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. We will continue to report these abuses wherever they occur.

You raise a legitimate question about why western news agencies like Reuters employ Palestinian cameramen. We asked our reporter Patricia Naylor the same thing. You can read her reply on this Web site (go to Palestinian cameramen may well have their biases, but if their personal views distorted their work - if they weren't reporting the news accurately - agencies like Reuters, ABC and the Associated Press would no longer employ them.

Allan Marcus - El Cerrito, California
Concerning your piece on journalists under fire from the IDF:

You played over and over a segment showing a Palestinian journalist lying on the ground being hit twice by IDF rubber bullets. I know this was meant to serve as your Rodney-King video, but I wasn't impressed. Neither of the two bullets which hit his torso even penetrated the cloth of his jacket. The flesh wound he suffered to his temple was only superficial; it apparently healed without permanent disability or even a scar; the rubber bullet certainly did not fracture or penetrate his skull, or cause a concussion to the brain. Also, he did not carry a camera and thus could not be distinguished from a combatant. Yet you played this video over and over as if it were your Rodney-King prize, showing once more just how journalists go for shock value and sensationalism over substance. All the popular polls of the various professions I have ever seen uniformly rank journalists at the bottom in terms of integrity and in terms of the respect with which they are regarded by the general public. Ever wonder why?

All but one of incidents you depicted of the IDF supposedly abusing journalists involved Palestinians working as journalists. Palestinians are parties to this conflict. They are not disinterested bystanders, outsiders, or professionals. With or without a camera, they are rightly perceived as a threat by Israeli soldiers. How is a soldier to know a Palestinian claiming to be a journalist, even carrying what looks like a camera, isn't in fact a terrorist? Palestinian terrorists have even been known to dress up as Israeli soldiers. Everyone on the wrong side of a battlefield is suspect, is liable to be shot, even the Israeli journalist you showed. This is a condition of war. War is messy and wild, chaos unleashed. That you think that somehow you are different, separate, that you are somehow protected by an aura of sanctity, is the height of presumption and arrogance.

Israeli soldiers in the line of fire have enough to do without worrying about the safety of journalists. Their lives are in danger. They have been put in harm's way not by choice but by necessity. You journalists, on the other hand, are there strictly from choice, electively. You play no practical role in the conflicts you cover. You neither defend nor help anyone. People die around you and you film them dying. You merely serve your own self-defined purposes, living off the adrenaline rush of battle as if it were some kind of high, chasing after one good scoop after another to beat the competition. As far as I'm concerned, because you willfully put yourself in harm's way for no one's benefit but your own, you should be prepared to accept the risks involved. Ultimately, the soldier needs to consider your safety and welfare last, if at all. You are superfluous...

FRONTLINE/World responds:
We aired the video of the shooting of Nael Shyouki because it appears to be a case of a journalist shot without cause. The shooting prompted protests from Israeli and Palestinian journalists. The footage, incidentally, was broadcast on Israeli television.

We decided to air "In the Line of Fire" because the Nael Shyouki shooting was not an isolated incident. Patricia Naylor's report showed a variety of cases, including an Israeli photographer shot by an Israeli soldier, a French television correspondent who was shot while he was doing a report, and a BBC crew and an NBC crew who were shot at by Israeli forces. Many other cases have been documented by groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists. On this Web site (go to, we have an interview with a prominent Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, who says Israeli soldiers opened fire on him last summer.

Ocky Milkman - Plainfield, New Jersey
Dear Ms. Patricia Naylor,

So, let me get this straight, Ms. Naylor, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm supposed to get all concerned about rubber bullets bouncing off Palestinian cameramen while Palestinian gunmen are breaking into Israeli homes to kill whomever they find, including five year-old girls hiding under their beds and couples asleep in theirs, while Palestinian terrorists are blowing Israeli women and children to bits? I'm supposed to get upset about a Palestinian cameraman beaten unconscious after he viciously kicked a small young Israeli girl who was trying to stop him from filming? I'm supposed to get all concerned about journalists being treated as less than royalty when people, both Palestinians and Israelis, are dying or getting seriously wounded daily? I'm supposed to hate Israeli soldiers who instead of focusing their attentions on ensuring the safety of journalists are focusing them on not getting killed and not killing innocent civilians? I'm supposed to weep tears for journalists who voluntarily put themselves "in the line of fire" while those with no choice in the matter are trapped in the violence? Could it be this is just one more liberal's distortion of facts to make Israel look bad, one more self-righteous outsiders' attempt to drag Jews through the mud? And what the hell are Palestinians doing reporting the news in the first place? Since when are they objective observers? Or doesn't it matter, since the press is already on their side?

Jan Bauman - Mill Valley, California
This is one of the rare instances when a television documentary has shown the truth about the brutality of the Israeli army. It is more than obvious that Israel would like the cameras to go away so that the world will not see the way they abuse the Palestinians. Israel likes to present itself as a wonderful democracy but being an occupier cannot be compatible with democracy.

As a Jew I find Gideon Levy, whose compassionate articles in Haaretz have documented the terrible oppression of the Palestinians under occupation, to reflect the true meaning of the Judaism which I embrace. As for the arrogant Mr. Seaman, I think that everything he said is just bovine feces.

Brendan Gallagher - Novato, California
Without great stories like these, I would truly be among the uneducated in this country. I am a soldier in the US Army Reserve, and I feel it's my duty to maintain a certain level of knowledge. These journalists, who risk their lives, are also soldiers in the war to expose the truth that the Israelis don't want the rest of the world to see. I salute them.

St. Louis, Missouri
I strongly disapprove of attacks on journalists, but the purpose of this program was to put the Israelis in the worst possible light. It showed, inadvertently, why so many Israelis are so deeply angry at the international news media.

David - Van Nuys, California
The times I watch news coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict are the times I get overwhelmed with the abundant anti-Semitic propaganda that the media constantly spews. In my opinion, "abusing" a journalist is like defending oneself against an Arab - it is for Israel's national security, something that Israel has every right to do. I, personally wish more journalists would be harassed - preferably killed. It would be good for Israel.

A.S. - New York, New York
Once again the obsessively liberal media shows its ugly face, today on PBS. How about mentioning that the 'intimidated' journalists are hiding out with murderers of women and children or the mass murderers who organize such mass killing. How about mentioning that the journalists dare not prepare such a program about Palestinian offenses, for fear of being murdered by their Palestinian hosts.

Ken Green - New York, New York
Israeli dislike of foreign media is not surprising given the well known photos indicating Palestinians rioting for the sake of the photographers (with photographers kneeling with cameras right behind the rioters) and the "romantic" photos of youths with sling shots (note that there are say 100 of them there at the same time or the bloody faces of the handful of young soldiers their attacking or the photo at the start of the intifada by the NY Times of an Israeli soldier with a raised baton and a bloodied youth with the caption 'Israeli soldier beating Palestinian' when it was later revealed it was an Israeli soldier holding back Palestinians from that bloodied Jewish yeshiva student they beat). And it needs to be remembered when soldiers are being attacked and photographers mix with the rioters it's hard to avoid them when responding. Something the journalists should have known.

Abe Klein - Palo Alto, California
You have selected a few unfortunate incidents and have wrongly presented them as the norm, which they are not. This is a "war zone" and in a war zone calamitous events occur. There is more press freedom in Israel then perhaps anywhere else under similar circumstances. Can you imagine how an Israeli reporter would fare in a Hamas or EL Fatah war environment?

Mammoth Lakes, California
This was an excellent & important documentary related to the situation in the occupied territories that is rarely told in the US. I know of no journalist covering the situation in Iraq that have been shot intentionally for filming the events unfolding there. I'm sure you will face criticism for being anti-Semitic for airing this program as are most who question the policies of Israel. This is most unfortunate and will harm Israel security in the long term.