What is particularly disturbing about the dismissal of Eyad Hamad is that the Associated Press knew one of its Palestinian workers was engaged in anti-Israel activities, but failed to stop him. Hamad even ignored repeated warnings from his employers against pursuing political activities. Pictured: Hamad (center) following exposure to tear gas during a demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on May 4, 2017, in Bethlehem. (Photo by Musa al Shaer/AFP via Getty Images)
When Palestinian journalist Eyad Hamad criticized Israel, his employers at the Associated Press (AP) summoned him for a hearing, which ended only with a warning.
When Hamad criticized the Palestinian Authority, however, he received a letter from the AP informing him that "your employment has been terminated."
The dismissal of the 63-year-old Hamad from the AP -- an act that enraged Palestinian journalists as well as human rights and media groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- did not surprise those familiar with the way the foreign media has been covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Many foreign journalists seem to see the conflict along the lines of "good guys (Palestinians) versus bad guys (Israel)." They wake up every morning and search for any story that reflects badly on Israel. The foreign correspondents then hire Palestinians to assist them in spreading lies about Israel. Many of these Palestinians are not real journalists, but political activists who serve as propagandists for the PLO, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
What is particularly disturbing about the dismissal of Hamad is that the AP knew one of its Palestinian workers was engaged in anti-Israel activities, but failed to stop him. Hamad even ignored repeated warnings from his employers against pursuing political activities.
"We have been forced to take this action due to your repeated violations of our policies governing social media, political activity and workplace conduct, even after numerous warnings and despite your undertakings in the past not to repeat such activities and violations," Josef Federman, News Director at the AP Bureau in Jerusalem, wrote to the Palestinian cameraman on May 27.
In his letter, Federman pointed out that Hamad, a Palestinian, had participated in anti-Israel protests while he was still working for AP.
"On November 17, 2019, you [Hamad] took part in a protest in support of a colleague who was injured by Israeli troops and then gave an interview to Al-Arabiya TV," the AP bureau chief wrote. "Neither the protest nor the interview was authorized by us, and you did not seek our permission, violating the AP's policies and previous undertakings."
The international news agency is openly admitting that one of its workers was engaged in anti-Israel activities. What did AP do to stop the worker? Hamad received several "warnings" -- which did not deter him from pursuing his anti-Israel activities.
A few weeks after that, on December 12, 2019, Hamad was invited for another meeting at the AP Jerusalem office and again warned that he had violated the news agency's policies on political activity. When Hamad was told that senior managers in New York would be involved, he insisted that he had done nothing wrong. "I don't care," he said.
Despite Hamad's determination to pursue political activities, he was nevertheless permitted to continue working for AP for 20 years. Palestinians are proud of Hamad because he used the AP for many years as a platform to spread lies about Israel.
Hamad's latest anti-Israel activities took place in November 2019, when he and some of his Palestinian colleagues waged an anti-Israel campaign after a Palestinian photographer was accidentally shot in the eye while covering clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian stone-throwers near the West Bank city of Hebron.
During the campaign, Hamad was quoted in the Palestinian media as accusing Israel of perpetrating "crimes" against Palestinians. In the interview he gave to Al-Arabiya, Hamad claimed that the Israel Defense Forces had made a decision to shoot at the Palestinian photographer. When Hamad incited the public against Israel again on a popular Arab television show, his employers again only gave him a "warning."
Back then, the AP (as Federman's letter shows) did not see a need to take a serious action against Hamad, who appeared before tens of millions of viewers to talk in general about Israeli "crimes." Hamad was only invited to the AP Jerusalem office and told that he had "violated our policies on political activity, the same policy you have violated in the past, repeatedly."
If Hamad had "repeatedly" violated AP policies by engaging in anti-Israel political activities, why was he allowed to continue covering Palestinian affairs even though his anti-Israel sentiments were known to his employers and everyone else?
What does Hamad's continued employment by the AP (for two decades) tell us about the stories, photos and videos he produced all those years?
Will the AP now launch an investigation into Hamad's work to see if he has been misleading readers or staging events all these years? Will the AP management launch an investigation to see why Hamad was allowed to continue working for the agency although his employers were aware of his political activities?
What is even more worrying is that Hamad was eventually fired not because of his anti-Israel activities, but for criticizing the Palestinian Authority.
The AP is now confirming that it fired Hamad after receiving a complaint from the Palestinian Authority police.
"On May 21,2020, Palestinian police sent a complaint to the AP accusing you of 'incitement, abuse and the threat of violence,'" Federman wrote in his letter to Hamad.
"The complaint was partly based on your threat to burn tires in front of a courthouse. Meanwhile, recent posts on Facebook show you holding a protest outside the [Palestinian] government building, accusing Palestinian officials of corruption and hinting that they are collaborators [with Israel]."
The complaint was filed after Hamad and other Palestinian journalists demonstrated against the Palestinian Authority security forces to protest the arrest and beating of Anas Hawwari, a Palestinian journalist from the northern West Bank who was arrested for allegedly insulting a Palestinian policeman.
The Palestinian Authority does not want to see journalists who criticize its actions working for the international media. The Palestinian Authority does not want to see Palestinian journalists airing the dirty laundry in public.
By firing Hamad immediately after receiving a complaint from the Palestinian police, the AP is sending a message to all journalists that criticizing the Palestinian Authority is far more serious than engaging in anti-Israel activities. This is a message that says: "If a journalist speaks out against Israel, he receives a warning; but if he criticizes the Palestinian Authority, the journalist gets fired."
The incident also shows that international news organizations evidently have no problem hiring anti-Israel activists as reporters and cameramen.
The AP evidently knew that Hamad was engaged in political activities. It nevertheless chose to turn a blind eye because Hamad was directing his hate only against Israel. As far as the AP is concerned, the moment Hamad spoke out against the brutality and repressive measures of the Palestinian Authority security forces, he crossed a red line. That is when he was informed of the decision to terminate his employment.
The problem is that there are many Palestinian journalists like Hamad working for the international media in the Middle East. These journalists see themselves as soldiers serving the Palestinian cause, and their duty as bashing Israel on a daily basis. That is at least one of the reasons why the Western mainstream media remains biased against Israel.
The AP is now facing widespread condemnations from Palestinian journalists and media groups for its decision to fire Hamad. They are accusing the AP of "capitulation" to the pressure of the Palestinian Authority police. Some journalists are calling for a boycott of the AP and the closure of its offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It now remains to be seen whether other media organizations will wake up and take a closer look at the political activities of their Palestinian employees. Will those organizations allow these activists to continue to mislead them by promoting fake anti-Israel propaganda?
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based on the Middle East.