Abdel Hamid Abel Jaber is a reminder that credentials do not confer wisdom, objectivity or eloquence.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
Reporters are entitled to ask uncomfortable questions. That’s the point of press conferences.
That said, questions posed at media events can betray a journalist’s ignorance or bias.
Case in point is Abdel Hamid Abel Jaber, a columnist for the London-based daily, Al Quds Al-Arabi.
Jaber also lectures on Mideast studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey. On Tuesday, he attended a briefing by Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Dujarric updated the smattering of journalists on the specifics of the Secretary-General’s day — a Zoom meeting with UN staffers abroad about sustainable development and COVID-related issues, and a new appointment in the Secretary-General’s office.
After expressing condolences to Haiti, where 71 people were killed in a gas tanker explosion, Dujarric went on to brief reporters about peacekeeping and aid developments in Mali, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Yemen.
He then took routine questions about upcoming Libyan elections and human rights issues in Bangladesh.
Finally, Jaber raised his hand.
Prefacing his question, Jaber asserted that “The Israeli occupation forces are not only confiscating Palestinian land, bulldozing their homes and expanding settlement activities, but also they are stealing their culture.”
Jaber then held up his tablet to show Dujarric a photo of three Miss Universe contestants visiting Bedouins and wearing their clothing.
Before the pageant, the contestants visited the Bedouin town of Rahat, near Beersheva. Bedouins predominate Rahat and its population of 70,000 makes the Israeli municipality the largest Bedouin city in the world. Palestinian trolls on Twitter denounced that visit saying it illicitly misappropriated Palestinian culture.
Bedouins, a nomadic people, are not ethnically Palestinian. An estimated 200,000 Bedouins live in Israel. Another 40,000 live under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction in Judea and Samaria.
Had Rahat not been on the Miss Universe itinerary, Israel would have opened itself up to accusations of ignoring its minorities.
Nonetheless, Jaber pressed on. “The contenders for Miss Universe, three of them, stole the Palestinian-embroidered dresses and appeared as [if] they are Israelis. I want an answer from the UN, and especially from UNESCO. How could this attack on Palestinian culture can be tolerated.”
Dujarric said he had no comment, offered to provide Jaber with UNESCO’s contact info, and ended the press conference.
Having UN press credentials means a journalist is associated with a recognized media organization and has been vetted by the UN’s Media Accreditation & Liaison Unit.
Jaber is a reminder that credentials do not confer additional wisdom, objectivity or eloquence.
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