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A day in a hostile environment: the life of special envoys in the Middle East | Middle East, the eternal conflict

Nature

Journalists have had a bad press since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. According to many, they have biases: pro-Israeli for some, pro-Palestinian for others. The conflict reaches such intensity that the messengers often bear the brunt.

The choice of words

Among the difficult questions from the public to journalists, that of impartiality tops the list.

It’s very difficultconfides Yanik Dumont Baron. I sent a text to Céline (Galipeau, Editor’s note) to ask him to revise it. We were talking about the colonies. When we are with the settlers, we understand. We have empathy for their situation, we understand their point of view. The next day, we will see those who suffer the violence of the settlers. Some will be a little more extreme and take advantage of what is happening in Gaza to take up more space: they sometimes go so far as to kill. We meet a young man who was injured by settlers… It’s complicated, afterwards, to find the right words. We must describe what we see while trying to avoid adjectives or ways of qualifying it. Radio-Canada’s position on the use or not of the word “terrorism” is a good example.explains the journalist.

Politics buffs. Special program with correspondents who traveled to cover the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Photo: Ivanoh Demers

A life is a life

Céline Galipeau was sent to the field for several days. In order to take stock of the event, she viewed images of the massacre perpetrated by Hamas on October 7.

When we look at the images of the massacre, it’s true that we understand them (the Israelis). In the same way, because there is always the other side, for the Palestinians who see their loved ones, their families, the other Palestinians in Gaza die and the international community – because that’s how they feel it – does not stop this carnage, because when we talk about 10,000, 11,000 deaths, it is enormous. So, for the Palestinians, there is a sort of “double standard” which makes the bitterness even greater, because they have the impression that a Palestinian life is not worth an Israeli life.

Céline Galipeau, Jean-François Bélanger and Yanik Dumont Baron are sitting side by side on a television set.

For correspondents in the field, it can be difficult to interact with people who are suffering and experiencing hostilities.

Photo: Ivanoh Demers

In Jericho, Yanik Dumont Baron wanted to meet young Palestinians to take the pulse of the community. In four or five minutes, we understood that we were not welcome. As a foreigner, as a Canadian: “Your country (supports) Israel, we don’t want to see you here”he says.

He then met with Gazans who were working in Israel on October 7 and who were unable to return to the Gaza Strip to their families.

Everyone said: “We want to return to Gaza.” Despite the bombs, despite the situation. “It’s my land. My family is there, I want to go back there”says the correspondent.

The “Fixer”: a guide, an interpreter and more

He explains that he met these Palestinians thanks to his fixer, that is to say the one who acts as guide and translator. But these are not his only roles. He is aware of what is happening. He is also a cultural interpreterspecifies Jean-François Bélanger.

Events have also proven to him that a journalist is in the right place when the belligerents do not want to see him: If we are disturbing, it is because there is a story to tell. Israeli soldiers once pushed him while he was filming a Palestinian family busy harvesting olives on their land in the West Bank.

Jean-François Bélanger listens to Yanik Dumont Baron.

Jean-François Bélanger (left) had his memory cards confiscated by Israeli soldiers.

Photo: Ivanoh Demers

The soldiers seized the camera. They were angry at the journalists, they considered that they were all biased, all against Israel. We were criticized for not constantly talking about the babies killed on October 7. We explained that we were covering the stories from each side. We also tell the story of the Palestinians who cannot pick their olives. This did not pass through the eyes of this soldier, says the correspondent, who finally recovered his camera, but not the memory cards. So no pictures.

Journalists are also frustrated at not being able to circulate in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army allows the press to enter the outskirts of the enclave, in Beit Hanoun, from where journalists can see a deserted region. They are also shown one of the tunnels used by Hamas.

To each his own censorship

Céline Galipeau is seated at a table on a television set.

Access to the ground and to information is controlled by both Israeli forces and Hamas, our correspondents report.

Photo: Ivanoh Demers

We are in the hands of the Israeli army, says Yanik Dumont Baron. And the Palestinians are in the hands of Hamas. Hamas is everyoneexplains Jean-François Bélanger, in the sense that this organization is everywhere in the Gaza Strip, in its institutions and in its structures.

Here too we control, report the correspondents, referring to this Palestinian woman who criticized Hamas in front of the camera and whom a hand nimbly silenced by placing itself on her mouth.

We move away from political discourse when we are on the ground. We meet people who are affected by this, from all sides. It helps us to understand better and then explain it to you. This relay of information is super important, otherwise we have the speeches of those who have access to microphones.

The correspondents are ready to take the plane again. They hope to enter the Gaza Strip. Without constraint, on either side.

Nature

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